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Infrastructure, Caste, Fossil Fuels: Busy Day for CA Legislature

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The state Senate on Wednesday approved Gov. Gavin Newsom's package of bills to streamline permitting for major infrastructure projects. (AP File)
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The first day back from the July Fourth holiday turned out to be very, very busy for the California Legislature.

Lynn La

CalMatters

Let’s get right to the highlights:

Caste discrimination bill survives: The first-in-the-nation measure to add caste to California’s anti-discrimination laws is still alive after a key committee hearing on Wednesday.

The bill language was tweaked before it was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but not so much that the bill author or supporters objected to the changes, according to CalMatters’ state Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal.

Some South Asian groups oppose the bill, arguing that it will lead to more discrimination. One of the two South Asians in the Legislature, Democratic Assemblymember Ash Kalra of San Jose, hadn’t spoken on the bill. But he’s on the committee and voted for it Wednesday. He talked about the divisions he has witnessed and the concerns he has heard from constituents.

  • Kalra: “Ultimately, there are certain things we must do as a state to protect everyone in our state.”

Infrastructure streamlining advances: As expected, the state Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s package of infrastructure bills — but not before Republicans voted no on two bills and critics questioned allowing harm to protected species, such as golden eagles and sandhill cranes, reports CalMatters’ Rachel Becker.

The five bills would streamline the permitting process for bridges, railways, and other major projects (though the Delta water tunnel was exempted). They were the subject of intense, closed-door negotiations that held up the state budget deal.

In a statement, the governor said he looks forward to signing the bills, which bring California “one step closer to building the projects that will power our homes with clean energy, ensure safe drinking water, and modernize our transportation system.”

Divestment bill delayed: A push to force California’s huge public pension funds to sell off their holdings in fossil fuel companies is being put off until next year. The bill would require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and California State Teachers Retirement System to sell holdings in the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies by July 2031, but Bloomberg reports that it’s now a two-year bill that won’t get a final vote until 2024.

As CalMatters’ economy reporter Grace Gedye explained, CalPERS and CalSTRS opposed the measure, saying it would hurt the investment returns they rely on to pay pensions to retirees.

Tribes rally for salmon: Members of California’s indigenous tribes, conservationists, and environmental advocates gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to bring awareness to the negative impacts the March closure of salmon season had on local tribes and fishers across the state.

Though it was a controversial move that some argue could have been avoided, plummeting numbers of Chinook salmon forced a council of fishery managers to cancel the season, which typically runs from May through October, resulting in financial losses for anglers and fishers in the industry. (In 2022, the salmon industry raked in about $460 million from fish sales, restaurants, tackle shops, and other related businesses.)

Besides the closure, participants at the event advocated for the completion of the Bay-Delta plan, higher water quality standards and updating the state’s water rights systems.

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About the Author

Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an ed-tech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento Bee as a Kaiser media fellow and was an intern reporter at Capitol Weekly. She’s a graduate of UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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