California lawmakers approve bill to reform mental health care system

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers are taking final votes on hundreds of bills Thursday before Congress adjourns at midnight.

Once approved, the bill will be sent to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until October 14 to decide whether to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. There is.

Regardless of which party is in power, state legislatures rarely override a governor’s veto.

Here’s what members voted on:

mental health system

Senators on Thursday signed off on two proposals to put before voters next March that will transform the state’s mental health system and help address the state’s worsening homelessness crisis.

Rep. Jackie Irwin’s bill would allow the state to borrow $6.38 billion to build new treatment beds and housing. Sen. Susan Eggman’s proposal would overhaul the way counties pay for mental and behavioral health programs. Irwin’s proposal still needs a final vote in Congress before it can be placed on the ballot.

Newsom supports both proposals.

Irwin said his bill would result in the “single largest expansion” of the state’s mental health system. The funding will help build 10,000 treatment beds and housing, some of which will serve veterans suffering from mental illness and unhealthy drug and alcohol use, as well as up to 15 It plans to provide $1 billion in subsidies.

Republican Sen. Brian Jones criticized Irwin’s proposal, saying it would be fiscally unresponsible to take on more debt as the state continues to face budget deficits.

Eggman’s bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, would limit how local governments can use special taxes on billionaires that have been used to fund mental health programs. Under the proposal, two-thirds of tax revenue would go towards housing and services for people who are chronically homeless, have severe mental health issues or unhealthy drug and alcohol use. .

Unemployment benefits for striking workers

Lawmakers voted Thursday to make striking workers eligible for state unemployment benefits.

If signed by Newsom, the bill would benefit not only Southern California hotel workers, but also Hollywood actors and writers who have been on strike for months.

But it’s unclear whether Newsom will sign it. The fund California uses to pay unemployment benefits has collapsed. Business groups argue that allowing more people to receive benefits will only make the situation worse.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino said the bill would have a small impact on the fund. Workers are only eligible for benefits if they have been on strike for at least two weeks. He said most strikes rarely last that long.

“Remember, when someone goes on strike, it’s not a romantic thing. It’s hard for them,” Portantino said.

Guardianship reform

Lawmakers approved a bill to reform the state’s conservatorship system that could lead to more people being held against their will due to mental illness.

The bill, authored by Democratic Sen. Eggman, would make it easier for authorities to provide care to people with untreated mental illnesses and alcohol and drug addictions, many of whom are homeless. Under current state law, local governments say their hands are tied if they refuse assistance.

The bill needs a final vote in the Senate before it can reach Newsom’s desk. Mr. Newsom will decide whether to sign it into law or veto it. He told The Associated Press this summer that while he supports Eggman’s direction, he was not committed to signing the bill.

If the bill becomes law, the changes would go into effect in 2026.

The bill would expand the definition of severely disabled to include people who are unable to meet basic needs such as food and shelter due to untreated mental illness or unhealthy drug or alcohol use. The bill is the latest attempt to update California’s 56-year-old law governing mental health conservatorships, an arrangement in which a court appoints someone to make legal decisions on behalf of another person.

Opponents of the bill, including disability rights activists, fear the new bill will lock up more people and deprive them of basic rights.

The legislation is part of the state’s continued efforts to reform its mental health system. Last year, Newsom signed legislation creating a new court process that allows families and others to ask judges to create treatment plans for certain people with certain diagnoses, such as schizophrenia.


Associated Press writer Adam Beam contributed to this report.

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