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Democrats incur LGBTQ wrath over sex offender registry bill

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During a week of flurry before Labor Day, the California Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees determined which final legislation to pass to the floor for votes and which to suspend for this session. At the end of the day on Friday, Aug. 30, one bill superseded the usual drama to create a pall over California Democratic unity as LGBTQ legislators and advocates expressed outrage that purported supporters used anti-LGBTQ messaging to woo electoral votes in 2020.

Two important Equality California bills did pass the Assembly Appropriations—Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 132, the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act to protect trans prisoners and Wiener and Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s SB 159, the PrEP and PEP Access Expansion bipartisan bill to expand access to HIV prevention medication by allowing pharmacists to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to patients without a prescription, as is already done with birth control pills.

However, in a move that infuriated LGBTQ advocates and law enforcement allies, Assembly Appropriation Chair Lorena Gonzalez suspended Wiener’s SB 145 that would fix the current discriminatory sex offender registry law written before homosexuality was decriminalized.

Under the law, if a straight 18-year-old male was charged and convicted of having consensual sex with his under-legal age 17-year-old girlfriend, the judge has the discretion to determine if the male teen’s name should be added to the California sex offender registry. However, if an 18-year-old gay male is found guilty of consensual sex with his 17-year-old gay boyfriend, the judge has no discretion—the gay teen’s name is legally required to be added to the public sex offender registry, thereby harming his opportunities in life.

Wiener, the out state senator from San Francisco, and SB 145 co-sponsor Equality California created a bipartisan coalition backing the bill to allow for judicial discretion. That coalition includes formidable law enforcement heavyweight co-sponsor LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and support from the ACLU of California, California District Attorney’s Association, California Police Chief’s Association, California Public Defenders Association and California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, among others.

SB 145 is no small matter. “Until recently, the California Supreme Court (People v. Hofsheier) and the Appellate Courts had held that mandatory lifetime registration for sodomy, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, but not vaginal sexual intercourse, violated the equal protection clause, and was unconstitutional. However, in a more recent case, Johnson v. Department of Justice, the California Supreme Court overturned the Hofsheier case, reasoning that since sexual intercourse can cause pregnancy and other sex acts cannot, it is not discriminatory to treat the offenses differently and for harsher penalties to be in place for non-vaginal intercourse,” Wiener wrote in an April 9 press release after SB 145 passed the Senate Public Safety Committee. “SB 145 will overturn the Johnson decision and end this blatant discrimination.”

Equality California was among the fairness and equality advocates angry that Gonzalez seemed to substitute her own judgement over that of law enforcement and LGBTQ and allied civil rights groups and placed SB 145 on suspension to now become a two-year bill, eligible for consideration in 2020.

The move was cheered by anti-LGBTQ Christians. “A California bill that could have prevented homosexuals from having to register as sex offenders for having sex with consenting minors has been blocked,” Christian Action Network reported Sept. 3.

“We are extremely disappointed with Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez for allowing an outdated law that discriminates against LGBTQ people to remain on the books. Law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and civil rights groups alike support this bipartisan bill because it would make California’s sex offender registry more effective and end blatant anti-LGBTQ discrimination,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement.

“Regrettably, this is not the first time that this Committee, led by this Chair, has stood in the way of LGBTQ civil rights legislation and demonstrated a lack of understanding of LGBTQ civil rights issues. The impact of today’s decision is neither hypothetical nor abstract. When this Committee and this Chair refuse to listen to law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and civil rights organizations, Californians suffer as a result,” Zbur continued. “We will not stop fighting for this common-sense fix because California’s LGBTQ young people deserve better. We all deserve better.”

Zbur is referring to Chair Gonzalez and the Assembly Appropriations Committee blocking SB 421 in 2017, also bipartisan LGBTQ civil rights legislation authored by Wiener and co-sponsored by Equality California and LA DA Lacey. That established “a tiered registry for all sex offenders. Proposed tiers are based on seriousness of crime, risk of sexual reoffending, and criminal history. The bill would also establish procedures for termination from the sex offender registry for a registered sex offender who is a tier one or tier two offender who completes his or her mandated minimum registration period under specified conditions.”

That bill was critical for LGBTQ people who had been required to register as sex offenders for life with no recourse to challenge or get off the registry—including gay men who had been unfairly targeted and entrapped by homophobic police from before Stonewall until the present day. Fortuitously, the legislation was later revived as SB 384, and with help from Speaker Rendon, passed on the Assembly floor and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee also blocked two other significant LGBTQ bills in 2017—AB 800 by Assemblymember David Chiu and AB 1161 by Assemblymember Phil Ting designed to address rising rates of hate crimes in California after Donald Trump’s inauguration by establishing a statewide hotline for people to safely report hate crimes. The bills were also thought to provide local law enforcement access to information to investigate and prevent hate crimes. Those bills and two other hate crime-related bills did not survive Gonzalez’s Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Interestingly, Gonzalez is not averse to controversy nor fame. A glowing 2015 profile in The Atlantic touted her as “The California Democrat Setting the National Agenda.”

“The breadth and scope of her legislative efforts have helped catapult her ahead of California’s two powerful U.S. senators, its up-and-coming attorney general, and its first gay woman to serve as speaker of the Assembly to become arguably the state’s most influential female politician,” The Atlantic author wrote. “Because she represents a solidly Democratic district—she ran unopposed in her first re-election effort in 2014—Gonzalez has had the luxury of being able to pursue her agenda without fear of voter backlash. But her tendency to gravitate toward controversial topics has cost her some opportunities to shore up support from those who’d otherwise be natural allies.”

Some of those “natural allies” in the LGBTQ community are now wondering if Gonzalez—who intends to run for Secretary of State in 2020—is really a progressive Democrat in name only after her anti-LGBTQ actions as Appropriations Committee Chair and after she endorsed Modesto City Councilmember Mani Grewal in his race for California Senate District 5.

Gov. Gavin Newsom with LGBT Legislative Caucus members Assemblymember Evan Low, Sen. Scott Wiener, Assemblymember Susan Eggman, and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (Photo courtesy Newsom’s office)

Grewal has been using SB 145—Wiener’s sex offender registry bill that Gonzalez placed in the Suspense File—as an attack against his primary opponent, out Assemblymember Susan Eggman, in an ugly ad that is consistent with Republican talking points.

“SB 145 would open the door for adults to victimize minors by luring them with the intent to have sex and then shielding the predator from being automatically registered as a sex offender,” states a Feb. 19 press release on the California Senate Republican Caucus website. “In plainer words, certain sexual predators will be able to live among us without our being aware and teens, often the most vulnerable victims of sexual predators, will be even more vulnerable.”

The offensive ad paid for by the Grewal campaign features Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse looking directly into camera saying: “Adults who molest our children are criminals, and they must register as sex offenders. Mani Grewal helped keep that law on the books. That’s why I’m supporting Mani Grewal for Senate. He will continue to protect our children.”

Outraged ensued. Equality California and Wiener—who is also Chair of the California LGBTQ—could barely contain their disgust while California Democratic Party LGBT Caucus Co-Chairs Tiffany Woods and Lester Aponte called the ad “shameful” and “a divisive smear campaign to mislead voters and score cheap political points.”

On Aug. 15, The Stockton Record published an article noting that Grewal was citing “regurgitated” falsehoods, apparently “referring to misinformation published in February by a website, thewashingtonpundit.com, that has since taken down its debunked online story.”

Additionally, the newspaper reported, “Grewal’s characterization of SB145 was debunked in February by Snopes.com, a website that fact-checks rumors and clears up misinformation.”

An exchange of letters followed, with the last one from Equality California’s Rick Zbur demanding that Grewal “formally retract the contents of [his] offensive ad and false statements about the bill; apologize to Senator Wiener, Assemblymember Eggman and the LGBTQ community; and endorse SB 145.”

“Unfortunately, your purported commitment ‘to stand up for the LGBTQ community’ rings hollow as long as you continue to engage in these homophobic campaign tactics,” wrote Zbur. “Knowingly spreading misinformation about an LGBTQ civil rights bill supported by law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and LGBTQ Californians is not how you ‘stand up for the LGBTQ community.'”

Might the same be said of Grewal supporter, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez?

Photo of Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez from her Assembly website

 

 

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Los Angeles

Reminder: 101 closed through DTLA until 10pm Sunday

The closure began at 10 p.m. Saturday and will be completed by 10 p.m. Sunday, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering announced

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – (KTLA) Motorists are being reminded that the stretch of 101 through the downtown area of Los Angeles is shut down for road restoration and reconstruction work.

KTLA reported the closure began at 10 p.m. Saturday and will be completed by 10 p.m. Sunday, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering announced.

The 24-hour closure between State Route 60 and the 10 Freeway interchange is needed for the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project, which aims to replace the original, seismically-deficient structure built in 1932, authorities said.

During the closure, the California Department of Transportation will also be doing slab replacement work along the same stretch of the 101 Freeway.

The closure will center around the east side of the viaduct construction site in Boyle Heights. While the stretch is closed, drivers headed west on State Route 60 from the Pomona area will not be able to access the 101, officials said.

Off-ramps and on-ramps in the area will also be closed during as road work gets underway.

Drivers who reach the closure will see signs directing them to a detour.

(The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering)

The new $588 million viaduct is expected to be completed in Summer of 2022, stretching between Boyle Heights and the Arts District.

Officials say it is the largest bridge project in the history of Los Angeles.

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Los Angeles

LA-DWP & Mayor Garcetti announce new outdoor watering restrictions

Sprinkler watering will be allowed Monday & Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday & Sunday

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City of Los Angeles (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a press conference Tuesday Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and officials from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced that outdoor watering in the city will be restricted to two days a week starting June 1.

The announcement comes as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared an unprecedented water shortage emergency two weeks ago, imposing restrictions after MWD’s board voted to adopt the emergency measures to “reduce non-essential water use” in certain areas. Cities and smaller water suppliers that get water from MWD are required to start restricting outdoor watering to one day a week, or to find other ways to cut usage to a new monthly allocation limit.

LADWP

In Tuesday’s press conference Mayor Garcetti said L.A.’s two-day limit was still more lenient than the one imposed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has ordered many of its member agencies to restrict outdoor watering to once a week.

Sprinkler watering will be allowed on Monday and Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday and Sunday.

For more information visit the LADWP webpage here.

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Los Angeles

Hollywood residents angered over Sunset Blvd. homeless encampment

Many residents are frustrated over the increasing daily criminal activity that has plagued the area, including vehicle break-ins

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Screenshot via KABC 7

HOLLYWOOD – For those who live in the Hollywood neighborhood that surrounds the homeless encampment on Sunset Boulevard at Martel Avenue, the last seventeen months have been aggravating.

Many residents are frustrated over the increasing daily criminal activity that has plagued the area, including vehicle break-ins which at times has resulted in multiple break-ins on the same vehicles.

“We’ve had tons of break-ins. Our garage has been broken into five times. Cars are vandalized. Mail is stolen,” local resident Lawrence S., who lives near the encampment, told KABC 7. “Our building, the building across the street, the building across the street that way — there’s just rampant crime.

“I actually had my sister in-law come to visit for the first time and she parked across the street in broad daylight and within 30 seconds, someone from the homeless encampment was down swinging a club at her. The violence is escalating and we keep asking the City Council, what is it going to take? Do we need to wait till someone’s murdered?”

The encampment is located at 7323 Sunset Blvd. and surrounds an AT&T building. It’s located in L.A. City Councilwoman Nithya Raman’s district who toured the encampment in 2021, joined by residents, including Terry S.

“She promised. She said that she would be adamantly enforcing ADA compliance. That she’s looking into setting up a safe camping location for the campers. Never happened,” Terry S. told KABC 7.

“In August, 41.18, an ordinance, passed and we were very hopeful because finally we thought that they would have some tools at their disposal,” Lawrence S. said. “But the city councilwoman is only enforcing a part of that ordinance, which is the Care Plus Cleanup program. However, she’s only doing it when she feels like enforcing it, which is three times in 17 months.”

Residents say that the city’s efforts to clean up and clear out the encampment only results in the homeless displaced for a couple of days sometimes less and then they return to reestablish the encampment. This past Thursday the city again clean and cleared the encampment.

While an KABC 7 camera and reporter Josh Haskell were working on the story homeless people were in the background reestablishing their presence across the street.

KABC 7 reached out to Councilwoman Nithya Raman whose office responded with a media statement:

“This encampment is a priority for our office, and our Homelessness Team has been consistently bringing services and working with the individuals living at this location. LAHSA outreach teams most recently identified seven people living here and together we worked to move three of them into shelter just yesterday as part of our Encampment-to-Home project, which has already moved 43 people in Hollywood indoors. Additionally, a cleanup took place at this location yesterday and we are working to move the remaining individuals into shelter as soon as beds become available. We are in continued communication with the residents in the neighborhood regarding the status of our progress as we move forward.”

Residents upset with LA City Councilwoman Nithya Raman over Sunset Boulevard homeless encampment:

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