Newsom signs housing reform, infrastructure and food stamp bills into law

FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his annual State of the State address in Sacramento, Calif., March 8, 2022. Newsom is running for reelection in California, but his latest television ad is airing in Florida. The 30-second spot scheduled to air on Fox News starting Monday, July 4, takes shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies, while drawing a contrast with California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a spate of new, unanimously approved bills into action approved before the California State Legislature went on summer recess, including reforms to housing, development, and food stamp programs. 

AB 356, introduced by Assemblymember Devon Mathis, R–Visalia, extends an existing exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act’s aesthetic review of housing replacing dilapidated buildings that was set to expire on January 1, 2024, for an additional five years. 

“In removing the January 1, 2024 expiration, AB 356 continues to allow for the very narrow exemption which ultimately promotes a positive atmosphere in disadvantaged communities,” wrote Mathis.

AB 584, introduced by Assemblymember Greg Hart, D–Santa Barbara, significantly expands an existing exemption to California Coastal Commission review for projects “required to protect life and public property from imminent danger” or to “restore, repair, or maintain public works, utilities, or services.” Due to the California Coastal Act, a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission must be obtained to undertake any kind of building or development in the coastal zone. This emergency waiver was extended to permanent structures or improvements that can be valued up to $125,000, adjusted annually for inflation, compared to just $25,000 before, and removes a major barrier to keeping public services functioning within the coastal zone. 

AB 712, introduced by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, D–Los Angeles, would eventually allow for recipients of CalFresh–the California division of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–to use their CalFresh benefits to purchase hot and prepared foods, after receiving a waiver from the federal government to adopt this change. Under SNAP rules set in the 1970s, recipients have been prohibited from purchasing hot or prepared foods to encourage cooking at home and keep the program more cost-efficient, as prepared foods tend to cost significantly more than home-cooked meals. 

“All CalFresh recipients deserve the same shopping experience as everyone else: the dignity to choose what food is best for their family without restrictions,” Carrillo said.

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