California Lawmakers to Tackle Housing Crisis, Immigration

California Governor Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California in this file photo taken March 19, 2015. Brown on April 4, 2016 was expected to sign into a law a plan to raise the minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour by the year 2023, making the nation’s most-populous state the first to boost pay to that level for the working poor. Photo by Max Whittaker/Files/Reuters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers return Monday from a monthlong break with a busy agenda that includes tackling the state’s housing crisis and deciding whether to make California a statewide sanctuary for people living illegally in the U.S.

Here’s a look at some of the high-profile issues the Legislature will tackle in the last four weeks of business this year. They reconvene in January for the rest of their current two-year session.

HOUSING

With Californians facing high and rapidly rising housing costs, Gov. Jerry Brown and top Democratic lawmakers put housing at the top of the agenda for the Legislature’s return.

Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon agreed to advance a package of housing bills.

They said it would include a bond and permanent funding source for subsidized housing — a top priority for many Democratic lawmakers — as well as regulatory changes that make it easier for developers to build affordable housing, one of Brown’s priorities.

Legislative leaders have long identified soaring housing costs as a major concern, but they’ve struggled to find consensus with Brown, developers, labor unions and environmentalists.

CAP AND TRADE MONEY

California got national attention last month for extending the state’s “cap and trade” climate law until 2030. The move keeps alive a program that raises hundreds of millions of dollars a year by auctioning off permits to release climate-changing gases.

Lawmakers outlined broad priorities for the money, including cleaner air, zero-emission vehicles, sustainable agriculture, forests and parks. Now they have to decide on specifics — while listening to a loud chorus of interest groups looking for a piece of the money.

Sixty percent of the money automatically goes to high-speed rail, public transit, housing projects and other purposes. Another chunk is committed to cover the cost of tax breaks included in the extension to win support from Republicans and business interests.

By Jonathan J. Cooper for PBS NewsHour
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