And that’s a Wrap!

On August 31st the California state legislature wrapped up its work for the year, sending hundreds of new bills to Governor Brown’s desk - including bills to reduce harmful global warming pollution protect consumers from surprise medical bills, protect homeowners at risk of foreclosure, restore campaign finance options to reduce the influence of big money in politics, and give voters more options for casting their ballot. 

On August 31st the California state legislature wrapped up its work for the year, sending hundreds of new bills to Governor Brown’s desk. Throughout the two-year session CALPIRG watched the legislature’s work, advocating for more than forty bills and raising concerns about others. Here is a short list of some of the most noteworthy bills we supported in 2016.

Public Health:

SB 32 (Pavley) – This bill extends and expands California’s commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to harmful air quality and global warming, requiring an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030 – PASSED

SB 1383 (Lara) – California has made huge strides in cleaning our air and protecting public health from the worst effects of air pollution, but there’s still work to do. This bill would require California to cut emissions of black carbon, methane, and fluorinated gases almost in half by 2030 – PASSED

SB 887 (Pavley) + SB 888 (Allen) – The massive natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon demonstrated that California must do more to protect the public from the dangers associated with natural gas storage. Collectively, these bills will help improve oversight and inspection of natural gas wells and ensure that the state’s response to any future leaks is faster and more effective – PASSED

SB 1398 (Leyva) – Lead contaminated drinking water is a grave threat to our health and the health of our children. This bill will require our public water systems to identify lead pipes and replace them as soon as practically possible – PASSED 

“This year lawmakers passed a package of bills that will help protect public health from lung-damaging air pollution, natural gas leaks, and lead in our water pipes. These policies, if signed into law, will help ensure that future generations in California have cleaner air to breathe, cleaner water to drink, and a healthier planet to call home.” – Jason Pfeifle, Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG

Health Care:

AB 72 (Bonta, Bonilla, Dahle, Gonzalez, Maienschein, Santiago, and Wood) – It is all too common for a consumer who goes to an in-network hospital to receive a surprise medical bill from an out-of-network specialist who the consumer did not choose, and often had no control over selecting. This bill prohibits health care providers from sending consumers surprise medical bills – PASSED 

SB 908 (Hernandez, Ed) – At least 26 times over the last five years, health insurance companies went ahead with rate increases despite state regulators declaring that the hikes were “unreasonable” for consumers. This bill requires insurers to notify consumers if their rate has been declared unreasonable and allow consumers to shop around for other coverage options. See CALPIRG’s recent report on the issue here. – PASSED

SB 1010 (Hernandez, Ed) – Would have provided transparency of soaring prescription drug prices for both public and private purchasers. The information provided would have helped these purchasers to better negotiate prescription drug prices  – FAILED

“Unreasonable costs in health care – from rate hikes, to surprise bills, to prescription drug prices – must be curtailed. Ending surprise medical bills would be a HUGE win for consumers. We hope Gov. Brown acts quickly to sign AB 72. Unfortunately, Pharma fought tooth and nail against meaningful action by the legislature for even modest reforms to increase disclosure around prescription drug price hikes. Look for more action on this issue next year – consumers are really angry about the price gouging they are experiencing.” – Emily Rusch, Executive Director, CALPIRG

Consumer Protection:

SB 1150 (Leno, Galgiani) – This bill, the Survivors Bill of Rights, would stop mortgage servicers or lenders from exploiting a loophole in the CA Homeowner’s Bill of Rights that puts surviving heirs in danger of foreclosure and expulsion from their homes upon assuming mortgage loans. Surviving heirs deserve the same transparency and opportunity to save their home as the original borrower – PASSED

“There are just too many horror stories of widows and other family members struggling to stay in their homes after the loss of a loved one. SB 1150 simply requires the lenders make survivors eligible for the loan modification process.” – Emily Rusch, Executive Director, CALPIRG

Money in Politics: 

SB 1107 (Allen) – SB 1107 lifts the ban on public financing in order to let state and local government propose campaign finance solutions to reduce influence of big money in politics – PASSED   

AB 700 (Gomez, Levine) – AB 700 is a bill to require that political campaign ads disclose the true source of funding behind their biggest donors – VOTE FAILED

“Campaign finance has dramatically changed over the last thirty years with the rise of SuperPACs and unprecedented campaign spending. SB 1107 opens the door for reforms to encourage campaigns to focus on voters and small donors instead of wealthy corporations.” – Emily Rusch, Executive Director, CALPIRG  

Voter Participation:

SB 450 (Allen, Hertzberg) – This bill will authorize county elections officials to change the way they run elections, allowing them to mail ballots to every register voter and set up ballot drop off locations and vote centers instead of precinct polling locations. Notably, the vote centers located throughout the county will be equipped to enable same day voter registration for voters who need to register or update their registration. –  PASSED  

“Every election cycle our poll watchers meet young people new to the election process who want to vote but either didn’t register in time or didn’t update their registration after they moved for school. We’re hopeful that the new voting options in SB 450 will help remove barriers to voting for Californians new to the political process.” – Matt Gough, Organizer, CALPIRG New Voters Project


Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

Emily is the senior director for state organizations for The Public Interest Network. She works nationwide with the state group directors for PIRG and Environment America to help them build stronger organizations and achieve greater success. Emily was the executive director for CALPIRG from 2009-2021, overseeing a myriad of CALPIRG campaigns to protect public health, protect consumers in the marketplace, and promote a robust democracy. Emily works in our Oakland, California, office, and loves camping, hiking, gardening and cooking with her family.

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