Last week marked the end of this year’s legislative session in California, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight the progress we’ve made together. Every Californian wants a healthier, safer, more secure future, and CALPIRG’s mission is to bring people together and advocate for common sense solutions towards that better future and the common good.
I’m excited to report that over a dozen CALPIRG-backed bills have advanced through this year’s legislative process and now head to Governor Newsom’s desk to be signed into law. Read below for highlights from several key bills that will make lives better for everyone who calls our state home.
Limiting our exposure to PFAS forever chemicals
No Californian should be exposed to known toxic chemicals in the food we eat, the water we drink or the products we routinely use. Unfortunately, many of the consumer products we use everyday contain toxic PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – a class of dangerous chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems including suppression of the immune system, interference with vaccines, and an elevated risk of cancer. That’s why CALPIRG has joined public health and environmental groups in calling on the state to crack down on this growing public health problem.
We were thrilled to see three important bills targeting PFAS contamination pass this year.
- AB 2771, the PFAS-Free Beauty Act, by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, prohibits manufacturers from adding PFAS to cosmetics and personal care products sold in California. Makeup, lotion, and other personal care products we use on our bodies every day shouldn’t contain toxic ingredients that put our health at risk.
- Assembly Bill 1817, the Safer Clothes and Textiles Act, by Assemblymember Phil Ting, prohibits manufacturers from adding PFAS to textiles and clothing sold in California. As evidenced in a recent scorecard from CALPIRG, the NRDC, and Fashion FWD, clothing is another example of a major and unnecessary use of PFAS and can lead to water contamination when these products are washed and the wastewater is released into our environment.
- Assembly Bill 2247 by Assemblymember Richard Bloom requires manufacturers of products sold or imported into California to report the presence of PFAS in their products. This legislation will help Californians identify PFAS entering the state and better explore how to best mitigate its impacts.
To give our children and grandchildren the healthier future they deserve, we’re working to eliminate the pollution and practices that are warming the planet and changing our climate. We’ve known for decades that fossil fuel pollution is dirty and dangerous, and we’re excited that California is continuing to lead the nation by protecting communities from oil and gas extraction while speeding up our transition to a 100% renewable energy future.
- Senate Bill 1020 by Senator John Laird sets ambitious benchmarks to accelerate our commitment to 100% clean electricity, building on the work we did in 2018 to pass California’s landmark 100% clean electricity law (SB 100).
- Oil and gas extraction is happening startlingly close to homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship, leading to increased risk of asthma, complications during pregnancy and elevated cancer risk. Senate Bill 1137 by Senators Lena Gonzalez and Monique Limon creates a 3,200-ft (1km) health and safety buffer zone around oil and gas wells in the state.
- In addition to these legislative actions to protect communities from the impacts of climate change, the state budget allocates $54 billion to put towards clean transportation and clean energy, including $1.5 billion towards electric school buses, estimated to pay for 3,000 more electric school buses and charging infrastructure.
Sweeping action to curb single-use plastic
Plastic pollution continues to clog up our ocean and waterways. Nothing we use for only a few minutes should pollute our environment for thousands of years. We were excited to see huge action this year to curb single-use plastic waste in our communities.
- Senate Bill 54, the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom in June, mandates significant reductions in single-use foodware and packaging, requires that those items actually be recyclable or compostable, and holds producers financially responsible for the plastic they put into our communities. The new law is estimated to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our environment by an estimated 23 million tons over 10 years.
- We’re also excited that California is continuing our legacy in tackling pollution from single-use plastic grocery bags with the passage of Senate Bill 1046 (Senator Eggman), which bans the use of single-use plastic produce bags.
High Value Health Care
We live in a state with some of the best hospitals, doctors and medical technology in the world, but the simple truth is that Californians pay too much for health care, and don’t get enough value in return. That’s why we’re excited that the state budget includes $30 million to establish and administer the Office of Health Care Affordability (OHCA), which will track and analyze health care spending and set enforceable cost targets for the entire healthcare industry.
Too many products, practices and technologies put consumers’ health, safety or well-being at risk. We’re glad that several CALPIRG-backed bills passed this year that help protect consumers from unsafe products and unfair practices.
- Kids spend a lot of time online, so we need to help them do it safely. Many online platforms are designed to induce kids to log on more often and spend more time online, which can lead to physical risks like eye problems, less sleep, and mental health issues. Assembly Bill 2273, the Age Appropriate Design Code Act, by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Jordan Cunningham, requires online platforms to proactively consider how their product design could pose a danger to minors, including through algorithms and targeted ads.
- CALPIRG has worked hard over the years to ensure there are consumer protections in place to protect people from unsafe products. These consumer protections are undermined if a counterfeiter can sell a similar item, without the proper safety measures. Senate Bill 301, by Senator Nancy Skinner, requires higher-volume third-party sellers on online marketplaces to disclose basic business information that allows the public to verify who and what is actually behind the products they are purchasing.
- Warranties can be great tools to ensure the products we buy are indeed what we pay for. Unfortunately, because warranties typically begin on the date of purchase, supply chain issues and long wait times for delivery have led some consumers to lose out on their entire warranty protection. Assembly Bill 2912, by Assemblymember Marc Berman fixes warranties by requiring that they start when a product is actually delivered to a consumer.
We made incredible progress this year advocating for consumers and creating a more healthy, sustainable and livable California. But we didn’t win every bill we set out to, so we’ll keep building the political will and bringing people together to tackle California’s urgent problems. That includes banning single-use plastic packaging from e-commerce, making it easier for consumers to fix electronics and keep them off the scrap heap, continuing to address toxic chemicals in our community, further transitioning to a 100% renewable energy economy and zero carbon transportation system, and more. We have much work to do, but we’re pleased with what we’ve accomplished so far, thanks in no small part to our talented staff, student volunteers, members up and down the state, and other supporters.
State Director, CALPIRG
Jenn directs CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts, and is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Jenn has served on the CALPIRG board for the past two years before stepping into her current role. Most recently, as the deputy national director for the Student PIRGs, she helped run our national effort to mobilize hundreds of thousands of students to vote. She led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics, and go 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.