SB 1227 – Affordable Student Housing

I’m 26 and in a graduate program pursuing two masters degrees. Next month, I’m moving back in with my mother*. I don’t think I can pretend not to have an opinion on this issue. Senator Nancy Skinner, who would be my representative if I wasn’t moving back to my mother’s home in San Francisco, introduced SB 1227 this week, which would incentivize the construction of affordable student housing units in the state.

The bill is also known as the Density Bonus Law because it would require county or city authorities to offer bonuses or subsidies to developers who built affordable housing for students in cities with universities.

Here is the full text of the bill. 

Here’s the Mercury News coverage.

Though I’m obviously in favor of housing being just a little bit more affordable, I won’t pretend I know the best policies to make that happen. One more thing I will point out about my experience that might be useful from a policy consideration perspective: The only reason I ended up staying in the Bay Area for graduate school was that Berkeley was the only place I could find that had this program. The other program I got into was in Baltimore. I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t the best fit, but I can’t pretend that looking at Craigslist rental prices in the city wasn’t enticing.  The point I’m trying to make, is that housing costs may drive some of the brightest educational prospects or young professionals out of California. It’s one thing if it drives them to cheaper places in California, like the San Joaquin Valley, which faces problems like a doctor shortage and may benefit from fresh batch of human capital.

Skinner has proposed a host of additional housing measures, including SB 827 (co-authored with Scott Wiener) and SB 912. She just introduced SB 1227 today, so if you want to have your say, go ahead and call your senator.

*Disclaimer: Hi Mom! I know you’re reading this because you are wonderful, and you love me. I love living with you. I don’t love the economic forces that make it necessary.


SB 820 – Nondisclosure agreements

Welcome back to the legislative session! What’s that you say? We’re seven weeks in? Well I am six weeks into biostats coursework and that is just as life-consuming as one might guess.

Enough griping about grad school though, because I did get the semester started with some fun reporting about legalese and paperwork! But actually, this was some fun reporting. I got to talk to a former Hollywood actress, now one of the many women leading the charge to hold sexual predators accountable, Gloria Allred, and a few other fun attorneys. And I had small talk fodder for crashing bar review with my friend who is a 1L at Boalt.

So here’s the deal–remember how when the allegations came out against Harvey Weinstein, it turned out, everyone knew about this for years? Well, that may not have been an accident, and lawmakers say that in fact there were non-disclosure agreements drawn up in the settlement negotiations with his accusers. As Chantal Cousineau, the actress I spoke to put it, this is a part of their budget. That is, the ability to cover it up. That said, not everyone is in favor of getting rid of them. Allred, when I spoke to her in early January, said she feared it would get rid of victims’ options. Leslie Levy, another attorney, argued that the bill didn’t go far enough in that it retains the option for a plaintiff in a settlement to initiate an NDA. Read the details of that little legal balancing act here. If you want the gist of it, here it is:

  • SB 820 would  get rid of nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment and discrimination (that don’t reach the level of a felony, in which they are already banned), unless the victim requests such an agreement.
  • Call your senator, especially if they sit on the judiciary committee. 
  • The full text.

Legislative Update

Now that session is over, here’s a rundown of what happened with each bill I blogged about.

Approved by the Governor (note that many may have undergone amendments since I blogged about them):

  • SB 54: Signed by the Governor. California will become a sanctuary state. Note that the bill went through various amendments since I blogged about it in February, specifically a compromise to gain Governor Brown’s approval. Obviously the Trump administration is not happy about this one, so watch how it plays out.
  • SB 6: Here’s a weird thing I wasn’t aware happened–sometimes if the Legislature decides they’re not going to pass something, but they want to pass another bill past the deadline to introduce new legislation, THEY WILL REWRITE THE BILL ENTIRELY TO BE A DIFFERENT BILL. These weird kind of process things are why I never wanted to work as a staffer. Wonderland through the looking glass is enough for me. Anyway, SB 6 passed and was signed into law, but as a tribal gaming compact, not a law about immigrants’ legal rights.
  • AB 250
  • SB 31
  • SB 239
  • SB 29
  • SB 394 (approved as part of a package of criminal justice reform)
  • SB 190 (as part of the same criminal justice reform)
  • SB 310

Passed but vetoed by Governor Brown:

Never made it out of the Legislature:

  • SB 30 (border wall): Passed the Senate but didn’t make it out of the Assembly.
  • SB 562: Single-Payer Healthcare. Made it out of the senate but was killed in June due to concerns about the cost.
  • AB 393: Freezing public university tuition. Never made it out of the Assembly.
  • AB 16
  • AB 42/SB 10
  • SB 135
  • AB 1578
  • AB 216
  • AB 807 We will not be ending daylight savings time, but it made it out the Assembly, which surprised me.
  • SB 100
  • AB 186 (made it out of the Assembly but was rejected by the Senate)
  • SB 623





SB 687 – Emergency Medical Service Closure

This is a tricky one, and I’m running off fumes (#gradskoollyfe) at the moment, so I’ll try to keep it simple.

Basically, in response to Sutter Health’s announcement that it would close Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley,  Senator Nancy Skinner authored a bill that would require the attorney general to review closures of nonprofit medical emergency services. According to Sutter Health’s statement, the closure is due to new regulations on earthquake safety.

As the news sources I’ve cited below point out, the closure is controversial mainly because Californians in communities along the I-80 corridor north of Berkeley rely on Alta Bates for emergency services. If you’ve ever driven along that stretch of freeway, you can imagine the extra time it would take to get from the Ashby exit in Berkeley to Oakland might make a huge difference in an emergency.

The bill is a fairly pre-emptive measure as Sutter has not laid out timing for the closure. They have said it will be some time before 2030.

Who to call

Here’s the bill text, it’s on the assembly floor and if it clears that hurdle, it’s on to the governor’s desk. Call your state assembly member.

News Coverage

SB 623 – Clean Drinking Water Tax

SB 623 passed out of the senate unanimously, an impressive feat for a bill proposing a widespread tax hike. The bill would place a tax on access to clean water–for most Californians in the amount of $0.95 a month–ironic considering that it’s written on the principle that access to clean water is something all Californians are entitled to, but bear with me, it’ll make sense in a minute.

Evidently, the state needs the $200 million in tax revenues the law would raise annually because some populations have been left high and dry by the state in trying to get contaminants out of their water supplies. Many Californians in the Central Valley have been affected, creating an alliance behind the bill between lawmakers representing both rural farm communities and coastal environmentalists.

Who to call

News coverage



AB 186 – Safe Injection Site Authorization

Apologies for the major hiatus: I am in transition, from my full-time job back to freelance writing and grad school! I’m getting my MPH/MJ at UC Berkeley. But anyways, no one reads this blog for updates on my life. In fact, I haven’t written in so long, I’m afraid no one reads this blog at all.

I’m currently working on a story about increases in Hepatitis C in California, particularly among young adults. Hep C is primarily transmitted through contaminated needles, meaning injection drug users are highly at risk and that an increase in injection drug use is probably to blame for the spike in transmission. This is a health issue that interests me a great deal, so I’m surprised I hadn’t written about this one before, but I caught it in the nick of time. The Legislature is on summer recess and will be back on August 21. After that, bills only have until September 15 to get passed before they are dead.

AB 186 has made it through both the assembly and senate committees–all that’s left is a senate vote.

The Basics

  • Would authorize eight counties to pilot safe injection site programs. These facilities would be hygenic and supervised by medical professionals. They would also provide opportunities for referrals to treatment and harm reduction education.

In Depth

A couple weeks ago when I was down in San Diego talking to Robert Lewis, who is Director of Special Populations at the Family Health Centers of San Diego. When I asked about the efficacy of syringe service programs, his response was basically, “Well, that was a softball question.” He cited research saying that syringe exchanges and other programs that help people get clean needles have been proven again and again to reduce Hepatitis C transmission rates. In the research I did for my article, I found this study that indicated that the vast majority of people with Hep C live more than 10 miles away from a safe syringe service.

What I’m particularly interested in is the cost. Who is funding this? Is it sustainable if we find it to be successful in the eight counties where it is piloted? Would we save money on other healthcare costs? Where would those savings come in (this Sacramento Bee article addresses this a bit)? Less Hep C or other injection related infections? Here are some of the answers I’ve found in my cursory research: The bill doesn’t mention funding for the facilities–it is just an authorization for them to exist, since using the illicit substances people will inject there is technically illegal. This begs the question–how will implementation happen? Are there already facilities that exist?

Check out the bill’s text for more information. The main opposition comes from law enforcement organizations concerned about increases in drug-related crime and conflict with federal law. Check out the analysis for specifics of arguments in favor and opposition.

Who to Call

Media Coverage

SB 100 – Renewable Energy and Greenhouse Gases

With all the hoopla about the Paris Agreement, I thought I’d post about a little more state-focused climate/energy policy. Though I suppose we are all breathing the same air. A point that California and many other liberal state government leaders have pointedly made to President Trump since his withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

The Basics

  • Would revise California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Program to require the state to reach 50% energy from renewable sources by 2026 instead of 2030. The end goal is 100% renewable energy in California by 2045.


  • An obvious question you might have: what is California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Program? Basically the Public Utilities Commission (PUC or CPUC here in California) administers this renewable energy standards program, that determines what percentage of the state’s utilities should come from renewable sources. So basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
  • Here is the full bill text.

Who to Call

  • Your state assemblymember. We’re at that point in the year that all the bills that are gonna make it to the governor’s desk are out of their house of origin, so anything that starts with SB is in the Assembly and anything that starts with AB is in the Senate.

News Coverage

AB 807 – End Daylight Savings Time

I’ll start this one with a little anecdote. When I lived in Morocco, only about half the country did daylight savings time. That meant, for about half of the year, you had to ask anyone who gave you the time of day: “Old time or new time?”

Anyways, this proposal could throw California for a similar loop, but given the state’s geographic magnitude, I’m not sure it would make a huge difference–basically California would be it’s own time zone for half of the year.

The Basics, Who to Call, News Coverage, and Full Bill Text


SB 310 – Name and gender changes for transgender prisoners

The Basics

  • Would allow transgender inmates in California state prisons to legally change their names and genders (on forms, etc.)

Who to call/Bill Status


  • As of now, California inmates can only change their name if the Secretary of the Department of Corrections approves it. This is obviously, in part, for safety reasons–if an inmate changed their name to avoid detection, that could be a risk to the public.
  • Still, transgender people struggle to negotiate their identities every day. If an inmate medically transitions while in prison, could it help them better reintegrate to society one they are out?
  • What do studies say about the employment and other prospects for a trans person when he or she has a name and official gender that matches their physical appearance?
  • If it costs money to allow trans inmates to do this, how much? To what extent do the benefits (increased employment prospects, etc.) to society, outweigh the cost to taxpayers? I imagine these folks comprise so small a portion of the prison population (and by that I don’t mean trans people in general, I mean transitioning trans people who are seeking to make a legal change of identity) that the fiscal issues are less important than the philosophical and ideological issues at hand.
  • Here is the full text of the bill. Since it’s been through committee hearing, the minutes of the committee bill analyses go into detail the arguments for and against. For example, read the Public Safety Committee Hearing bill analysis for the Sheriffs’ Association’s opposition arguments and the Judiciary Hearing bill analysis features some additional arguments in favor.

News Coverage


AB 216 – postage on absentee ballots (and a little healthcare)

Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. lately,.I could go into the reasons why (they’re actually pretty valid considering that typically when I’m ‘busy’ I’m really just watching Dateline reruns with my dog, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or brewing beer), but my life isn’t that interesting.

Politics on the other hand…I guess I should start by saying something about healthcare. It’s odd, I never knew how many of my acquaintances were experts on pre-existing conditions until this week. That’s me being a little snarky, but in all seriousness, it makes sense that everyone is paying attention to this one–unless you’re of the income bracket that you can pay all necessary or desirable healthcare costs out of pocket (you’re not reading my blog)–you have a horse in this race. So now what? While it may be satisfying to leave Darrell Issa a nasty message about how much you hate him for playing politics with our well-being and you’ll see him at the ballot box in 2018, I’m not sure that will improve anyone’s healthcare. If you have the inclination or wherewithal to read and understand the ACA and AHCA, definitely do that and try to present your reps with constructive ideas on what your needs are and what kind of health care policies would help you and your family. Sure, it’s not a rep’s job to cater to the hyper-individual needs of each constituent needs, but based on what I’ve read, a personal touch may stick out among vitriolic voicemails. Also, at this point, the bill is headed to the senate where it will likely undergo significant changes–make your voice heard! Also, if a measured educated opinion on healthcare is not something you feel you have the capacity for, simply informing your Senator of your position is better than nothing.

That’s enough about the rest of country, let’s return to the Golden State, where we need to consider the all important issue of….postage!

The Basics

  • Right now, if you get a mail ballot, you may have to put postage on it–this bill would require all state election vote-by-mail ballots to have an envelope with prepaid postage.


  • I realize that next to the healthcare fight happening out east this bill seems sort of ‘mehh’, but think about it for a second.
  • No, really, think about it. Voting is a basic civil liberty, should it be contingent on your ability to pay for stamps? Why should we pay money for something that is by definition a freedom? Also, to be honest, as someone who cares a great deal about voting, even I find mailing my ballot in to be an often cumbersome errand–it would be nice if I was guaranteed a prepaid envelope statewide.
  • On the flip side, this would cost local voter registrars money. How much? Would be burden be too great? Is it worth it? Could it lead to more people voting in districts where they no longer reside? (Research says no, voter fraud is not a major problem. Again, voting can be a pain in the ass, and when one vote means so little, there’s little incentive to game the system).

Who to call

  • Your state assemblymember. The bill passed out of its initial committee and is in the assembly appropriations suspense file, so a hearing date is TBD–not urgent, but when it comes up, it would be worth registering your support or opposition.

News Coverage