SACRAMENTO — Ambitious bills introduced in the state Legislature by local elected officials earlier this year are steadily progressing through both houses, though not without undergoing significant changes along the way.
Anti-caste discrimination bill heads to governor’s desk
A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on caste is heading to the governor’s desk, but not without significant changes after facing a backlash.
Senate Bill 403, which was introduced by State Senator Aisha Wahab, seeks to make discrimination based on caste illegal. It cleared the Senate, 31-5, Tuesday, Sept. 5, but it no longer explicitly references South Asia and categorizes caste as a subset of ancestry, rather than establishing it as its own protected status.
If signed by the governor, SB 403 would become the first state law banning caste discrimination in the country. It has faced backlash from some Hindu American groups that have called the bill discriminatory toward Indian Americans.
Naloxone accessibility bill heads to Senate floor
A bill initially calling for insurers to cover the cost of naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses, has undergone an amendment that now caps the cost at $10 per package.
Assembly Bill 1060, which passed unanimously in the Assembly with a 77-0 vote in late May, is set for a full state Senate vote in the coming weeks. If enacted, it would mandate both MediCal and private insurers limit the price of over-the-counter naloxone to $10. Assemblymember Liz Ortega, the bill’s author, emphasized the need to make naloxone affordable in a press release.
“No parent should lose a child because they couldn’t afford a high pharmacy bill,” Ortega said. “California can be a leader here. By keeping the cost of this life-saving drug at $10 or less, my bill will empower thousands of parents, families, and community members to protect their loved ones should the worst happen.”
Naloxone can counter the effects of an opioid overdose if it is administered promptly. The FDA has been ramping up its efforts to increase access to products that reverse overdoses since 2022.
Social Housing Act transforms into pilot program
The Social Housing Act is moving forward as a pilot program after starting as a bill that would have established a statewide housing authority responsible for producing and managing affordable mixed-income housing.
Assembly Bill 309, authored by the Assemblymember Alex Lee, passed out of the Assembly on a 55-16 vote in May and now awaits a vote on the Senate floor. If approved, it would empower the state Department of General Services to seek proposals from private developers for the construction of up to three social housing projects on state-owned surplus land, striving to offer units at a cost not exceeding 30% of a household’s income, though not guaranteeing it.
Despite the changes, Lee celebrated the bill’s progress in a press release, saying, “Our social housing legislation has made it the furthest any social housing bill has ever moved in the State Legislature.”
The pilot program is expected to inform future efforts to create a state housing authority.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the passage of SB 403 in the state Senate.