Senator Cortese’s Bills for the 2021 Legislative Session

Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) has confirmed his full bill package for his first year serving in the State Legislature. The Senator, who was elected to serve District 15 in November of 2020, has introduced an ambitious set of bills to address the existential issues that Californians are currently faced with, from our climate crisis, to housing affordability, to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senator says his priorities stem from the policies and programs he has successfully championed in his District, with hopes to expand these concepts statewide.

Environmental Leadership
Combatting our Climate Crisis

Senator Cortese has introduced more climate bills than any other State Legislator in the 2021 Legislative Session. Cortese announced a bold plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in new construction statewide on his first day in office. The California Building Decarbonization Package, SB 30, 31 and 32 could revolutionize California’s building and construction sector which accounts for roughly 40% of our carbon emissions, including the first bill in history asking the State to divest from projects that are not zero-emission. SB 30, 31, and 32 are being supported by many environmental groups across the State including Sierra Club CA, Mothers Out Front Silicon Valley, Climate Reality Project Bay Area, Fossil Free California, Sunrise Silicon Valley, Carbon Free Silicon Valley, Project Green Home, and many more.

  • Senate Bill (SB) 30, the State Buildings and Assets Decarbonization Act of 2021 mandates that State buildings and assets achieve carbon-neutrality by 2035 and that the State divest from projects that are not zero emission by 2023. Beginning in 2022, all newly designed and constructed state buildings must be zero emission.
  • SB 31, the Decarbonization Programs Act would develop new building decarbonization programs through the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission, with a particular emphasis on providing opportunities for low-income customers.
  • SB 32, the Decarbonization Act of 2021 would require all cities and counties in California to update their General Plans with objectives, targets, and policies to decarbonize their building stock in line with State targets.

Drawing from his experience as a founding Board Member of Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the community-owned provider of carbon-free electricity for Silicon Valley, a champion for carbon-free building codes, carbon farming, and other climate restoration initiatives, Cortese says he looks to his own district as a model for what action the State should take.

  • Honoring the legacy of his father Dominic Cortese, who served in the State Legislature in the 1980’s and 90’s, Cortese has introduced SB 37, the “Cortese List” Act of 2021, which updates and revitalizes the Hazardous Waste and Substances Sites List, or the “Cortese List (AB 3750)”, that his father authored in 1986.
  • Cortese is also a joint author of SB 790 with Senator Henry Stern to expand the applicability of wildlife mitigation credits, ensuring that state agencies are able to access mitigation funds for projects that reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, protect wildlife and promote highway safety. Supporters of this bill include The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, National Wildlife Federation, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and the Endangered Habitats League.
  • While SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008) required that metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) across California adopt land use strategies and prioritize transportation investments that reduce GHGs in long-range plans known as Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS), Cortese’s SB 475 would update SB 375 to incorporate social equity and climate resilience goals and provide direction to regions as to how they can best reach these goals.

Criminal Justice Reform
Re-envisioning our Justice System

With an aim of shifting the focus of our justice system from incarceration to rehabilitation rooted in restorative justice and geared toward ending the incarceration of our minors, Senator Cortese has introduced SB 300 and SB 383.

  • SB 300, The Sentencing Reform Act of 2021, will reform California’s unjust “felony murder special circumstance” law and ensure that the death penalty and life without the possibility of parole cannot be imposed on those who did not kill, nor intend that a person die, during a crime, providing recourse to hundreds – potentially more – of people convicted under this law currently awaiting execution or condemned to die in prison. Sponsors of SB 300 include Silicon Valley De-Bug, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), The Drop LWOP Coalition, Families United to End LWOP (FUEL), and the Felony Murder Elimination Project.
  • SB 383, The Juvenile Justice Diversion Act sponsored by the California Judges Association will remove barriers and increase access to diversion programs for youth that commit non-violent felonies. Numerous peer-reviewed studies point to diversion as a more effective tool in reducing recidivism than conventional judicial interventions.

With a strong track record rooted in restorative justice and fighting systemic inequities in our criminal justice system, these bills are part of many major steps Cortese has taken to re-envision our justice system, including establishing the Santa Clara County Blue Ribbon Commission, which led to hundreds of recommendations to improve the treatment of people in custody, halting the construction of a new jail in Santa Clara County in favor of a Behavioral Health Center to treat people with mental illness, and creating the first policy in the United States to halt the incarceration of offenders under 13 years of age at Juvenile Hall.

Sexual Assault Prevention
Fighting Sexual Assault, Exploitation and Trafficking

SB 435 and SB 530 expand on Cortese’s local efforts to combat human trafficking and sexual assault including the creation of the Anti-Human Trafficking Team as well as a $5 million annual reserve to prevent and treat victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in Santa Clara County and a partnership with several survivors across the County to launch a first-of-its-kind audit of Title IX policies and procedures for Santa Clara County K-12 schools and colleges.

  • SB 435, the Ending Online Sexual Trafficking and Exploitation Act, sponsored by the California Women’s Law Center would allow a victim of online sexual trafficking or exploitation to bring a civil action for damages against any person or entity that makes, obtains, uploads, reuploads or distributes in any form, sexual content without their freely given permission. Once a victim has given notice that their rights are being violated, a distributor has two-hours to take down this content. After that, an offender must pay damages of $100,000 for every two hours of online exposure, or $200,000 for every two hours if the victim is under 18 years of age.
  • SB 530, the Repeal of the Spousal Rape Exception Act, would eliminate the “spousal rape exception” in the California Penal Code (Section 262) to ensure that “spousal rape” is treated and punished as seriously as rape of a non-spouse.

Housing Affordability
Addressing the Root Causes of our Housing Crisis

To increase affordable housing and find solutions to homelessness, Senator Cortese initiated the creation of a countywide housing task force with representatives from business, labor, city and county offices, the local homeless population, and many experts on housing and homelessness. That group’s recommendations led to such initiatives as the groundbreaking $950 million “Measure A” affordable housing bond that Cortese co-chaired as well as the All the Way Home campaign that has housed 1,940 of the County’s veterans. Senator Cortese says these recommendations continue to drive his housing priorities on a statewide level.

  • SB 649, the Tenant Preferences to Prevent Displacement Act, would support the use of Tenant Preferences, such as Neighborhood and Anti-Displacement preferences, in affordable housing using tax credits and bonds in order to mitigate the displacement of low-income renters who are disproportionately people of color in many communities.
  • SB 780, Improvements to EIFD and CRIA Tax Increment Laws, would provide helpful clarifications to improve the functioning and usefulness of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFDs) and Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities (CRIAs), Special Tax Districts that are used by local governments, especially after the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs), to fund community infrastructure projects through tax increment public financing.
  • SB 791, the State Housing Finance Agency Act, will enable the State to provide credit enhancements as well as tax credits and to facilitate joint ventures between local and state agencies and builders, including incentives for housing production on state and local agency surplus land. The equity and revenues from said investments will in-turn fund further affordable housing production and fuel our growing housing workforce. 

Consumer Protection

  • SB 461 would allow County Counsels, of a county within which a city has a population in excess of 750,000 people, to enforce the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) that prohibits false advertising and unfair business practices.

Educational Opportunity
Investing in the Needs of All Children

  • With numerous studies indicating that inclusion significantly increases graduation rates and academic performance for students with disabilities, Cortese has introduced SB 692, The Special Education Inclusion Act, sponsored by the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE), to create a disincentive for schools to segregate students with special needs into separate and unequal classrooms when a student is capable of performing at grade level and/or has no cognitive impairment and provide general education teachers with training and professional development on teaching strategies for the most common disabilities such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and autism.

The Senator has previously partnered with SCCOE on several initiatives that have spread across his entire district, including creating the $40 million a year School Linked Services program across about 200 schools that connects students and families to county mental health counseling, case management, and public health services as well as a partnership established during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that provided laptops and tablets to all 15,000 families with students that lacked internet and/or digital devices during distance learning.

Public Health
Strengthening Our Public Health Infrastructure & Protecting our Frontline Heroes During COVID-19

Senator Cortese has taken steps to ensure we have an inclusive healthcare environment, including through the recent purchase of two hospitals in his District to increase hospital capacity.

  • SB 213, Presumptive Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation for Nurses, sponsored by the California Nurses Association, to modernize outdated California laws and make it easier for registered nurses to access the workers’ compensation system, just like the law currently protects other frontline healthcare workers. These frontline heroes deserve adequate and equal protections to ensure their own safety and the safety of all of us.
  • SB 707, Corrective Action Orders, sponsored by the Continuing Care Residents' Association, requires continuing care facilities to provide notice to current and prospective residents of any pending or recent corrective action orders issued by the State Department of Social Services, as well as any complaints or concerns filed with the facility’s management or board. The bill protects current and future residents by providing them with transparency on the financial status and safety of the facilities they are making a lifelong commitment to. 
  • SB 564, The Hospital Seismic Compliance Deadline Extension, extends the hospital seismic compliance deadline from July 1, 2022 to December 31, 2024 for two Santa Clara County projects - the O’Connor Hospital (OCH) Seismic Compliance Project and the Valley Medical Center (VMC) Bascom Seismic Compliance Project. Given the impact of COVID-19 on the County’s hospital system, paired with the County’s only recent acquisition of the O’Connor Hospital, an extension for both the OCH and VMC projects is much needed to maintain access to health services for County residents.
  • SB 335, Presumptive Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation for Firefighters, endorsed by the California Professional Firefighters, would require better enforcement around workers compensation presumptions for Firefighters.

Workplace Fairness

Senator Cortese spearheaded the Santa Clara County Office of Labor Standard’s Enforcement as well as the Wage Theft and Living Wage Ordinances in Santa Clara County. As Chair of the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee, Cortese is prioritizing efforts to ensure workers are provided essential benefits, a living wage, and safe working conditions during COVID-19.

  • Under current law, some retirees in the CalPERS system are currently facing significant fines and penalties for inadvertently going over the statutory limitation of 960 hours per year if they want to work for a CalPERS agency after retirement. Many retirees were not aware of the limitation, while others may have been misinformed by their employers. The Working After Retirement Act, SB 411, would simply provide the authority to the CalPERS Board the flexibility to waive or reduce fines based on the conditions and circumstances of the violation, without having to force a retiree to reinstate into the system.

Youth Services
Providing Support to our Youth and Young Adult Population

Cortese, who launched the first program in the nation to provide universal basic income to young adults transitioning out of foster care, is continuing his work to provide youth not in parental care a stable support system.

  • SB 739, the Universal Basic Income for Transition Age Foster Youth Act, would provide direct, monthly cash assistance through a statewide universal basic income (UBI) Pilot Program for the approximately 3,000 youth who age out of Extended Foster Care in California each year.
  • SB 384, The Family Finding Act, sponsored by the California Judges Association, requires that counties implement best-practice family finding protocols, increasing the likelihood that a child removed from parental care, for instance as a result of parental neglect or abuse, be placed with relatives.

For more information, contact Tara Sreekrishnan, Office of Senator Dave Cortese, at 408 480 7833 or