The Legislature kicked off its two-year session December 5 with brief swearing-in ceremonies and leadership elections in both houses, then adjourned until January 4.

Lawmakers also launched the special session called by Governor Gavin Newsom to consider legislation the governor describes as a “penalty on excessive margins” to “deter price gouging by oil companies.” Newsom attended the Assembly and Senate sessions.

The governor’s proposal, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner as SB 2X, effectively would make it illegal for one industry to report profit earnings above a yet-to-be-determined threshold, creating a prohibition on corporate earnings unlike anything that currently exists in California law.

Lawmakers introduced many other measures after taking office, including ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry), a renewed effort to increase local taxes by lowering the vote threshold for local sales, transactions and use, and parcel taxes to 55 percent (down from two-thirds) if those taxes finance affordable housing and public infrastructure, broadly defined. The proposal additionally would increase property taxes by allowing the ad valorem tax rate to exceed 1 percent of the full cash value of the property if the tax is to repay bond debt incurred to fund public infrastructure, affordable housing or permanent supportive housing and is approved by at least 55 percent of the voters.

 

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon were re-elected by the Democratic supermajorities in their respective houses.

The speakership resolution adopted by the Assembly breaks with tradition by naming a successor and a date on which the powerful position will be transferred. Under the resolution, Rendon will serve until June 30, when Assembly Member Robert Rivas will take the reins – unless the house votes to alter this arrangement before then.

The transition of power outlined in the Assembly’s resolution will take place at the conclusion the main portion of the budget negotiations for the 2023-24 fiscal year, but before the final months of the session, when legislative activity traditionally heats up.

Rendon and Atkins were elected on voice votes. In keeping with recent tradition, no other members were nominated for the position.

Atkins said she anticipates that the new session will focus on the issues of climate change, homelessness, and how to craft a budget with lower-than-projected revenue.

“We have prepared for this moment,” Atkins said, by building reserves and paying down state debt in recent years.

“I am optimistic, and even confident, that we will protect our progress and protect working families from the burden of new taxes,” Atkins added.

The Senate leader noted the historic diversity of the new Legislature and urged senators to work together on the issues facing Californians “with the respect, the civility, the decorum, that this responsibility demands.”

After the session, Republicans elected Senator Brian Jones, of Santee, as the Senate Republican leader. He succeeds Senator Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita.

California’s electoral system, in which legislators are sworn in before the election results are certified (the secretary of state will certify the results today), led to two lawmakers taking office later than their colleagues because the elections were too close to call as of December 5.

Democratic incumbent Senator Melissa Hurtado was sworn in Saturday, December 10, to represent the newly drawn Senate District 16 in Bakersfield. However, Republican farmer David Shepard, who finished just 20 votes behind Hurtado with nearly 137,000 ballots tallied, has filed for a recount. Under California law, a recount can be requested within five days after the results are certified, and the cost of the recount must be covered by the party that makes the request.

After another very close race, Assembly Member Greg Wallis, a Republican, finished 85 votes ahead of Democrat Christy Holstege with more than 169,000 votes tallied, according to the results posted by the secretary of state. Wallis took the oath of office December 12 at a ceremony at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in his Riverside County district. He was sworn in by Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.

The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene January 4. The special session runs concurrently with the regular session, but is not subject to all of the same rules and deadlines.