AB 420: Our Best Hope?

A breakdown of why AB 420 has no chance and is our best hope to reopen CA theme parks

What Is It?

The California state legislature rarely finds itself being thought of by ordinary people (for better or for worse) but the eyes and hopes of coaster enthusiasts turned to them with the announcement of AB 420. AB 420 would allow large theme parks to reopen in the orange tier of California's reopening plan instead of the more difficult yellow tier that is required right now. This legislation was proposed by Assemblymembers Quirk-Silva and Valladares, representing part of Anaheim (Disneyland & DCA) and Santa Clarita (SFMM) respectively. The bill will be heard in committee March 7th.

Why I'm Not Ready to Call it a Win Yet

The legislative process for California mimics the process of the federal government, with votes required in the state assembly and Senate (after a lengthy committee process) before it goes to the Governor. But like the President in the federal system, the Governor has the ability to veto the bill instead of signing it. The guidance that sets out the reopening status for theme parks was created by Governor Newsom and his advisors in October. So if he wanted the legislation currently on the books changed, he would just do it since he has the power to amend it. So it's not obvious why he would sign a piece of legislation even if the assembly and senate voted for it. Overriding his veto is certainly a possibility, requiring a 2/3 majority in both houses but without knowing how the California state government has felt about restrictions I don't feel comfortable saying that there'd be support to override a veto even if there was the majority support necessary to pass the bill in the first place.

Why I'm Still Hopeful

Recent developments have left me hopeful that there might be a reason why Gov. Newsom might sign the bill. In January, to the surprise of many, the Governor lifted Stay at Home orders around the state even with some of the regions still being below the minimum 15% ICU capacity that was the cutoff metric. He claimed that his staff's projections showed that the regions would soon hit the 15% mark and that it was safe to drop the orders. But others felt that the lifting was less an indication of the science but more a placating of the population ahead of a possible recall. Newsom appears to be set to face a recall mostly over his handling of the pandemic with recall organizers claiming that they have the required signatures to get on the ballot. Some claim that Newsom repealing the stay at home orders was a bone thrown to the public to try to win some goodwill.

In my eyes, this legislation could offer the Governor an opportunity to win a little more goodwill from the public without losing face and reversing the decision himself like he did with the stay at home orders and took some heat for. If he gets the bill, he could easily make a few minor modifications (20% instead of 25% in orange tier or something similar) and say that he's compromising while still protecting public safety, giving him a political win with many of the people that will probably be deciding his fate on the ballot this year.

What You Can Do

Regardless whether you agree with AB 420, I hope that you contact your state assemblymember and senator and let them know how you feel. Local government tends to get overlooked in favor of the federal government but local government still hugely impacts our lives and is even easier to make your voice heard since the representatives serve less people. You can find more information about how to find your representative and contact them on either the California Assembly or Senate site.

Of course, we'll be covering the reading of this bill on March 7th!