SACRAMENTO – Ending a week highlighted by a landmark new labor bill and marred by disruptions from protesters upset with child vaccination laws, California lawmakers on Friday approved a flurry of bills on the final day of the legislative session.
As they have throughout the last several weeks, vaccine skeptics gathered at the state Capitol to protest a pair of vaccination bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom meant to deter doctors from writing sham exemptions for mandatory school immunizations.
While the earlier protests have been disruptive but peaceful – one protester was arrested last month for shoving the author of the vaccine bills – they turned ugly Friday night when someone threw an unknown red substance from the Senate balcony onto lawmakers below.
The incident prompted the Senate to relocate to a committee room to continue business as the chambers quickly transformed into a crime scene.
State Sen. Richard Pan, author of the vaccine bills, condemned the incident.
“This incident was incited by the violent rhetoric perpetuated by leaders of the anti-vaxx movement. As their rhetoric escalates, their incidents of violence do as well,” Pan said Friday night. “This is an attack on the democratic process and an assault on all Californians and it must be met with strong condemnation by everyone.”
Other lawmakers noted the rarity of the Senate having to hold a session outside its normal chambers.
“The last time this happened was when a truck was deliberately driven into the Capitol in 2001. We had to move out [tonight] because a woman threw blood into the chamber. Six lawmakers were hit. This is not acceptable,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, in a tweet.
Prior to the interruption, lawmakers were able to pass a range of legislation covering deepfakes, consumer privacy, payday loans, gun control and a new state bank.
New Gun Control
In the wake of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, California lawmakers passed a gun control measure on Friday designed to prevent anyone from buying more than one semi-automatic rifle in a 30-day period.
Senate Bill 61 passed out of the California Assembly in its final session on Friday and heads to Newsom’s desk.
“This is an important step in protecting our community and to make sure firearms don’t end up in the wrong hands,” said Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, D-San Diego.
Maienschein cited the mass shooting in Gilroy and a recent shooting on Interstate 8 in San Diego as examples for why the legislation was needed.
The item met with little debate and was approved 46-17.
The National Rifle Association and other gun advocacy organizations opposed the bill on grounds it was an unnecessary incursion into citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
A public banking act may be coming down the pike for California as a bill also landed on Gov. Newsom’s desk after the session on Friday, which would give cities the ability to create their own banking system.
The bill that passed through the Senate would establish a charter allowing local governments to form their own local or regional public banks. This could serve two purposes: banking related to infrastructure and wholesale lending, and lending to local institutions that are not already being serviced by other banks.
Authors Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, say Assembly Bill 857 is an antidote to a banking system that triggered the financial crisis of 2008 through predatory lending.
In a statement, Santiago said, “AB 857 will empower communities to use public dollars for their own public good: from investing in affordable housing projects and building new schools and parks, to accessible loans for students and businesses.”
The bill has received support from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders along with labor unions and the state’s Democratic Party. Currently, North Dakota and a bank in Samoa are the only public banking systems in the United States.
Prescription Drug Industry Reform
California would become the first state to outlaw “pay-for-delay” agreements that are common between brand name and generic drug manufacturers under a bill headed to the governor’s desk.
Assembly Bill 824 aims to end a practice where large pharmaceutical companies pay or incentivize a competing company to keep generic drugs off the market. The bill’s author and other supporters say the practice hurts consumers by stifling competition and by taking affordable drug options off the table.
The measure cleared both houses in a bipartisan matter and is sponsored by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
— By Nick Cahill