Despite the pandemic and the wildfires, the California legislature wrapped up their 2019-2020 session on August 31.
Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, our top priority has been advocating for stronger public health protections, from expansive testing, to adequate PPE, to clear rules for reopening businesses.
But the legislature didn’t stop working on other bills either, so neither did we. Here’s a recap of some of the innovative new laws, supported by CALPIRG, that passed the Legislature this year:
Fighting for consumers
- Over the past several years, the Trump administration has gutted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including a recent rollback of critical regulations on payday loans. Thankfully, California may soon have a new consumer protection watchdog, called the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI). The proposal by Gov. Newsom and advanced by Asm. Limón, once signed, will create the new agency to protect Californians from predatory lenders and abusive debt collectors, including the payday loan industry.
- The COVID-19 economic crisis has harshly impacted millions of Americans with student loan debt. The Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights will, if signed into law, address the massive student debt crisis and impact of the COVID-19 recession on borrowers. This bill, AB 376 by Asm. Stone, will establish key protections that prevent lenders from using predatory and abusive practices to collect student debt.
- In March, U.S. PIRG's analysis found that price gouging was rampant on online marketplaces like Amazon. We led the charge to support Senate Bill 1196 by Sen. Umberg, which will close a loophole in California law that allowed new sellers to engage in price gouging and expand existing price gouging protections.
Make it toxic-free
- It’s been more than 80 years since Congress last took action to regulate cosmetics. In the ensuing years, the industry created products containing highly toxic chemicals that weren’t covered by the increasingly outdated laws. The lack of oversight in the cosmetics industry endangers public health, which is why CALPIRG co-sponsored the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, AB2762 by Assemblymembers Muratsuchi, Wicks and Quirk. If signed by Gov. Newsom, the act will ban twelve highly toxic ingredients, including mercury and formaldehyde, from being used in personal care products sold in California.
- The labels ‘fragrance’ and ‘flavor’ have long been used to hide the presence of toxic ingredients in cosmetic products. The Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020, SB 312 by Sen. Leyva, will require companies to disclose known hazardous ingredients in their products if signed by the governor.
Protecting children's health
- The use of e-cigarettes has been rising amongst teens in recent years, with the appeal of flavored tobacco products contributing significantly to their popularity. More than 1.5 million young people started vaping in 2018 compared to the previous year. Senate Bill 793 by Sen. Jerry Hill will ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in California. In spite of massive opposition from the tobacco industry, the bill was swiftly signed into law and will help prevent more teens from falling into the nicotine trap.
- For years, health experts have been concerned by the outdated ventilation systems in schools. With the COVID-19 virus spreading widely and worsening wildfires, proper ventilation is more critical than ever to protect students. Another potential threat to students is lead in drinking water, which can leach from outdated fixtures. If signed, the Healthy Schools, Healthy Recovery and Healthy Air Act, AB 841 by Asm. Phil Ting, will provide faster funding to schools to upgrade their ventilation systems and replace lead-bearing water fixtures. Check out our interactive map to see if your school found lead in drinking water.
- In January 2020, a state audit revealed that more than 1.4 million children in California did not receive mandated tests for lead poisoning. Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and pediatricians state there is no safe level for children. AB 2276 by Assemblymembers Reyes, C. Garcia, Quirk and Salas, if signed into law, will address many of the problems identified in the state audit, and will ensure millions of California toddlers receive critical lead screenings.