The California State Senate adjourned the unprecedented 2020 legislative session on Tuesday, Sept. 1, having approved significant measures to fight COVID-19, spur economic recovery, and respond to calls for greater economic and social justice.
“In a year that couldn’t be business as usual, this session we were able to get important business done for the people of California who are facing so many challenges,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). “We have increased aid during the COVID-19 pandemic to individuals and families, small businesses, schools, and people who have lost their jobs—and we performed ongoing oversight to ensure the state’s COVID-19 funding is effective and efficient, and we have taken steps to erase some of the stains structural racism has made on our social fabric.”
In April, the Senate announced it would be focusing its efforts primarily on the following areas: COVID-19 policy response and action, budget, economic recovery, housing stability, and social and economic justice. Senators reduced the number of bills they carried this session to help keep the focus on these key areas. The Senate also faced a compressed calendar and new processes that were implemented to keep the public, legislators, and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following are some of the actions taken by the Legislature in 2020:
The COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act will provide temporary stability and relief for Californians as we continue to address the uncertainty surrounding the public health crisis. This collaborative effort combines legal and financial protections for tenants and small landlords, and most importantly, keeps Californians housed.
The Senate allocated up to $1 billion for lifesaving care and COVID-19 prevention, funding which enabled acquiring hospital and public health equipment, addressing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in the homeless population, support for seniors needing services and outreach, and cleaning child care facilities.
The Senate passed legislation that increased protective equipment, supplies, and cleaning for schools, and to ensure districts would not lose expected revenue over Coronavirus-related closures.
The Senate enacted several programs and resources to help Californians through this crisis, from tax deferrals to matching existing job openings with California applicants.
The Senate approved giving voters the opportunity to decide if California should allow race and gender to be considered in college admissions, government hiring, and government contracting, not the only consideration, not the determining consideration, but one of the considerations in a holistic review.
The Senate approved giving voters the opportunity to restore the right to vote for Californians on parole and allow those who have served their time, including people who are working, paying taxes, and raising families the opportunity to re-integrate and re-engage in their communities.
The Senate advanced an innovative and ambitious economic recovery program, created a $100 million hiring credit to help get Californians back to work, and provided a safer path for our essential workers and first responders, so they can get the information, protections and care they need.
The Senate jumpstarted transportation funds to accelerate projects and create jobs, and extended protections for middle-income families threatened with losing their homes in bankruptcy.
The Senate enacted a state budget that protected education funding, maintained key new investments including homelessness funding and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for working Californians, avoided new taxes on middle class Californians, prevented cuts in vital services for seniors and other vulnerable Californians and still set aside $11.3 billion in General Fund reserves.
“Thanks to a decade of prudent actions by the legislature, California’s budget was in the best shape it’s been in for years, and that helped us address the economic downturn caused by COVID-19,” Atkins said. “In the weeks ahead, in anticipation of the new legislative session starting in December, Senators will be working with our colleagues, our constituents, and our communities to build on these successes, help Californians persevere through this pandemic, continue to build a strong and equitable recovery, and increase the production of affordable housing.”