Deadline nears to pass CA LGBT bills

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday September 4, 2019
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State Senator Scott Wiener. Photo: Courtesy Sen. Wiener's office
State Senator Scott Wiener. Photo: Courtesy Sen. Wiener's office

California lawmakers have until Friday, September 13, to pass several LGBT bills in order to send them to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk for his signature. He will have until October 13 to sign or veto the legislation.

The pending bills being backed by Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, tackle such issues as improving the safety of LGBT students on public school campuses, housing transgender inmates based on their preferred gender, and offering a month's supply of the HIV prevention pill known as PrEP over the counter without a doctor's prescription.

The list of this year's bills advancing LGBT rights continues to be pared down, with several being killed in committee last week and others being held by their authors until the 2020 legislative session. One bill has already become law, as the Bay Area Reporter first reported online Friday, as Newsom that day signed his first piece of LGBT legislation since becoming governor in January.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 711, ensures that transgender students can obtain their school records and diplomas with their preferred name and gender pronoun. Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) authored it. (See related story.)

Another bill is now awaiting Newsom's pen to become law, Senate Bill 534, one of two bills aimed at helping LGBT-owned businesses. SB 534, introduced by state Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would require the state's $310 billion insurance industry 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, 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.

The Senate passed the bill August 26 and it was sent to Newsom Friday. Also that day the Senate Appropriations Committee passed AB 962, co-authored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). It 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.

Both bills, sponsored by the Oakland-based Greenlining Institute, have relatively limited costs attached to them. The Senate now must pass AB 962, and since it was amended, it will be sent back to the Assembly for a final vote before being sent to Newsom.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Friday also passed AB 493, known as the Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019. It 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.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria  

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 Newsom adopt it. The Assembly passed it in the spring and it now goes to the full Senate for a floor vote.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee Friday voted out two LGBT-related bills. One, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Gloria's SB 159, would allow pharmacists to furnish people a 30-day supply of the HIV prevention medication Truvada, known as PrEP. 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. In August, the California Medical Association informed lawmakers that the changes to the bill had led it to drop its opposition and take a neutral stance on it.

The second bill approved by the Assembly committee was Wiener's SB 132, the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act. 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.

The two bills now await approval by the full Assembly.

"The pro-equality legislation passed today reinforces California's leadership role in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights and social justice," stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur Friday. "Each of these bills would create positive, meaningful change for LGBTQ Californians and provide a roadmap for other states to follow. We look forward to championing these bills and the rest of our pro-equality legislative package until each bill receives Governor Newsom's signature."

After the Assembly last week amended and passed SB 495 by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), the Senate passed it a second time September 3 to send it to Newsom's desk. 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.

Bills held
As the B.A.R. noted in its online story Friday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee that day tabled for the year Wiener's SB 145, LGBTQ Young People Nondiscrimination in the Sex Offender Registry. He plans to push for its passage next year.

It would grant judges discretion to decide if a person should have to register as a sex offender if that person is within 10 years of age of a consensual sexual partner between the age of 14 and 17 and engages in oral or anal intercourse with the younger person. Under current law, the person would automatically be added to the state's sex offender registry.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Friday held AB 307, the Homeless Youth Grant Program, co-authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) and Wiener. It had been coupled 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 July, lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) held off on her SB 741 as she now plans to re-introduce it in January. It 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. It is the first LGBT-focused bill to be authored by Galgiani, who is termed out next year.

UPDATED 9/9/2019 to note that the the California Medical Association is now neutral on the PrEP bill and that the Senate sent Senate Bill SB 495 to Newsom Tuesday, September 3.