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California Politics

Calif. Senate leader moves to end LGBTQ+ related travel bans

The legislation being introduced as legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and trans kids in particular has escalated



Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (Photo Credit: Toni Atkins/Twitter)

SACRAMENTO – Calif. State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) is introducing legislation that would lift California’s travel ban to other states and create in its place a program to encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

The legislation being introduced as legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and trans kids in particular has escalated in the past two recent years nationwide.

Atkins’ Senate Bill 447 legislation would end the ban and replace it with an advertising campaign in those states that promotes acceptance and inclusion for the LGBTQ community. The proposed measure will  would create a donation-driven fund that could be used to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated. Called the BRIDGE Project – Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality – the legislation would help California champion compassion and help build bridges to unite and unify communities.

When asked by reporters, Atkins, who is a lesbian said; “I think polarization is not working. We need to adjust our strategy. We know what we need to do, but we need to be able to be there to do it.”

“When I was a teenager growing up in rural Virginia, the idea of being accepted as a lesbian was a foreign concept. Times have changed, but for so many in the LGBTQ+ community, the feelings of isolation and fear remain. Lifting the travel ban and putting a program in its place that would infuse inclusive, non-partisan messages in other states is a way that California can help build a bridge of inclusion and acceptance,” she said.

“At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and protections are being rescinded, and the very words we use are being weaponized, putting understanding and kindness at the forefront is more important than ever. The goal here is to speak to people’s hearts and open minds. That’s a pursuit that would have made teen Toni – that southwestern Virginia girl afraid to be herself back then – so proud,” Atkins added.

California’s current law on the matter – AB 1887 – restricts state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions from using taxpayer funds to travel to states that have adopted discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Currently, the law is applicable to 23 states. 

Matthew Bajko, the Assistant Editor of the Bay Area Reporter, the LGBTQ newspaper in San Francisco, reported Atkins’ SB SB 447 legislation comes as the City of San Francisco leaders are also expected to lift the city’s similar travel ban policy.

During a press briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Atkins was asked several times if the original travel ban was a failure. She denied that.

“I think AB 1887 was successful,” she said, referring to the bill authored by gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), adding that leaders in states like North Carolina and Georgia initially did change laws or institute bans, such as the moving the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games out of the Tar Heel State in 2016. “It was effective in what we were trying to do. I think we sent a message loud and clear.”

While the law originally sent a clear, early, and effective message that California would not engage with states that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, a new approach is needed for California to have a positive impact, Atkins noted in a statement released by her office.

As the years have passed, the travel ban has had the unintended impact of further isolating members of the LGBTQ+ community in those states, and hampering Californians from being able to conduct research, business, and engage with all people from those states. Examples include California’s public university systems experiencing challenges with being able to conduct academic research on LGBTQ+ or other equity issues in some of the very places where that work is most needed and jeopardizing opportunities for intercollegiate athletes to compete in games that could determine postseason eligibility.

The shift in direction also will help further position California as a national leader of inclusivity and beacon of hope and support for those who have been isolated by state-sponsored discrimination elsewhere.

This year alone, an unprecedented 434 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country to date, targeting a host of issues, including civil rights, healthcare, schools, and free speech, according to an interactive report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In 2022, state legislatures around the country introduced 315 anti-equality bills, 29 of which were signed into law, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign. Much of those discriminatory efforts were focused on LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender and non-binary youth.

According to the 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project, 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 94 percent reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health.

Contrasting rollbacks at the national level, the California Legislature has passed hundreds of bills and resolutions to advance LGBTQ+ rights and protections. This year alone, more than a dozen bills covering a host of issues related to the LGBTQ+ community have been introduced to date, along with several budget requests.

The Associated Press/KTLA 5 reported Thursday that Marc Stein, a history professor at San Francisco State University who is gay and does research on queer history, said he would want to hear from LGBTQ communities in other states before deciding whether he supports lifting the travel ban.

But Stein said he would like to see an exception made for social justice research. Shortly after California’s travel ban took place, he said he had trouble booking a trip to North Carolina shortly after the travel ban took effect so he could research the case of a transgender woman who had been arrested for sodomy in the 1960s.

Stein said the university eventually found a way to fund his research, but said the barrier remains for other researchers, particularly students studying for advanced degrees.

“I think Ph.D. students in California are being discouraged from pursuing research projects that would require extensive trips to the list of states which is now almost half the country,” he said.


California Politics

Second chartered jet with migrants arrives in Sacramento

Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?” asked Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg



Temecula Border Patrol Station - Sub Station Border crossing station, a USBP officer deals with overwhelming number of migrants. (Screenshot/YouTube Reuters)

SACRAMENTO – The Office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta acknowledged to reporters that a second chartered plane full of migrants arrived in Sacramento on Monday morning. Officials say the transportation was again arranged by the state of Florida.

This latest prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to escalate his war of words with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, threatening to charge his fellow governor with a crime.

“.@RonDeSantis you small, pathetic man. This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard. Kidnapping charges? Read the following.” Newsom tweeted.

Tara Gallegos, a spokesperson for Attorney General Bonta, told reporters the migrants’ paperwork indicated they were transported through a program run by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and carried out by contractor Vertol Systems Co.

This is the same firm paid $1.56 million by Florida officials last year to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and for a possible second flight to Delaware that never took place, which Governor Newsom referenced when he tweeted about it earlier on Monday.

The Associated Press noted that neither Vertol Systems nor DeSantis’ office responded to requests for comment. Alecia Collins, a spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which oversees Florida’s migrant flights program, said in an email Monday that she couldn’t immediately confirm whether the agency was involved in this latest instance.

A statement from Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg showed the frustration and anger with DeSantis’ tactics: Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?”

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California Politics

Migrants dumped at Calif. church after charted jet flight from Texas

Immigrants were carrying documentation purported to be from the State of Florida according to the Attorney General’s office



Attorney General Rob Bonta in Bakersfield discussing best practices to eliminate the staggering rise of hate and extremism, June 3, 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General)

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom expressed outrage after a group of 16 migrants were transported by a private chartered jet from Texas via New Mexico and were left at the doorstep of the offices of the Sacramento Catholic Diocese on Friday.

“Today Attorney General Rob Bonta and I met with over a dozen migrants in Sacramento, Governor Newsom said in a news release. “These individuals were transported from Texas to New Mexico before being flown by private chartered jet to Sacramento and dumped on the doorstep of a local church without any advance warning.”

“We are working closely with the Mayor’s office, along with local and nonprofit partners to ensure the people who have arrived are treated with respect and dignity, and get to their intended destination as they pursue their immigration cases. My Administration is also working with the California Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around who paid for the group’s travel and whether the individuals orchestrating this trip misled anyone with false promises or have violated any criminal laws, including kidnapping,” the Governor said.

The Attorney General said in a separate statement:

“Today I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place,” said Bonta. “We are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California. We are also evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants. While this is still under investigation, we can confirm these individuals were in possession of documentation purporting to be from the government of the State of Florida.

“While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting. We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings. California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience,” Bonta added.

Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento noted: “Within each of the 16 migrants transported to Sacramento on Friday we recognize the humble presence of Jesus, and we hear His call to stand by them. The urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of good will. We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned.”

According to Diocese officials, the migrants arrived with everything they own stuffed in their backpacks. Migrant rights advocates say that the sixteen Venezuelan and Colombian nationals were lied to and intentionally deceived.

Eddie Carmona, campaign director at PICO California, a faith-based community organizing group that has been assisting the migrants told the Associated Press that the migrants had already been processed by U.S. immigration officials and given court dates for their asylum cases when “individuals representing a private contractor” approached them outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas, Carmona said. They offered to help the migrants get jobs and get them to their final destination, he said.

“They were lied to and intentionally deceived,” Carmona said, adding that the migrants had no idea where they were after being dropped off in Sacramento.

Late Sunday the Los Angeles Times reported the documents appear to show that the flights were arranged through the Florida Division of Emergency Management and that it was part of the state’s migrant transportation program, according to a spokesperson with the attorney general’s office who did not want to be identified.

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California Politics

LA Times poll: Trump’s big lead over DeSantis with California GOP

“The former president’s rise shows his ability to use the media to galvanize the voters most likely to back his third White House bid”



Former President Trump, and former VP Mike Pence honor the late Rev. Billy Graham, shown speaking with Graham's anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing son Franklin Graham on March 2, 2018. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

BERKELEY, Calif. – Former President Trump has vaulted back to a big lead in California over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, as the party’s voters brush aside his legal travails, a new poll finds.

The latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll finds that Trump now leads DeSantis 44% to 26%, a reversal of where they stood in February. A dozen other Republicans were included in the poll, but none got more than 4%. Almost 9 in 10 California Republicans say investigations into Trump are more about politics than law and justice.

Read the entire story here: (Los Angeles Times)

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California Politics

Queer, Armenian, global health leader; now political candidate

“I have seen the power of how an issue can advance when an LGBTQ+ person is in the room. That is what we need. That is how we make change”



Jirair Ratevosian participates in an annual AIDS Lifecycle event. (Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

BURBANK, Calif. – Dr. Jirair Ratevosian, announced Thursday that he has entered the race to replace Rep. Adam Schiff as a member of the U.S. House representing California’s 30th Congressional District. 

Ratevosian, 42, was born in Hollywood, CA, to a Lebanese mother and an Armenian father. He grew up in Sun Valley. Awarded a Johns Hopkins University post-graduate doctoral degree with concentration in public health policy, the Democratic candidate has devoted his life to his two passions: politics and physical science. 

In 2018, Ratevosian was selected as a “40 under 40 Health Leader” for his achievements in tackling health disparities in the United States and was one of 50 LGBTQIA+ experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy recognized by “Out in National Security” in 2021. 

During the 2020 presidential election he served as a national security advisor on COVID-19 and other health security matters to the Biden-Harris campaign and then after the election worked on the Biden Administration transition team. 

When asked by the Blade to list some of his proudest achievements he highlighted the following:

  • Led coalition to repeal the US HIV immigration ban policy in 2008
  • Worked with Congressional staff to reauthorize PEPFAR in 2013
  • Worked to expand focus and funding for PEPFAR’s work targeting men who have sex with men
  • He penned an op-ed with Ambassador Dr. John N. Nkengasong, who leads, manages, and oversees the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the U.S. Department, about the ways anti-LGBTQ laws impact HIV: Legal and Policy Barriers for an Effective HIV/AIDS Response – The Lancet 
  • Worked on legislation to decriminalize HIV transmission for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA.)  
  • Fought against the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda (2009 and 2023)
  • Worked as the first U.S. State Dept. Health Equity Policy Advisor
Dr. Jirair Ratevosian, Senior Advisor for the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, Harry S Truman building, Washington D.C.
(Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

Until recently, Ratevosian served as a Senior Advisor for Health Equity Policy at the U.S. Department of State and worked for the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy.

Ratevosian is proud of his heritage, attributing a part of his success to his early education through the Armenian school system in Los Angeles. If elected to Congress, he tells the Blade that he will continue to be an advocate for and amplifier of Armenian voices. 

“I stand here to tell you that I am running for Congress because I am a product of what I have learned thanks to the success of that education system and the family support around me. I have a strong desire to make an impact on the Armenian community. We are facing a war. We are facing all the same challenges as other communities here in the district are as well, he said.

“I know that nobody pushes more for Armenian issues than Armenian people. We have relied on the generosity of Adam Schiff and others who have carried Armenian issues, but it is time for an Armenian voice to lead on Armenian issues. I am excited about the opportunity to be the person that our community needs to be able to take those issues to Congress on day one and focus on them. I would love to be able to start an Armenian congressional caucus and to inspire more meeting Americas to run for public office,” he continued.

Ratevosian told the Blade that he is also motivated by the ideal “American dream” that his grandfather had when he immigrated here to start a new life for himself and his family, free from Soviet rule.

“I’m running because my grandfather’s American dream is far from reach for many people,” Ratevosian told The Blade.  

“Like many immigrant families, mine came to America for a second chance. My mom’s side was from Lebanon. My dad’s side was from Armenia. I was the first to be born here. My parents took whatever jobs they could to provide for us and put us through school. As soon as I was legally able to work, I did at the age of 15 as an ice cream scooper at Baskin and Robbins. Now my parents have watched their kid going from an ice cream scooper to the U.S. State Department as a senior political appointee.”

But, he explained, the streets he grew up on “are not the same streets anymore.” With housing prices and inflation surging, many in the county find it harder and harder to make ends meet. 

“That shot my grandparents had is no longer available to a lot of people,” he lamented.

“I am in this race because there is so much work to be done to ensure that everybody has a fair shot to choose their own dreams. My grandfather was a shoe cobbler. They were able to afford healthcare. My parents were able to put us through school. They lived a happy and normal life. I think if my grandfather were alive now, he would be disappointed in the way healthcare costs are going up, and the way we treat our planet, the way we treat people experiencing homelessness, the way housing costs have gone up. I don’t even know if they could afford that same Kingsley Street apartment that they had in Hollywood for 25 years before they passed away. These are the things that I think are making families struggle. 

“Of course, child care and student loans are also out of control. I still have $20,000 worth of student loans from my master’s degree 15 years ago. Even though I had a job in corporate America and was making good money and paying off my loans, I still have $20,000 in student debt. If we don’t fight to reverse and address these issues straight on, we won’t be able to bring that dream back to people.

I am also really looking forward to bringing the support that businesses need to get back on their feet post Covid and really flourish again. I want to work to be able to revitalize our city.”

Openly gay candidate

Ratevosian is making it a point to run as an openly LGBTQ+ candidate – a choice that some of his advisors have cautioned against, fearing that the Armenian community might not accept his sexual orientation.

He has decided to forgo this advice, choosing instead to put his faith in the acceptance of the Armenian people. 

“I am confident people will see me for the work that I have done and the values that I have had. They will see me for the focus areas of my entire life, the focus on the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people all around the world in all corners of Africa and Asia. They will see me for my decency, for the way I treat people with honor and respect. I know the Armenian people will embrace me and that we can change hearts and minds along the way.” 

Ratevosian is additionally confident that he can change hearts and minds thanks to his own coming out journey, wherein his mother had tremendous trouble accepting him, at first. 

“It was one of those radio silent moments when you can hear your own heart beating,” Ratevosian said, recalling the moment he told his parents he was gay. 

After coming out, his mother would not speak to him for the longest period of time since he was born. 

“Before that, if I didn’t speak to my mother every day, she was worried the worst had happened to me. Then, not speaking to her for a few weeks felt like years.” 

Finally, his mother did find it in her heart to accept her son, and Ratevosian was proud to report that she stood hand in hand with his fiancé at Ratevosian’s graduate school commencement ceremonies. 

“I teared up,” said Ratevosian, recalling the moment that signified so much change in his mother and also the change he hopes to impart to others who might be like-minded in the district.

“I think together we can advance our culture’s beliefs. If people like me don’t come out, then how are we ever going to make change? 

“I want to fight for these issues that are very much still alive in Southern California and across the United States. There are a record number of Anti-LGBTQ bills passed by Republicans across the country. I don’t know why but for some reason, republicans are more concerned with banning drag shows that fighting climate change or reducing poverty. But even in our district, we know hate and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment are still alive and well. This is why I am fighting, and this is why representation matters.”

HIV Work

From 2011-2014, Jirair served as Legislative Director in the House of Representatives, overseeing budget, appropriations, foreign policy, and health portfolios for U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). 

As co-chair and co-founder of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, Rep. Lee leads the effort to advance legislation that addresses the HIV/AIDS pandemic while educating Members of Congress about the virus, its impact, and affected populations.

“I have always had an interest in HIV in all my jobs,” Ratevosian told the Blade. “When I came to Washington, I wanted to get more involved in HIV policy. She (Lee) was the champion for HIV policy. 

“I watched her in action. She was the best teacher anyone could have in terms of fighting for progressive values in fighting for healthcare and fighting poverty.” 

Jirair’s extensive work in HIV legislation took a personal turn when he met the love of his life and now fiancé, Michael Lghodaro, who is a person living with HIV. 

Jirair Ratevosian with his fiancé Michael Lghodaro (Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

“HIV work is who I am,” Ratevosian told The Blade, “literally because of the work it has done to shape the way I live my life and the way I love the people I love.”

“The reason why I am healthy, and I am staying HIV negative, and we have a wonderful relationship is because he is able to access his HIV medication.”

This personal association with the disease fueled Ratevosian to fight in favor of the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act bill with Lee.

“The bill provided federal incentives for states to repeal their archaic laws that criminalize HIV transmission,” said Ratevosian.

Ratevosian responds to a question posed at the annual meeting of the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) in 2018, held in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo Credit: Boston University/ASPPH)

He is also a backer of the U=U campaign, an informational campaign about how effective HIV medications are in preventing sexual transmission of HIV.

U=U he explained means “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” indicating that if a person with HIV is on HIV meds (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner.

His contributions to the Biden-Harris administration led to the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the signing of landmark foreign aid legislation to support Haiti, and the establishment of the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus. 

“The job to fight HIV is far from over,” said Ratevosian. “I will be fighting to get more Ryan White money for our cities. We have amazing new technologies for HIV prevention that I want all communities to benefit from, including minority communities.” 

Editor’s Note:  The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, administered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, provides grants to cities, states, counties, and community-based groups. The grants help provide care, medication, and essential support services to people with HIV, HIV-related health outcomes, and reduce HIV transmission.

He also regularly rides in the AIDS/LIFECYCLE ride, a 7 day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, co-produced by and benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. 


Ratevosian shared an important message of positivity to fellow ethnic LGBTQ+ aspiring leaders: 

“Your time is now. I am inspired that there are a record number of LGBTQ+ leaders in office, but those numbers are far from the true representation of diversity in our community and the diversity of our country. If anyone is reading this story and is inspired, then they should do the same. Pursue a place in office, whether it is federally or locally, or somewhere in between. I have seen the power of how an issue can advance when an LGBTQ+ person is in the room. That is what we need. That is how we make change.”   

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California Politics

LA Times Poll: Majority of Californians say Feinstein is unfit to serve

The Times reported that opinions diverge on whether she should resign: Fellow Democrats say she should step down, Republicans oppose



U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein is greeted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) returns to the U.S. Capitol after three month absence earlier this month. (Screenshot/YouTube KCAL)

BERKELEY, Calif. – According to a new UC Berkeley/Los Angeles Times poll released Thursday, a two-thirds majority of California voters say the state’s octogenarian Democratic U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein is unfit to serve.

The LA Times reported that opinions diverge, however, on whether she should resign: Fellow Democrats say she should step down, but many Republicans oppose that because Gov. Gavin Newsom would get to appoint a successor. The UC Berkeley/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted cross party, racial and geographic lines.

In an interview with CBS News LA affiliate KCAL on May 16, Washington D.C.-based Los Angeles Times political reporter Benjamin Oreskes said that he and a small group of reporters had met with Feinstein in a Capitol hallway after the senator’s first vote back after a nearly three-month long absence. According to Oreskes she seemed confused and at times made statements that ran contrary to events that had ocurred.

Concern over Feinstein’s mental acuity has been a mounting concern in California and national Democratic Party circles. During her extended absence due to a shingles viral condition, advancement of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees through the Senate Judiciary Committee was complicated, as the committee split had been a 10 to 10 margin without her.

Republicans were unwilling to accept a request from the Senate Majority Leader, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to appoint a temporary replacement for her on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There has been increasing calls by prominent Democrats for Feinstein to resign, including Jonathan Lovett, a co-founder of Crooked Media, and a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) who tweeted their demand she step aside.

“It’s time for [Feinstein] to resign,” fellow California Democrat Khanna wrote in a tweet, becoming the first member of Congress to publicly demand that the senior senator step down. 

“We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people,” he added.

Feinstein had announced on Valentine’s Day earlier this year that she would not seek reelection.

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California Politics

Newsom demands answers about censorship of text books

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has declared war against what he has labeled “woke propaganda” to include school curriculum/books



California Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Lynn Siebel Newsom with LAUSD school workers. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – In a letter released this past Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is demanding that publishers inform the state’s agencies if textbooks being published conform to Florida’s standards, and to find out whether any of the companies designing California’s textbooks are “the same ones kowtowing to Florida’s extremist agenda.”

In a tweet on his personal account that included an image of the letter, Newsom wrote: “You don’t get to rewrite history in a back room. You don’t get to erase basic facts around segregation, the holocaust, or Rosa Parks’ story. The extremists in Florida and textbook companies that are colluding with them are about to be exposed.”

On his official Twitter account the governor also noted: “Parents have a right to know what’s happening to undermine kids’ education.”

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, in an investigative report published on April 19, 2022, revealed for example that the Florida Department of Education rejected more than 50 mathematics textbooks — about 40% of those submitted — for failing to meet Florida’s new learning standards or because they “contained prohibited topics” that included references to critical race theory.

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has railed against what he has labeled “woke propaganda.” In April he signed HB7, into law what he has branded the “Stop WOKE Act,” which restricts how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplaces, and sparked a nationwide debate over censorship, critical race theory and diversity training.

DeSantis has waged an unceasing culture war against progressives whom he has branded “socialists,” to include unrelenting attacks on LGBTQ+ Floridians, targeting schools and healthcare providers for transgender people.

Recent changes in the criteria for textbook standards by the Florida DOE coupled with conservatives groups actively banning books in public libraries and in schools has altered materials and events covered in the curriculum supported by text books, history and the maths in particular.

Last week, CNN reported that Florida’s DOE rejected nearly 35% of social studies textbooks submitted by publishers for approval, including those that referenced social justice and “other information that was not aligned with Florida Law,” the state’s Department of Education announced Tuesday.

Regarding K-12 social studies instructional materials, 66 of 101 submitted materials were approved and met state standards for every grade level, the department said.

The examples of rejected material provided by the department include:

  • Removing a paragraph that references how parents should talk with their children about the National Anthem and explaining “Taking a Knee” to protest police brutality for grades K-5.
  • Removing a section about social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement for grades 6-8.
  • Changing “social justice issues” to “key principles” when discussing what is in the Hebrew Bible for grades 6-8.
  • Changing a reference to “socialist economy” that said, “They may promote greater equality while still providing a fully functioning government supervised economy,” to “planned economies” that have “slow development and fewer technological advances because they move slowly around planning and approval, while limiting human incentive” for grades 6-8.

Governor Newsom’s letter:

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California Politics

Governor Newsom releases balanced revised budget plan

Plan closes a $32 billion shortfall protecting key investments in education, health care, public safety, housing, homelessness, & climate



Governor Newsom presents his revised budget plan. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today released his May Revision proposal, a balanced budget plan that maintains critical investments to address our biggest challenges while preparing for continued economic uncertainty due to global economic issues.

The Governor’s budget closes a projected $32 billion budget shortfall while protecting key investments in the issues that matter most to Californians, including education, health care, housing and homelessness, public safety, and climate action.

Following two years of unprecedented growth, revenues have fallen short of monthly estimates since the 2022 Budget Act was enacted last June. California has planned for this potential shortfall, with the Governor and Legislature paying down the state’s prior debts, building unprecedented reserves and prioritizing one-time investments. 

“In partnership with the Legislature, we have made deep investments in California and its future – transformative efforts that will benefit generations of Californians, and that this budget will continue to guide as we navigate near-term ups and downs in revenue,” said Newsom. “As we prepare for more risk and uncertainties ahead, it’s critical that we keep the state on a solid fiscal footing to protect Californians and our progress in remaking the future of our state.”

With unprecedented investments over the past two state budgets, in addition to federal funding targeting infrastructure and inflation reduction, California will invest more than $180 billion over the next several years in clean energy, roads, bridges, public transit, water storage and conveyance and expanded broadband service. These investments will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs while building the infrastructure to make our state better connected, safer and more prepared for our future. 

While the May Revision does not forecast a recession, it recognizes increased risks to the budget since January that could significantly change the state’s fiscal trajectory in the near term. Taking this into account, the plan reflects $37.2 billion in total budgetary reserves, including $22.3 billion in the Budget Stabilization Account.

In addition to addressing the budget shortfall, the May Revision maintains investments in key priorities for Californians. This includes:

PROTECTING HEALTH CARE ACCESS. Following Governor Newsom’s actions to expand health care access and reduce costs, the May Revision maintains billions to continue implementing these measures – programs like CalAIM to transform Medi-Cal, extending health care to low-income Californians of all ages regardless of immigration status, making insulin more affordable through CalRx, and more.

TACKLING HOMELESSNESS. Governor Newsom has invested $15.3 billion to address homelessness – up from $500 million when he took office and more than ever before in state history. The May Revision maintains billions of dollars for aid to local governments, encampment resolution grants, and more. With this funding will come new accountability – no more status quo. 

INCREASING HOUSING SUPPLY. In the last four years, California invested more to increase housing supply than ever before in state history while holding local governments accountable. The state continues to deploy a comprehensive set of strategies – improving state financing, targeting housing investments, providing technical assistance, eliminating regulations, and leveraging land use tools. The state adopted a legally binding goal that local governments must plan to build approximately 2.5 million new units by 2030, and 1 million of these units must be affordable.

CALIFORNIA’S CLIMATE COMMITMENT. California is advancing a $48 billion multi-year commitment to implement its world-leading agenda to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, protect communities from harmful oil drilling, deliver 90% clean electricity by 2035, and more. It also proposes the development of a Climate Resilience Bond to increase and sustain investments in our climate initiatives. 

KEEPING CALIFORNIANS SAFE. The May Revision sustains over $800 million in record-level public safety investments, including supports for victims’ services, officer wellness and training, non-profit security grants, efforts to combat fentanyl, and more.

UNIVERSAL TRANSITIONAL KINDERGARTEN. The May Revision continues to fully fund the first and second years of expanded eligibility for TK, creating a whole new grade.

FREE MEALS FOR EVERY STUDENT. California is investing $1.6 billion for all students, regardless of income, to access two free school meals per day – up to 12 million meals per day statewide.

Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization reacted to the governor’s revised plan:

“I am especially pleased to see $67.3 million in funding for example to clean up 6,425 parkways polluted by the former Exide facility. Our children and all community members deserve clean communities,” said Santiago.

“Additionally, we have worked non-stop to alleviate poverty by investing in basic essentials that help ALL Californians weather the soaring prices of today’s inflation storm. Despite the $31.5 billion budget deficit announced by the May Revise, we will continue to prioritize investments in programs that uplift our most vulnerable Californians. That means we must work even harder for affordable healthcare and food for all, protect renters, increase historic funding levels to combat homelessness and the housing shortage with accountability and real results, fight pollution in our communities and to continue making higher education debt free for us.

A budget is a statement of our values and our budget must continue to prioritize families and disadvantaged communities so they can afford food, housing, and gas. Let’s get to work!”

Senator Scott Wiener also weighed in on another portion of the governor’s revision:

“If we don’t address the transit fiscal cliff, we will see massive and devastating transit service cuts, deeply harming the millions of Californians who rely on transit to get to work, school, or the grocery store. I’m disappointed the Governor’s revised budget proposal continues to cut billions in transit capital funding and disappointed the proposal continues to lack any funds to address the fiscal cliff,” said Wiener. “Public transportation isn’t optional, and failing to address the massive budget shortfalls our transit systems face would be disastrous for our state’s climate goals and Californians’ ability to get around. I’m grateful the Governor is committing to work with the Legislature to address this critical issue, and I look forward to collaborating to protect public transportation and the vital services it provides Californians.”

Wiener’s office noted in a statement:

“With federal pandemic relief funds due to expire soon, transit agencies across the state are facing a projected budget shortfall estimated at $6-8 billion over the next 5 years. The problem affects major agencies up and down the state like LA Metro and BART. Without state funding, agencies will be forced to begin service cuts later this year, with MUNI projected to begin cutting 20 bus lines later this summer. In the worst case, service cuts lead to further loss of revenue and more service cuts, in a death spiral that would devastate the transportation system for years to come.

Senator Wiener has worked in partnership with the California Transit Association, business leaders, regional transit leaders, environmental advocates, and transit advocates and allies on a budget ask for California’s public transit systems, which was announced in April. The proposal would cover the projected shortfalls with minimal impact to the State’s General Fund, mostly by increasing flexibility within existing transit capital programs, directing diesel tax revenues to transit operations, directing currently unallocated cap and trade revenues to transit operations, and directing a portion of the increase in federal highway funding to address fiscal shortfalls. These proposals would cumulatively have a General Fund impact of just $213 million in next year’s budget.

Senator Wiener continues to work with regional partners like the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and a variety of transit and allied advocacy groups on identifying a suite of sources to address state and regional needs.


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California Politics

Bill would have outed trans students; Died in Assembly committee

A bill that would have forced the outing of trans students introduced by two California Republican legislators is dead for the year



Republican California Assemblymembers Bill Essayli, left, and James Gallagher saw their bill die in committee April 10. (Photos courtesy Essayli, Gallagher)

By John Ferrannini | SACRAMENTO – A bill that would have forced the outing of trans students introduced by two California Republican legislators is dead for the year after the chair of the Assembly’s education committee opted not to schedule it for a hearing.

Assembly Bill 1314 would have required that parents or guardians be notified “in writing within 3 days from the date any teacher, counselor, or employee of the school becomes aware that a pupil is identifying at school as a gender that does not align with the child’s sex on their birth certificate, other official records, or sex assigned at birth.”

Under current law, school staff are required to use the pronouns and name a student requests, without official records being changed. Discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited.

Jennifer Chou, the interim director of the Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, told the Bay Area Reporter that “recognizing that students have a right to privacy, many school districts have adopted policies prohibiting teachers and administrators from discussing students’ sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent. Young people, not school staff, should decide if, and when, they come out to their parents.”

The bill was introduced by Assemblymembers Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) and James M. “Jamie” Gallagher (R-Chico) and – though it stood no chance of being passed in a Democratic-controlled legislature – it had sparked an uproar, not the least of which came from gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). He had taken to Twitter to call it a “DeSantis-style bill,” referring to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has signed into law several bills rolling back the rights of LGBTQ students.

At least one Florida school district has adopted a policy requiring staff to notify parents if their pupil identifies as gay, or asks a different name or pronouns be used, according to them magazine.

“Nope, not in CA,” Wiener tweeted March 13.

Essayli, quote-tweeting Wiener, stated, “I encourage you to read the bill and my thread. My bill is aimed at supporting trans minors, not hurting them. The notification requirement is only triggered when a minor is already publicly identifying by a different gender at school.”

“Children are the domain of their parents, not the government,” Essayli stated, defending the bill. “Schools cannot decide what information should or shouldn’t be shared with parents. Trans minors are higher risk for depression and suicide. More than 50% of trans minors have considered suicide.”

Wiener told the B.A.R. on April 10 that AB 134 is “a dangerous bill, and we will do everything in our power to ensure it dies a quick death.”

“Make no mistake, this bill would force teachers to out trans kids to their parents — whether or not the kid is ready to come out and whether or not that outing would put the kid at risk of violence,” Wiener stated. “This bill would traumatize thousands of trans youth, and it could put their safety at risk if they don’t have a supportive environment at home.”

The bill’s quick demise happened the same day after Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), chair of the education committee, declined to schedule it for a hearing.

“All students deserve to be respected and supported for who they are, including at their schools,” Muratsuchi stated. “This bill would require educators to ‘out’ a student to their parents, even when the student does not feel comfortable coming out, potentially forcing them into an unwelcoming or abusive home. As a parent, I believe that gender identity conversations between parents and their children should occur in a safe and private space.

“As chair of the education committee, I will not be setting AB 1314 for a hearing, not only because the bill is proposing bad policy, but also because a hearing would potentially provide a forum for increasingly hateful rhetoric targeting LGBTQ youth,” he added.

Jorge Reyes Salinas, the spokesperson for statewide LGBTQ organization Equality California, told the B.A.R. that the move means the bill is “essentially dead this year” because “it cannot advance unless heard by the committee and the chair determines which bills will be scheduled for a hearing.”

EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang, a gay man, was pleased with the bill’s demise.

“Under existing law, parents already have ample rights to be active partners in their children’s education — LGBTQ+ youth should be given dignity and respect to decide when and how to reveal intimate details about their lives,” Hoang stated. “The state should play no part in right-wing attempts to vilify trans people and further inflame the never-ending culture war. We must enact policies that will protect truly trans youth and help to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed.”

Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) had a similar sentiment.

“I strongly oppose the bill and am relieved it died today,” Haney stated to the B.A.R. April 10. “It is terrible policy and dangerous for the health, well-being and safety of LGBTQ+ students.”

Essayli and Gallagher’s offices issued statements framing Muratsuchi’s decision as a refusal to consider the rights of parents.

Gallagher stated that Democratic and Republican lawmakers see parents in fundamentally different ways.

“This decision confirms there are two fundamentally different views of education: Republicans want to empower parents to be involved with their children’s upbringing and education, while Democrats see parents as a threat to be isolated and ignored,” he stated. “Democrats’ refusal to even hear our bill confirms they are only interested in dictating a one-size-fits-all policy from Sacramento and shutting down anyone with a different point of view. It’s sad, but not surprising.”

Essayli encouraged parents to sue school districts if a child’s social transition is happening without their consent.

“The Supreme Court has already ruled that parents have a fundamental right to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children,” Essayli stated, referring to the U.S. high court. “While Democrats have the votes to kill my bill in Sacramento, they do not have the votes to suppress parents’ voices at the local level. I encourage parents to continue bringing lawsuits against their school districts challenging existing policies that allow children to be socially transitioned at school without parental consent.”

The California Family Council, a state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, characterized Muratsuchi’s decision as the Legislature refusing to hold a hearing to “stop schools from keeping secrets from parents.”

“This state policy pits public schools against any Christian parent who loves their children, but also believes what the Bible teaches, that sex is determined by biology, not feelings,” the council stated.


John Ferrannini is the Assistant News Editor, of The Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco, California


The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished by permission.

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California Politics

Imelda Padilla, Marissa Alcaraz headed to run-off for council seat

With no candidate scoring a majority of votes, the top two, Padilla and Alcaraz, will advance to a June 27 runoff



Imelda Padilla and Marissa Alcaraz (Los Angeles Blade photo montage)

LOS ANGELES – The top two candidates in the field of seven candidates in the special election held April 4 to fill the Los Angeles City Council seat vacated by Nury Martinez appear to be headed to a run-off.

Martinez had resigned in disgrace after the leak of an audio recording last October on which she and fellow council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo were heard making racist and homophobic comments.

According to updated election results released Friday by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, showed that Imelda Padilla, had a total of 3,421 votes, or 25.69%, of the ballots counted in the District 6 race. Marissa Alcaraz was second with 2,812 votes, or 21.12%.

Marco Santana was third with 2,515 votes, or 18.89%. Rose Grigoryan was fourth, with 1,980 votes, or 14.87%. The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office noted that there are only 99 vote-by-mail ballots left to be tallied from the special election, along with any additional mail ballots that are received by next Tuesday.

With no candidate scoring a majority of votes, the top two, Padilla and Alcaraz will advance to a June 27 runoff.

Constituents in District 6 are being provided services by a non-voting caretaker, the city of LA’s chief legislative analyst, Sharon Tso. A non-voting caretaker does not hold a seat on the council, but oversees the council office to make sure the district provides constituent services and other basic functions.

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California Politics

Wiener introduces legislation to protect LGBTQ+ foster youth

SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs



Sen. Scott Wiener with 5th graders from San Diego County who came to Sacramento to advocate for SB 918, bill to direct more resources to help homeless youth in 2021 (Photo Credit: Wiener/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 407, legislation to improve foster care conditions for LGBTQ youth. Nearly one third of foster youth identify as LGBTQ.

SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs, adding more follow-up from the Department of Social Services, and requiring LGBTQ youth’s needs be specifically considered in at-home assessments – including clarifying that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason to deny a family the right to host a foster youth. 

“Every child deserves to be one hundred percent supported at home,” said Wiener. “SB 407 ensures that foster youth receive this essential support by specifically requiring LGBTQ acceptance be considered in the resource family approval (RFA) process, creating standard documentation for the assessment of LGBTQ youth needs, and ensuring more frequent follow-up. These youth are at high risk for homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and mental health issues, and we must do everything in our power to ensure they have a safe home in the state of California.”

According to the California Child Welfare Indicators Project, there are 53,371 youth in foster care in California as of October 1, 2022. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are overrepresented in foster care, with at least three studies estimating about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ.

The degree of support for their identity an LGBTQ child receives at home is a strong predictor of their mental health outcomes. According to the Trevor Project, teens who perceived parental support regarding gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive.

Data collected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic show LGBTQ youth are facing a crisis of mental health. Forty-two percent of LGBTQ+ youth—and 52 percent of trans youth—said they seriously considered suicide in 2021. This crisis may be related to the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ hatred in many states in recent years, which most LGBTQ youth are exposed to online. This year alone, more than 420 bills have been introduced in states across the country.

In 2019, California passed AB 175 (Gipson), which expanded the foster youth bill of rights to include rights to be referred to by the youth’s preferred name and pronoun and maintain privacy of the child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Under existing law, foster youth also have the right to have caregivers and child welfare personnel that have received instruction on cultural competency and best practices for providing care for LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care. 

However, while the foster youth bill of rights is strong, it has not translated into the RFA process or into considerations made when approving caregivers. LGBTQ foster youth are still being placed in homes with families that discriminate against or are hostile toward them based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

SB 407 will strengthen the resource family approval (RFA) process for LGBTQ foster youth by:

  • Requiring explicit consideration of LGBTQ youth in home and environmental assessments; 
  • Creating standard documentation by the Department of Social Services for these assessments to include LGBTQ youth needs; 
  • Reviewing county-approved resource families to evaluate if they are meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth and investigating related incidents as needed;
  • Ensuring that resource families have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to support LGBTQ youth; and 
  • Clarifying existing law that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason for denial of a resource family. 

SB 407 is sponsored by Equality California and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services.

“According to the Trevor Project, teens who have parental support regarding their gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive. Supportive and affirming homes for LGBTQ+ foster youth saves lives. The CA Alliance is excited to partner with Senator Wiener on SB 407 to ensure that all LGBTQ+ foster youth have affirming families and feel safe, supported, and cared for.” –Christine Stoner-Mertz, CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services

“LGBTQ+ foster youth experience violence and other stressors unique to the LGBTQ+ community, including homophobia or transphobia,” said Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. “SB 407 protects LGBTQ+ foster youth from being placed in non-affirming homes by creating standard guidelines and criteria that carefully screens potential families. LGBTQ+ foster youth need a healthy environment that supports and embraces them as they explore their identity.”

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