AI and budget deficits: California legislators tackle pressing issues upon return.


  • California lawmakers are returning for an election-year legislative session, with key issues such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the state’s budget deficit requiring attention.
  • Lawmakers will need to figure out how to cover an estimated $68 billion deficit, which is larger than the operating budgets of many states.

California lawmakers are back to work for an election-year legislative session, facing important decisions on key issues such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the state’s budget deficit. The budget is a significant concern each year in California, as it is the most populous state in the nation with an economy larger than that of all but four countries. This year, lawmakers and Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom will need to address how to cover an estimated $68 billion deficit, a shortfall larger than the entire operating budgets of many states. Additionally, with California companies at the forefront of the AI boom, lawmakers are considering new regulations to govern the use of the technology before it becomes ubiquitous in daily life, similar to social media.

The California Legislature will convene on Wednesday afternoon, providing lawmakers with a week to settle in before Newsom unveils his first budget plan. Crafting the budget is already a challenging task, but it becomes even more difficult during an election year when legislators need to seek reelection from voters in November. Furthermore, lawmakers will be guided by new leaders as they navigate their first budget negotiations, a complex process that largely takes place behind closed doors and requires consensus among the Democratic majority.

Lawmakers are also focusing on the use of generative AI tools and attempting to regulate the fast-growing industry. Several lawmakers are preparing bills to regulate AI tools, addressing concerns such as privacy, discrimination, job protections, and misinformation during an election year. One assemblymember plans to introduce a bill prohibiting the use of AI systems that discriminate against people, requiring companies to evaluate their algorithms for potential discriminatory risks. Another assemblymember aims to limit studios’ ability to replicate performers’ work using AI in order to protect artists’ rights.

State Senator Scott Wiener intends to establish a comprehensive safety framework for the industry, focusing on public safety and security risks such as AI-generated bioweapons, cyberattacks, and misinformation campaigns. While the bill lacks specific details, it represents one of the first attempts to broadly regulate AI.

Aside from the budget and AI, lawmakers will also grapple with election rules that govern their own races. A Republican assemblymember running for Congress is on the ballot for reelection to his assembly seat, sparking legal controversy. Democrats are critical of this situation and plan to introduce legislation to prevent candidates from running for two offices simultaneously. The legislative session runs through August, but lawmakers have until the end of January to decide which bills from last year they will attempt to pass this year.

Some of the remaining bills from last year include proposals for gun owners to carry liability insurance, establishing mental health hotlines at community colleges and California State University campuses, subsidizing housing for seniors and adults with disabilities, and banning homeless encampments near schools, parks, and libraries.