Pornographic performers in California can remain condom-free for the foreseeable future, with legislators nixing a proposed condom mandate on Thursday.
The measure died during an annual end-of-session winnowing of remaining bills deemed too costly or otherwise politically unpalatable. Appropriations committees in the Senate and the Assembly also shelved bills dealing with medical marijuana, legislative whistleblowers and public assistance.
For the second consecutive year, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, sought to shield adult film performers from sexually transmitted diseases with legislation requiring they use protection. Citing incidents of performers testing HIV-positive, Hall framed his legislation as a basic worker protection measure.
“When it comes down to it, adult film actors are employees like any other employees for any other business in the state,” Hall testified at a previous hearing. “A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated.”
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires employers to protect their workers against blood-borne pathogens. While Cal/OSHA has handed down some citations for adult films in violation, the rule has been enforced unevenly. Hall’s bill sought to correct that.
“The ultimate goal of Assembly Bill 1576 was to provide Cal/OSHA with an additional enforcement tool,” said Terry Schanz, Hall’s spokesman. “If there’s a law on the books requiring a studio to document a condom was used in an adult film it will help Cal/OSHA guarantee compliance with blood borne pathogen standards.”
But the multibillion dollar adult film industry argued that Assembly Bill 1576 would drive jobs out of California. Industry critics also said their testing protocols are working and warned that Hall’s bill would push production underground, circumventing existing safeguards. Other groups expressed concerns about state-mandated HIV testing.
Testing practices already in place are comprehensive enough to satisfy Cal/OSHA rules and preclude the need for condoms or other protection, according to a spokesman for industry group the Free Speech Coalition. The group argues the guidelines were written for the medical industry, not for adult films.
“It doesn’t say (adult performers) have to wear some form of protection,” said spokesman Mike Stabile. “It says they have to take some precautions to prevent harm.”
Hearings featured performers and public health professionals rallying on both sides of the bill. In often emotional testimony, some performers said they had been been exposed to unhealthy conditions during filming. Others took the opposite stance, agreeing with industry representatives who hailed a robust testing regimen and argued that HIV-positive performers contracted the disease off set.
The Senate Appropriations Committee thwarted the measure on Thursday. Hall called the move inconsistent given the Legislature’s focus this year on passing a a film production tax credit intended to entice production to remain in California.
“In a year where the Legislature and I have focused heavily on protecting California’s film industry, it is unfortunate that some legislators don’t believe that protection should include keeping California actors safe while they are at work,” Hall said in a statement.
Another prominent bill halted on Thursday would have regulated California’s medical marijuana industry. Since voters approved medicinal cannabis in 1996, Sacramento has repeatedly failed to pass a state-level framework governing growers and dispensaries.
“What happened today was the folks that want to preserve the wild, Wild West – meaning those that want it to be totally unregulated, want it to operate without any regulation or oversight – won the day,” said Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who authored the bill. “Over 20 years, we’ve sat on our hands and we’ve done nothing to regulate this exploding medicine in the state of California.”
Prospects seemed brighter for Correa’s Senate Bill 1262 than for past attempts at broad pot oversight. Unlike with those measures, Correa won the support of both law enforcement groups and an influential entity representing California’s cities. The California Police Chiefs Association supplied the initial language for the bill.
The bill would have created a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, housed in California’s Department of Consumer Affairs, that could craft a licensing system and set standards for cultivating, transporting and providing medical pot. It would have authorized local governments to tax medical marijuana and to preserve their own, separate marijuana regulations, while also imposing tighter restrictions on physicians who prescribe pot.
While groups like the California Police Chiefs Association supported the bill, medical marijuana stalwarts like the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Drug Policy Alliance raised objections to provisions like one discouraging people with prior felonies from obtaining licenses.
Other prominent measures that faltered Thursday:
• Families who qualify for public assistance could have received money to purchase diapers under Assembly Bill 1516, which came with a $100 million annual price tag but was killed by the Senate committee.
• The Senate panel also killed Assembly Bill 2065, which would have created an outlet for concerned legislative staff members to anonymously raise ethics concerns. Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, pushed the bill in the wake of a series of corruption scandals, including a trio of suspended senators facing criminal charges and allegations of nepotism in the Senate.
Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543. Dan Walters of The Bee’s Capitol Bureau contributed reporting.