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California Politics

Wiener pulls PrEP bill after Assembly committee adds poison pill

In 2019, Gov. Newsom signed the first-in-the-US law that authorized pharmacies to furnish up to a 60-day supply of PrEP without a prescription



Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Wiener)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced Friday that he is pausing Senate Bill 339 in the Assembly after the Assembly Appropriations Committee inserted a harmful amendment to the bill.

SB 339 improves access to PrEP and PEP, a powerful preventative HIV medication, by ensuring pharmacists can furnish PrEP without a prescription. The bill deals exclusively with ensuring pharmacists are able to provide PrEP.

Last week, the Assembly Appropriations Committee inserted an extraneous amendment into SB 339 having nothing to do with the bill — essentially inserting an unrelated bill into this bill — and which *undermines* access to PrEP.

According to Wiener’s office, this amendment would allow insurance companies to impose prior authorization and step-therapy for PrEP and PEP, which are significantly limited under existing law and regulations. In other words, the amendment reduces patient protections.

This harmful amendment is not only completely unrelated to the purpose of the bill – i.e., improving pharmacists’ ability to furnish PrEP and PEP – but it also upends longstanding guidance from state regulators and runs counter to California’s ongoing efforts to improve access to PrEP and PEP for Californians most at risk for contracting HIV, a spokesperson for Wiener noted adding that because these amendments undermine PrEP access, they’re effectively a poison pill and therefore untenable.

The amendments were never analyzed or voted on by a health policy committee, and Senator Wiener opposes them. As a result, Senator Wiener has chosen not to move SB 339 forward at this time. Over the recess, Senator Wiener will determine if there is a path to deleting these harmful amendments. If not, he likely will abandon the bill. 

“It’s heartbreaking to see a straightforward, critically important HIV prevention bill stall this way,” said Senator Wiener. “Thousands of Californians contract HIV each year, and we need common sense measures like SB 339 to improve access to PrEP.”

Despite significant public health advancements, HIV remains a major public health challenge in California, with nearly 4,000 new HIV diagnoses each year. Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, Black cisgender women, transgender women, and youth continue to be the populations most impacted by HIV. 

PrEP is a preventative drug taken orally or intravenously that reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by more than 99%, making it more effective than any other measure to prevent HIV, including condoms. Despite its incredible efficacy, fewer than 25 percent of those who would benefit from PrEP are using these medications.

“We are shocked at the recent actions of the Assembly Appropriations Committee to reverse years of advocacy for HIV prevention in California and roll back essential protections for people at risk of acquiring HIV,” says Dr. Tyler TerMeet, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, “For decades California has been at the forefront of HIV prevention, ensuring that people had access to PrEP, our most effective form of HIV prevention, without delays caused by insurance red tape and greed. The language changes added by the Appropriations Committee would undo that work and leave people at the highest risk of HIV vulnerable to pointless bureaucratic delays and denials, increasing HIV transmission and undoing our work to get to zero new HIV infections in California.” 

Michael Conner, PharmD, President of the California Pharmacists Association states, “While the current version of the bill meets the goal of CPhA to allow pharmacists to independently initiate and provide PrEP/PEP, it removes protections for patients. Our commitment is to do what is in the best interest of patients, it is at the heart of what we do. Therefore, we cannot support moving the bill forward at this time. We look forward to working together to move a bill that meets the intention of improving access to these life-saving medications.”  

“We are disappointed that SB 339 will not be advancing this year because of the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s amendments — we could not in good conscience move forward with the amended bill and roll back years of progress in the fight against HIV,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “The amendments would take California back to a time when health plans could impose onerous delays to accessing critical HIV prevention medications and they demonstrate a disregard for the HIV providers and advocates who have been fighting for years to improve PrEP access in California. We remain fully committed to expanding PrEP access for all Californians and look forward to continuing our work with Senator Wiener on this important issue.”


California Politics

Governor Newsom to decide on ending pro-LGBTQ state travel ban

The state would be following San Francisco in doing so, as city leaders this spring ended their similar travel restriction



Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) with Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. (Photo Credit: Office of State Sen. Toni Atkins/Facebook)

By Matthew S. Bajko | SACRAMENTO – Ending California’s ban on publicly funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws is now in the hands of Governor Gavin Newsom after lawmakers this week sent him a bill to do away with the policy.

The state would be following San Francisco in doing so, as city leaders this spring ended their similar travel restriction.

Legislators first enacted the statewide travel ban policy in 2016 with the hope of seeing their counterparts in other states think twice about adopting LGBTQ discriminatory laws. Under the ban, no taxpayer money is to be used to cover non-emergency travel by state employees, as well as faculty, students, and sports teams at state colleges, to those states that have enacted anti-LGBTQ laws since 2015.

Yet, since its implementation, the travel ban has grown to cover 26 states. The restriction on traveling to Nebraska, added to the list this summer, is set to take effect on October 1.

Citing the lack of impact the travel ban has had in halting other legislatures from passing anti-LGBTQ laws, lesbian outgoing Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced this year Senate Bill 447 called the BRIDGE Act, which stands for Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality. It aims to replace the so-called no-fly list with a privately funded pro-LGBTQ marketing effort in the states on it.

San Francisco officials similarly cited continued passage of anti-LGBTQ laws by other states for ending their local travel ban policy, which also covered states that restricted abortion and voting access. They also cited the policy having a negative fiscal impact on the city in higher contracting costs since the policy prohibited city agencies from doing business with companies headquartered in the states covered by the ban.

To press the case for rescinding the state’s travel ban, Atkins created a dedicated website at for her SB 447. A broad coalition of LGBTQ groups and leaders had expressed support for doing away with the travel ban, arguing the policy also hampered the ability of LGBTQ advocates to be on the ground in the covered states arguing on behalf of LGBTQ rights.

“As attacks on the LGBTQ+ Community across the country grow, building bridges to change hearts and minds in these communities is now more important than ever,” wrote gay Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Santa Monica/West Hollywood) on X (formerly Twitter), who had advocated for implementation of the travel ban in his former capacity as executive director of statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California.

Meanwhile, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), who wrote the initial legislation establishing the state’s travel ban, had expressed misgivings about ending it. He was one of four members of his chamber who abstained Monday from voting on SB 447, when the bill passed out of the Assembly by a 64-12 vote.

Because Atkins had amended it to include an urgency clause so SB 447 would take effect immediately if signed into law by Newsom, the Senate had to vote on it again Tuesday. It passed out of the chamber 31-6 with three abstentions.

“I remember what it was like to grow up in a time and place where conversations about someone being gay or lesbian only happened in whispers,” stated Atkins. “While years have passed since then, there are still areas of our country where the LGBTQ+ community — and especially our LGBTQ+ youth — feel isolated and fearful for their safety. The BRIDGE Project would be a conduit of hope and compassion, and encourage others to open their hearts and minds to be more accepting and inclusive. It’s within all of us to be that light.”

Newsom, who has faced criticism in the past for making personal trips to states on the banned list, has until October 14 to either sign SB 447 into law or veto it.


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

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California Politics

California lawmakers send bill barring school book bans to Newsom

The bill had passed the Assembly in May after the Temecula Valley Unified School District voted to reject a book that included LGBTQ+ topics



The dome of the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – A bill that would effectively halt efforts by school districts in California to ban text books and curriculum related to LGBTQ+ subject matter, including queer history, gender and racial diversity is now headed to the desk of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Assembly Bill 1078 passed in the state Senate last week, and the governor already has indicated he will sign it as soon as he receives the legislation.

In a statement released on Thursday, September 7, Newsom said: “California is the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them. With the passage of legislation to ban book bans & ensure all students have textbooks, our state’s Family Agenda is now even stronger.”

The bill had passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly in May after the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board  voted to reject inclusion of a book that included mention of slain former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and LGBTQ+ topics.

Board Member Jennifer Wiersma, one of the three who is backed by the Inland Empire Family Pac, a far-right group that opposes LGBTQ+ rights, transparent sexual education curriculum, and so-called ‘Critical Race Theory’ although that material is not taught in K-12 schools anywhere in the United States argued:

“I don’t want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don’t want them going into gender ideology.” Wiersma, supported by the other two conservatives, Danny Gonzalez and Dr. Joseph Komrosky, signaled that they were also opposed to any curriculum that included lessons or information about former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk.

School Board Dr. Joseph Komrosky referred to Milk as a pedophile, “My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky said during a May meeting drawing the ire of Gov. Newsom who tweeted: “An offensive statement from an ignorant person. This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn. Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned.”

Komrosky and the School District Board the defied a letter warning that that the state would take action. Newsom, joined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, and Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson announced the state would begin the process of securing textbooks for students in the Temecula Valley Unified School District and enact legislation, Assembly Bill 1078, to fine school districts for failure to provide adequate instructional materials.

“The three political activists on the school board have yet again proven they are more interested in breaking the law than doing their jobs of educating students — so the state will do their job for them,” the governor said.

AB 1078, sponsored by Assemblyman Jackson would financially penalize school boards that enact bans on books and education material related to Black, Latino, Asian, Native American and LGBTQ topics, provided they are part of an approved school curriculum.

“We’re taking a firm stand against book banning in California’s schools, ensuring that our students have access to a broad range of educational materials that accurately represent the rich cultural and racial diversity of our society,” Jackson said.

 “AB 1078 will strengthen existing laws to ensure that local school districts provide students with accurate and inclusive instructional materials,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “Accurate and inclusive education is essential to ensure the educational success of all California students, including LGBTQ+ students and Black, Indigenous, and other students of color. By seeing themselves reflected, LGBTQ+ students are validated, building stronger academic and social success opportunities.”

Then in July, after oft times contentious, acrimonious and emotional public comments as both sides presented arguments in favor or against California’s new elementary level social studies book and curriculum previously rejected twice, the Temecula Valley Unified School District’s board relented and voted unanimously to adopt it.

Curriculum that deals with LGBTQ+ history is mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on January 1, 2012. It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.

Conservative school board majorities and some parents argue that curriculum that deals LGBTQ topics to Critical race theory are either not age-appropriate for younger students, radical or, in some cases, are framed asanti-American.

“We’re not having the conversation at the core of the issue, which is age-appropriate materials,” Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) told The Sacramento Bee.

Conservatives on social media platforms are also expressing their outrage:

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California Politics

Pelosi announces plans to seek reelection, Scott Wiener won’t run

Pelosi’s daughter is seen as a future contender who could tap her mother’s network of supporters & donors but hasn’t said whether she’d run



U.S. House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi with Congressman Adam Schiff at the 2023 San Francisco Pride parade. (Photo Credit: San Francisco Pride/Facebook)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi announced Friday at a meeting of campaign volunteers that she will seek reelection to her seat in the U.S. House in the 2024 election races. The 83-year-old San Francisco Democrat’s congressional career spans three decades including most notably as Speaker of the House.

Pelosi made history as the first female U.S. House Speaker and has served in Congress since 1987.

The former Speaker also posted to X/Twitter: “Now more than ever our City needs us to advance San Francisco values and further our recovery. Our country needs America to show the world that our flag is still there, with liberty and justice for ALL. That is why I am running for reelection — and respectfully ask for your vote.” 

Her announcement put the plans of Out gay State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF11) who had made preliminary plans to run for Pelosi’s seat had the congressmember decided to retire, on hold. In a text message to the Bay Area Reporter after Pelosi announced her run, Wiener wrote:

“Speaker Emerita Pelosi is one of the most talented and transformational leaders of our lifetime, and it’s a good thing for San Francisco and the nation that she will continue to serve our community,” adding “Right now, I’m focused like a laser on the end of our legislative session in Sacramento. Yesterday, the Assembly passed two major housing bills I’m authoring, and the day before it passed our psychedelics decriminalization bill.”

He noted that he’s “locked in a battle with climate deniers to pass our corporate carbon transparency bill.”

Politico noted Pelosi’s daughter Christine is seen as a contender who could tap into her mother’s network of supporters and donors. Christine has not said whether she’d follow in her mother’s path. A Wiener run could trigger multiple races to represent San Francisco in the state Legislature.

Bay Area Reporter Editor-In-Chief Cynthia Laird reported Friday that at the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club’s annual Pride breakfast June 25 in San Francisco, Pelosi and Wiener both complemented each other.

Wiener thanked her for helping to turn around the fight for federal funds for AIDS when she went to Congress. During her remarks later, Pelosi acknowledged Wiener’s comment thanking straight Democratic state legislators who support LGBTQ-related bills even though they come from more conservative parts of California. She made a similar comment about House members who come from more conservative districts and states.

At the breakfast, Pelosi also offered a list of accomplishments during her two stints as House speaker (2007-2011 and 2019-2023). Those included passing the Affordable Care Act, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, repeal of the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and passing the Respect for Marriage Act.

In 1996, legislation by Pelosi was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, elevating “the Grove” as the nation’s sole federally-designated National AIDS Memorial.

She also told attendees at the breakfast that President Joe Biden was the first “at his level” to come out in support of same-sex marriage when he served as President Barack Obama’s vice president in 2012. Last December, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Respect for Marriage Act repealed the discriminatory “Defense of Marriage Act” that was passed in 1996 but had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges). Not only does it require federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide but also mandates states must recognize such unions performed in other states. The act includes protections for religious liberty.

Wiener was targeted with online harassment by QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites over Senate Bill 145, as the B.A.R. previously reported. The bill which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, changed who qualifies for the California Sex Offender Registry. He has received death threats in recent years.

Wiener recently told the B.A.R. that the city’s LGBTQ political strength has ebbed and flowed over the years.

“Our community has had a lot of ups and downs politically in San Francisco,” he said in a recent brief phone interview earlier this summer. For example, from the time Rafael Mandelman joined the Board of Supervisors in July 2018 until last May, he was the only out member of it. He was then joined by gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whom Breed appointed to fill the seat of former supervisor Matt Haney, a straight ally who won election to the state Assembly. Dorsey went on to win a full four-year term last November, as did gay District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, who defeated former supervisor Gordon Mar, a straight ally.

Wiener said the LGBTQ community, like others in the city, has been divided at times over the years.

“When we are united, or at least less divided, we are very, very strong,” Wiener added

Additional reporting from The Bay Area Reporter’s Editor-In-Chief Cynthia Laird

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California Politics

Toni Atkins, Out State Senate Leader steps down after 5 years

Atkins is one of only three people to hold both top spots in the Legislature. Before President pro Tempore she was Speaker of the Assembly



Se, Toni Atkins made the announcement during a press conference Monday with most of the Democratic legislative caucus arrayed behind her. (Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Toni Atkins)

SACRAMENTO – Five years ago Democratic State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-39 San Diego) was sworn in as the first woman and first openly gay Senate President pro Tempore in California history. Yesterday, she announced she was stepping down and passing the gavel to State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-12 Healdsburg North Coast/North Bay) with a transition to be announced in 2024.

Atkins made the announcement during a press conference Monday with most of the Democratic legislative caucus arrayed behind her. The Associated Press reported the President pro Tempore cannot seek re-election because of term limits and must leave the Senate at the end of next year. She said the caucus chose to announce the transition now because “a long, drawn-out successor campaign would not be in the best interest of the Senate nor the people who we were elected to represent.”

“We have a lot of work to get through in the next few weeks,” Atkins said, referring to the chaotic final days of the Legislative session when lawmakers will vote on hundreds of bills. “This work does not mix well with internal caucus politics being at the top of everyone’s minds.”

Atkins is one of only three people in the history of California to hold both top spots in the Legislature. Before taking over as Senate President pro Tempore she was the Speaker of the Assembly from 2014 to 2016.

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement following the announcement by Senate President pro Tempore Atkins.

“Jennifer and I are deeply grateful to Pro Tem Atkins for her tremendous leadership and partnership these past four years, and for her friendship. Through immense challenges and opportunities, Toni has been steadfast in her commitment to working Californians, civil rights, and the environment, and I’m glad that our work together will continue in the months ahead. I thank Toni for her decades of service to the people of our state and know this won’t be the last we see of her in public service.  

“Senator McGuire is a proven leader who has been a tireless champion for communities ravaged by wildfire, expanding educational opportunities, building affordable housing, addressing homelessness, and other priorities for everyday Californians. I congratulate him on this new role and look forward to the important work ahead with the Senate to continue tackling our current challenges and building a brighter future for all Californians.”

Sen. McGuire’s term in office as President pro Tempore himself will be a short one as he also is going to be required to leave office after 2026 because of term limits.

Equality California released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang in response to the announcement:

“We are beyond grateful to have worked alongside Pro Tem Atkins throughout her career to advance legislative priorities that benefit LGBTQ+ Californians — from protecting transgender youth and their families, to reducing healthcare disparities, to protecting the right to bodily autonomy and currently combating the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hate and policies across California. Pro Tem Atkins has been a trailblazing LGBTQ+ leaders and an invaluable partner to Equality California in our efforts to achieve full lived equality for all LGBTQ+ Californians. She has carved her name in history as the first woman and first openly LGBTQ+ person to lead the California State Senate, the first lesbian speaker of the California State Assembly, and the first person since 1871 to have held the top leadership position in both chambers of the California legislature.

We congratulate Pro Tem Designee McGuire, who has a lifetime 100% score from Equality California, and are committed to continuing to work with him  to ensure that all LGBTQ+ Californians are heard from and supported across the state. Equality California looks forward to working with him and his future leadership team to continue the historic advancements that we have secured for LGBTQ+ Californians.”

California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued the following statement after yesterday’s announcement by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins:

“Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins is a barrier-breaker and a California icon. From our days serving together in the California State Assembly, to now, I’ve always been able to count on her for wisdom, leadership, and stalwart commitment to serving the people of California. Under Senator Atkins’ leadership, the Senate has tackled some of California’s thorniest issues, advancing critical legislation to expand reproductive rights, protect LGBTQ+ Californians, tackle our housing crisis, and so much more. I thank Senator Atkins for her incredible service to our state and look forward to our continued partnership — and friendship — in the years to come. 

“I’m proud to call Senator McGuire a friend, a partner in service and, now Pro Tem Designee. I am certain that his proven record of leadership — from holding Big Oil accountable to fighting for our environment and protecting California wildfire survivors — will serve our state well as we transition to a new era of leadership in the California State Senate. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator McGuire and the entire Senate to protect Californians and create a brighter, more just Golden State.”

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California Politics

Sen. Dianne Feinstein hospitalized after fall at home

The 90-year-old Feinstein, the oldest serving member of the U.S. Senate, has suffered from major health issues for several years



U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.) shown here in an archival photograph working in her offices at the Hart Senate Office Building, Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: Office of Senator Feinstein)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), was hospitalized on Tuesday evening and then released and sent home after a fall in her home according to her spokesperson Adam Russell.

Speaking with the San Francisco Chronicle, Russell told the paper the ninety-year-old Feinstein went to the hospital as a precaution and was there for an hour or two. Her scans were clear and she has returned home.  

The oldest serving member of the Senate, first elected to the Senate in 1992, has suffered from major health issues for several years. She revealed on March 2 of this year that she was hospitalized for shingles treatment after being diagnosed with an infection in February. She was released from a San Francisco hospital on March 7. The shingles led to complications, including Ramsay Hunt syndrome that caused side effects like vision and balance impairment, her office said.

The Chronicle noted Feinstein had been scheduled to attend an anniversary event for the San Francisco cable cars Aug. 2, but missed the event due to a cough.

In addition to the illnesses, questions about Feinstein’s mental fitness have followed her for more than two years, and even her Democratic colleagues told The Chronicle in April 2022 that they believe her memory issues were hindering her ability to do the job. Feinstein defended her abilities amid each new wave of concern.

Feinstein had announced on Valentine’s Day that she would not seek reelection:

“I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends. Even with a divided Congress, we can still pass bills that will improve lives.

Each of us was sent here to solve problems. That’s what I’ve done for the last 30 years, and that’s what I plan to do for the next two years. My thanks to the people of California for allowing me to serve them.”

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California Politics

Wiener announces $820,000 raised as he eyes potential House run

In just a few short months, Senator Wiener has demonstrated his strong viability as a potential Congressional candidate



California State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF) with supporters & staff marching in the Pride Parade in San Francisco this past June 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Scott Wiener/Facebook)

SAN FRANCISCO – Calif. State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced today that he has raised $820,000 into his Congressional Exploratory Committee since opening it in March, through June 30. He is exploring a run for San Francisco’s Congressional District 11 in the event that Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi decides she will not seek re-election. 

In just a few short months, Senator Wiener has demonstrated his strong viability as a potential Congressional candidate.

70% of donors to the exploratory committee are from San Francisco and 94.5% are from California, with the majority of donations coming from smaller-dollar donors giving $500 or less. In June, Senator Wiener received an outpouring of support from local women leaders who joined together to host a Women for Scott event, raising $44,211 from 83 donors. 

Senator Wiener currently serves as State Senator representing all of San Francisco, as well as parts of northern San Mateo County. He formerly served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and as a Deputy City Attorney. Before that, he spent decades working on the ground to advance LGBTQ equality, community safety, and neighborhood quality of life.

“I’m grateful to everyone who helped us reach this important milestone. The enthusiasm I’ve received for a potential Congressional run has been an amazing honor,” Senator Wiener said in a statement. 

“I look forward to continuing to connect with San Franciscans — as I have for so many years — about the issues that matter most to them, from housing and public transportation to the homelessness and drug addiction crises to the massive threats our democracy faces. Whenever she decides to retire, Speaker Emerita Pelosi will leave massive shoes to fill. San Franciscans deserve a champion who will fight for them in Congress every single day, and I’ve shown through my decades-long public service as an elected official and community leader that I can and will be that champion,” he added.

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California Politics

Calif. constitutional amendment repealing Prop 8 goes to the voters

California Senate passes constitutional amendment protecting marriage equality. Voters will vote on it in November 2024



Dome of the Capitol building in Sacramento. (Photo Credit: State of California, Office of the Governor.)

SACRAMENTO — The California Senate passed a proposed state constitutional amendment to secure marriage equality 31-0 with bipartisan support on Thursday.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA 5), authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would amend the California Constitution to protect the fundamental freedom to marry and remove the unconstitutional and discriminatory language from Proposition 8. Doing so would help safeguard against any future attempts to restrict marriage rights for same-sex or interracial couples. 

“Today, with bipartisan support, we are one step closer to ensuring marriage equality as a fundamental right in California.  ACA 5 will give voters the opportunity to remove a black stain from the California constitution,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “California is ready for love, and these protections will protect against any future attempts to restrict marriage rights for same-sex and interracial couples.”

“Next fall, Californians will reject the assault on LGBTQ rights that bigoted, ideological Justices have launched from the Supreme Court,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “The bipartisan support for this amendment shows once again that inclusion remains a core value across ideological lines in our state. I look forward to working with this incredible coalition to advance this critical protection.”

71% of Americans — an all-time high, including majorities of voters across the political spectrum — support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. That’s why ACA 5 has received overwhelming bipartisan support in the California Legislature — the Assembly passed ACA 5 on June 26, with no members voting against the measure. And in the Senate it also passed with no members voting against the measure. 

ACA 5 is set to appear on the November 2024 ballot and requires majority approval from California voters to amend the constitution. In the coming months, a broad coalition of civil rights organizations and labor groups, including Equality California, will launch a statewide campaign to secure the passage of this critical measure.

“Today is a historic day for our community, for California, and for the cause of justice and equality everywhere,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “California should always protect fundamental civil rights for all people and ACA 5 is a critical step toward fulfilling that commitment. This wouldn’t be possible without the broad bipartisan support and commitment to love and fairness of our partners in the Legislature. We’re deeply grateful to Assemblymember Low, Senator Wiener and the entire Legislative LGBTQ Caucus for their leadership in this fight.”

“California has long been at the forefront of progressive change, ensuring every Californian, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is treated with the respect, dignity, and fairness they deserve,” said California Lieutenant Governor, Eleni Kounalakis. “Today’s Senate vote sends a powerful message of support for our LGBTQ+ community and reaffirms our state’s unwavering commitment to the fight for equity, inclusion, and the right to love.”

“Proposition 8 has been a stain on our state’s constitution for nearly twenty years. It is long past time that we correct this injustice and remove this shameful and outdated provision from our law,” said NCLR Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon. “In November 2024, voters have the opportunity to repeal Prop 8 once-and-for-all, and we urge every Californian to vote for ACA5 when it appears on the ballot.”

“The repeal of Prop 8 is one critical step toward ensuring lived equality for all Californians,” said Becca Cramer-Mowder, Legislative Advocate for ACLU California Action. “We look forward to working with a broad coalition of LGBTQ+ community members and allies on this ballot campaign, as well as other efforts to address the violence, discrimination, and injustice LGBTQ+ and particularly transgender people are still grappling with today.”

“All Californians deserve to know that their marriages are secure and recognized in the eyes of the law,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. “California legislators have sent a clear message: LGBTQ+ peoples’ lives and love are valid and supported. We strongly urge all Californians to vote in favor of passing this constitutional amendment, which is an important step to ensuring that marriage equality is protected. As we witness an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping statehouses across the nation, we must keep up the fight to ensure everyone in our community has full equality, without exception.”

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California Politics

Governor Newsom signs infrastructure & budget legislation

The legislation represents a push to take full advantage of an unprecedented $180 billion in state, local, & federal infrastructure funds



Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a slate of bills to accelerate critical infrastructure projects across California. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a slate of bills on Monday to accelerate critical infrastructure projects across California that help build the state’s 100% clean electric grid, ensure safe drinking water and boost the state’s water supply and modernize its transportation system.

The legislation represents an urgent push by Newsom to take full advantage of an unprecedented $180 billion in state, local, and federal infrastructure funds over the next ten years – critical to achieving California’s world-leading climate and clean energy goals while also creating up to 400,000 good-paying jobs.

By streamlining permitting, cutting red tape, and allowing state agencies to use new project delivery methods, this legislation will maximize taxpayer dollars and accelerate timelines of projects throughout the state, while ensuring appropriate environmental review and community engagement. 

The Governor also signed components of the 2023-24 state budget agreement, which includes $37.8 billion in total budgetary reserves – the largest in state history – including $22.3 billion in the Rainy Day Fund amid continued global economic uncertainty. The budget closes a shortfall of more than $30 billion while preserving major investments in public education, health care, climate action, addressing homelessness, and other priorities.

“For decades, infrastructure projects critical to our future have stalled because of a pervasive mindset of ‘no.’ With this legislation, California is saying ‘yes’ to building the clean energy, safe drinking water and transportation projects we need to deliver on our world-leading climate action. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and build California’s future,” the governor said.

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) noted: 

“This year, we were faced with challenge and opportunity — the challenge of a tough economy and needing to protect California’s progress with our budget, and the opportunity to streamline and build the infrastructure our state needs for the future. Thanks to the tireless dedication of our Senate Budget Chair and subcommittee chairs and our Senate Working Group on Infrastructure and Workforce Equity, and the partnership of our Assembly colleagues and Governor Newsom, we successfully met those goals. We have passed a responsible, equitable budget and finalized a legislative package on infrastructure that maintains California’s values on the environment and climate preparedness, while at the same time builds for our future and creates a place where working families can access quality jobs.”

Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) pointed out:

“This budget is representative of all Californians and provides opportunity to those who need help the most. Despite economic headwinds, it sustains and protects our schools, working families and more. And it keeps an eye on the future, by maintaining our historic reserves. The legislative package on infrastructure, as well, strikes a crucial balance: spurring future growth and good-paying jobs while defending our environment. I want to extend my gratitude to Governor Newsom for his leadership, to our Senate colleagues and to our Assembly Caucus and staff who delivered this responsible, inclusive and equitable budget for all Californians.” 

Governor Newsom receives budget and legislation briefing.
(Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)


  • BUILDING MORE, FASTER: California is on the front lines of extreme weather whiplash like fires, drought, and floods – we can’t delay the infrastructure that will help us adapt. The projects fast-tracked by this package will power our homes and electric vehicles, store and deliver our water, modernize our transportation infrastructure and create a 100% clean electric grid. 
  • $180 BILLION ON THE LINE: With once-in-a-generation federal and state funding for infrastructure projects, California is competing against other states – we can’t let red tape and endless litigation hold up the projects California needs to cut pollution, generate clean energy and conserve water.
  • PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT: Building on our work to reform CEQA, this legislation makes it work for the California of today while maintaining our state’s nation-leading environmental protections and community engagement. This package streamlines court battles after projects have already passed environmental review, while maintaining all the mitigation and public processes of CEQA, so we can build even more projects that protect our environment.
  • SAFE DRINKING WATER & CLEAN ENERGY: The legislation accelerates projects that will capture and store enough water to supply millions of households. The package also drastically ramps up our efforts to build wind, solar, battery storage, and electric transmission projects.


  • Speeds Up Construction: Current construction procurement processes drive delays and increase project costs. The legislation includes methods to offer a streamlined process for project delivery to reduce project timeframes and costs.
  • Expedites Court Review: Legal challenges often tie up projects even after they’ve successfully gone through environmental review. This legislation speeds up judicial review to avoid long delays and advance projects without reducing the environmental and government transparency benefits of CEQA.
  • Streamlines Permitting: Makes changes to California law to accelerate permitting for certain projects, reducing delays and project costs.
  • Addresses Cumbersome CEQA Processes: Streamlines procedures around document collection and assembly in litigation after projects have already been approved.
  • Maximizes Federal Dollars: Establishes a Green Bank Financing Program within the Climate Catalyst Fund so that the state can leverage federal dollars for climate projects that cut pollution, with an emphasis on projects that benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The budget and related budget-implementing legislation signed by the Governor today are below:

  • AB 102 by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) – Budget Act of 2023.
  • AB 116 by the Committee on Budget – Early childcare and education.
  • AB 118 by the Committee on Budget – Budget Act of 2023: health.
  • AB 120 by the Committee on Budget – Human services.
  • AB 121 by the Committee on Budget – Developmental services.
  • AB 127 by the Committee on Budget – State government.
  • AB 128 by the Committee on Budget – Cannabis: background checks and cannabis event organizer license type.
  • AB 129 by the Committee on Budget – Housing.
  • AB 130 by the Committee on Budget – Employment.
  • AB 134 by the Committee on Budget – Public safety trailer bill.
  • SB 114 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Education finance: education omnibus budget trailer bill.
  • SB 115 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Arts and Music in Schools — Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act: local control and accountability plan electronic template.
  • SB 117 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Higher education trailer bill.
  • SB 122 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Public resources trailer bill.
  • SB 123 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Energy.
  • SB 124 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Energy.
  • SB 125 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Transportation budget trailer bill.
  • SB 131 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Taxation.
  • SB 132 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Income taxes: tax credits: motion pictures: occupational safety: California Film Commission.
  • SB 145 by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) – Environmental mitigation: Department of Transportation.
  • SB 146 by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) – Public resources: infrastructure: contracting.
  • SB 147 by Senator Angelique Ashby (D-Sacramento) – Fully protected species: California Endangered Species Act: authorized take.
  • SB 149 by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Merced) – California Environmental Quality Act: administrative and judicial procedures: record of proceedings: judicial streamlining.
  • SB 150 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) – Construction: workforce development: public contracts.

For full text of the bills, visit:

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California Politics

Imelda Padilla declares victory in LA City Council District 6 race

Padilla, a community advocate, said she is “ready to serve as the next councilwoman for the communities of CD 6”



Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, (Centre) with Imelda Padilla (Mayor's Left) at San Fernando Pride, June 24, 2023 (Photo Credit: Imelda Padilla for Los Angeles City Council District 6/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – Imelda Padilla declared victory Friday in the race for the vacant Los Angeles City Council seat representing the central and northeast San Fernando Valley. The seat has been vacant since former City Council President Nury Martinez, who previously represented Council District 6, resigned in disgrace last year.

Padilla, a community advocate, said she is “ready to serve as the next councilwoman for the communities of CD 6.” According to the office of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk she leads her rival Marisa Alcaraz by more than 1,580 votes, and is the anticipated winner of Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacancy left by Martinez in the seat.

During her campaign to win the seat, Padilla won numerous endorsements including the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, Outgoing Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, The Chambers of Commerce of Hollywood and Greater LA, along with the SEIU Union, United Auto Workers, Local 761 of the Plumbers & Fitters Union, the Los Angeles County Business Federation, and one of the largest Latino democratic clubs in the region Avance, among other groups and individuals.

An LGBTQ+ ally and advocate for equality, she was also endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats, and other LGBTQ+ political leaders. On Harvey Milk Day, May 22, Padilla issued a statement that read: “For all my friends, family, neighbors and constituents of the #lgbtq community know Im here to be your friend and ally. Your rights, are human rights! I’m excited to work together on improving health, safety, and economic outcomes for #lgbtq individuals and all of #LosAngeles.”

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California Politics

California GOP honors Grenell, Democrats walk off Senate floor

A former member of the Trump administration Grenell has a history of making false and inflammatory statements



Megyn Kelly is joined by Ric Grenell on April 4, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube Megyn Kelly Show)

SACRAMENTO – California State Senate Republicans, who have previously sat out a vote declaring June LGBTQ Pride Month, and also vigorously opposed recognition of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence drag charity group, honored former U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell in the name of Pride Month on Monday in the Senate chamber.

That recognition of Grenell caused members of the Senate Democratic caucus, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) along with Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-Panorama City), and Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) to walk off the Senate floor.

Grenell who currently resides in Palm Springs, was welcomed by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) and Republican Assemblymembers Bill Essayli of Corona, Tom Lackey of Palmdale and Greg Wallis of Bermuda Dunes.

A former member of the Trump administration and a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Grenell has a history of making false and inflammatory statements. A loyal acolyte of former President Trump, Grenell has made numerous appearances on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets repeating Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen. During his appearance on Fox News Channel’s Hannity in January 2021, Grenell implied that the mob who stormed and trashed the U.S. Capitol might have been left-wing activists in disguise. “We need to figure out who these people are and get to the bottom of it,” he said.

GLAAD has listed some of Grenell’s more notable transgressions:

Criticized the Equality Act, falsely claiming it would grant “special rights” to LGBTQ people and is an attack on religion. The Equality Act bans all forms of discrimination against LGBTQ people. It doesn’t give “special rights.” The Equality Act also expands protections for religious belief, providing protections for people who are discriminated against because of their religion. 

—Touted the launch of an initiative that claimed to push for the decriminalization of homosexuality “around the globe.” Advocates for global equality called the effort “nothing more than self-promoting Twitter photos” and “smoke and mirrors” and noted that LGBTQ discrimination actually increased around the world during the Trump administration.

As the Republican National Committee’s senior adviser tasked with LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s re-election bid, repeated the egregious lie that the Trump administration was “the most pro-gay president ever” while that same administration was, at the same time seeking to: reject recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity protections under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; fight to the Supreme Court to allow discrimination against LGBTQ workersparents and customersban trans girls and women from participating in sportsremove health care protections for transgender Americanseliminate protections for trans students; and ban transgender people from serving the militaryThe Washington Post’s fact check determined Grenell’s claims were “absurd” and awarded “four Pinocchios”—the highest rating for lies or “whoppers.” “Trump is pro-Grenell, but that doesn’t mean his administration is pro-gay, the Post reported.”

Became a special adviser for national security and foreign policy at the anti-LGBTQ American Center for Law and Justice, which was founded by anti-LGBTQ televangelist Pat Robertson

Sen. Wiener after walking out told reporters:

“This is their way of celebrating Pride, by bringing in a guy who is truly a self-hating gay man, who takes tons of anti-LGBTQ positions,” Wiener said in an interview in the Capitol on Monday. “There are plenty of gay Republicans who don’t do the unhinged things that [Grenell] does. I’m not lumping all gay Republicans together — he is a particularly vile person.”

In a tweet the Senator added: “He’s a scam artist pink-washer for Trump & spreads anti-LGBTQ, anti-vax, election-denier conspiracy theories.”

Assemblymember Essayli, one of those who welcomed Grenell, was the author of an anti-trans youth bill that would have required California public schools to Out trans kids to their parents or guardians. The bill was killed in committee. Essayli tweeted:

Responding to Wiener, Grenell told Wiener: “You are an apologist for pedophilia & child abuse – and you undermine American values.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Grenell’s visit to the state Capitol came on the same day that the California Assembly approved ACA 5, which, if approved by voters, would repeal a section of the state constitution that states that marriage is between a man and woman.

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