SACRAMENTO -- When lawmakers return to work Monday after their summer break, the final frenzied weeks of the legislative session will begin with fierce debate on some of the year's most contentious bills.
The measures would require all smartphones sold in California to come equipped with anti-theft technology, guarantee all workers at least three days of paid sick leave annually and ban plastic grocery bags. All of the bills drew intense opposition earlier this year, and their fate remains uncertain.
Lawmakers also must strike a deal on a new water bond by the end of the month if they hope to replace the $11 billion package now set to appear on the November ballot. A recent poll showed that the bond could be rejected by voters if the cost isn't reduced.
Legislators must take action on more than 1,000 bills in four weeks, but Capitol observers say deals hammered out before the summer break on most of the controversial pieces of legislation has made the workload manageable.
Senate Bill 926 would require all smartphones sold in California and manufactured after July 1, 2015, to come with a "kill switch" that could deactivate a lost or stolen phone remotely, making it useless to anyone but the rightful owner.
Supporters say the change is needed because more than half of all robberies in San Francisco and Oakland involve cellphone snatching -- and sometimes the thefts turn violent.
Soon after Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill, every major cellphone manufacturer and wireless carrier -- including Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and others -- lined up against it. Lobbyists working for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a Washington, D.C., trade group that represents the companies, boasted in the halls of the Capitol that they'd never lost a fight.
But now CTIA and another trade group are the bill's lone opponents, and Leno said he expects the measure will clear a vote scheduled this week on the Assembly floor -- the legislation's second-to-last stop before landing on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for consideration.
"The tech industry opposed this bill, but then there was a crack in the industry's armor," Leno said. "Apple was the first to remove its opposition, and others followed because we listened to their concerns."
His confidence is bolstered by new police data showing anti-theft technology made available on Apple phones last fall has reduced iPhone thefts in San Francisco by close to 40 percent while robberies of Samsung devices, which don't have a kill switch, continue to climb.
"No industry likes being told what to do by government, but these corporations know their consumers want this bill, and members of the Legislature know it, too," Leno said.
Convincing one of the state's largest plastic bag manufacturers to support Senate Bill 270, which would make California the first state to ban plastic grocery bags statewide, has helped the measure stay alive this time after countless failed efforts to enact the ban in past years.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, also faced strong opposition from the business community when she unveiled a bill in January that would guarantee all California workers at least three paid sick days every year.
It's a protection other California lawmakers have tried and failed to win four times over the last 15 years. And if Gonzalez succeeds, Assembly Bill 1522 would make California the second state in the nation, after Connecticut, to require paid sick days for all workers.
Now, an estimated 5 million to 6 million employees in California cannot take any time off work to care for themselves or their families without fear of losing pay or even their job, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
Gonzalez said she believes the bill will win approval from a key Senate committee on Monday, in part because she has listened to opponents and made revisions based on their feedback. For example, the proposal's implementation date was pushed back to July 2015 to give businesses more time to prepare.
Still, she has reason to worry about the bill's chances. The powerful California Chamber of Commerce has deemed her measure a "job killer" -- and last year all but one of the proposals given that label died in the Legislature or failed to win Brown's approval.
"This is a top issue for working mothers, and I know how they feel because I'm a single mom," Gonzalez said. "If the school nurse calls and says your child has a fever, you have to take off work. But for some people, the lost wages are equivalent to next month's grocery budget."
The thorniest problem left for the Legislature to tackle in August is the water bond -- an issue that pits Democrats against Republicans and Northern California lawmakers against those from Southern California. The Legislature will also consider a proposal to increase the state's control over groundwater.
In June, the Senate rejected a $10.5 billion water bond bill authored by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and over the next week, winning support for a $7.5 billion version of that proposal will be one of the Senate's top priorities, she said. That package includes $2.35 billion for safe drinking water, $2.3 billion for water quality, $2 billion for water storage systems and $850 million for Delta restoration.
But the road to resolution won't be easy, even as the state sizzles and water resources dry up amid a drought that seems endless. Gov. Jerry Brown has said he wants to see a more modest $6 billion package, and without the governor's support, any proposal could be scuttled.
"We have an opportunity right now for a water bond to succeed because of the drought and the public's focus on water issues," Wolk said. "We look forward to working with the governor on a bond that satisfies everyone because the state needs this."
AB 1522, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. Guarantees all California workers at least three days of paid sick leave annually.
AB 1739 and SB 1168, by Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. Increases state control over groundwater.
AB 1894 and SB 1262, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. Regulates medical marijuana shops.
SB 270, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima. Bans single-use plastic grocery bags. California would be the first state to do so.
SB 848, by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. Provides $7.5 billion in financing for projects that provide drought relief, safe drinking water, Delta sustainability and water storage.
SB 926, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Requires all smartphones sold in California and manufactured after July 1, 2015, to come with a "kill switch."
SB 1101, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima. Creates a fundraising blackout period that would bar candidates for statewide office from accepting contributions.