School Kids to Breathe easier – Governor Newsom signs AB 841

In a true nail-biter with less than five hours left on the clock for the to sign or veto bills, Governor Newsom signed AB 841, the bill authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting that creates the School Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program. The new law will create a healthier environment for schoolchildren, save energy, create jobs in a time of economic crisis, and provide other direct support to schools and schoolchildren in underserved communities.

AB 841 enjoyed a rare broad and diverse coalition of supporters that included labor, public health, environmental organizations, and others. The Climate Center was proud to be an active member of the Coalition.

“Given our public health crisis and economic hardship, this is the right policy at the right time. AB 841 is a bill that helps provide a healthier indoor environment for our children, and provides quality employment and job training for the labor force performing the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) upgrades at schools in underserved communities. The Climate Center applauds the Governor, Assemblymember Ting, and the broad coalition that helped get AB 841 across the finish line. We were proud to be a part of it,” said Ellie Cohen, Chief Executive Officer of The Climate Center.

About a week before the deadline, The Climate Center and its Central Valley staff pulled together a letter of support from Central Valley elected leaders. In general The Climate Center participated with the Coalition in getting support letters turned around in short order, talking to offices, social media, and press. The Governor was conflicted and was urged to veto the bill, but the strong coalition used every connection and pressure point possible got the bill across the finish line and it worked. The bill was highly unlikely to be signed if our voices had gone unheard.

AB 841 is a win-win for the health of California students by installing up-to-date plumbing and HVAC systems in schools, starting with those in under-served communities. It also supports clean transportation by putting money into the EV charging infrastructure. No new tax is involved to fund the programs as the money is already available and unused at the California Public Utilities Commission.

In a September 24 OpEd by State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond stated that “This is critical for getting kids and teachers safely back into classrooms. The CDC recommends “ventilation systems operate properly” as a key consideration for school leaders considering reopening. AB 841 addresses that problem. That’s why the bill has the support of schools and teachers, public health experts, labor, business and environmental organizations.” The bill will use idle energy efficiency funds to install and modernize school HVAC systems, will streamline the process for approving public electric vehicle charger projects and will also protect consumers and the public by creating training requirements for workers installing public chargers.

For updates on other bills we tracked in 2020, see our October 1 Legislative Update.

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