A photo of Gail Pellerin and John Laird sitting at a table with a banner hanging from the table reading "Democratic Women's Club of Santa Cruz County."

Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, D-Santa Cruz, and state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, discuss state legislation at a June 13 meeting of the Democratic Women’s Club of Santa Cruz County. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

SACRAMENTO >> State legislators who represent Santa Cruz County have voted on dozens of bills in recent months and helped approve the state budget in June.

Lawmakers who represent parts of Santa Cruz County include Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, D-Santa Cruz, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, Assemblymember Dawn Addis, D-San Luis Obispo, and state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz. 

To keep track of their votes on key bills  —  and some laws that went into effect July 1 —  Santa Cruz Local has summarized some recent legislation by topic. 

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State budget highlights

California’s budget swung from a $97.5 billion surplus two years ago to a roughly $45 billion deficit this year mainly because of lower than expected revenue from California corporations, personal income and sales taxes, Cal Matters reported. 

To close that gap, a two-year budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June reduced about 8% of funding to nearly all state departments. It also cut $358 million from state prison spending, $1.1 billion from affordable housing programs, $746 million from health care workforce development and $500 million intended to build student housing. It delays $5.5 billion in school funding. 

  • The budget increases mental health care funding, includes supplemental income for seniors, $1 billion to address homelessness and allows a Medi-Cal expansion that provides health care to low-income adults regardless of their immigration status.
  • About $12 billion was taken from state reserves to pay for state expenditures in the budget. 

Assemblymember Dawn Addis, who represents Live Oak, Capitola, Aptos and areas of South County, said she and other legislators were “really working hard to protect education, funds for needy families and funds for coastal resilience, knowing how important that was for our communities coming out of last winter’s storms.” Addis spoke during a June 13 event of the Santa Cruz County Democratic Women’s Club.

Assemblymember Dawn Addis’ 30th District covers parts of Santa Cruz County and continues south to San Luis Obispo south. (California State Assembly Democratic Caucus)

State Sen. John Laird said the approved budget “restores some of the major cuts” proposed in earlier budget drafts, including some housing funding and money for climate resilience and child care.

The state budget also allocated $2 million in its 2024-25 General Fund to the City of Santa Cruz for a one-time, temporary operational support of an emergency homeless shelter, tent camp, and safe parking site from July 2024 through June 2025. City sales tax revenue is supposed to cover its costs thereafter, according to the budget bill.
Status: Gov. Newsom signed the budget on June 26 and it went into effect July 1.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes.

Housing and homelessness

AB 12 – Limits on rental security deposits
Description: This new law prohibits landlords with more than four units from demanding or receiving security deposits greater than one month’s rent. For landlords who rent up to two properties with fewer than five total units, up to two month’s rent can be collected as security. This bill applies to rental agreements signed after July 1, 2024. Existing rental agreements are not affected, and landlords can still seek additional fees at the conclusion of a lease if there is damage exceeding the deposit, according to the bill.
Status: The governor signed the bill and it went into effect July 1.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes.

SB 684 – Streamlined approval of some homes
Description: This new law streamlines the approval process for small homeownership developments by granting ministerial approval for projects of up to 10 homes on qualifying lots in multifamily neighborhoods and vacant parcels in single-family neighborhoods, according to the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership. This bill also streamlines the Subdivision Map Act to determine how many housing units can be on a parcel. Small developments are supposed to be processed faster and create more affordable homeownership opportunities for moderate- and middle-income residents.
Status: The governor signed the bill and it went into effect July 1.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes

SB 108 – State budget money for Santa Cruz shelter
Description: The state budget allocated $2 million in 2024-25 General Fund to the City of Santa Cruz for a one-time, temporary operational support of an emergency homeless shelter, tent camp, and safe parking site from July 2024 through June 2025. City sales tax revenue is supposed to cover its costs thereafter, according to the bill.
Status: The governor signed the bill and it went into effect July 1.

AB 3035 – Farmworker housing
Description: Introduced by Assemblymember Pellerin, this bill would allow streamlined approval of up to 150 units of farmworker housing projects within 15 miles of zoned farmland in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. Thirty-six units could be built on zoned farmland before but was rarely utilized due to few water and other service hookups in that type of zoning.
Status: State senate and assembly committees have amended versions of the bill. It has not yet been called to floor votes.
Votes: In committees: Pellerin – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – No vote recorded, absent or abstained.

SB 423 – Affordable housing streamlining
Description: This law tries to streamline the development of below-market-rate housing by allowing the conditional use permit process to be skipped through 2036. It essentially extends SB 35, which took effect in 2018. In cities and counties that have not met some state housing production targets, the new law requires affordable housing projects to contain at least 10% of units for “very low income” households as defined by the state. It also streamlines projects within the Coastal Zone, except in environmentally sensitive or hazardous areas.
Status: Adopted by the legislature and signed by Gov. Newsom on Oct. 11, 2023. The law is now in effect except for Coastal Zone rules that start Jan. 1, 2025.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – No vote recorded, absent or abstained.

Guns

AB 28 – Tax on gun industry
Description: The Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Law imposes an 11% excise tax on gun manufacturers and dealers on sales of guns and ammunition to fund school safety and violence prevention programs. The initiatives aim to “prevent mass shootings, bolster firearm investigations, and remove guns from domestic abusers,” wrote Judith Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the bill’s author, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, D-Encino. The tax is expected to raise $160 million annually and fund violence prevention programs in schools.
Status: The governor signed the bill and it went into effect July 1.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes

AB 1420 – Gun dealer inspections
Description: This law expands the authority of the state Department of Justice to inspect firearms dealers to ensure they are compliant with state laws and fine them for non-compliance. It also requires gun shops to register the purchaser’s email address for transactions starting Sept. 1, 2025. The state DOJ already can conduct spontaneous on-site inspections, but that authority is limited to a list of dealers not updated since 2010 despite new legislation governing gun shops and other firearm dealers.
Status: The law went into effect Jan. 1. The governor signed it on Sept. 26, 2023.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Addis – Yes, Rivas – Yes.

Drugs

SB 58 – Psychedelic drug decriminalization
Description: This bill would decriminalize some hallucinogens, including psilocybin, mescaline and DMT, for personal as well as therapeutic use. Proponents said these substances have therapeutic potential. Opponents said decriminalization could lead to increased misuse of drugs and public health problems.
Status: Adopted by the legislature, vetoed by Gov. Newsom in October 2023. Newsom said he supports opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines, but state lawmakers should craft a new bill that includes therapeutic guidelines including dosage.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – No vote recorded, absent or abstained.

Criminal justice

AB 452 – Damages for childhood sexual assault
Description: Introduced by state Assemblymember Dawn Addis, D-San Luis Obispo, this new law removes the statute of limitations for the recovery of damages from childhood sexual assault for assaults occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2024. Many survivors only come forward later in life, even in their mid-50s, Addis said at an event in Santa Cruz.
Status: Adopted by the legislature and signed by Gov. Newsom in October 2023. The law applies to claims for alleged childhood sexual assaults in 2024 and thereafter.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes.

Mental health

AB 665 – Parental consent for minors’ mental health services
Description: This new law allows Calfornians age 12 and older to consent to mental health services without parental permission “if the minor is mature enough to participate intelligently in the outpatient services or residential shelter services,” according to the law. It removes a requirement that minors must “present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to themselves or others, or be an alleged victim of incest or child abuse,” according to the bill text. Proponents said it would increase access to essential mental health care for vulnerable youth, particularly those on Medi-Cal. Opponents said it would undermine parental rights and involvement in their children’s health decisions.
Status: The law went into effect July 1. Gov. Newsom signed it Oct. 7, 2023.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes.

Gender identity and sexual orientation

AB 1955 – Preventing the forced outing of schoolchildren
Description: Co-authored by state Sen. John Laird, D-Sana Cruz, this bill would prohibit school districts, educational offices and their governing bodies from enacting or enforcing rules that require an employee to disclose a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression without the student’s consent, unless otherwise required by law. The bill tries to prevent retaliation and actions against employees who support a student’s rights. It requires the state Department of Education to develop or update resources for families of LGBTQ+ students.
Status: Adopted by the legislature and presented to the governor. If signed, it would start Jan. 1, 2025.
Votes:  Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Addis – Yes, Rivas – Yes.

Solar power

SB 1190 – Solar power in mobile home parks
Description: Co-authored by state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, this bill would allow mobile home park residents who pay for electricity under a group plan to install their own solar panels. Some mobile home parks previously banned the practice, Laird said at an event in Santa Cruz in June. “That shouldn’t happen because it’s part of our conversion” to renewable energy, Laird said.
Status:The state senate and assembly are expected to vote on it this year. If signed by the governor, the law would start Jan. 1, 2025.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Laird – Yes, Addis – Yes, Rivas – Yes.

Cooking with natural gas

AB 2513 – Gas range warning labels
Description: This bill, co-authored by Assemblymember Pellerin, would require a warning label on gas ranges sold in California. It will advise consumers that natural gas ranges emit toxic gasses, Pellerin said at an event in Santa Cruz in June. “When using gas stoves, they have to be ventilated, you need to use that vent,” Pellerin said. Proponents of the bill pointed to research that suggests that gas stoves produce dangerous air pollution indoors. Opponents have said warning labels would force companies to make misleading and scientifically debated assertions.
Status: The bill was amended in June and remains in the state senate.

State parks in Santa Cruz County

AB 2103 – Big Basin Redwoods, Año Nuevo, and Butano State Parks property acquisition
Description: This bill introduced by Assemblymember Pellerin would streamline land acquisition for Big Basin Redwoods, Año Nuevo, and Butano state parks by removing a requirement to first transfer the land to the state. The bill comes in response to the CZU Lightning Complex Fire of 2020, which burned a large portion of the parks. A Big Basin rebuilding vision includes acquiring land to relocate visitor facilities that were in ecologically sensitive areas.
Status: The assembly adopted the bill and the senate has not yet voted on it.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes, Laird (in committee) – Yes.

Banana slugs

AB 1850 – State slug
Description: This bill introduced by Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, D-Santa Cruz, would make California’s state slug the banana slug. Currently, the poppy is the state flower, the California redwood the state tree, and the California gray whale is the state marine mammal. Included in the bill description is a highlight of the banana slug’s mucus, “which has been discovered to be a liquid crystal, [and] has many uses for the banana slug including locomotion, protection, nutrition, and as a means of sending chemical messages to mates and predators.” In support of the bill, County of Santa Cruz leaders said banana slugs play a vital role in the environment by decomposing organic matter as detritivores.
Status: The bill has not yet had an assembly floor vote.
Votes: Pellerin – Yes, Rivas – Yes, Addis – Yes.

Legislative calendar and process

The California State Assembly and State Senate are on two-year legislative cycles. The 2024 legislative session began for both houses on Jan. 3 and broke for summer recess July 3. They plan to reconvene Aug. 5, and the last day for the governor to sign bills for this legislative cycle is Sept. 30.

A bill is first introduced in the state senate or the assembly. It is often amended and voted on by a policy committee or committees and an appropriations committee if the bill has fiscal impact. It then goes to the floor of the chamber of origin for a vote. Bills must be adopted by legislators in the assembly and senate before they are sent to the governor’s desk for a signature or a veto. A governor’s veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in the assembly and senate.

How to contact your state legislators 

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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.