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Senator Wiener introduces privacy for sexual assault victims bill

Federal law already prohibits the inclusion of victims’ DNA in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)

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Graphic via the San Francisco Police Department

SACRAMENTO — Out state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 1228, the Genetic Privacy for Sexual Assault Victims Act. SB 1228 is sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, and sexual assault survivors.

SB 1228 protects sexual assault survivors and other victims by prohibiting the retention of DNA profiles collected from victims by local law enforcement agencies — including rape kits for sexual assault survivors. It also prohibits victims’ DNA from being used for any purpose other than identifying the perpetrator of the crime. Thus, a victim’s DNA could not be used in the future against the victim.

These protections help ensure the privacy of sexual assault survivors and promote public safety by encouraging survivors to report sexual violence. If a sexual assault survivor believes their rape kit DNA can be used against them in the future, they will have one more reason not to come forward and undergo an invasive rape kit examination.

SB 1228 was introduced following the discovery that the San Francisco Police Crime Lab has been entering DNA profiles from sexual assault victims into a suspect database and then searching that database to incriminate survivors in unrelated crimes.

District Attorney Boudin made the situation public and then began working with Senator Wiener and survivor advocates on legislation to remedy this problem. Since the discovery of this practice, advocates for sexual assault survivors and victim rights have widely condemned the practice and called for legislative action. Congressman Adam Schiff has called for a federal investigation.

“Sexual assault is among the most traumatic events that any person can experience, and we must do everything in our power to support and protect survivors who make the brave choice to come forward,” said Senator Wiener. “It’s unacceptable to use survivors’ DNA — given expressly for the purpose of finding or prosecuting a perpetrator  — to incriminate that same survivor. Sexual assault exams are traumatic enough as it is; we don’t need to create additional reasons for survivors to forgo them. SB 1228 will help us protect survivors’ rights and privacy.”

“Victims of sexual assault should be encouraged and supported in coming forward to undergo sexual assault examinations to identify their perpetrator.  Instead, the practice by a police crime lab that my office exposed treats victims like criminals. It not only violates their privacy, but it dissuades victims from reporting sexual violence—which makes us all less safe,” said District Attorney Boudin.  “Today, I am honored to cosponsor SB 1228 with Senator Wiener to protect the constitutional rights of sexual assault survivors.  My office stands with survivors and will continue to fight to protect their rights in every way we can.”

When victims report a sexual assault, they can consent to a sexual assault examination, also known as a rape kit. During this examination, biological evidence from bodily fluids, fingernail scrapings, and bite and scratch marks is collected from the victim’s body. The victim submits their own DNA sample in order to exclude their DNA from an investigation. In addition, reference samples of those who have close contact with the survivor—such as consensual sexual partners, family members, or other people living in the same household—may be collected as well to differentiate their DNA from that of the perpetrator.

Sexual assault is significantly under-reported; fewer than a quarter of sexual assault survivors come forward to report to police.  Of those survivors who do report, only a small percentage undergo the highly invasive process of sexual assault testing. Victims of sexual assault consent to their DNA collection for this purpose, not so that their DNA will be retained in a local law enforcement database permanently to be searched years later. Using victims’ DNA in order to potentially incriminate them in the future further dissuades sexual assault survivors from undergoing what is already a very difficult process. 

SB 1228 protects sexual assault survivors and other victims by prohibiting the DNA profiles collected from victims from being used for any purpose other than aiding in identifying the perpetrator.  Local law enforcement agencies will also be prohibited from retaining and then searching victim DNA to incriminate them in unrelated crimes.

Federal law already prohibits the inclusion of victims’ DNA in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). However, there is no corresponding California state law to prohibit local law enforcement databases from retaining victims’ profiles and searching them years later for entirely different purposes. This legislation would remedy that by requiring DNA samples taken from victims to be used only for the sexual assault investigation. It would prohibit DNA samples from being included in any database that allows for a sample to be matched with DNA profiles obtained from crime scenes.

The bill would also instruct the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code to study whether additional steps are needed to protect the privacy of Californians who have submitted DNA samples to law enforcement, and determine whether a forensic oversight board is needed.

SB 1228 is also cosponsored by the Prosecutor’s Alliance and Black Women Revolt, an anti-domestic violence advocacy and resource group for Black women. Assemblymember Phil Ting is principal co-author of the legislation.

“We must do all we can to support survivors of sexual assault. This legislation sends the message that they can trust the criminal justice system and come forward to report their cases,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).

“More than two thirds of sexual violence victims do not report the assault to law enforcement. Using a survivor’s rape kit for any other purpose other than to hold the perpetrator accountable further discourages survivors from coming forward, said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart Foundation’s Policy and Advocacy Director.  “We applaud Senator Wiener for swiftly introducing legislation that rectifies this issue. SB1228 signals to survivors in California that they and what happened to them matters, and is a step towards building survivors’ trust.”

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California

Newsom & LGBTQ Caucus lift up California’s fight for equality 

Governor joins LGBTQ Caucus 20th anniversary Pride celebration, announces signature of AB 1741 to honor victims of transphobia

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Governor Newsom joins members of the LGBTQ Caucus at the Governor’s Mansion (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom today joined members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus at the historic Governor’s Mansion for the Caucus’s 20th anniversary Pride celebration and to highlight California’s leadership on LGBTQ rights.

“In California, we fight for and celebrate our LGBTQ community’s right to live their lives out loud,” said Governor Newsom. “I’m proud to stand with our LGBTQ Caucus today and lift up their commitment to advancing equality, freedom and acceptance. As we push back on the forces of hate that seek to undo our progress, California will continue to lead the way to a better, fairer future for all.”

“I’m so proud to live in California where we understand the value of diversity and support and embrace everyone who lives here,” said First Partner Siebel Newsom. “We’re committed to supporting members of the LGBTQ community to live as their most authentic selves and will fight to safeguard the policies that protect those rights. Alongside the Governor and the LGBTQ Caucus, I encourage us all to continue to lead with California’s values of respect, equality, kindness, and acceptance because that’s the California Way and the best way forward.”

Governor and First Partner join members of the LGBTQ Caucus at the Governor’s Mansion for 20th anniversary Pride celebration
(Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Governor Newsom today announced that he has signed AB 1741 by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), an LGBTQ Caucus priority bill that designates November 20 as “Transgender Day of Remembrance” to honor those who have been killed as a result of transphobia. The Governor also signed AB 421 by Assemblymember Christopher M. Ward (D-San Diego), which makes technical changes to the procedures for changing gender and sex identifiers on official documents, such as a marriage certificate.

California was the first state in the country to officially form a caucus of openly-LBGTQ state legislators and continues to lead in advancing policies that create safer, more inclusive communities. Governor Newsom has signed a number of measures to advance these efforts, including AB 493 to develop a training program for educators to better support LGBTQ youth; SB 932, which ensures comprehensive data collection to understand how COVID-19 is impacting the LGBTQ community; AB 2218 to establish the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund to provide grants for programs focused on trans-inclusive health care; AB 1094 to collect data on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identify in cases of violent death to help inform prevention efforts; and SB 1255 to end the practice of insurance companies discriminating against individuals because of their HIV status.

In 2020, the Governor appointed Justice Martin Jenkins to serve as the first openly gay man on the California Supreme Court, and this year appointed Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Andi Mudryk, the first openly transgender person to serve on the state’s judicial bench. Shortly after taking office, the Governor launched a new initiative to pardon people who were prosecuted in California for being gay.

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California

EDD recovers $1.1 billion in Unemployment Insurance funds

Recovery follows EDD’s recent thwarting of 47,000 potentially fraudulent claims worth up to $560 million across California

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The California Employment Development Department HDQTRS (Screenshot/ KGO-TV San Francisco)

SACRAMENTO – In another major step toward continuing to investigate fraudsters and recover unemployment insurance funds, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) today announced it has recovered $1.1 billion in unemployment insurance funds.

The recovered funds were located on approximately 780,000 inactivated benefit cards. Most of the recovered funds will return to the federal government because the fraudulent claims are from the emergency federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was the primary target of fraud nationwide.

“Fraudsters and criminal organizations ripped off California, along with every other state, during one of the worst crises in history – we’re taking aggressive action to return that money to the taxpayers,” said Governor Newsom.

In July 2021, California hired McGregor Scott as EDD Fraud Special Counsel. Scott aids the state’s work with law enforcement to combat fraud—including supporting state, federal, and local investigations and prosecutions. Working with EDD, he has leveraged his experience to deliver leads and evidence to aid prosecutions and strengthen ongoing investigations.

“We will continue working with law enforcement to put fraudsters behind bars and recover every stolen dollar that we can,” Scott stated.

Today’s billion-dollar recovery furthers the monumental efforts of EDD and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to investigate and prosecute criminals who defrauded federal emergency unemployment benefit programs. Within the past 15 months, ​​total investigations, prosecutions, and dollars seized in the counties reporting information to the state  include:

  • Total investigations – 1,525
  • Arrests – 467
  • Money seized – $3,474,448
  • Convictions – 162

Other actions California has taken to strengthen its fraud fighting include:

  • Stopping over $125 billion in attempted fraud by deploying a new identity verification system, ID.me, in 2020 and partnering with Thomson Reuters to help detect and prevent UI and PUA fraud.
  • Setting up the 1099-G call center to help victims of identity theft deal with any tax related questions—work that answered 24,000 calls. Fraud can be reported by selecting Form 1099G in Ask EDD or calling 1-866-401-2849.
  • Working with Bank of America to issue chip-enabled debit cards that enhance security and to strengthen fraud-prevention strategies.
  • Working with the California Office of Emergency Services Fraud Task Force on over a thousand active investigations, arrests, and prosecutions across California.
  • Creating law enforcement investigative guides and offering technical assistance to law enforcement partners who are working fraud investigation cases.
  • Setting up designated regional contacts for each division of the state and working with any agency that needs assistance with an unemployment insurance fraud case.
  • Continuing to issue consumer scam alerts throughout the pandemic that warn about cell phone and email phishing schemes designed to steal personal information.

EDD runs one of the nation’s largest public benefit systems. Over 20 million people filed over 60 million unemployment, disability insurance, and paid family leave claims over the past decade. EDD prepared, printed and mailed 45 million documents to customers through the most recent fiscal quarters. EDD was mailing nearly 600,000 documents a day during the height of the pandemic.

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California

Newsom proclaims Juneteenth day of observance

“This Juneteenth, I urge all Californians to reflect on the ongoing cause of freedom for Black Americans” – Gov. Gavin Newsom

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Juneteenth flag raised over the State Capitol in Sacramento (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today proclaimed June 18, 2022, as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day: A Day of Observance” in the State of California.

PROCLAMATION

America does not only celebrate our independence on July 4. On June 19 each year, we look back to this day in 1865, on which Union General Gordon Granger led troops into Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War and the insidious institution of slavery. Thousands of enslaved people in Texas – among the last to learn of their independence – tasted hard-won freedom for the first time.

Over the next several decades, African-Americans who journeyed out of the South seeking better lives brought Juneteenth celebrations with them. The thousands who settled in California, especially in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, taught our state that America’s struggle for independence did not end in 1776 or 1865, but continues to this day.

This Juneteenth, I urge all Californians to reflect on the ongoing cause of freedom for Black Americans – remembering that, though General Granger’s announcement in 1865 called for “absolute equality,” that vision was, and remains, far from complete.

With the Juneteenth flag proudly raised over the State Capitol, let us celebrate how far we have come and take stock of how far we must go, and honor all those who have lived and died in pursuit of a more perfect union.

NOW THEREFORE I, GAVIN NEWSOM, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim June 18, 2022, as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day: A Day of Observance.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 17th day of June 2022.

GAVIN NEWSOM
Governor of California

ATTEST:

SHIRLEY N. WEBER, Ph.D.
Secretary of State 

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