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Tax credits for renters. Consumer protection for student borrowers. More homeless shelters that allow pets.

Those were among the hundreds of ideas that California lawmakers killed Friday, as they winnowed down a huge stack of bills in preparation for the Legislature’s final sprint before the session ends on Sept. 13. Chairs of the appropriations committees announced their decisions in a rapid-fire ritual—and, in the Assembly, over the shouting protests of people who oppose a bill to limit vaccine exemptions.

Here are a few noteworthy proposals that lawmakers snuffed out Friday as they acted on legislation in the mysterious “suspense file,” where bills can die with no public explanation:

Rainforest protection: As the Amazon rainforest burns, a bill aimed at protecting tropical forests went up in smoke. Taking aim at goods such as soy, rubber and palm oil harvested from clear-cut land, it would have prohibited the state from doing business with companies whose products contributed to deforestation. Lawmakers ultimately sided with construction companies that opposed the measure.

Student loans: With student debt skyrocketing, California lawmakers proposed stricter rules for student-loan servicers and the creation of a borrower advocate to respond to complaints. But the bill withered under opposition from major student loan servicers, banks and credit unions.

Gun control: California has a “red flag” warning law that allows law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from those deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others. But legislation that would have trained officers to execute these “gun violence restraining orders” stalled, because lawmakers want the state agency that trains police to focus on something else: the new standard for police to use deadly force.

Homelessness: Many homeless shelters don’t allow people to bring their pets. SB 258 was an effort to change that by giving state grants to shelters that allow homeless people to bring their furry friends. Meanwhile, AB 516 would have made it difficult for cities and counties to tow vehicles from people living in them.

Housing: Affordable-housing developers have complained for nearly a decade that the state needs a permanent funding source to build more units for low-income tenants. But lawmakers chose not to advance a bill that would have done just that—to the tune of $500 million annually. Also, in a loss for tenants paying high California rents, lawmakers squelched a bipartisan effort to increase the tax credit renters can claim on their state returns. And a bill that would have given landlords more incentive to accept Section 8 tenants by providing a tax break was also nixed. More landlord-tenant fights now loom, as a controversial measure that would limit annual rent increases heads for a key vote.

LGBT equality: Though it’s illegal for an adult to have sex with a teenager in California, if the age difference between the two parties is less than ten years, the adult is not required to register as a sex offender. But that exception only applies to heterosexual intercourse, not oral or anal sex. Gay-rights advocates pushed a bill to extend the exemption to cover LGBTQ relationships also, but it got caught up in a political fight between Democrats running for a Senate seat in the Central Valley. Lawmakers declined to advance it, despite backing from the Los Angeles County district attorney. They’ll likely consider it again next year.

Campus sexual assault: With the federal government rolling back protections for college students who are assaulted or harassed, some Democratic lawmakers have been trying to re-create such protections in California—over the objections of some universities. Jerry Brown vetoed such a bill last year, and the effort stalled again Friday when lawmakers decided that SB 493 won’t advance this year.

Shopping: Fed up with ridiculously long paper receipts and fearing the chemicals they often contain, a San Francisco assemblyman pushed legislation that would have largely banned receipts at large retailers, unless customers requested one. But the bill was criticized by grocers who like old-fashioned receipts and pundits who deemed it “micromanagement in the name of progressive politics.”

Food stamps: California has one of the nation’s lowest participation rates in CalFresh, the state’s name for the federal food-stamp program, leaving $1.8 billion in federal funds on the table that could be helping hungry people. Despite no registered opposition, lawmakers held a bill that aimed to dramatically increase enrollment in the federal food aid program, but didn’t say why.

Reptiles: California is still on track to ban the importation of alligator and crocodile products, such as handbags and shoes, starting next year. In a win for animal-rights groups, lawmakers tabled AB 719, which sought to delay the ban until 2025.

Tax credits for filmmakers: With Georgia and other red states passing restrictive abortion laws, a California Democrat proposed giving $250 million in tax credits over five years for film productions to leave those states. But the proposal stalled amid criticism that it amounted to an effort to bribe companies to boycott.

Water in your beer: Every gallon of beer or wine made in California uses five to seven gallons of water, a precious resource for a state recovering from a prolonged drought and constantly worried about the next one. Major beer companies got behind a bill to require regulators to come up with guidelines for breweries and winemakers to recycle that water (for cleaning and other nonpotable purposes), but it wasn’t enough to convince lawmakers to say “cheers.”

CalMatters reporters Rachel Becker, Jackie Botts, Elizabeth Castillo, Ben Christopher, Matt Levin, Judy Lin and Felicia Mello contributed to this report. CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

When Carol Dahmen discovered the CVS receipt draped across the counter of her Carmichael kitchen, she couldn’t resist pulling out her tape measure to document it.

Her husband had purchased one single prescription. The receipt, she discovered, stretched on to contain 11 coupons before topping out at an astonishing 4 feet, 8 inches—the height of Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles.

“This receipt is ridiculous and unnecessary,” Dahmen tweeted, endorsing the idea of scrapping paper receipts for emailed versions.

California lawmakers are considering just such a proposal—a bill by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco that would make emailed receipts the default for businesses grossing more than $1 million beginning in 2022. Businesses breaking the rule could be fined $25 a day, and up to $300 a year. Customers could still get a paper receipt, but they would have to request one—which some would undoubtedly do, rather than share their email addresses with many merchants.

The state already bans single-use plastic bags and this year, and mandated that plastic straws be available by request only. If the default e-receipt bill passes, California would once again become the first in the nation to crack down on another ubiquitous product of modern existence.

“They’re wasteful, and they’re toxic,” Ting said about receipts. “Their lack of recyclability really makes them problematic.”

Receipts increasingly are made of thermal paper, and thus printed without ink. A chemical sometimes used to coat thermal paper, Bisphenol A (BPA), mimics estrogen and has been linked to cancer; in 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use in baby bottles. Receipt paper now more commonly contains Bisphenol S (BPS), a replacement for BPA that some recent studies, including one from UCLA, indicate may be just as harmful.

Opponents say this is yet another hurdle for California small businesses, and a privacy concern for customers.

“It’s trying to reduce paper waste, and that’s commendable, but we just want to make sure that in the process, we’re not creating a big digital trail for everyone who goes into a drug store,” said Bennett Cyphers, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group. “If the business needs to collect some kind of contact information, what do they do with that data? It’s going to be a field day for data brokers, data about what people buy, and who’s buying what and when. We’d really like that not to be the case.”

Receipts account for millions of pounds of trash waste, and an estimated 9 billion gallons of water, according to Green America, an environmental group supporting the bill.

“We don’t really need to use that paper and definitely that water,” Ting said. “We can really save those resources for something else.”

Advocates say Ting’s bill is an easy remedy. “It’s tackling one of the lowest hanging fruit,” said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste.

Others suggest the bill could go even further. Republican Heath Flora of Ripon said in a written statement the bill could apply to more than just businesses.

“I’m open to the idea of doing away with paper receipts, but right now, this bill only applies to businesses and not the state government,” he said. “We should also have a conversation about what to tell the folks who aren’t very tech-savvy, or who otherwise don’t have access to internet services.”

But some say the bill could burden businesses in more rural parts of the state. Just 59 percent of rural households have broadband internet access, according to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“To do it electronically and mandate that for everybody is, quite frankly, going to be burdensome on business,” said GOP Assemblyman Brian Dahle of Bieber. “Every day, it’s something new with the labor code. Every day, it’s something new with the regulatory environment, and this is just one more add on, making it tough to stay in business in California.”

Dahle contends that counties in his district don’t have the infrastructure in place to rely that heavily on the internet. He said his wife ran a plant nursery, and while the business had internet, the connection was weak.

Data breaches might make customers hesitant to dole out their email. Prominent business chains such as Chipotle and Whole Foods have experienced data breaches, as did Target, impacting 41 million customers.

“Our emails have been shared with the world and I don’t like that,” Dahle said. “At the end of the day, there are a lot of us who don’t want the whole world having our email.”

For those hesitant to surrender their emails to every business they patronize, Ting said, customers could simply request paper receipts.

Other opponents say the bill would make it harder for customers to locate proofs of purchase.

“Unlike other retailers, we’re subject to this state law where we’ve actually encouraged people to bring in their own bags or not use bags,” said Aaron Moreno, the senior director of government relations for the California Grocers Association. “We need to have a way to tell whether someone has bought something.”

As other retailers go, CVS is easily lampooned for printing human-sized proofs of purchase—and not just by Dahmen, a political advertising consultant who isn’t working on Ting’s bill. Customers have shared countless memes about the practical uses they have discovered for their voluminous CVS receipts (an Ohio man unfurled one as a replacement for a missing strip on the vertical blinds in his bedroom) and obscure "facts" about CVS receipts (“the sun is approximately 8 CVS receipts from earth”).

While the company does allow customers to receive electronic receipts upon request, many customers are not aware of that option or may not want to use it.

Last year, a CNBC reporter put the CEO of CVS on the spot while pulling out her own voluminous CVS receipt.

“What are we going to do about this?” CNBC’s Bertha Coombs asked.

CEO Larry Merlo urged her to enroll in the company’s digital receipt program. Coombs said she already was. Merlo smiled, and said: “Point taken.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Environment