Newsom signs new California crime and school laws
Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided the fate of two more high-profile bills — one on criminal justice and the other on public schools.
On Monday, the governor signed Senate Bill 14 into law, reclassifying child sex trafficking into a serious felony that increases prison sentences, saying that “California is going further to protect kids.” Sen. Shannon Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield and author of the bill, said in a statement that the measure is a “huge victory for California’s children and the survivors of sex trafficking.”
- Grove: “I want to thank the thousands of Californians who called or visited legislative offices, signed petitions, and spoke out on social media. We are here today because of the overwhelming public outrage that propelled this bill through the legislature and ultimately helped protect our children from predators.”
During an online press conference after the signing, Grove said “it should have never been this hard” to get the bill through, referring to the political fireworks as the measure journeyed to Newsom’s desk. In July, the Assembly public safety committee, led by Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, initially stalled the bill in part due to criticisms from civil rights and progressive criminal justice groups. They argued that harsher sentences do not deter crime; that there are already laws that sufficiently punish traffickers; and that those at the lowest rungs, who may be trafficked themselves, will bear the brunt of legal punishments.
The blocking of the bill led to an uproar from Assembly Republicans; new Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Newsom also got involved. During a debate to send the bill back to the committee (which reversed course and passed the measure), Assemblymember Heath Flora, a Republican from Ripon, urged his fellow lawmakers to “choose your team — pick pedophiles or children.” Jones-Sawyer reported that women on the committee received death threats as well.
Also Monday, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1078 to penalize school boards that ban books and other education materials based solely on the materials’ inclusion of history related to Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ people and other groups. The bill is one response by Democratic legislators and leaders to a wave of local school boards passing policies on books and transgender students.
Standing alongside Assemblymember Corey Jackson, a Moreno Valley Democrat and author of the bill, Newsom called the measure “long overdue.”
- Newsom, in a video: “It’s remarkable that we’re living in a country right now in this banning binge, this cultural purge that we’re experiencing all throughout America and now increasingly here in the state of California where we have school districts, large and small, that are banning books, banning free speech, criminalizing librarians and teachers. And we want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that’s what this legislation provides.”
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Other Stories You Should Know
1 Can better data improve health?
Health equity advocates and nonprofit organizations who work with Latino immigrants from indigenous backgrounds are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a bill they say would improve health outcomes for Latino communities often overlooked in official state data.
SB 435, authored by Sen. Lena Gonzalez, a Long Beach Democrat, would require the state health department and the CalFresh division of the California Department of Social Services to collect and disaggregate more detailed data for “Latinx subgroups and Indigenous Mesoamerican nations.”
Advocates reported many of those communities were hit hard this year — whether by historic storms and flooding or by rural hospital closures — but California’s current data collection methods among Latino and Hispanic communities made that hard to quantify.
Advocates from the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California cited the results from a similar 2016 law aimed at disaggregating data from Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Because the law required the health department to enumerate the data it collects by more than 20 ethnicities and ancestries within Asian and Pacific Islander groups, disparities in poverty or health in specific communities were more easily identifiable.
For example, the more detailed data showed wide disparities in poverty rates within the broad Asian and Pacific Islander category: 51% of Hmong people and 45% of Cambodians were living in poverty in California from 2015 to 2019, compared to just 12% of those who identified themselves as Indian and 15% of Japanese.
The report also argued this data allowed officials to identify a disproportionate percentage of Filipino Americans dying from COVID-19 in California, compared to both other Asian American populations and other racial groups.
The bill on Newsom’s desk would also require the production of a similar report, sharing the data collected along the new demographic categories for disease rates, causes of death or mental health. The most recent bill analysis estimated it would cost $5 million for the agencies to begin collecting this information.
Ultimately, advocates say collecting this data should be just the first step. Funding for more community health workers, interpreters and culturally competent programs should follow.
- Mar Velez, the policy director for Latino Coalition for a Healthy Community: “What we’ve also learned from our indigenous partners is that although it’s a huge step… we also need community health workers, enrollers to become educated about this community and become educated about the diversity within Latinos, so that they can assist our communities.”
2 Hot labor summer heads into fall
The union for Hollywood screenwriters has reached a tentative deal with studio executives, but the actors are still on strike and other California labor groups are expanding their actions.
Hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE Local 11 began a fresh wave of rallies Monday, with employees protesting outside hotels in Santa Monica. Hotel and hospitality workers in Southern California — who include room attendants, dishwashers, cooks, front desk attendants and more — have been on strike since July, seeking better compensation and benefits.
Hundreds of dialysis workers, including nurses, patient care technicians and social workers, also walked off the job Monday and will continue to strike today against their employers at Satellite Healthcare and Fresenius Kidney Care clinics. Citing “unfair labor practices,” employees represented by the SEIU United Healthcare Workers union want improved work safety conditions and better pay. Satellite and Fresenius have 21 locations throughout the state, and more dialysis workers are expected to hold another two-day strike starting Oct. 2.
SEIU United Healthcare Workers also represents more than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in California and several other states who are threatening to go strike Oct. 4-6 if they don’t reach an agreement with the hospital chain by Sept. 30.
And on Friday, the United Auto Workers, which represents about 145,000 autoworkers, expanded its walkout against General Motors and the parent company of Chrysler to parts distribution centers in 20 states, including California. CBS News reports that more than 100 automobile plant workers in Los Angeles and Rancho Cucamonga walked off the job on Friday. UAW has also rallied against Ford, but the automaker avoided additional strikes because it has met some of the union’s demands, according to AP News.
3 DeSantis vs. Newsom finally set
Mark your calendars, for real this time: On Nov. 30 (Thursday night, the week after Thanksgiving), Gov. Newsom and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida will be in Georgia for a mano a mano, 90-minute debate, broadcast live on Fox News.
The announcement came Monday after weeks of apparent behind-the-scenes negotiating since DeSantis accepted Newsom’s challenge in early August. And that followed months of sniping between the Democrat who has ruled out running for president in 2024 and the Republican who is struggling to gain traction in his presidential campaign against former President Donald Trump.
- Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click, to Politico: “We’ve agreed to the debate — provided there is no cheering section, no hype videos or any of the other crutches DeSantis requested. We want a real debate — not a circus.”
- DeSantis, on social media: “As President, I will lead America’s revival. I look forward to the opportunity to debate Gavin Newsom over our very different visions for the future of our country.”
DeSantis also plans to be at the second presidential debate Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan library in Simi Valley. Trump is skipping the event. But both are scheduled to speak to the California Republican Party convention on Friday.
Fox News is billing the face-off as a red vs. blue state debate, but did not provide details on the rules and logistics, including whether there will be a live audience — a point of contention between the two camps.
- Fox News host Sean Hannity, in a statement: “I’m looking forward to providing viewers with an informative debate about the everyday issues and governing philosophies that impact the lives of every American.”
A debate between two governors who aren’t running against each other is unusual in American politics. But Newsom and DeSantis are among the most visible state leaders. And regardless of the final format, they’ll likely spar over the relative merits of their states, as well as issues including COVID, schools and immigration. In June, Newsom threatened to have DeSantis arrested for sending migrants to California and called him a “small, pathetic man.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The Legislature failed to act on the home insurance crisis, ceding authority to Insurance Commissioner Lara.
False narratives about poor people are preventing action as poverty rates skyrocket with the end of pandemic aid, writes Devon Gray, president of End Poverty in California and former special adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
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