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Guest Opinion: The good, bad and ugly of California bills

Assemblyman Josh Hoover. // Image courtesy, Hoover

By Assemblyman Josh Hoover–
The 2023 legislative session officially came to an end last month as the Governor’s deadline to sign or veto bills passed on Oct. 14, 2023. In total, this legislative year saw 1,046 bills land on Governor Newsom’s desk and he signed 890 of them into law. Here is a summary of the good, bad, and ugly legislative outcomes in 2023 that will go into law in January:

The Good

SB 14 (Grove) – Combating Human Trafficking. This hard-fought piece of legislation will make human trafficking of a minor a serious felony in California. Many may find it hard to believe that it wasn’t already, but prior to this bill passing this crime did not fall under our state’s Three Strikes law. After passing with unanimous bi-partisan support in the State Senate, SB 14 was killed in the Assembly Public Safety Committee earlier this year. Thanks to enormous public pressure and bipartisan outcry, the committee re-voted and rightfully moved the bill forward.

SB 799 (Portantino) – Vetoed by the Governor. This bill to provide unemployment insurance benefits to striking workers passed out of the Legislature despite a strong coalition of opposition. Thankfully Governor Newsom refused to sign it into law stating in his veto letter that “now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt.” The state’s unemployment insurance (UI) fund is currently over $18 billion in debt to the federal government. California employers are on the hook to pay back this loan after years of mismanagement by the state, a problem the Legislature refused to fix when it had a budget surplus. SB 799 would have further exacerbated the situation with our UI system.

Many Bills Harmful to Public Safety Defeated. Sometimes good news comes in the form of defeating bad bills. A number of bills that would have made our communities less safe were killed at different stages of the process. These included legislative efforts to defund school resource officers (AB 1299), ban the use of police canines (AB 742), prohibit consensual searches (AB 93), prohibit enforcement of low-level infractions (SB 50), expand eligibility for early release from prison (SB 81), allow parole consideration for criminals sentenced to life in prison (SB 94), and allow felons to vote from prison (ACA 4).

The Bad

Lack of Progress on Fentanyl Crisis. Putting a stop to the fentanyl crisis that is killing over 100 Californians per week, including high school students in our community, needs to be one of the state’s top priorities. While the Legislature did pass a number of bills relating to fentanyl education, it failed to increase penalties on the dealers trafficking fentanyl into our neighborhoods. They even killed a bill I coauthored to require Naloxone (medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose) in every school. Much work remains to be done to address this crisis and I look forward to pushing for greater change in the coming year.

Failure to Reform Proposition 47. At the beginning of the legislative year, I introduced AB 75 to reform Proposition 47 and restore some accountability in our criminal justice system. Prop. 47 (infamously named the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” when it passed in 2014) reduced a number of felonies to misdemeanors and contributed to an increase in retail theft across the state. My bill would have brought back harsher penalties for serial theft offenders, but it was defeated in the Assembly Public Safety Committee along with other efforts to reform Prop. 47.

Passed Legislation that will Cost Consumers. The Legislature passed two minimum wage bills that will further increase the cost of living for California families. AB 1228 creates a $20 minimum wage for fast food workers, while SB 525 creates a $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers. The latter bill will result in increased healthcare costs for consumers, while potentially decreasing healthcare access in the parts of our state where hospitals are already struggling to stay afloat.

The Ugly

Taxpayers Under Fire. The Legislature simultaneously passed a constitutional amendment to reduce the vote threshold for local tax increases (ACA 1) and a constitutional amendment to increase the vote threshold for passing taxpayer protections (ACA 13). No matter how high our taxes get in California, it never seems to be enough. Instead of making it easier to increase taxes in our state even further, our Legislature would be wise to get a handle on its propensity to overspend. Voters will have the opportunity to make their voice heard on these measures at the ballot box in 2024.

It is an honor to be your representative and I look forward to continuing the fight for policies in the Legislature that protect the interests of the families, taxpayers, and small businesses in our community.

Assemblyman Josh Hoover represents the 7th Assembly District in Sacramento County, which includes the cities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, and Rancho Cordova and the unincorporated communities of Carmichael, Fair Oaks, Foothill Farms, Gold River, Mather, McClellan Park, North Highlands, Orangevale, and Rosemont. You can contact his office at

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