A tumultuous Legislative session ends in California

By Jill Cowan

California lawmakers skidded to the chaotic close of a legislative session in which sweeping policy debates often took a back seat to more immediate crises wrought by the pandemic.

That included a last-minute law intended to stave off a wave of evictions that tenant advocates have warned would be likely if protections were allowed to expire as planned Tuesday.

Landlord groups fought hard against requiring landlords to forgive unpaid rent, and no such provisions made it into the deal.

In a statement, Debra Carlton, executive vice president of the California Apartment Association, said that the deal was a fine stopgap, but that renters would need federal help paying accumulated rent.

“Otherwise,” she said, “housing providers will go out of business.”

Some community organizations worried that the deal would still leave many renters, particularly in the hard-hit Central Valley, vulnerable to being kicked out of their homes.

Starting as early as this week, for instance, tenants can be evicted for lease violations other than nonpayment related to the coronavirus pandemic.

While landlords said that was necessary to be able to remove tenants who are endangering their property or bothering neighbors, tenant advocates said that many high-risk renters won’t have the resources to legally challenge their landlords if they use a lease violation as a pretext for evicting them for not paying.

“We expected California’s elected representatives, who’ve had nearly 6 months to devise a COVID-19 housing policy to safeguard the people they took an oath to serve, to represent the interests of the people — not property,” said a statement from the nonprofit Faith in the Valley. “We are disheartened.”

In any case, lawmakers and other tenant advocates said the hard-won compromise was the only way to avert disaster.

“California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “But it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution.”

Late into the night, other debates over how to manage coronavirus risks played out in real time, as the governor might say.

As Politico reported, tensions rose when Republican state senators — who had been barred because a member of their caucus tested positive for the coronavirus — complained about having to vote remotely.

A Democratic Assembly member, Buffy Wicks, was forced to bring her newborn baby to the floor after her request to vote by proxy was denied by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, whose office said that she wasn’t considered higher risk of getting sick. Wicks gave birth in July.

It was a jarring contrast that ricocheted around social media. The same night, as The Los Angeles Times reported, lawmakers voted to expand job protections for people who take the state’s paid family leave. Newsom has said he will sign that bill into law.

And Tuesday night, Rendon issued an apology.

Another police shooting draws an outcry

On Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said deputies tried to stop a Black man who was riding a bike in South Los Angeles. They said he was stopped for a code violation related to the bike but wouldn’t elaborate on what the alleged violation was.

The man, Dijon Kizzee, 29, fled. Deputies chased him, eventually catching up. Sheriff’s officials said Kizzee punched one of the officers in the face and dropped a bundle that they said contained a handgun.

When Kizzee dropped the bundle and “made a motion” toward the gun, officials said, the deputies opened fire. Kizzee died.

Soon, demonstrators gathered to protest. Family members grieved and demanded answers.

According to The Los Angeles Times, his family planned to conduct an independent autopsy.

The shooting comes amid a continuing outcry across the country about racist police violence and took place not far from where Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies shot Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old Latino man, five times in the back in July.

But while many California leaders have expressed support for the demonstrations and have vowed reforms, many stalled in the Legislature, including one high-profile proposal that would have, among other things, stripped badges from officers who break the law.

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