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Bill to repeal discriminatory loitering law targeting sex workers passes

SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Eliminates an loitering offense for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker

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Photo Credit: Carol Leigh Scarlot Harlot

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, passed the Senate on concurrence by a vote of 26-9. SB 357 repeals a provision of California law criminalizing “loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution.” The bill now heads to California Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.

This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is “acting like” or “looks like” they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers.

SB 357 is sponsored by a large coalition made up of former and current sex workers, LGTBQ groups like Equality California, and civil rights groups like the ACLU. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST LA) is supporting the legislation.

SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Rather, it simply eliminates an loitering offense that leads to harmful treatment of people for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker.

SB 357 repeals “loitering with intent to engage in prostitution” law, which results in profiling and harassment of sex workers, particularly transgender women and women of color

This crime is so subjective and inherently profiling that it allows a police officer to arrest someone purely based on how they are dressed, whether they’re wearing high heels and certain kinds of make-up, how they’re wearing their hair, and the like. This criminal provision is inherently discriminatory and targets people not for any action but simply based on how they look. People who engage in sex work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Criminalizing sex work does not make sex workers or communities safer. Most criminal penalties for sex workers, loitering laws included, do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers and human trafficking. In fact, loitering laws make it harder to identify trafficking victims; trafficking victims are often afraid to come forward in fear of being arrested or incarcerated.

In February, a similar piece of legislation to repeal this type of loitering ban became law in New York. SB 357 is part of the movement to end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people. SB 357 is co-sponsored by Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, Trans [email protected] Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Equality California and ACLU California Action.

Under current law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with the “intent” to commit a sex work-related offense. But this law can be broadly interpreted, and thus allows for discriminatory application against the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Law enforcement can use a non-exhaustive list of circumstances to subjectively determine if someone “intends” to engage in sex work, including factors such as speaking with other pedestrians, being in an area where sex work has occurred before, wearing revealing clothing, or moving in a certain way.

Because current law regarding loitering is highly subjective and vague, law enforcement officers disproportionately profile and target Black and Brown transgender women by stopping and arresting people for discriminatory and inappropriate reasons.

This is how Black and Brown transgender women get arrested and cited for simply walking on the street. It also gives law enforcement the ability to more easily target and arrest sex workers.

People in the LGBTQ, Black, and Brown communities report high rates of police misconduct throughout the United States and are disproportionately affected by police violence. Transgender people who have done street-based sex work are more than twice as likely to report physical assault by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police.

A Black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. These statistics are a daily reality that transgender, Black and Brown people face and lead to mistrust of law enforcement.

SB 357 will repeal a discriminatory law that makes it a crime to loiter with the intent to engage in sex work, given that it fails to prevent street-based sex work and disproportionately results in the criminalization of transgender people and communities of color.

“Anti-loitering laws – which disproportionately impact Black, Brown and LGBTQ people – are racist and transphobic, and must go,” said Wiener. “Sex work is work, and sex workers have a right to live and work with dignity and respect. Arresting sex workers doesn’t make them safer, doesn’t make our communities safer, and doesn’t prevent sex work. In fact, when law enforcement arrests people who ‘look like’ they might be sex workers, simply because of how they look or dress, it makes it harder to find and help those who are being trafficked. Giving people criminal records for just standing around is wrong, and we need to reverse this law.” 

The DecrimSexWorkCA coalition released the following statement:

“For too long, our communities have been harmed by tough-on-crime laws which are used to target and harass our community members, threatening our ability to exist safely in public spaces. By passing SB 357, the Legislature recognizes the decades of harm that California’s loitering law has had on tens of thousands of people, especially Black and brown women, trans women of color and sex workers, giving us a path to clear our records. By ending one form of criminalization, the state takes a monumental step forward in protecting our safety and our livelihoods.”

California

Ohio added to ‘Restricted’ travel list for California state employees

“Blocking access to life-saving care is wrong. Period,” said Bonta. “When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans California must act.”

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Photo Credit: State of California Department of Justice

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Friday that — effective Sept. 30, 2021 — California will restrict state-funded travel to Ohio as a result of new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently enacted in the state.

Specifically, provisions of the new legislation, Ohio House Bill 110 (HB 110), will allow medical providers in the state to deny care to LGBTQ+ Americans, including Californians traveling in Ohio. The new restrictions on state-funded travel to Ohio announced today are required by California Assembly Bill 1887 (AB 1887), which passed in 2016.

“Blocking access to life-saving care is wrong. Period,” said Bonta. “Whether it’s denying a prescription for medication that prevents the spread of HIV, refusing to provide gender-affirming care, or undermining a woman’s right to choose, HB 110 unnecessarily puts the health of Americans at risk. Critically, the law runs afoul of Assembly Bill 1887. When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans, the California Department of Justice must act. That’s why — in line with the law — we’re adding Ohio to California’s state-funded travel restrictions list.”

Assemblymember Evan Low, the Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ issued a statement in support of Bonta’s action;

“Ohio’s decision to condone attacks on the health of its nearly 400,000 LGBTQ+ residents was widely opposed by the state’s medical community. It’s plain that this law only serves to discriminate,” said Low, “We will never put Californians at risk of falling victim to the same toxic standard by supporting the use of taxpayer dollars for travel in places where anti-LGBTQ discrimination is the law of the land.”

In a statement released Friday by his office, Bonta noted;

Despite increasing awareness of and respect for the inherent dignity of LGBTQ+ people, there has been a recent, dangerous wave of discriminatory new legislation signed into law in states across the country that directly works to roll back hard-won anti-discrimination protections. Many states pushing these new discriminatory laws are already on California’s travel restrictions list, which with the addition of Ohio will now grow to a total of 18 states. Ohio’s HB 110 is particularly troublesome in that it allows medical providers to deny important healthcare services to any patient over the entire course of the patient’s treatment.

The law is applicable to a wide range of important services, including nursing and physician services, counseling and social work, psychological and psychiatric services, surgery, and the provision of pharmaceuticals. The law further takes steps to protect any medical practitioner or healthcare institution from suffering any consequences — whether civil, criminal, or administrative — for declining to participate in or pay for critical healthcare. Although HB 110 does contain a provision that suggests medical practitioners should try to transfer a patient where appropriate, the law offers no real protection because the language is discretionary and does not require action to help the patient.

In enacting AB 1887, the California Legislature determined that California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. To that end, the law restricts state agencies, departments, boards, or commissions from authorizing state-funded travel to a state that — after June 26, 2015 — has enacted a law authorizing, or repealing existing protections against, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Each applicable California agency is responsible for consulting the AB 1887 list created by the California Department of Justice to comply with the travel and funding restrictions imposed by the law.

There is a ban against travel to 17 other states, including Texas which had attempted to sue California at the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a 7-2 decision, the high court rejected the case and declined to hear oral arguments.

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California

Newsom highlights $15 billion to tackle wildfire & drought challenges

“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis while protecting the hardest-hit communities”

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

THREE RIVERS, Ca. – At the site of the KNP Complex in Sequoia National Park, Governor Gavin Newsom today highlighted the California Comeback Plan’s over $15 billion climate package – the largest such investment in state history – tackling a wide array of climate impacts facing the state.

The Governor today signed legislation outlining investments in the package to build wildfire and forest resilience, support immediate drought response and long-term water resilience and directly protect communities across the state from multi-faceted climate risks, including extreme heat and sea level rise.

“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis head-on while protecting the hardest-hit communities,” said Newsom. “We’re deploying a comprehensive approach to meet the sobering challenges of the extreme weather patterns that imperil our way of life and the Golden State as we know it, including the largest investment in state history to bolster wildfire resilience, funding to tackle the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience, and strategic investments across the spectrum to protect communities from extreme heat, sea level rise and other climate risks that endanger the most vulnerable among us.”

When the Governor signed the state budget and related legislation in July, he and legislative leaders agreed to additional discussions during the summer to further refine steps to advance their shared and funded priorities, including natural resources investments. The legislation signed today details some of the most important investments funded in the over $15 billion climate package, which includes:

$1.5 Billion Wildfire and Forest Resilience Package 

The $1.5 billion package supporting a comprehensive forest and wildfire resilience strategy statewide is the largest such investment in California history. Building on a $536 million early action package in April ahead of peak fire season, an additional $988 million in 2021-22 will fund projects to reduce wildfire risk and improve the health of forests and wildlands. This includes investments for community hardening in fire-vulnerable areas, strategic fuel breaks and fuel reduction projects, approaches to restore landscapes and create resilient wildlands and a framework to expand the wood products market, supporting sustainable local economies.

This investment helps implement the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan published in January, and builds on previous budget investments for emergency management, including funding for additional fire crews and equipment, and executive actions to help combat catastrophic wildfires. Governor Newsom bolstered CAL FIRE’s firefighting ranks in March by authorizing the early hire of 1,399 additional firefighters and in July supplemented the department’s capacities with 12 additional aircraft. The Governor earlier this year launched an expanded and refocused Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force to deliver on key commitments in his Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action PlanLast year, the Newsom Administration and the U.S. Forest Service announced a shared stewardship agreement under which they are working to treat one million acres of forest and wildland annually to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

$5.2 Billion Water and Drought Resilience Package 

Climate change is making droughts more common and more severe. The California Comeback Plan invests $5.2 billion over three years to support immediate drought response and long-term water resilience, including funding for emergency drought relief projects to secure and expand water supplies; support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities; Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security and quality; and projects to support wildlife and habitat restoration efforts, among other nature-based solutions. 

$3.7 Billion Climate Resilience Package 

Focusing on vulnerable front-line communities, the package includes $3.7 billion over three years to build resilience against the state’s multi-faceted climate risks, including extreme heat and sea level rise. Investments to address the impacts of extreme heat include urban greening projects, grants to support community resilience centers and projects that reduce the urban heat island effect, and funding to advance the Extreme Heat Framework as part of the state’s Climate Adaptation Strategy. The package also supports coastal protection and adaptation measures, efforts to protect and conserve California’s diverse ecosystems, and community-based investments to build resilience, such as grants to support environmental justice-focused initiatives and funding for the California Climate Action Corps, which supports local climate action projects in disadvantaged communities.

$1.1 Billion to Support Climate Smart Agriculture 

Amid climate-driven drought and extreme heat challenges, California is committing $1.1 billion over two years to support sustainable agriculture practices and create a resilient and equitable food system. These efforts include investments to promote healthy soil management, support for livestock methane reduction efforts, funding for the replacement of agricultural equipment to reduce emissions and technical assistance and incentives for the development of farm conservation management plans. The package also supports programs to expand healthy food access for seniors and in schools, other public institutions and non-profit organizations.

$3.9 Billion Zero-Emission Vehicle Package  

The California Comeback Plan supports California’s nation-leading climate agenda with a $3.9 billion investment to hit fast forward on the state’s Zero-Emission Vehicle goals and lead the transition to ZEVs on a global scale. The package includes funding to put 1,000 zero-emission drayage trucks, 1,000 zero-emission school buses and 1,000 transit buses, and the necessary infrastructure, on California roads – prioritizing projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. Helping drive consumer adoption, the package funds consumer rebates for new ZEV purchases and incentives for low-income Californians to replace their old car with a new or used advanced technology car. 

Additional Investments  

The package also includes $270 million to support a circular economy that advances sustainability and helps reduce short-lived climate pollutants from the waste sector, and $150 million that will support urban waterfront parks, with a focus on underserved communities. 

More information on the over $15 billion climate package can be found in the Department of Finance’s addendum to its enacted budget summary. Click here for the budget addendum.

Newsom today also signed a raft of new climate measures to protect communities and advance the state’s climate and clean energy efforts.

Legislation to boost drought and wildfire resilience includes SB 552 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) to ensure small and rural water suppliers develop drought and water shortage contingency plans and implement drought resiliency measures to prevent and prepare for future water shortages; SB 403 by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) to allow the State Water Resources Control Board to order consolidation of an at-risk water system or domestic well in a disadvantaged community; SB 109 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) to create the Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development at CAL FIRE to evaluate emerging firefighting technology; and AB 697 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), which enables the state to plan, manage and implement forest restoration projects on national forest lands through an expanded Good Neighbor Authority Program.  

The legislation signed today also includes SB 1 by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), which establishes the California Sea Level Rise Mitigation and Adaptation Act to help coordinate and fund state efforts to prepare for sea level rise; AB 525 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), which directs state agencies to develop a strategic plan for offshore wind resources in California following the state’s historic agreement earlier this year with federal partners; SB 47 by Senator Monique Limόn (D-Santa Barbara), which increases the amount of money the state can collect annually to plug abandoned wells, utilizing funds from fees on the oil and gas industry; and AB 39 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), which enables the University of California to establish the California-China Climate Institute to advance joint policy research and foster high-level dialogue in order to accelerate climate action. 

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California

Lt. Governor Kounalakis establishes Transgender Advisory Council

“Establishing this council gives transgender leaders the space to have an open dialogue with key stakeholders […]”

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Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (center) attending SF Pride in 2018 (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis announced Monday that she has established a council of transgender leaders to create a dialogue between state leaders and the transgender community in California.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the council includes transgender activists, advocates, and elected officials from across the state. Its goal is to bring attention to the issues faced by the transgender community by inviting stakeholders in advocacy, government, and different industry sectors to hear directly from the council.

“Here in California, I’m proud we have enacted many protections for LGBTQ+ people, but we still have work to do, and that is especially true for issues facing our transgender and nonbinary family, friends, and neighbors,” said Lt. Governor Kounalakis.  “Establishing this council gives transgender leaders the space to have an open dialogue with key stakeholders who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to hear directly from them. I hope bridging this gap will help to amplify important issues and bring more understanding of the community. I look forward to the opportunity to listen, to learn, and to help elevate the voices of the members.”

“This California Transgender Advisory Council is historic,” said council member and California TRANScends Executive Director Ebony Harper. “I’m extremely honored to serve in this capacity and grateful for our Lieutenant Governor for seeing the need.”

“I congratulate Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis for her leadership in organizing the Lt. Governor’s Transgender Advisory Council,” said council member and Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton. “At a time when so many political leaders see transgender Americans as a political opportunity to exploit and target, Lt. Governor Kounalakis is reaching out to help, integrate and provide opportunity.  I look forward to working with my colleagues within California’s transgender community and the Lt. Governor to advance employment, housing and healthcare opportunity and equity for all Californians.”

“This is historic for the state of California,” said the [email protected] Coalition President and CEO Bamby Salcedo. “Having an official body composed of trans people under the Lieutenant Governor’s office sets a precedent for other states to follow. I am so grateful to live in such an inclusive state!”

“I am beyond thrilled to work in partnership with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to create what will hopefully be the first of many Transgender Advisory Councils,” said council member and Equality California Program Manager Zizi Bandera. “To have a high-ranking state official show their solidarity with our community in this way means a lot. I am honored to continue the work of so many transgender advocates whose relentless passion for justice and liberation have made this possible.”

The advisory council will meet regularly and is comprised of transgender leaders from across the state, including the following people:

  • Ian Anderson, Legal Services Project Manager, Transgender Law Center
  • Zizi Bandera, Program Manager, Equality California
  • Blossom Brown, Activist
  • Ebony Harper, Executive Director, California TRANScends
  • Drian Juarez, Vice President of Training and Culture, Folx Health
  • Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilmember
  • Evan Minton, Activist
  • Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO, [email protected] Coalition
  • Rosio Leon Velasco-Stoll, Fresno Spectrum Center

In addition to establishing the Transgender Advisory Council, Lt. Governor Kounalakis co-sponsored several important measures in the California Legislature this year, including AB 378 (Bauer-Kahan), which was signed by Governor Newsom and eliminates gendered language referencing constitutional officers in California law, and AB 245 (Chiu), which is currently on the Governor’s desk and would ensure that California public colleges and universities allow transgender and nonbinary students to have their name and gender accurately reflected on academic records.

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