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Psychedelic therapy and worker rights bills are making no headway in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As California faces a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, lawmakers will have to make tough decisions about which of the more than 1,000 measures left in the Legislature this year won't pass.

On Thursday they prevented hundreds of bills from reaching the Senate and Parliament via the so-called suspense act. It's a mysterious process in which lawmakers in two committees decide – without explanation – which bills can become law later this year and which should not be passed.

Typically, lawmakers pass about three-quarters of bills during the process. But something “extraordinary” happened this year, said veteran lobbyist Chris Micheli. He estimated that the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved only about 65% of the bills in its pending file, leaving more than 230 bills without a path to advance.

Democratic Assembly member and committee chairwoman Buffy Wicks said the state's budget problems are “no secret.” The committee passed a bill to create a government-funded universal health care system, which Wicks had supported in the past.

“We have a duty here in California to balance the budget,” she said. “We can’t go into debt, so we have to be very careful with the budget.”

Lawmakers in both chambers had hundreds of proposals. Here are some of the highlights:

REPAIR
It was – above all – a good day for advocates for reparations for black Californians. The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed a state apology for the legacy of slavery, and the Senate Budget Committee advanced several other proposals to redress harms to descendants of enslaved people.

Major proposals to establish an agency to administer reparations programs and assist Black families in researching their family lineage; paying black families for land unjustly taken by eminent domain; and the creation of a state fund for reparations programs, all of which were advanced.

However, the Senate committee passed bills to provide property taxes and financial assistance to descendants of enslaved people. State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Los Angeles-area Democrat who authored the bills, said it was largely due to the state's budget woes.

“This year it’s a financial challenge,” Bradford said. “But we always knew it wouldn’t be a one and we did it. This will be a multi-year approach.”

PSYCHEDELIC THERAPY
The Senate committee has stopped a bill that would have allowed people aged 21 and over to consume psychedelic mushrooms under professional supervision. The legislation would not have permitted personal possession and use.

The bipartisan bill was introduced after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill last year that would have decriminalized the possession and personal use of several plant hallucinogens, including psychedelic mushrooms.

Supporters of the bill, including veterans and first responders, said it would shift the state's response to the mental health crisis away from criminalization and punishment. Opponents said the bill was too broad and would have allowed people without medical training to oversee therapeutic treatment.

ELECTRICITY BILL FEES
A bill that would have eliminated a new fixed fee on Californians' electric bills in 2028 remained in place after a majority of lawmakers on the Assembly Budget Committee refused to vote on it.

The $24.15 monthly fee was approved by state regulators last week. In return, the cost of electricity consumption would decrease. People who use a lot of energy, such as cooling their homes in the summer or charging electric cars, would see savings. But people who use less energy, including solar customers, could see an increase.

The bill would have eliminated that $24.15 fee starting in 2028 and replaced it with a fee that would not exceed $10 for most people.

EMPLOYEES’ RIGHTS TO SEPARATION
Lawmakers also shelved a bill that would have given California workers the right not to engage in work-related emails and text messages outside of work hours.

California would have been the first state in the country to do so. The bill, modeled on a directive introduced in Europe, would also have required employers to create action plans to implement the standard.

Supporters said workers are often expected to be constantly available and that the bill would have helped them set clear boundaries between work and home life. But opponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce, said the bill was too vague and would have hurt businesses' ability to operate effectively.

Anna Harden

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