By Elizabeth Borges
To see the power of progressive women in action, look no further than the California State Senate and Assembly. In the most recent legislative session, progressive women sponsored and passed significant bills addressing issues, such as sexual assault, Title IX, workplace practices, access to sports and the environment.
These new laws will improve the lives of women and families in the state of California — and they underscore the need for electing progressive women. Indeed, several of these legislators term out this year and in 2016. close the gap CA is recruiting to fill those and other open seats.
Here are the key pieces of legislation authored, sponsored and championed by progressive women in the 2014 legislative session that were passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown:
Assembly Bill 1522 (Paid Sick Leave) – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego)
With this bill, California becomes the first state in the country to mandate paid sick leave for all private-sector employees in every industry. Before the bill was passed, approximately 44% of the private-sector workforce did not have access to paid sick leave. Now, an additional 6.5 million workers will earn at least an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work, and will be able to take up to three paid days off work if they are sick or need to care for a sick child, parent, or relative. Employees are eligible to use their sick time once they have been employed for 90 days. Sen. Gonzales’s personal experience as a single working mother inspired her to sponsor this bill, demonstrating the unique and invaluable perspective that women bring to public office.
Senate Bill 967 (Affirmative Consent) – Co-Sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)
To address the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, this bill requires colleges and universities that accept state financial aid money to adopt an unambiguous affirmative consent standard for disciplinary hearings. The bill defines consent in sexual activity as “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.” Notably, the bill specifies that intoxicated consent cannot be considered consent. In addition to establishing an affirmative consent standard, the bill outlines a comprehensive approach for reducing sexual assault that universities must follow. The bill requires schools to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in disciplinary hearings, educate students about the meaning of affirmative consent, develop sexual assault prevention programs, and create policies and procedures centered around the experience of the victim.
Assembly Bill 1014 (Gun Violence Restraining Orders) – Co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley)
AB 1014 provides for the temporary seizure of guns from people determined by the courts to be a threat to themselves or others. It allows law enforcement officers or family members to ask a court for a restraining order against a person believed to be a threat, barring that person’s possession of firearms for 21 days.
Assembly Bill 1443 (Workplace Sexual Harassment) – Sponsored by Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley)
The bill explicitly protects unpaid interns from workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Assemblywoman Skinner introduced the bill in response to a 2013 federal district court ruling in New York, which declared that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not apply to unpaid interns because they are technically not employees. According to Assemblywoman Skinner, “No one should give up their basic civil rights just because they are willing to forgo pay for experience.”
Assembly Bill 1517 (Rape Kit Backlog) – Co-Sponsored by Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley)
Alarmed by the high number of rape kits that go untested across the state, Assemblywoman Skinner sponsored this bill to “ensure that criminal evidence contained in rape kits is tested promptly and that more rapists are caught and convicted.” An audit conducted by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in 2011 found scores of untested rape kits all over the state, including more than 1,900 in Alameda County. To reduce the backlog, the bill establishes deadlines for law enforcement agencies to send rape kits to crime labs and for crime labs to test them. Law enforcement agencies must send rape kits to a crime lab within five days of booking them into evidence; then, the crime lab has 30 days to process the evidence and upload the DNA profiles in law enforcement’s online system. Now that the bill has been signed into law, Assemblywoman Skinner says that rape survivors can have confidence that “prosecuting sexual assault criminals is a California priority.”
Senate Bill 1168 (Groundwater Regulations) – Sponsored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)
For the first time, this bill establishes rules for pumping groundwater in California. Given the state’s ongoing drought, farmers and local agencies are scrambling to replenish their water supplies — and many are turning to the same underground water basins, leading to over-pumping. To prevent damage such as sinking land and compressed soil and rocks, the bill compels local agencies in areas most at risk of over-pumping to create sustainability plans. The bill also empowers these agencies to monitor and enforce their sustainability plan using water meters and fines. With this oversight, the state’s underground water basins should be on the path to sustainability by 2040.
Senate Bill 844 (Ballot Measure Contributions) – Sponsored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)
The bill requires CA’s Secretary of State to list the amount of total contributions and the names of the top 10 donors for and against each ballot proposition. It was developed in collaboration with the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, and supported by Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of California and the California Clean Money Campaign, and it received near unanimous support of the Legislature.
Senate Bill 1135 (Inmate Anti-Sterilization) – Sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara
This bill prohibits the sterilization of inmates without their informed consent, except when medically necessary. California has a long history of sterilizing inmates without their consent, including nearly 150 tubal ligations performed without state authorization between 2006 and 2010. Sen. Jackson explained her advocacy of the bill by noting that “pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic human rights.”
Senate Bill 1053 (Contraceptive Coverage Equity) – Sponsored by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles)
This bill requires health insurance carriers to provide all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without co-pays or restrictions such as step therapy or prior authorization. The bill augments the Affordable Care Act, which required health insurers to offer contraception but still allowed them to apply “reasonable management techniques,” which prevented some women from accessing their preferred method of contraception.
Senate Bill 1349 (Title IX Transparency) – Sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)
Although Title IX requires that girls have equal opportunity to play sports, current data suggests that girls receive only 3/5 of the athletic opportunities as boys. This bill helps ensure Title IX compliance by requiring high schools to post the number of girls’ and boys’ sport teams on their website, along with the total number of girls and boys playing sports. With easy access to this information, girls (and their families) will be able to ask for the resources and opportunities in the case of inequity.
Assembly Bill 2350 (Pregnancy Discrimination) – Sponsored by Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord)
In order to keep female graduate students enrolled in STEM programs, this bill prohibits schools from demanding that pregnant graduate students take a leave of absence. Further, the bill requires schools to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant graduate students who do want to take a leave of absence; the school must hold their place, provide extensions for preliminary and qualifying exams, and allow them an extra year to complete their degree if they so choose.
1) East County Today
Press Release, CA Women’s Law Center