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What big CA bills are left on Newsom’s desk?

This story appeared on Calmatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses media after signing legislation into law in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2023. Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom greenlit 56 bills Wednesday to help ease the state’s affordable housing crisis. And with three days left to take action, he’s gone through most major bills on other pressing issues as well. But there are still a handful of significant ones he has yet to decide.

Perhaps the most contentious is Senate Bill 525, which would raise the minimum wage for health care workers to $25 an hour. The proposal is backed by labor unions including the Service Employees International Union and, if passed, is expected to benefit an estimated 469,000 workers. But business groups that oppose the bill argue it does not “promote greater economic security” for California.

So far, the governor has a mixed record on labor bills. To much fanfare, he signed a deal giving fast food workers a raise next year. But he vetoed a bill to give striking workers access to unemployment benefits.

Some other noteworthy bills awaiting action:

  • Assembly Bill 91 would enable low-income students living within 45 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border to be eligible for in-state tuition. 
  • AB 436 would ban local prohibitions on cruising. 
  • AB 537 would require short term rentals to include taxes and fees upfront in price (this bill, as well as one recently signed by Newsom for goods and services, is part of a series of bills to combat hidden junk fees).
  • AB 645 would test speed cameras in six cities.
  • AB 659 would recommend that K-12 students and college students be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus. 
  • AB 1309 would prevent unjustified nursing home evictions by requiring facilities to provide a written notice of transfer or discharge and other documentation. 
  • AB 1366 would establish a restitution fund for victims of consumer fraud.

And some noteworthy bills he’s already decided: 

  • Insulin cap: Vetoed a proposal to cap what insurers could charge for insulin to $35, describing a partnership with drugmaker Civica Rx that will drive down the price of insulin to $30 a vial as the “true sustainable solution.” But as CalMatters’ health reporter Ana B. Ibarra writes, this $50 million program hasn’t begun manufacturing any medication yet and a spokesperson for the state’s department of Health Care Access and Information said it does “not have a specific timeframe for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Read more in Ana’s story.
  • Police brutality: Created a first-in-the-nation law that bans the use of “excited delirium” as a cause of death. Supporters argue that the controversial diagnosis (characterized as a “state of extreme mental and physiological excitement,” according to one bill analysis) is often used by law enforcement when a person dies after some interaction with police. In 2020, “excited delirium” was cited by police in the death of an Antioch resident who died after officers knelt on his neck.
  • Right to repair: California has become the third state to pass right-to-repair legislation, requiring manufacturers to make repair materials — such as parts, tools and software —  accessible for seven years for products that cost $100 more. Companies, however, can still practice parts pairing, which uses software to limit user repairs. 
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Schiff, Porter snag union label

Left: US Representative Adam Schiff. Photo by Ron Sachs, CNP/startraksphoto.com/Cover Images via Reuters; Right: U.S. Representative Katie Porter. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
Left: U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff. Photo by Ron Sachs, CNP/startraksphoto.com/Cover Images via Reuters; Right: U.S. Rep. Katie Porter. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters

From CalMatters politics reporter Yue Stella Yu:

U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter are raking in key union endorsements with less than five months until the March 5 primary for U.S. Senate.

For newly-appointed Sen. Laphonza Butler — who has not announced whether she will enter the race — it represents a diminishing chance to secure enough labor support to build her campaign if she decides to run.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, representing 17,000 healthcare workers in California and Hawaii, endorsed Porter on Wednesday following a Sunday forum that also featured Schiff and Rep. Barbara Lee, all Democrats. 

Of the 350 voting union delegates, 48% chose Porter, while Lee won 27% and Schiff 21%. The vote came after Porter repeatedly vowed to fight against corporate interests Sunday and argued she was the only one among the three to have never taken corporate PAC donations. 

  • Porter, in a statement: “My campaign is committed to working with NUHW and all working people to secure a future in which workers are empowered, patients receive quality care, and healthcare is guaranteed for everyone in our country.”

On Tuesday, the California chapters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters endorsed Schiff. The chapters — representing more than 220,000 workers in the state — picked him after he supported AB 316, which would have required a human safety operator to be inside a heavy autonomous vehicle when it’s on public roads, according to the union. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Newsom last month.

The announcement marks the seventh statewide union endorsement of Schiff, who is the only candidate to gain any statewide union support, his campaign noted.

  • Peter Finn, vice president of Teamsters Western Region International: “We know that we can rely on him to advocate for policies that put workers and safety first when it comes to automation — even when it’s a lot easier to side with Big Tech.”

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Applying for college with AI

From left to right, students Josephine Okowi, Toby Reed and Amy Ma at Fremont High School in Oakland on Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Laure Andrillon for CalMatters

As artificial intelligence tools get better at mimicking human-created content, it’s soon likely that a college admissions essay written by a bot won’t read that much differently than one written by a human student.

It’s this concerning prospect, CalMatters’ education reporters Carolyn Jones and Mikhail Zinshteyn write, that is prompting some California colleges to be on alert. As part of its fraud policy, the college application tool Common App — used by the University of Southern California, Stanford University, Caltech and 1,000 other institutions nationwide — added a restriction in August on “substantive” use of AI in admissions applications.

The University of California operates its own admissions portal, and while it permits the use of AI in admissions essays, it says the practice should be limited — such as using it for “advice on content and editing.”

Even if colleges outright ban the use of generative AI to write personal statements, identifying plagiarism is difficult and imprecise. In March, a study found that humans can detect AI-written work about 50% of the time — basically, a coin flip. And even if an AI-content detection tool were developed with only a 1% false-positive rate, that would still mean 10 students for every 1,000 essays could be falsely accused of academic theft, wrote Wired.

Other universities, however, have no formal policy on AI use in admissions essays. In 20-plus years in admissions for the University of San Francisco, one associate provost couldn’t recall any applicant who was admitted with a strong essay but weak grades.

As for students themselves, one high school senior told CalMatters that relying on AI is detrimental to their own education.

  • Toby Reed, from Fremont High in Oakland: “It’s bad enough stealing content, but with ChatGPT you’re not even stealing from a real person…. It’s your future. You can’t plagiarize in school. You can’t do it at work. People like AI because it’s quick and easy, but it’s not good.”
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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Gov. Newsom signed a bill that takes a small step toward single-payer health care.

Reader reaction: To improve Californians’ health, we must raise health care workers’ wages, writes Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John’s Community Health.

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