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California Politics

Palm Springs mayor pro tem Lisa Middleton running for state senate

“Lisa has been a trailblazing champion for the LGBTQ community as well as a dedicated public servant and activist working to uplift her city”

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Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton and Mayor Christy Holstege (Photo courtesy Equality California)

PALM SPRINGS – Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton officially entered the race for California’s 28th State Senate District with the powerful support of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and former United States Senator Barbara Boxer.

Middleton, who made history in 2017 by becoming the first transgender person in California history elected to a non-judicial position, currently serves as Palm Springs’ Mayor Pro Tem. She would be the first openly transgender State Legislator in California’s history. SD-28, an open seat that went for Joe Biden in 2020, currently has a two-point Democratic registration advantage.

Middleton launched her campaign for Senate by releasing the following statement:

“I’m thrilled today to be announcing my campaign for State Senate District 28. I’m running to make a difference in Sacramento and be an effective voice for the 28th District by bringing pragmatic, practical solutions that will improve the lives of all Californians.

I grew up in a working-class East Los Angeles community.  The grandchild of Dust Bowl Oklahomans, I grew up in a California that made it possible for me to be the first in my family to attend college. The California that won the 20th century provided world-class education, transportation networks, communication systems and economic opportunity.  We can do this again.

I spent my adult life in California state government in our workers’ compensation system. I have seen up close government succeed, and I have seen it fail. The difference always comes down to leadership.  

Throughout my career, I have been a leader who listens, unifies and gets things done for the people I represent.  It is time that Riverside County and the 28th District receive our fair share of California’s budget.  Our region is one of the fastest growing regions of the country.  To win the 21st century, we need a local and regional infrastructure built for the 21st century.   We cannot wait to address climate change.  It is past time we ensure opportunity for all does in fact include everyone. 

Growing up, I remember standing in line in my elementary school to get the polio vaccine at a time the disease was ravaging America. The government came together to administer a life-saving vaccine, and there was nothing political or partisan about it.  Tragically today, when we are yet again threatened by a virus that kills hundreds of thousands of people, some for the sake of partisan warfare are provoking fear, division and irresponsibility. I will lead by example.

In the State Senate, I will work to return our state and country back to a place where a crisis—whether it be a pandemic, wildfire, or earthquake— is not an opportunity for partisanship but for us to work together to save lives. In our state, it is always going to be not if, but when and how bad is the next emergency.

My foundation is the neighborhoods I represent.  My path to being the first transgender Californian to be elected to a political office began by standing up for Palm Springs neighborhoods and street repair funding.  I will go to work every day in the State Senate to improve the quality of your life, in your neighborhood.

The simpler tasks have already been accomplished.  The challenges left for our region are the tough ones — climate change, inequity, crime, economic security, healthcare access, rebuilding our infrastructure and homelessness.  I am a clear-eyed optimist who believes our best years are in front of us. This is America. We are Californians. We inherited tremendous opportunity.   Now it is our responsibility to build on the investments of our parents and grandparents.

My newly-born grandson is expected to live to see the 22nd century. The business of California is building the schools, the equality of opportunity, transportation and communication networks, the jobs and climate that give my grandchild and every child the foundation to build their California Dream.

Please join me.  I would be honored to have your support.”

The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus also released the following statement with their endorsement of Middleton’s campaign:

“The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus is thrilled to endorse Lisa Middleton’s candidacy for State Senate because we need more bold, innovative LGBTQ+ leaders who are ready to take on California’s toughest issues and deliver for our communities. Throughout her career, Lisa has been a trailblazing champion for the LGBTQ community as well as a dedicated public servant and activist working to uplift her city, particularly on the Palm Springs City Council. Additionally, the California Legislature should reflect our state’s dynamic population, and it’s far past time that transgender Californians were represented in Sacramento. We know that Lisa will be a pioneering, relentless advocate for the 28th District and all Californians, working tirelessly to make the state more inclusive, fair, and just. We’re with her 100% and look forward to helping Lisa get elected.”

Additionally, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer released the following statement with her endorsement of Middleton’s campaign:

“I’m thrilled to announce my support for Lisa Middleton’s campaign for Senate District 28.  A fearless fighter for the people she represents, Lisa is a compassionate, principled and savvy leader who will fight for those most in need in Sacramento while bringing people and ideas to the table to solve big problems. California needs Lisa’s forward-thinking ideas, compassion, grit and determination in the State Senate.  I’m proud to offer her my enthusiastic endorsement.”

Middleton is a neighborhood leader and longtime public servant was first elected to the City Council in 2017. She became the first transgender person elected to a political office in the state of California.

On the Palm Springs City Council, Middleton helped deliver PPE and vaccines to residents during the COVID pandemic, led passage of a solar requirement on all new homes, increased the utilization of green energy by Palm Springs residents and businesses, helped support a booming local economy, increased funding for public safety services and street repairs, helped lead efforts for a generational public works project to bring daily rail service to the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley, addressed inequity, highlighted the unique challenges of LGBTQ seniors and led by example as a transgender woman in elected office.

Additionally, Middleton currently serves on the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and the Sunline Transit Board of Directors, where she works with partners from neighboring cities to provide high-quality transportation services to the region.

She is also a dedicated regional and statewide leader as a member of the League of California Cities (Cal Cities) Board of Directors, including serving as Chair of the Cal Cities Revenue & Taxation Policy Committee, and the California State Department of Transportation Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force.

Prior to her election to the City Council, Middleton served as a member of the Palm Springs Planning Commission, Chairwoman of the Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs (ONE-PS), and Interim Executive Director of the Desert LGBTQ Center.

In April 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Lisa to the Board of Administrators of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), which provides pensions to 1.9 million people and health benefits to over 1.5 million people with investment assets exceeding $450 billion. She serves as Chair of the organization’s Risk & Audit Committee and Vice-Chair of the Governance Committee.

This came after Middleton retired from her 36 year-career with California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund, where she moved her way up the ranks. Her first job in government entailed performing workers’ compensation audits in the factories and meat-packing plants not far from where she grew up. At her retirement, she was the Senior Vice President of Internal Affairs; she also previously Chaired California’s Fraud Assessment Commission.

A first-generation college student who grew up in a working-class community in East Los Angeles, Middleton is a graduate of East Los Angeles College, UCLA and USC, receiving her Master’s in Public Administration from USC.

Middleton has been widely recognized for her work, earning awards from the California Workers Compensation Institute, Palm Springs Pride Association, Equality California, Democratic Women of the Desert, SAGE/LGBT Senior Advocates, Desert LGBTQ Center and the California State Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

Together since 2000, Middleton and her wife Cheryl married in 2013 shortly after they moved to Palm Springs.   Middleton is also the proud parent of “two accomplished educators.”

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California Politics

Newsom highlights blueprint investments in infrastructure & transportation

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions

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Governor Newsom speaks at Santa Clara Depot which serves Caltrain, the Altamont Corridor Express, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Amtrak (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SANTA CLARA – Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday touted his California Blueprint’s major investments in transportation and infrastructure while visiting the Santa Clara Depot rail station, highlighting the plan’s $9.1 billion in funding for climate-friendly clean transit projects that will create thousands of jobs.

The Blueprint also includes $2.3 billion to support ports and goods movement throughout the state and an additional $6.1 billion to accelerate the state’s transition to zero-emission vehicles – creating a total package of $10 billion that will invest in affordable cars, clean trucks and buses. The Santa Clara Depot serves several transit agencies, including Caltrain, which is scheduled to complete electrification of its system in 2024. 

“These bold investments will deliver safer, faster and greener transportation options connecting communities across the state while creating thousands of jobs and tackling our largest source of harmful pollution and emissions,” said Governor Newsom. “With California on the frontlines of the intensifying climate crisis, the state is committed to building a clean transportation future that protects the health of our communities, environment and economy.”

Transportation is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions when considering the production and deployment of fuels. California’s commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector also advances the state’s affordability goals, increasing access to opportunity and amenities through a network of affordable, clean transportation options and pushing zero-emission vehicle innovation to continue driving down costs for everyone.  

The California Blueprint includes a proposed $9.1 billion package to advance clean transit initiatives that support the state’s climate and public health goals, promote equity and bolster the green economy, including $4.9 billion for transit and rail projects to improve connectivity, climate adaptation, bicycle and pedestrian safety and more locally driven initiatives. In addition, the Blueprint proposes a $4.2 billion investment in California’s High-Speed Rail project, which will eventually share the electrified Caltrain corridor, as well as funding for projects that encourage active modes of transportation and improve equity and safety, including converting underutilized highways into corridors that better serve residents. The Blueprint positions California to take advantage of additional federal infrastructure investments.

The California Blueprint also furthers the Administration’s ongoing work to support ports and build supply chain resilience, outlining a $2.3 billion package that includes $1.2 billion for port-related infrastructure projects that increase goods movement capacity and additional funding for zero-emission port equipment, drayage trucks and infrastructure. The Governor in October issued an executive order directing state agencies to help identify additional ways to alleviate congestion at California ports and announced a state-federal partnership to help kick-start infrastructure projects designed to improve goods movement. In addition, the Governor has launched a multi-agency Supply Chain Task Force working to find opportunities to lease state and privately-owned land for container storage space, Caltrans has issued temporary truck weight exemptions on State Highways to keep goods moving efficiently and the Department of Motor Vehicles has worked to nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests.

The Blueprint also builds on the California Comeback Plan’s $3.9 billion zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) package with an additional $6.1 billion in proposed investment to accelerate the transition. The additional funding will add thousands of affordable clean cars, zero-emission trucks and transit buses, support school transportation programs and electrify our school bus fleet, expand equitable access to ZEV charging infrastructure and fund equity-focused clean transportation community projects.

Governor Newsom in 2020 made a commitment to require that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero-emission by 2035 and aggressively decarbonize heavy-duty vehicles such as trains, trucks and buses. The state has targeted emissions from the heavy-duty sector with bold action to reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities.

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California Politics

Intersex civil rights legislation killed after fails to advance

These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries usually performed when intersex children are infants have lifelong consequences

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California capitol building (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced Tuesday that he will not be moving forward with Senate Bill 225: the Intersex Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act. This civil rights legislation would ban medically unnecessary, irreversible genital surgeries on intersex infants and other young children.

Wiener has pursued this civil rights legislation that would provide children and their families with a chance to make informed decisions about major, life-altering genital reconstruction surgeries for three consecutive years.

He has been unable to pass the bill out of its first policy committee, the Senate Business & Professions Committee, due to lack of sufficient votes in the committee. SB 225 was co-sponsored by Equality California, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU of California. 

“SB 225 was a basic civil rights law, standing for the important principle that people should be able to make decisions about their own lives, as opposed to having other people make those decisions for them. These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries – usually performed when a child with variations in their genitalia are infants – have lifelong consequences. These consequences can include chronic pain, scarring, loss of sexual sensation, and more,” the Senator said in a media statement.

“SB 225 is vitally important civil rights legislation for intersex people and the larger LGBTQ community, and I’m disappointed and saddened that it does not appear to have a viable path forward at this time. For three years, we’ve worked to advance the legislation, and it’s become apparent that we continue to lack the votes to pass a meaningful bill — one that actually protects intersex people — through committee, he added.

“Pausing medically unnecessary genital surgeries until a child is old enough to participate in the decision isn’t a radical idea. Rather, it’s about basic human dignity.  In countries like Germany, Colombia, and Malta, these infant surgeries are banned. The United Nations and three former U.S. Surgeons General have called for these surgeries on babies to be banned. I’m fully committed to protecting the rights of everyone with variations in their genitialia, including intersex people. I’m not giving up, and I stand in solidarity with the intersex community in its fight for bodily autonomy, dignity and, choice,” Wiener said.

The California Medical Association, the politically influential professional organization representing nearly 50,000 physicians in the state of California, was opposed to the legislation and actively lobbied against it.

“We’re proud to stand with Senator Wiener and the intersex community in this important fight to safeguard the human rights of all Californians and are immensely grateful for his leadership on SB 225,” said Equality California Legislative Director Tami Martin. “We’re disappointed that there is not enough support to pass this bill out of committee this year, but our fight will continue until the work is done.”

One to two percent of people are born with variations in their genitalia and sex anatomy, some of whom identify as intersex. Parents of children with these variations are often offered medically unnecessary surgical interventions – such as major surgeries to cut a clitoris, create a vagina for penetrative sex, remove hormone-making organs, or move a working urinary opening – which are typically performed on children under two years old and often without a complete discussion of the various risks.

These surgeries may result in extreme scarring, chronic pain, chronic incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, post-traumatic stress disorder, incorrect gender assignment, and the need for additional surgeries to treat complications from the original surgery. SB 225 would allow parents to make a decision, in consultation with their child and medical professionals, once a person is old enough to participate in decision-making about whether or not a surgery to change sex anatomy is right for them. 

“While this particular bill did not become law, we are deeply grateful to our allies and proud of getting one step closer to protecting intersex bodily autonomy in California,” Alesdair Ittelson, Director of Law & Policy and Interim Executive Director of interACT said. “interACT will continue to demand self-determination instead of pathologization for intersex people and we are not deterred by the paternalistic approach of a rapidly shrinking number of individuals who stand in the way of protecting intersex human rights. Intersex people will prevail in their fight for control over their own bodies and we applaud all of those who supported SB 225.”

Becca Cramer-Mowder, Legislative Coordinator and Advocate with ACLU California Action, noted: “We are disappointed that California is not yet ready to lead on this important civil rights issue, and we will continue to work with intersex individuals and advocates to move the state forward towards recognizing the bodily autonomy of intersex Californians.” 

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California Politics

Anti-LGBTQ+ Devin Nunes officially resigns from Congress

He is slated to take over as chief executive officer for former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology group

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Former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) being questioned by Capitol Hill reporters during Trump impeachment hearings (Blade file screenshot)

WASHINGTON – In a letter Saturday to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-SF), Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who represents California’s 22nd Congressional District, officially resigned his seat in Congress.

“It has been the honor of my life to represent the people of California’s San Joaquin Valley for the last 19 years,” Nunes wrote. He is slated to take over as chief executive officer for former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology group, which is expected to launch expected to launch Truth Social later this month, a conservative right-wing alternative to Twitter and Facebook.

One of the former president’s ardent loyalists, Nunes has repeatedly been at the center of controversy during his entire career on the Hill. In addition to his support of Trump, he has been openly antagonistic towards the LGBTQ community.

In 2010, Nunes voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the U.S. military. He also consistently received a “0” rating on LGBT issues from the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which has a rating scale of 0 to 100.

He opposed legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and he also refused to back any LGBTQ+ legislation.

Over the years he has also been involved in a series of high-profile lawsuits, including a 2019 $435 million defamation lawsuit in which he claimed CNN libeled him by reporting he was digging up dirt on Joe Biden and Ukraine.

U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan dismissed the suit against CNN on a technical ground: She found California law applied to the case and Nunes had failed to request a retraction as required under the laws of the Golden State. Nunes’ lawyer had argued that the laws of Virginia or Washington, D.C., should apply, but the judge said it made the most sense to apply the laws of Nunes’ home state to the dispute, Politico reported.

In 2019, Nunes also sued Twitter over two parody accounts that he claimed harassed him, @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow. That lawsuit brought on merciless ribbing from late night show hosts and other comedians. The Late Show host Stephen Colbert mocked the Republican congressman explaining how Nunes’ lawyers arrived at the $250 million amount for the lawsuit: “You take the value of Devin Nunes’ reputation and you add $250 million dollars.”

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