California Lawmakers Tackle Hundreds of Bills as Legislative Session Nears End
As the legislative session in California draws to a close on Thursday, lawmakers are diligently working their way through a multitude of bills. Once approved, these bills will be sent to Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom for consideration. Newsom will have until October 14 to decide whether to sign the bills into law, veto them, or let them become law without his signature. It is worth mentioning that it is extremely rare for the California state legislature to override a governor’s veto, regardless of the political party in power.
Chemicals in Processed Foods and Drinks Set to be Banned in California
In a groundbreaking move, California lawmakers have voted to ban four chemicals from processed food and drinks sold in the state by 2027. These chemicals include red dye no. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propyl paraben, which are commonly found in products like Peeps, the famous marshmallow chicks associated with Easter. Democratic Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, the bill’s author, emphasized that these chemicals have already been banned by the European Union and other countries due to scientific research linking them to health issues, including cancer. Gabriel stressed that the bill does not aim to ban any specific food or product but merely requires food companies to make minor adjustments to their recipes. It is important to note that an earlier version of the bill intended to ban titanium dioxide, used in Skittles, but this chemical was subsequently excluded from the ban in amendments made by the state Senate.
Financial Risks of Climate Change Must Be Disclosed by Companies
The state Assembly has approved a bill necessitating companies with an annual income of over $500 million to disclose the financial risks posed by climate change to their businesses and outline strategies to address these risks. State Senator Henry Stern, a Democrat from Los Angeles, sponsored the legislation, stating that this information would assist individuals and lawmakers in making informed public and private investment decisions. Notably, the bill was recently modified to require companies to commence reporting this information in 2026 instead of 2024, and they will now need to report every other year rather than annually. Anne DiGrazia, a spokesperson for Stern, explained that these changes aim to facilitate businesses in complying with the reporting requirements. Supported by major corporations such as IKEA and Microsoft, as well as former California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols, this bill stands as one of the largest climate proposals in the state Legislature this year. Opponents argue that it could impose excessive burdens on companies and assert its premature nature. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is currently considering rules that would mandate public companies to disclose their direct and indirect emissions, along with the impact of climate risk on their operations. According to Ceres, a policy group backing the legislation, more than 10,000 companies would fall under this proposed California mandate. It is worth noting that the state Legislature has already sent another bill to Governor Newsom that would require companies earning over $1 billion annually to report their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Change Education to Be Incorporated in California School Curriculum
In a significant development, the Senate has passed a bill mandating the inclusion of lessons on climate change in school curricula from first grade through high school. These lessons will cover the causes and effects of climate change, as well as strategies for mitigating and adapting to the changing climate. Advocates of the bill emphasize that climate change education is already compulsory in other countries like Italy and New Zealand. Although Oregon introduced similar legislation this year, it was unable to progress. Before reaching Governor Newsom’s desk, this bill still requires final approval in the Assembly.
“Cannabis Cafes” Could Become Reality in California
California lawmakers have presented Governor Newsom with a bill that could pave the way for the establishment of more “cannabis cafes” similar to those found in Amsterdam. These establishments, where customers can socialize while purchasing cannabis, coffee, and other products, have inspired the proposed legislation. If passed, the bill would grant local governments the authority to issue licenses to cannabis dispensaries, permitting them to sell non-cannabis food, beverages, and tickets to live music events. Assemblymember Matt Haney, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill’s sponsor, believes this will provide a much-needed boost to small cannabis businesses. Haney contends that there is no valid reason, whether economic, health-related, or in terms of safety, for the state to continue prohibiting these activities.