Provide funding and legal backing for innovations in social housing, including a mix of public, private, and hybrid solutions.

BACKGROUND

California faces a severe housing crisis, with a shortage of affordable housing units at all income levels. The current system of relying on private developers to address the housing needs has proven insufficient, particularly for low- and middle-income renters. To address this challenge, we propose a policy that provides funding and legal backing for innovations in social housing across the state, including a mix of public, private, and public-private solutions. 

KEY FEATURES 

  • Financing and other support for publicly developed, mixed-income housing on public lands. 
  • Financing and other institutional support to massively scale up private social models of real estate ownership including cooperatives and community land trusts.
  • Accommodates a mix of household income levels to avoid prior mistakes of public housing that concentrated poverty and perpetuated segregation.
  • Funding prioritization for projects that advance California’s climate goals by locating mixed-income neighborhoods close to jobs, public amenities, and transit. 
  • Required to meet rigorous architectural and livability standards to make the housing appealing to people across the income spectrum; rents from higher-income residents then subsidize cheaper rents for lower-income residents.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • Build on existing state policy (including Exec Order N-06-19; AB 1486 2019; AB 1255 2019) prioritizing affordable housing development on surplus public lands. 
  • More general policies promoting new forms of social capitalism in California, including worker-owned and resident-owned cooperatives, could help strengthen financing, technical assistance, and favorable policy support for real estate cooperatives and community land trusts.
  • Might need to be paired with a state constitutional amendment that relaxes existing rules requiring a vote of the public for every affordable housing project, by allowing representative bodies such as city and county governments to make these decisions.

Provide free universal mental healthcare to all Californians, with comprehensive and cost-effective solutions that include humane and equitable innovations in artificial intelligent counseling.

BACKGROUND

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, and polling shows that over 75 percent of Californians support the provision of free, universal mental healthcare. Despite overwhelming support across party lines, access to mental health services remains a significant challenge for many individuals. The limited availability of mental health professionals, high costs, and stigma associated with seeking help often deter individuals from receiving the care they need in a timely manner. This proposal would increase access to mental health services and address staffing shortages by increasing funding through federal and state sources and by thoughtful and careful adoption of technological solutions.

KEY FEATURES 

  • Addressing the unmet needs for mental healthcare in the state is a “multi-solver” solution that provides benefits in areas ranging from homelessness to learning loss, escalation in law enforcement, and mass shootings.
  • Artificial Intelligence counselors would be part of a comprehensive system that provides free mental healthcare services to all residents of California,  encompassing traditional and other healing practices involving prevention, assessment, counseling, therapy, medication, crisis support, and rehabilitation.
  • Strengthen provider capacity and flexibility to bill Medi-Cal for mental health services—including in novel settings and with non-traditional providers—and target training funds toward building the workforce and skills needed to achieve the state’s growing MH policy objectives.
  • Address important concerns about cost containment and staff/pipeline shortages. The careful and humane deployment of AI counseling can augment the existing mental health workforce, increasing accessibility, addressing staffing shortages, and containing costs associated with universal mental health care.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • Mental health services would be optional, not mandatory, nor would they be provided in a coercive manner.
  • Would build on current efforts to strengthen the Mental Health Service Act of 2004, with a proposed bond measure in 2024 that would allow spending on substance abuse programs and redirect up to $1 billion in annual funding to provide community housing for those at risk of homelessness.
  • Would ensure that any solution is fundamentally grounded in human dignity, that services recognize and support traditional healing practices, and that racial disparities in AI service provision are monitored, regulated, and corrected.
  • Related, a California Commission on Artificial Intelligence can be used to research and monitor opportunities, threats, benefits, and drawbacks from AI counseling to provide the necessary guardrails and supports to ensure access, equity, and human dignity in the provision of care.
  • We need to take special care when approaching mental health among those who are incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, or otherwise involved in the justice system; those with disabilities; and members of historically excluded populations.
  • California could learn from Japan, South Korea, and other large-scale examples of mental healthcare provision to elders.

Issue work authorization visas to meet critical workforce needs, and simultaneously grow California-born talent by improving system inefficiencies and inequities.

BACKGROUND

California faces significant shortages in its workforce and innovation talent, due both to a slowdown in immigration and to a shortage of college degrees needed for the state to maintain its global leadership in many industries. This policy proposal focuses on two key areas: creating a unique immigration policy to attract and retain talent, and ensuring access to quality education for young people born in the state. By addressing these issues, California can nurture a diverse and skilled workforce, bolster economic growth, and promote economic mobility.

KEY FEATURES 

  • Create work visa programs that allow individuals to live and work in California without fear of deportation, attracting skilled talent from across the globe.
  • Create state government work programs for non-citizens already here, regardless of federal immigration status, to fill state employment needs in healthcare, transportation, and other critical infrastructure sectors.
  • Develop policies and systems that allow for the transfer of academic credits across educational institutions, including K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities, enabling students to pursue education without disruption and maximize their learning opportunities.
  • Pursue agreements with other states to allow individuals to work and study with the same freedoms that they would enjoy in California.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • If the UC Regents plan to hire undocumented immigrants survives a Supreme Court challenge, a state government worker program would not require changes to Congressional law.
  • Pilot or priority areas of community college course streamlining would be creation of professional certification programs in areas with significant worker shortages.
  • A “stepping stone” solution could be to implement universal occupational licensing recognition, ending the practice of requiring licensed workers from other states to jump through additional hoops in California. Safeguards could include states where California has a broad range of interstate agreements or compacts (see Breakthrough Solution #5).

Create a grand bargain on stabilizing taxes and improving government service delivery.

BACKGROUND

California faces the challenge of finding new tax revenues that are more predictable than the income tax that fluctuates significantly with the boom and bust cycles of California’s economy. The volatility of tax revenues often leads to cuts in important social services during periods of low revenue. To address this issue and to ensure a fair and sustainable revenue stream, we propose a bipartisan grand bargain on taxes and government spending in California. The key objective of this proposal is to limit runaway government spending, shift taxes to a more reliable and less volatile revenue source, prioritize pension reform, and enhance government effectiveness in service delivery.

KEY FEATURES 

  • Shift California’s mix of income, service, sales, and property taxes to ensure that it is more reliable, and continues to provide relief to low-income and middle-class Californians.
  • Proposal would be revenue neutral unless at least 50 percent of increased revenues pay down unfunded liabilities and make it conditional on enacting reforms such as increasing employee contributions, adjusting retirement age and benefit calculations, and exploring hybrid pension systems that combine defined benefit and defined contribution elements.
  • Proposal would be revenue neutral unless at least 10 percent of increased revenues are invested in proven technologies and processes that increase efficiency, improve customer service, and reduce costs of providing services. 

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • Improvements in government services would include better coordination across government agencies and more effective, efficient, and equitable uses of digital tools and data infrastructure to make them customer-friendly.
  • This proposal would benefit from lessons learned during implementation of the state’s Cradle to Career (C2C) data system and county implementation of California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM). 
  • It might be easier to enact tax reform that is revenue neutral than to tie revenue increases to pension reforms or investments in government efficiency.
  • It might be easier to enact reform when income tax revenues are stable over two or more years rather than when they are rapidly increasing or declining.

Enviroshield: Create a California environmental certification authority (CECA) with citizen oversight that allows housing and infrastructure projects to get immunity from CEQA litigation as long as they remain compliant with the terms of the certification process, including all applicable state and federal environmental laws.

BACKGROUND

California faces challenges in balancing the need for housing and infrastructure development with the requirements of environmental regulations, particularly the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA has been effective in protecting the environment but has also become a source of litigation, causing delays and escalating costs for development projects. To address these challenges, California should create a State Environmental Certification Authority that grants developers immunity from CEQA litigation in exchange for compliance with a rigorous certification process.

KEY FEATURES 

  • Creation of a state certification authority that can approve and exempt critical projects from further litigation and review.
  • Would still allow local jurisdictions to have control over land use and planning decisions.
  • Citizen oversight board or commission would be structured similar to the California Air Resources Board, with Senate-confirmed gubernatorial appointments that include representation from environmental justice organizations, labor, real estate developers, and local planning agencies.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • This proposal would benefit from lessons learned from the state’s Cutting the Green Tape initiative to increase the pace of environmental restoration.
  • Could create a pilot program, with greater prioritization for projects that are net carbon neutral and/or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In the event of delays and backlogs in certification, could provide faster consideration for:
  • Projects that enable local jurisdictions to meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals
  • Projects in jurisdictions that have “one stop shops” for local permits on a range of items, including water, sewer, electricity, parking, land use, and business licensing

Create an advisory California commission on artificial intelligence (CCAI) and an associated research center in the university of California system, with funding and authority to provide timely recommendations for public and private adoption.

BACKGROUND

Investments and developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are moving at a rapid pace, and many leaders in the tech industry, government, and civil society have raised mounting concerns over the massively harmful potential of capabilities such as deepfake technology and generative AI. Just as California has taken leadership on digital privacy with the creation of the California Privacy Protection Agency, the state should create and fund a public-private partnership that includes an advisory Commission on Artificial Intelligence and an associated multi-campus research center in the University of California system, with funding and authority to provide timely recommendations for public and private adoption.

KEY FEATURES 

  • Create an advisory California Commission on Artificial Intelligence (CCAI) that includes representation from industry and community organizations, as well as academic research expertise in technology, ethics, economics, health and wellbeing.
  • Create an associated multi-campus research center in the University of California system, with funding and authority to conduct rigorous research and provide timely recommendations for public and private adoption.
  • The Commission and associated research center would seek to ensure that AI technology continues to advance human dignity and human agency
  • The Commission would prioritize topics with the potential for significant societal disruption and harm, including consumer fraud, electoral fraud, threats to infrastructure and services, and threats to health and wellbeing. 

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • Would strengthen the state’s current legislative efforts to create an Interagency Working Group on AI (SB 721) that is composed entirely of state government agency representatives that would take input from a broad group of stakeholders.
  • Would ensure greater voice and influence for research experts, community organizations, and businesses.
  • Would build on current proposed legislation (AB 331) that would require developers of automated decision software to provide annual impact assessment reports of their tool and would forbid the deployment of automated tools that generate discrimination or bias in employment, housing, education, health care, financial services, and criminal justice.
  • Would provide the necessary funding to ensure that research is conducted in a rigorous, timely, and independent manner, drawing on expertise across the 10 campuses of the University of California

Implement a next gen democracy package that includes stronger civics education, youth representation, and intergenerational fairness in California.

BACKGROUND

Young people are the future of California, and we need to ensure that that state benefits from their leadership development and expertise. California’s youth population is also shrinking, as the state becomes increasingly unaffordable to live. This proposal aims to strengthen youth participation, empower young leaders, and foster intergenerational collaboration to address the long-term needs of all Californians. This work is particularly important given the massive intergenerational challenges posted by climate change, increasing automation, unaffordable housing, and entrenched partisan polarization. 

KEY FEATURES 

  • Strengthen California’s high school civics requirement to include experiences with participation, discussion, negotiation, and compromise in a democracy.
  • Mandate that all state and local boards and commissions have at least one voting member who was under age 35 at the time of appointment or term renewal—start with a pilot program in a few boards and commissions that youth-serving organizations identify as high priorities.
  • Create an intergenerational fairness assessment tool that scores all state legislation and budget activity based on the extent to which it disadvantages any particular age cohort alive today as well as the life cycle of the next generation of California. 

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

Create a state office of diplomatic engagement that centralizes and coordinates agency efforts to collaborate with other states, tribal governments, and countries.

BACKGROUND

The need for state-level diplomacy is growing, both within the United States and internationally. U.S. policy making is increasingly shifting towards states, given Congressional gridlock and a Supreme Court providing greater deference to state power. States are increasingly diverging on their policy choices, with opportunities for coordination as well as growing conflicts over state decisions that have spillover effects across borders. As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California has also forged international agreements that advance the state’s environmental and economic goals. In order to strengthen its external engagement, California should create a state Office of Diplomatic Engagement, to enhance diplomatic efforts and foster collaboration with states, nations, and tribal governments through the development of agreements and relationships of mutual understanding. 

KEY FEATURES 

  • The Office of Diplomatic Engagement would centralize and coordinate existing efforts across various state agencies, including providing technical assistance and lessons that can be transferred across issue areas.
  • The Office would seek to Increase the number, scope, and coordination of intergovernmental agreements and partnerships, including interstate compacts and informal agreements that are consistent with the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

IMPLEMENTATION AND SEQUENCING CONSIDERATIONS

  • In its first few years of formation, the entity will prioritize intergovernmental cooperation on commerce, water management, including for the Colorado River, climate change mitigation, immigrant inclusion, reproductive rights, and civil rights protections.
  • This proposal would benefit from lessons learned from the U.S. Climate Alliance and other similar interstate and intergovernmental efforts.
  • Cities and counties could also benefit from creating similar offices and efforts, working in coordination with the State Office of External Relations.

Meaningful access to wealth: we envision a California that is free of poverty, full of prosperity that is broadly and deeply shared, and that meaningfully addresses historical wrongs.

Explanatory context: We envision a California built on a foundation of universal basic assets, where all residents are owners and have equal opportunities to share in prosperity that the state generates. We see the need to engage in policies and practices that promote truth-telling, reconciliation, healing, and repair.

People power: we envision a California where power is broadly and deeply shared, with transparency and accountability in government policies and practices.

Explanatory context: Direct democracy is a core aspect of California’s political structure and spirit. It is vital that communities, including those most adversely affected by past decisions, have the ability to effectively participate and co-design solutions with public and private institutions alike. This maximizes the likelihood that proposed solutions will effectively meet the needs of all community members.