COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the work of state lawmakers, including work related to the 2020-2021 State Budget and the legislative process. Normally, April in the Capitol is a busy time between committee hearings on bills and budget committee hearings as the governor prepares to revise his January Budget with updated state revenues, required to be released by May 14. On March 16, 2020, the legislature unanimously voted to recess session from March 20 through April 13 in order to protect lawmakers, staff, and the public from the pandemic. Subsequently, based on the Governor’s shelter-in-place order, the legislative recess was extended until May 4, which could change depending on health advisories from state leaders and county public health advisors.
Constitutionally, each year the Legislature must pass a balanced budget by June 15 and the Governor must sign it by June 30. In an April 10th letter to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, California’s Finance Director noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to result in a recession and will lead to a significant reduction in state revenues. However, the deferment of the April 15 tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020 makes it difficult to accurately estimate the financial impact of the pandemic. Governor Newsom announced that his January budget proposal is no longer “on the table” and that the state will need to enact a “workload budget,” meaning that the state will approve a budget to maintain existing programs without creating new obligations. In the same April 10th letter, the Department of Finance states that “resource constraints will likely force further prioritization and reduction of expenditures” when the state has a clearer picture of its revenues. It is expected that the legislature will revisit the budget in August, and could make sizable reductions to major programs depending on available revenue.
When the legislature returns from recess, the legislative process will look very different. While a directive has yet to be issued, it is possible that committee chairs will only hear bills pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, on April 10, Senate pro Tempore Toni Atkins called on her committee chairs to pause their evaluation of existing bills so that the Senate can focus on issues requiring immediate response once the legislature reconvenes. Additionally, the legislature will have to address policy committee deadlines since so much time has lapsed while they have been on COVID-19 related recess. A decline in revenues will mean that the state has less money to start new programs or build on existing ones. Legislation that proposes new programs or new spending will most likely not be considered.
Early Edge California has committed to sponsoring five bills this year which align with our priority to provide young children in our state with high-quality Early Learning experiences. Read below to learn more, and check back for updates on the status of these bills in the coming weeks and months.
Early Edge California’s 2020 Sponsored Bills:
AB 123 (Asm. McCarty)
Expands access to full-day preschool for all four-year-olds who are eligible based on income, all four-year-olds living in low-income neighborhoods, and all three-year-olds living in poverty. This bill also increases salaries and qualifications for preschool teachers.
AB 2500 (Asms. McCarty, Reyes, Ting and Sens. Dodd, Gonzalez, Rubio)
Complements and builds upon the existing TK law and the California State Preschool program to provide universal access to Early Learning by offering TK to all four-year-olds.
AB 2516 (Asm. Reyes)
Makes critical investments in bilingual education and teacher preparation, beginning in early childhood and continuing through high school graduation.
Update: It is anticipated that AB 2516 (Reyes) will be amended to provide better support for dual language and English learners through distance learning in direct response to COVID-19. As such, the bill could be heard in policy committees and to continue through the legislative and budget process.
AB 2581 (Asm. Reyes)
Would establish, under the umbrella of the California Health and Human Services Agency, a new Department of Early Childhood Development (DECD). This new department would centralize and build a coherent and whole child Early Learning system to improve the service delivery for children, families, and providers by maximizing federal, state, and local resources.
SB 959 (Sen. Hurtado)
Would ensure that early childhood programs have “safe space” policies in order to protect the safety, privacy, and wellbeing of young children and their families.