By Emily Hoeven, Cal Matters
(The photo accompanying the headline is by Kathleen Roos)
“Mental illness. Substance abuse. Homelessness. These are all existential crises we have to address with urgency.”
That was Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to a key legislative committee on Tuesday passing his controversial proposal to allow courts to compel people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders into treatment — the state’s latest attempt to mitigate spiraling homelessness and drug overdose epidemics that are top of mind for many voters as the November general election approaches.
But although many state leaders, interest groups and activists may broadly agree on the set of “existential crises” facing California, they don’t always agree on how to address them — as illustrated by the controversies surrounding a pile of proposals aiming to help and protect the state’s most vulnerable residents.
First up: Newsom’s CARE Courts proposal. The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the governor’s bill Tuesday, but not without significant misgivings — which could prove increasingly difficult to overcome in upcoming hearings.
- Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat, became the first lawmaker to vote against the proposal so far. “I think that we should not underestimate the trauma that is incurred when someone is brought before the court system,” Kalra, a former public defender, said while wiping away tears. “This is about the dignity of the individual, this is also about their freedom.”
- Assemblymember Mark Stone, a Santa Cruz Democrat who leads the committee, cited a bevy of unresolved logistical questions. “I think part of the issue here is understanding what this really is, and it isn’t. … We’re getting late in the process with lots of questions and lots of issues.” The state needs to make sure it’s investing in a program it can “be proud of … rather than just something that is flashy … and we don’t have a lot of structure built around it ultimately for success,” Stone added.
Second: a bill to reform California’s troubled nursing home licensing system. Recent revisions to the proposal — which is up for a hearing today in the Senate Health Committee — have prompted one of its original sponsors, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, to attempt to kill it. CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener has the details on why the group is calling the bill “a step backwards.”
Last but not least: proposals to limit the negative effects of social media. Democratic lawmakers gathered outside the state Capitol on Tuesday to urge support for a bill that would force social media companies to publicly disclose their policies for handling online hate and share enforcement data. But the proposal, a version of which stalled last year, faces strong pushback from free speech advocates and business groups.
That bill is up for a crucial hearing next week, as is another proposal that aims to strengthen online privacy protections for kids.
- According to YouGov survey data shared exclusively with CalMatters, 37% of Californians aged 14-22 surveyed online May 13-25 said they worry about the way social media companies collect and use their information and data. A whopping 49% said social media apps should turn off unnecessary location tracking features; 44% said companies should prevent adult strangers from contacting young people online; and 39% said algorithms should be redesigned to stop promoting dangerous and hateful conduct.
- And 34% said companies should stop designing apps to be “intentionally addictive” — the focus of another bill facing a hearing next week that would allow California parents to sue social media companies for harms caused by hooking their kids on addictive algorithms.