The dust settled on this year’s legislative session last Friday, when the deadline passed for California Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign or veto what was left of a tall stack of bills placed on his desk in 2022.

Newsom had through September to make final judgments on a wide range of measures approved by the Assembly and state Senate this year, with many affecting the lives of Santa Monicans. Newsom, like many governors before him, waited until the 11th hour to sign some pieces of legislation, making for an exciting cap to the 2022 session.

Signed: All-gender restrooms

On Thursday, Sept. 29, Newsom signed Senate Bill 1194, which will “authorize a city, county, or city and county to require, by ordinance or resolution, that public restrooms constructed within its jurisdiction be designed to serve all genders, as specified, instead of complying with the plumbing standards set forth in the California Building Standards Code.” That means that cities and/or counties may choose to provide all-gender restrooms, so long as they meet other state codes.

Authored by Santa Monica’s representative in the California State Senate, Sen. Ben Allen, the bill was co-sponsored by the City of Santa Monica as well as the City of West Hollywood. 

“We are thrilled to have this bill signed into law so that we can deliver on more inclusive public facilities that serve people of all genders and gender identities, while supporting families and those who need the help of a caregiver,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement provided by the City of Santa Monica. “Santa Monica was proud to join West Hollywood and Senator Allen in advancing this meaningful step forward for equity and inclusion.”

Signed: Care Court

Newsom’s controversial suggestion for issuing court-mandated treatment plans for severely mentally ill individuals — particularly those experiencing homelessness and psychotic illnesses — was signed into law in September.

With support from Assemblymember Richard Bloom, SB 1338 (authored by Santa Ana Senator Thomas Umberg) will authorize interested parties such as family members, first responders and mental health care providers to request a judge implement a legally binding care plan for California residents in need.

Opponents of the bill included major civil rights organizations including the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), who called it “coerced mental health treatment” that would disproportionately harm Black and Native American individuals.

“I have seen first-hand the good that can come when our judicial, executive, and legislative branches work together to address delicate populations and nuanced issues like mental health, veterans, at-risk youth, and substance use,” Umberg said in a statement provided by the Governor’s office. “The individual frameworks and best practices for collaboration exist here – and we pulled them together in SB 1338 for something new and revolutionary in California.”

Signed: Insurance requirements for mobility devices

Despite organized objections from bicycle and pedestrian advocates, including local nonprofit Santa Monica Spoke, Newsom signed a bill requiring shared mobility devices to carry $10,000 of commercial general liability insurance to cover any potential injury or death caused by each device. Bicycles, including e-bikes, are exempt from the new law.

“Existing law requires a shared mobility provider to hold liability insurance when obtaining a permit or entering into an agreement with the local entity with jurisdiction over the area. However, existing liability coverage is not extended to cover a pedestrian injured by a shared mobility device due to negligent conduct,” according to the bill’s authors.

“AB-371 ensures existing protections will cover pedestrians injured by a shared mobility device, whether in use or parked inappropriately,” the authors’ statement later continued.

Both Bloom and Allen declined to cast a vote for or against the bill, with both marked “no vote recorded.”

Santa Monica Spoke Director Cynthia Rose said that while she considered it a victory on the part of mobility advocates to have bicycles removed from the final version of the bill, it was still a “disappointing” outcome to see it become law. 

“The reasoning — to protect the public — is something that we don’t disagree with. This just was not the way to do it,” Rose said. “This is going to create an undue [financial] burden. And, as I say, a level of insurance and culpability that’s not even required by gun manufacturers that kill thousands of Americans every year, and are not required to carry insurance that would cover their customers’ reckless behavior.” Rose predicted that the law could affect less affluent communities the most.

Signed: The ‘omnibike’ bill

Newsom signed the omnibus bicycle bill AB 1909, nicknamed the “omnibike bill,” in mid-September. New rules in the bill include a stipulation that vehicle drivers overtaking cyclists riding in traffic must change lanes to avoid bikes when an empty lane is available. As part of the new law, municipalities may not require bike licenses and a state law prohibiting class 3 electric bicycles on bike paths was removed. In addition, cyclists may cross intersections using pedestrian walk signals, rather than traffic lights — what Rose called “leading pedestrian intervals.”

“I’m really excited to have that as part of this new bill, and then the other safety aspects,” Rose said. “It’s going to improve safety for all people walking and biking. So, we’re happy about it — super happy.”

Santa Monica Mobility Manager Jason Kligier said some of the rules would directly impact cyclists and pedestrians inside Santa Monica, but was quick to point out the new rules do not go into effect for more than a year, on Jan. 1, 2024.

Santa Monica Municipal Code blocks class 3 electric bikes on the beach path, so that change at the state level will not be seen here in town. As for bikes crossing on pedestrian signals (rather than waiting for green street lights), Kligier said Santa Monica Police still enforce current road rules and will continue to do so until the new law goes into effect in 2024.

“Until AB 1909 takes effect on January 1, 2024, this is not allowed and violators will be subject to a citation from SMPD,” Kligier wrote in an email. “I have heard of citations being issued for this violation, so be cautious.”

Kligier also stated that Santa Monica has not had a bike license program for several years, so the new license rules will not impact the city.

Signed: Conservatorship reform

Ventura County resident Britney Spears became the face of California’s conservatorship law when she launched a public campaign to resume making her own life decisions in 2021. The law is designed to protect vulnerable adults who are not capable of making wise decisions about their own health, finances or other affairs, but cases like Spears’ have highlighted the need for reform in the system.

On Friday, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1663, enabling older and disabled people to advocate for more freedom within the conservatorship model or petition to end conservatorship.

“Our state is committed to protecting civil rights and lifting up every Californian with the supports they need to thrive in their community,” Newsom said in a statement provided by his office. “This measure is an important step to empower Californians with disabilities to get needed support in caring for themselves and their finances, while maintaining control over their lives to the greatest extent possible.”

Signed: Water bottle refill stations at schools

In an effort to go green, Bloom authored a bill requiring schools being modernized to include water bottle refill stations in plans. Since 2011, schools have been required to provide drinking fountains; the new law adds water bottle refill stations to requirements, as well as a requirement allowing students and employees to carry and use reusable water bottles.

Vetoed: EV charging

Newsom vetoed a bill authored by Allen that would have asked the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to research, develop and consider mandatory EV charging infrastructure in parking lots constructed for new multifamily dwellings.

“I agree with the author’s intent to increase access to EV charging technology for Californians living in multifamily housing, which is necessary to increase the number of zero emission vehicles on the road,” Newsom wrote in his veto message. “However, I believe this issue is best addressed administratively in order to balance our charging objectives with our efforts to expand affordable housing.” According to Newsom, HCD was already working to “aggressively expand mandatory EV requirements in new housing developments.”

Vetoed: Loans to facilitate managed retreat 

For the third session in a row, Allen’s bill proposing a state revolving loan program to fund government purchases of coastal property failed to get final approval.

Senate Bill 1078 would have created a program to help provide low-interest loans to jurisdictions “for the purchase of coastal properties in their jurisdictions identified as vulnerable coastal property, as defined, located in specified communities, including low-income communities, as provided. The bill would require the council in consultation with other state planning and coastal management agencies, as provided, to adopt guidelines and eligibility criteria for the program.”

Nothing in the bill’s language refers to “managed retreat” by name, but it is designed to provide a pathway for the government to purchase property to allow property owners to “relocate” to higher ground.

In a letter issuing a veto last Thursday, Newsom wrote that the bill “does not comprehensively address the cost, likely to be carried out over decades.”

Newsom said that his administration appreciated Allen’s work crafting the bill but said it did not capture a “comprehensive framework” including stakeholder cooperation and approval from various levels of government.

The veto message is similar to the letter he signed vetoing the previous version of the bill, SB 83, in 2021.

In response to that veto, senate analysis published alongside the bill counters: “There are numerous efforts at the national, state, regional and local levels to develop the tools to address sea level rise. No single tool or approach will work in all vulnerable location [sic] given the diversity of the state. Further, successful innovation often takes more than one iteration of a new approach, and the fundamental step is to try and see what works.”

emily@smdp.com