Because of COVID-19, Fewer Laws

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Back in April, I wondered on this page if the pandemic’s effect on the legislature shutting down the capitol during an extended break would result in fewer bills passed and signed into law. Apparently, that will be the case.

On top of the extraordinary month-long lockdown in March, the legislature was forced to extend its summer recess two weeks because some members and staffers contracted the COVID-19 virus. With an end of the session deadline of August 31 coming fast, Democratic leaders want members to consider pulling bills so that they get through legislative business before the end date.

The legislature may seek to extend the session, but this is an election year, and while in California few seats turn over, politicians want to conduct a campaign rather than sit in Sacramento—although campaigning this year will be different than any other.
Of all the bad news that comes out of the months long battle against the coronavirus, maybe the idea that fewer laws coming from the legislature can be viewed in a positive vein.

I’ve made the assertion before that there are too many bills and too many laws for any citizen to follow. Far fewer laws should be drafted so the “lawmakers” will have time to deliberate over them. And while they are at it, they could remove a number of laws from the books that have little resonance in this day and age.

Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom had to deal with 1,042 bills that reached his desk. He signed 870. The year before, Gov. Jerry Brown faced 1,217 bills and signed 1,016.

With legislators returning next week, there are 530 bills in the Senate that originated in the Assembly. The Assembly has 200 bills that came for the Senate.

If the legislators follow through removing bills to give policy committees more time on the measures they need to deal with, Gov. Newsom may face fewer bills than any governor has in decades. Lobbyist and legislative expert Chris Micheli made a guess that the number of bills reaching the governor’s desk might be limited to 400-500.

That would be different. And, perhaps, a new precedent to be followed. Unlikely, but one can hope.

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