Capitol Alert

On-campus abortion and gun purchase limits: California considers a new batch of left-leaning laws

California is often considered the birthplace of many of the country’s most progressive policies.

Plastic straws? California made it harder to get them. Workers rights? The state passed a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2023. Tech regulations? The California Consumer Privacy Act that passed last year will restrict how much tech companies can use personal data by 2020. Immigration? Undocumented immigrants are protected in this “sanctuary state,” and the budget allocates millions for immigration-related services.

The list goes on, and it could get even longer.

As Democrats maintain a stronghold majority in the Legislature, and with Gov. Gavin Newsom signaling he’s prepared to sign envelope-pushing legislation that former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed, liberal lawmakers are championing a progressive agenda that could make California even bluer.

Here’s what’s on deck:

Raising corporate tax rates

California accumulated an “unprecedented” budget surplus at the end of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tenure, in part because of voters’ willingness to adopt new taxes on wealthy households and at the gas pump. State lawmakers have a few more tax proposals on the table this spring..

One tax proposal comes from state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s office. The Berkeley Democrat’s measure targets the top 0.2 percent of companies, and raises their corporate income taxes from 8.84 percent to 10.84 percent. Skinner said the proposal would increase state revenue by an estimated $2 billion and would help fund education.

The bill also increases the tax rate on corporations that have large pay disparities between top executives and average workers. Skinner estimated those taxes could generate up to $3 billion annually.

“Increasing taxes on big corporations and incentivizing those corporations to pay their employees higher wages is a progressive way to capture new funding for our schools and other programs, while reducing the income inequality of regular Californians,” Skinner said.

Protecting undocumented immigrants’ data

Although California limits how much state and local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration authorities — per a 2017 “sanctuary state” law — Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said more needs to be done to protect undocumented Californians from detention and deportation.

Bonta proposed Assembly Bill 1332, which prohibits any state, city, or county agency from creating or renewing a contract with vendors that provide certain services like “extreme vetting,” selling data to federal immigration agencies and providing detention facility support.

The bill targets approximately 50 businesses providing these services to immigration enforcement agencies, part of what Bonta calls “Trump’s mass deportation machine.”

“Every one of these companies can make a decision,” Bonta said. “If they want to have a contract with the state of California or with one of our cities or one of our counties within California, they can simply decide not to be involved in the data brokering business or in the extreme vetting business or detention facility business And then those contracts can continue.”

Creating the nation’s strictest use-of-force policy

One of the most contentious bills up for legislative debate this session is Assembly Bill 392. The legislation would restrict when officers can employ deadly force, swapping out the “reasonable” standard to a tougher “necessary” qualification.

Officers who use lethal force could face criminal charges if it’s determined other enforcement options were available.

The bill passed its first committee hearing after hours of testimony from family members affected by police shootings. The bill’s principal author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, said she will continue speaking with law enforcement groups and other opposition members who argue the crack down could lead officers to second-guess their decisions and compromise public safety.

Restricting gun sales to one firearm a month

Under state Sen. Anthony Portantino’s Senate Bill 61, Californians could only buy one long-gun a month. Current law prohibits anyone from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period.

Portantino is the lawmaker behind the 2018 law that raised the age of who can buy a long-gun in California, from 18 to 21. He also carried a 2012 bill that restricted the open carry law, making it a misdemeanor to carry an unloaded long-gun.

Excluding condoms as evidence of sex work

More than 60 percent of sex workers have experienced sexual assault on the job, according to the St. James Infirmary, a nonprofit in San Francisco. Add that to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warnings of a particular HIV and STI risk in the sex work community, and you come out with state Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 233.

The legislation immunizes sex workers from arrest when they report violent crimes and prohibits arresting individuals who carry condoms, in any amount, as evidence of sex work.

“There are many sex workers who are victimized who are assaulted, or raped or kidnapped who are scared to report the crimes to police because they are worried they will be arrested for prostitution,” Wiener previously told The Bee. “This is a profession that has existed since the beginning of time and we want to make sure that these men and women are safe and healthy.”

The San Francisco Democrat is also pushing two trailblazing LGBTQ measures. Senate Bill 145 aims to dismantle what Wiener calls “blatant discrimination” against the gay community in the registration of sex offenders. Judges can use their discretion in certain cases when an adult has vaginal intercourse with a minor, but have to place that same person in the registry if oral or anal sex is involved.

Wiener also introduced legislation to require correctional facilities to house transgender inmates according to their preferred identity.

“When we have the opportunity to push the progressive envelope, we should absolutely do that,” Wiener said. “Our transgender prisoner bill, housing people according to their gender identity, is pushing the envelope.”

Mandating that UC and CSU campuses provide abortion services

Under state Sen. Connie Leyva’s controversial proposal, Senate Bill 24, the University of California and California State University systems would have to provide abortion by medication services to students as part of its health care offerings on campus by 2023.

Most student health clinics provide pregnancy testing and counseling, contraceptives, sexually transmitted infection services and routine women’s health tests, according to the bill analysis. But extending care to include abortions “ensures that students do not have to travel away from their school and work commitments to receive care.”

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.