Good morning, California.

“I respect the need for California to be fiscally sound, but the state budget should not be balanced by a tax of a person’s uterus.”—Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens, pushing legislation to lift taxes on tampons and related products. 

Housing bill clears hurdle

Senate Housing Committee Chairman Scott Wiener, third from the left.

Seeking to ease California’s housing crisis, legislators gave initial approval Tuesday to a bill that would encourage apartment and condo construction near jobs and public transit.

  • Senate Housing Committee Chairman Scott Wiener’s bill is perhaps the year’s most far-reaching measure aimed at increasing housing supply and stabilizing prices.
  • Wiener’s committee approved it 9-1, with one abstention. Similar legislation died in 2018.

CALmatters housing reporter Matt Levin explained the difference:

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins split the transportation and housing committee in two, giving Wiener, a housing advocate, the housing committee chair. Committee chairs generally can get their bills out of their own committees.

  • The bill has greater protections for tenants and against demolition of existing housing.

Backers include a rare alliance of the California Labor Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce, plus Realtors, developers and the building trades unions.

What’s ahead:

  • Next stop is a committee chaired by Sen. Mike  McGuire, who represents anti-growth Marin County and has his own housing-related legislation that he says is a more reasonable  alternative.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom is urging construction of an unprecedented 3.5 million more housing units over the next seven years.

South Carolina travel ban

A 10th state has been added to California's travel ban.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, complying with a 2016 California law, moved to ban state-funded travel to South Carolina, citing a Palmetto State “religious freedom” law prohibiting placing foster children in the homes of adults who are gay or lesbian.

  • Becerra said South Carolina’s law “enables private faith-based child-placing agencies to discriminate against those who do not conform to their religious beliefs or moral convictions, including members of the LGBTQ community.”

In 2016, after North Carolina banned transgender bathrooms, California’s Democratic-controlled Legislature, in a near partyline vote, approved a bill by Assemblyman Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat, banning state-funded travel to states that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

California has prohibited state-funded travel to nine other states:

  • Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, all of them controlled by Republicans.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster: “While [Becerra] tries to score cheap political points, we’ll be more than happy to continue recruiting businesses that are leaving overregulated, high tax states like California to come to South Carolina and create opportunities for our people.”

  • South Carolina endured a 14-year travel ban by the NAACP over the Confederate flag flying on the Statehouse grounds, the Charleston Post & Courier noted.

Todd Rutherford, a Democratic legislator in South Carolina: “Hatred has consequences, and our state has to learn that.”

It was not readily apparent how much California spends on travel to South Carolina.

Renewed call for divestment in Turkey

Democratic Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian of Sherman Oaks.

Over the expected objection of cities, counties and California’s pension fund managers, a state legislator will push today for initial approval of legislation that would force the state to divest from holdings in Turkey over the Turks’ refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, a Sherman Oaks Democrat, has tried before to push through the bill, as have other legislators.

  • Turkey will oppose the bill, which is scheduled to be heard today in the Assembly Public Employment and Retirements Committee.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a virtually identical bill in 2017, saying he was “reluctant to force yet another disinvestment measure on our already stressed pension systems.”

  • As with many bills this year, legislators see new opportunity for a different outcome under Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Councilman Paul Koretz and Controller Ron Galperin joined Equality California and actor George Clooney in calling for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air because they’re owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Brunei government.

  • Brunei has adopted a medieval law that calls for death by stoning of people who are thought to be gay or are adulterers.

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Menstrual equity movement

UC Davis student Annie Wang with feminine products provided by "Free the Period."

An effort to ban taxes on menstrual products such as tampons and pads is back on the legislative table and could win Gov. Gavin Newsom’s support.

The bill, AB 31, by Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens, is part of a larger menstrual equity movement. As described by CALmatters’ reporter Elizabeth Aguilera, that movement:

  • Seeks to remove taxes from the products.
  • Aims to provide free access to the products for women who are low-income and remove charges in schools, universities, prisons and government buildings.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Garcia’s bill  in 2016, saying “tax breaks are the same thing as new spending.” But there’s a new governor in town, and Garcia thinks Gavin Newsom will sign it.

Force of Law podcast debuts

The first episode of Force of Law is now available.

Check out our new podcast, Force of Law, about California’s attempt to reduce police shootings by clicking here. In this narrative series, CALmatters reporter Laurel Rosenhall follows legislation that would give California the nation’s toughest statewide standard for justifying deadly force.

Commentary at CALmatters

Date rape isn't currently considered a violent crime.

Nina Salarno Besselman, president of Crime Victims United: Thousands of inmates with records of violent and serious crimes have already been released from California prisons, and thousands more are now eligible for early release, including child molesters and sex offenders. The “Keep California Safe” initiative on the 2020 ballot would change that.

John McManus, Golden Gate Salmon Association: Recent decades have brought the slow collapse of the Delta and salmon runs. A half dozen species face extinction. Lacking natural flushing, the Delta now suffers outbreaks of toxic algae. Science points to a clear cause: inadequate flows caused by excessive diversions.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: California politicians often ignore constitutional rights as they make new laws, and federal judges have to remind them that Californians are also U.S. citizens who are protected by the Bill of Rights.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.