Online Extra: Political Notes: Two more CA LGBT bills shelved until 2020 session

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday May 17, 2019
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A bill by Assemblyman Evan Low that would have required law enforcement agencies to track the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) of victims of homicide and suicide was shelved Thursday. Photo: Tia Gemmell
A bill by Assemblyman Evan Low that would have required law enforcement agencies to track the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) of victims of homicide and suicide was shelved Thursday. Photo: Tia Gemmell

Two more LGBT rights bills have been shelved this year, bringing to four the number of such legislative proposals state lawmakers pushed back to 2020.

The appropriations committees in both chambers of the state Legislature had until Friday, May 17, to send bills with costs attached to them to their respective floors in order to be voted out of their house of origin by May 31. It is routine for bills to either be killed or shelved in the fiscal panels.

Thursday two Assembly bills that had the backing of Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, fell to such a fate. One, AB 650 by gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), would have required law enforcement agencies to track the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) of victims of homicide and suicide.

The other, AB 758 by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), aimed to address unjustified workplace pay differentials for employees who do not conform to the gender binary. It would have updated the California Equal Pay Act's references to gender to align with the fact that state law now recognizes a third, nonbinary gender marker.

A fiscal analysis of the bill found it would impose "significant costs" on the state's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement due to increased retaliation claims. While the legislation's exact costs could not be determined, the analysis surmised it could total at least $1.4 million should there be a doubling in claims handled by the agency's Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit.

In the case of Low's bill, a legislative analysis found it would cost the state's Department of Justice $100,000 to develop how to go about collecting the SOGI data and unknown ongoing costs to annually report the data. It also estimated that the California Department of Public Health would need $150,000 in order to implement the data tracking.

The lawmakers are expected to reintroduce their bills in January. In 2020 gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is also expected to revive his bill to ensure intersex individuals can provide informed consent before any medical treatments or interventions.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in April, Wiener put the legislation on hold due to strong opposition from medical groups.

One legislative proposal that was killed this year, Low's desire to ban the anti-LGBT practice of conversion therapy with adults, could also be introduced next year. As Low told the B.A.R. in March, he may first introduce a resolution explaining why the practice is harmful for people 19 years of age and older who are struggling to accept their sexual orientation rather than pursue an outright ban.

He shelved a 2018 bill that would have done just that due to fierce opposition from religious leaders, who feared the legislation would impede their ability to counsel their parishioners.

Most LGBT bills advance

Seven of this year's bills advancing LGBT rights are now headed for approval in their house of origin, having survived review by the appropriation committees and being sent for floor votes.

AB 493, known as the Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019, would require public schools to train their staff, from teachers and guidance counselors to librarians, on LGBT cultural competency and how to address LGBT-based bullying. It survived despite an estimated cost of either $250,000 or $1.3 million for school districts to implement; it covers certificated school employees and not classified school employees like custodians and cafeteria workers.

Former Governor Jerry Brown had vetoed a similar bill last fall due to its price tag. Gay Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who had carried it last year when he served in the Assembly, reintroduced it this year in hopes of seeing Governor Gavin Newsom adopt it.

AB 307, the Homeless Youth Grant Program, co-authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) and Wiener, also survived financial review. It comes with an appropriation of up to $100 million and estimated costs of $1.8 to $1.9 million for the state's Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency to administer.

In the state Senate, Wiener's SB 145, LGBTQ Young People Nondiscrimination in the Sex Offender Registry, survived what is known as "the suspense file" due to its costs, which the state's justice department had estimated would cost it $10.3 million to administer in its first two years. But a later analysis found the costs to the agency "potentially in the thousands of dollars at the high end to minor and absorbable at the low end."

The bill would prevent gay male adolescents from having to be listed on the state's sex offender registry for sleeping with a boyfriend under the age of 18. The bill aims to include a "Romeo/Juliet" clause for gay and lesbian teenagers so they are treated similarly to their heterosexual counterparts.

It would apply to teens aged 14 or older who engage in consensual sex with a partner within 10 years of age. While an 18-year-old boy or girl who has sex with a 17-year-old partner could still be prosecuted for statutory rape, they would not need to register as a sex offender if convicted under Wiener's bill.

Wiener and Gloria's SB 159, which would allow pharmacists to furnish people a 30-day supply of the HIV prevention medication Truvada, known as PrEP, also passed out of appropriations. The state's Department of Insurance estimates it will need $42,000 in the first two years of its implementation and ongoing costs of $18,000, while the Department of Consumer Affairs has said it will need $124,000 in the first two years and ongoing costs thereafter.

It has faced strong opposition from doctors' groups who question the safety of having people obtain PrEP without a prescription. The lawmakers amended their bill based on that feedback to require people to see a doctor in order to continue usage of the drug after one month.

Wiener's SB 132, the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act, also advanced. It would require that incarcerated transgender people in California jails be housed based on their gender identity, unless doing so put their safety at risk, and be referred to by their preferred pronouns, gender, and name.

Wiener reintroduced the bill after it was quietly killed in the Legislature last summer. Its cost is estimated to be "potentially major" for prison staff training, ranging from the high hundreds of thousands of dollars to the low millions of dollars. It also has unknown but "potentially significant" costs for transferring transgender prisoners to new state correctional facilities, as well as additional costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade prison intake systems and identification cards.

"Today's actions are just the latest example of California's continued leadership in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights and social justice," stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur. "Each of these bills would advance the health and well-being of LGBTQ Californians, while paving the way for other states to follow in California's footsteps. We're grateful to both committees for their support of these critical policy priorities."

Two other bills aimed at boosting hospital and insurance companies' contracts with LGBT-owned firms and other certified minority-owned businesses also made it out of the appropriation committees. Both bills, sponsored by the Oakland-based Greenlining Institute, have relatively limited costs attached to them.

Under SB 534, introduced by state Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the state's $310 billion insurance industry would be required to biennially report how much it is contracting with businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, and LGBT individuals.

Gay Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a former state senator who will be the commencement speaker Friday, May 24, at City College of San Francisco, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. It revives the state agency's Insurance Diversity Initiative that expired in January and would expand its scope to include LGBT- and veteran-owned businesses.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-authored AB 962, which would require California hospitals to publicly disclose how much they are contracting with LGBT-owned businesses as well as those owned by women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups.

Other bills

Several other LGBT bills are also making their way through the legislative process this year. SB 741, the first LGBT-focused bill to be authored by lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), who is termed out next year, would allow transgender residents of the state who legally change their name and gender to update their marriage certificates and the birth certificates of their children.

The process would be similar to how transgender people can petition the courts to seal their original birth certificates and have a revised one issued using their preferred name and gender. The bill, which was pulled out of the suspense file since it has no cost to the state, would protect transgender individuals from discrimination when enrolling their children in school, apply for a loan, or have to make medical conditions on behalf of an incapacitated spouse, noted EQCA in a fact sheet.

A similar bill by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), AB 711, would require school districts to update the academic transcripts and diplomas of transgender individuals so they use their legally changed names and genders. It passed out of the Appropriations Committee May 8.

Another bill related to child custody issues is SB 495 by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles). It would codify into state law that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity can't be used to disqualify them as being an adoptive parent or legal guardian of a child.

The Senate passed the bill in April and the Assembly judiciary committee is now reviewing it.

The next key deadline for bills is August 30 when the fiscal committees in the Assembly and Senate have to report out those bills initiated in the other chamber for floor votes. Bills must be approved by September 13 in order to be sent to Newsom, who has until October 13 to sign or veto the legislation that makes it to his desk.

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, the Political Notes column will return Monday, June 3.

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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected].

UPDATED 5/20/2019 to clarify which school employees would be covered under AB 493, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019.