California Lawmakers Face Dozens of Key Bills in Final Month

California lawmakers left for summer recess with most of the year's major bills still on their to-do list.

So far in 2018, they have passed first-in-the-nation data privacy regulations and a ban on new local soda taxes. But when they return in August, they'll have less than a month to tackle high-profile measures on criminal justice, energy policy and sexual harassment.

Here's a look at some of the issues waiting for them when they return. They face an Aug. 31 deadline to act.

Lawmakers have been pushing to overhaul the state's bail system since last year but have yet to pass legislation to significantly change it. A spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys says a bill he authored to eliminate bail for most defendants will likely be acted on after the recess. Proponents say the current system discriminates against poor people and that people should be jailed based on their danger to the public, not their ability to pay. Lawmakers also plan to take up bills that would make California the first state to significantly restrict when police use their guns and open law enforcement records on use of force to the public.

Gov. Jerry Brown is urging lawmakers to create a new board overseeing the electric grid across portions of the U.S. West, doing away with the panel he appoints and the Legislature confirms. Brown and other advocates see an opportunity to deploy renewable energy across a fragmented Western grid, but the idea has met stiff opposition from critics worried it could inadvertently expand coal power or jeopardize California's renewable energy mandates. Lawmakers also will consider a bill bumping up those renewable energy mandates and setting a goal of getting all of California's energy from carbon-free sources by 2045. Those discussions are happening as lawmakers consider making it easier for utilities to reduce liability for wildfire damage as the state braces for more severe blazes in the face of climate change.

Lawmakers passed a data privacy law last month in a rush but plan to fix problems that have already arisen. The law will compel companies to tell customers upon request what personal data they've collected and why, and which type of third parties received it. Consumers will also be able to ask companies to delete their information and refrain from selling it. The law doesn't take effect until 2020 to give lawmakers time to make changes. Some Democrats are also looking to enshrine in state law net neutrality rules — which require an equal playing field on the internet — after the Federal Communications Commission dumped the regulations. The issue led to a bitter fight among Democrats over how aggressive the state should be.

The Legislature is also poised to take up bills to crack down on sexual harassment. They include measures to ban nondisclosure agreements related to sexual misconduct in settlements; to end forced arbitration; and to make harassers personally liable if they retaliate against the victim.

Although the sale of cannabis to adults is legal under state law, most banks won't accept money from a product that remains illegal under federal law, forcing marijuana businesses to deal in cash. Handling huge amounts of cash can be dangerous, so lawmakers have proposed authorizing a state-backed bank for those businesses to use.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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