CA adds 4 states to travel ban list

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday June 28, 2017
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State employees in the Golden State are now banned from using taxpayer money for nonessential travel to eight states with the recent addition of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota to California's prohibited travel list. Professors, students, and athletic teams at state universities and colleges must also abide by the restriction.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the expansion of the states covered by the travel prohibition policy at a news conference in San Francisco last Thursday, June 22. The move came just days prior to the city's annual Pride parade and less than a week after the Bay Area Reporter had inquired with Becerra if he would be adding the quartet of states to the list.

"In California we take seriously discrimination against any American," said Becerra.

In recent months the governors in all four of the states signed anti-LGBT legislation, which triggered Becerra's taking action. Under a California law that took effect this year, he is required to add to the "no fly list" for state employees any state that passes laws that trample on the rights of LGBT people.

Becerra said he did not take the action "lightly" and hoped it would send a message to lawmakers in other states not to enact anti-LGBT laws. If they do, he vowed to add them to California's travel ban list.

He said his preference would be to remove states from the list, which also includes Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kansas.

"I am an optimist. I am hoping to clear this list and not be adding to it," said Becerra. "This is the 21st century. There is no reason for states to deny their citizens rights."

In an email to the B.A.R. John Wittman, a spokesman for Texas Governor Greg Abbott, expressed doubt that the travel ban imposition would have much impact on the Lone Star State.

"California may be able to stop their state employees, but they can't stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation and relocating to Texas," wrote Wittman.

Gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), who authored the legislation creating the travel ban policy, praised Becerra's decision.

"AB 1887 was enacted to ensure our taxpayer dollars do not fund bigotry or hatred," stated Low, who also chairs the Legislative LGBT Caucus. "Attorney General Xavier Becerra's action today sends a strong message that discrimination beyond our borders will not be tolerated."

The addition of Texas to the state list is likely to present numerous issues for collegiate athletic teams. Schools have tried to avoid scheduling games in the states governed by the ban, while a few have reportedly used private dollars to travel for games that could not be relocated.

As the Associated Press noted last week, Fresno State is scheduled to play football against the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa this fall. A request for a legal opinion on whether public university sports' travel is exempt from the ban has been filed with Becerra's office, added the AP, but no ruling has been issued.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is reviewing whether to restrict employees of his county from traveling to Texas, as well as Kentucky and Alabama, for nonessential business. The city's policy also bans city departments from contracting with companies headquartered in the banned states.

Lee is expected to announce his decision within weeks. As of March the city's list included Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, and South Dakota.


Santa Cruz County bans Texas travel

Santa Cruz County officials last Wednesday banned the use of taxpayer money for nonessential travel by county employees to the state of Texas due to Abbott's signing into law House Bill 3859, which allows child welfare organizations �" including adoption and foster care agencies �" to cite their religious beliefs as the basis for not working with LGBTQ couples and other individuals.

The Lone Star State now joins North Carolina and Mississippi on the central coast county's prohibited travel list.

Because the county is at work passing a budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018, Supervisor John Leopold had told the B.A.R. he would confer with the county counsel office in August about updating the states on the banned travel list. He co-sponsored the legislation that established it.

But after the B.A.R. went to press last week, county spokesman Jason Hoppin informed the paper that county staff had reviewed the original resolution and determined they did not need the board's permission to act.

The supervisors "delegated those decisions to staff. It's official as of now," wrote Hoppin in a June 21 email about the addition of Texas to the list.

He explained the county did so because "HB 3859 is totally inconsistent with the values of Santa Cruz County. Every jurisdiction should reexamine their business relationships with states that pass bills perpetuating discrimination."

Hoppin added, "Beyond that, this bill does not have the best interests of children in mind. For example, Santa Cruz County has been very involved in foster youth issues and the difficult hurdles foster youth face as they transition into adulthood. The idea of allowing our community-based partners to rule out loving families based on sexual orientation goes against everything we stand for."