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  • Writer's pictureZack Deutsch-Gross

Status of Transform’s Policy Priorities at Legislative Halfway Mark

Updated: Jun 14

Transform’s advocacy has helped push a slate of excellent bills through the first step in the legislative process. All bills needed to move from the house in which they were introduced by mid-May to pass the legislature this year. Thirteen bills we support cleared this hurdle, a couple of good bills died in committee, a bill we oppose continues to advance, and we’re watching amendments to a top-priority bill to determine whether we can support it. Here’s the full recap as we move into the second phase of the legislative session.

Bills Transform supports

First, the good news: thirteen bills we support have passed their first floor votes. A few are two-year bills, which means they passed to their second house in 2023 but were held back from final passage by their sponsors, often for further amendments to improve their chances of passage.

The ones that passed

The Transportation Accountability Bill, AB 2086, authored by Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo, which Transform is co-sponsoring, passed the Assembly in a unanimous vote of 72-0, an impressive show of support across party lines. The bill brings greater transparency and fiscal accountability to Caltrans operations so we can track how our transportation dollars are being spent.

These excellent bills also advanced:

  • Green Highways Bill (AB 824, Calderon): This measure will reduce the pollution burden of communities living and working near highways.

  • CTC Equity Act (AB 832, Cervantes): The California Transportation Commission (CTC) is an 11-member commission that oversees transportation funding. This bill would require at least one of the nine members the governor appoints to have transportation expertise and professional experience working with disadvantaged communities. That should be a minimum for this crucial commission, which currently often serves as a rubber stamp for Caltrans projects, despite objections from the public.

  • 2024 Housing Bond (AB 1657, Wicks): The 2024 Housing Bond authorizes the state to issue up to $10 billion in bonds to fund affordable housing throughout California.

  • Yield to the Bus Bill (AB 1904, Ward): Assemblymember Christopher Ward’s measure would allow transit providers throughout California to install yield signs on public buses. This low-cost solution would increase safety for all transit users.

  • No Tolls for Active Transportation Bill (AB 2669, Ting): A California law banning tolls for bridge crossings other than motorized vehicles sunsets this year; this bill will make the ban permanent.

  • The Mitigation Fee Act (AB 3177, Carrillo): This bill incentivizes transit-oriented development by reducing vehicle traffic impact fees for new housing built within ½ mile of transit.

  • 2024 Climate Bond (SB 867, Allen): This initiative dedicates $15 billion to projects to reduce fire risk near communities and ensure forests are healthy enough to withstand more intense wildfires; reduce the risk of catastrophic flood events by slowing and capturing runoff; protect coastal communities from sea-level rise; and help urban communities adapt to rising temperatures.

  • SMART Funding Bill (SB 904, Dodd): This bill would give voters permission to seek additional funding for SMART train service in Sonoma and Marin Counties by citizen’s initiative, lowering the vote threshold from two-thirds to 50% plus one.

  • Complete Streets Bill (SB 960, Wiener): This bill would require Caltrans to include improvements for people biking, walking, and taking transit, if applicable, when they repair or repave state routes, especially those that are also local streets.

  • Safe Vehicles Save Lives Bill (SB 961, Wiener): This bill requires intelligent speed assist in passenger vehicles, starting in 2027, alerting drivers when they exceed the posted speed limit. Since speed is a factor in many fatal crashes, this will save lives.

  • Youth Housing Bond Act of 2024 (SB 1079, Menjivar): This bill authorizes the state to issue $1 billion in bonds to fund youth housing and youth centers in California.

  • Housing Is a Human Right (ACA 10, Haney): This is a constitutional amendment adding adequate housing to the list of fundamental rights recognized by the State of California. Transform strongly supports it.

  • Let the People Vote (SCA 2, Stern): This lowers the voting age in California elections from 18 to 17. We think young people should have a say in their futures, and we hope the legislature passes this amendment to the California Constitution.

Death by suspense file

Sometimes, it takes more than one try for a good idea to go from a bill to being law. We saw two excellent measures stall in the Assembly this year, but that doesn’t mean the end of the road for their innovations.

AB 2535, which would have taken away one of the rationales for adding lanes to highways — easing freight traffic — died in the dreaded suspense file. Bills deemed to have a fiscal impact are placed “on suspense” in the Appropriations Committee of either house. It’s an easy place to stop a bill disfavored by a powerful legislator or lobbying interest, the legislative equivalent of a mob hit in a dark alley. We hope some version of this excellent bill returns in a future legislative session.

AB 2719 would have exempted public buses from CHP commercial vehicle inspections, a process that throws transit off schedule and hinders reliability. The bill would have allowed transit agencies to have their vehicles inspected by appointment, leaving schedules intact and not inconveniencing riders. It’s a simple change that would make public transit function better that also died in Appropriations, despite the fact that it only allows the change but doesn’t require bus operators to use the yield signs. We hope to see this one come back, too.

Under construction: The Connect the Bay Bill

The Connect the Bay Bill, SB 1031 (Wahab, Wiener), is a critical step toward a 2026 Bay Area ballot measure to create a secure funding stream for our public transit agencies. Transform, in coalition with our partners in the Voices for Public Transportation, has worked hard to bring this measure forward, but we can’t wholeheartedly support it in its current form.

We are advocating for the Connect the Bay Bill to prioritize public transit funding and safe streets and not provide any funds for new highway lanes that will only increase carbon emissions, vehicle miles traveled, and congestion.

In 2024, every transportation bill is also a climate bill, and the question will be whether it will have a positive or negative impact on our climate crisis. The Connect the Bay Bill has the potential to have a very positive impact, increasing transit ridership and making biking and walking safer and more appealing. We hope the legislature will keep the focus of this funding on transformative walking, biking, and transit improvements throughout the Bay Area.

All these bills will continue to evolve as they make their way through the legislature and head for the governor’s desk. We’ll let you know of any important developments and when you can help them along by sending an email to your representatives.


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