By Michael Belote, Esq., California Advocates, UTA California Lobbyist
In the last issue of UTA News, we talked about the major changes taking place in the California Legislature, including 31 new faces coming out of the November elections, new committee chairs, a new Speaker of the Assembly coming in a few months, and more. Each of those factors make an inherently chaotic environment in Sacramento even more so. But the nuts and bolts of the legislative process, the introduction of bills, hearings, floor votes and signatures and vetoes by the Governor, continue despite all of these changes.
We have also noted previously how the legislative process moves from a series of deadlines to deadlines, not unlike an escrow, or a court case, or really, a foreclosure. The first meaningful deadline in a legislative year is the date by which all new bills must be introduced. For 2023, that date was Friday, February 17. When the dust settled on that date, over 2700 new bills and resolutions were introduced. That total is the highest in a number of years, at least in part because legislative output tended to be reduced during the pandemic.
A person hasn’t lived until they have had the pleasure of reading 2700 bills on a computer over a three-day weekend! But at least at the end, we know what bills we will be dealing with in 2023, right? Not so fast, as they say. While already nearly 30 bills have been identified of potential interest to UTA, that is hardly the end of the story. It turns out that the bill introduction deadline is becoming less and less revealing in terms of the issues, because of the growing phenomenon of “spot bills”.
Spot bills are bills which make no substantive change of any type when they are first introduced. They literally are holding a “spot” for substantive language to be amended into the bill later. The idea is to give the bill’s author a few more weeks to decide how to approach a particular issue. Spot bills have been introduced in the Assembly and Senate for decades, but the scope of the practice has grown dramatically.
Of the 2700 new bills, approximately 1000 were spot bills, which may or may not be of interest to UTA when they are ultimately amended. The point is that the 30 bills of interest to trustees is quite likely to grow after the spot bill amendment deadline, coming up in a few weeks. Already two spot bills have been amended substantively which we know to be of interest to UTA. The first is AB 968 (Grayson), which would require sellers who purchased the sale properties in the previous 24 months to disclose all renovations made by the sellers, along with names of contractors who completed the renovations, and whether permits were obtained. The bill obviously is designed to target “flippers”, but depending on how the language in the bill evolves, foreclosure issues could arise as well.
We are advised that a second spot bill will soon be amended to deal with the issue of remote online notarization, or “RON”. Sponsored by RON platform companies, the bill will join AB 743 (Petrie-Norris), sponsored by the California Association of Realtors on the same subject. Thus it appears that there will be at least two bills on the very complicated subject of RON.
Other bills already identified of potential interest address such diverse topics as revocable transfer on death deeds, tax-defaulted property sales, foreign government ownership of California property, rights of first refusal in tenant-occupied properties, voidable transactions, and more.
Finally, UTA is the sponsor of AB 1043 (Essayli), which is designed to make several targeted and technical changes to the SB 1079 process, including the obligation to provide copies of trustee’s deeds to the office of the state Attorney General. The bill is likely to include other non-SB 1079 changes presently being finalized by the hardworking UTA Legislative Committee.