Top Bills to Watch in California

As the California legislature sprints toward its adjournment deadline of September 15, there are major issues still pending. Below are the major environmental issues we at NRDC will be watching, and working on, during the frenzied final days of the state legislative session.

Preserve California

The three “Preserve California” bills help ensure that attempts to weaken foundational standards and environmental protections at the federal level will not reduce existing protections for California’s people or environment.

SB 49 by Senators De León and Stern, mandates that state and local agencies must maintain environmental protection and safety standards at or above the level of past federal standards. It protects California from federal rollbacks in vital environmental, public health and worker safety laws, and ensures that California maintains existing protections for its people and natural resources.

SB 50 by Senator Allen protects California’s public lands by establishing a new state policy to discourage conveyances of federal lands to private developers for resource extraction, and directs the State Lands Commission, which oversees much of the federal lands in the state, to establish a right of first refusal of any federal lands proposed for sale or conveyance to other parties.

SB 51 by Senator Jackson protects scientists and whistleblowers in California by ensuring their state licenses and registrations are maintained. It also ensures that reports and data at risk of being destroyed by the federal government, are protected by the state.  

Water Efficiency

SB 606 and AB 1668 would require water efficiency measures statewide so that our state is better prepared to cope with our changing climate and future droughts. Local water utilities will be able to meet efficiency targets in a way that takes into account local conditions, geography, and population but would have to show that water is not being wasted. These two bills are critical to stabilize our water supplies, and protect our communities and economy from water shortage emergencies.


SB 5 by Senator De León and AB 18 by Assembly Member E. Garcia would give Californians a chance to vote for funding for parks, open space, urban forestry, and water conservation on the 2018 ballot

AB 1151 protects the vaquita, an incredibly rare and critically endangered porpoise, from harmful fishing practices. As of 2019, all fish and fish products sold in California must be designated vaquita-friendly, meaning the fish were not caught with gillnets in the vaquita’s habitat.


Skyrocketing housing costs push many Californians farther away from jobs, transit and services, increasing congestion and air pollution. We’re monitoring a package of three bills designed to address California’s affordable housing crisis.

SB 2 by Senator Atkins would create a permanent source of funding for affordable housing through a modest $75 fee on the filing of certain real estate documents.

SB 3 by Senator Beall would place a $3-billion bond measure on the November 2018 ballot to fund statewide housing programs.

SB 35 by Senator Wiener would streamline the approval process for infill housing projects in cities that are not meeting state-mandated housing goals at various affordability levels.


SB 258 requires cleaning product manufacturers to list ingredients on product labels and online to help protect consumers and workers. If passed, this would be the first requirement of its kind in the nation.

Climate, Clean Energy, and Transportation

Already in 2017, the legislature passed and Governor Brown signed a climate and clean air package, which included AB 398 by Eduardo Garcia and AB 617 by Cristina Garcia. AB 398 extended the state’s cap and trade system, a carbon pricing mechanism that accompanies California’s suite of measures to curb global warming pollution. AB 617 requires community-level monitoring and planning to reduce air pollution. It also increases penalties for violations, and requires new technology retrofits to be in place by 2023.

With the extension of cap and trade, the state legislature now must decide how to spend up to $1.4 billion in “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund” revenues, or “GGRF” before September 15. There is no shortage of proposals on the table. NRDC and our partners are advocating that this money be invested in in clean transportation, energy efficiency, urban forestry, natural resource conservation, and public transit expansion.

California is not done with its bold climate and clean energy agenda. State Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León is authoring SB 100 to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. It sets earlier targets as stepping-stones; 45% by 2024, 50% by 2026, 52% by 2027, and 60% by 2030. This bill puts California on track to make major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions going forward.

SB 150 by Senator Ben Allen conforms regional greenhouse gas reduction targets to new state climate targets set by SB 32 in 2016. The bill also requires the state to report in 2018 and every four years thereafter on steps taken by regions of the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.