Editorials

Heavy lobbying aside, here are bills that might actually help kids and families

President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Kevin de Leon embraces Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara as she casts her vote for the state budget on Wednesday afternoon, June 15 2016 at the California State Capitol.
President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Kevin de Leon embraces Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara as she casts her vote for the state budget on Wednesday afternoon, June 15 2016 at the California State Capitol. jvillegas@sacbee.com

No matter their party, legislators talk solemnly about how they want to help folks back home, even as they cast votes to help their favored interests in these final few days of the legislative session. Here are a few bills that actually could help individuals.

Few measures would have greater impact on families than Senate Bill 328 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge. It would require that schools start classes after 8:30 a.m.

Some school districts already recognize the realities of teenagers’ body clocks and ring the bell at 8:30 a.m. But some laggards need a nudge. Surprisingly, the California Teachers Association and an organization representing local school boards oppose it, contending it would remove local control.

Too many trustees don’t want to disadvantage sports teams or invite a collective bargaining issue by starting or ending school later than surrounding districts. Portantino’s bill is an important start that will help students’ performance and perhaps bring a little household harmony.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has two bills worthy of support. SB 63 would extend job protection for new parents who work for employers with as few as 20 employees. The California Chamber of Commerce calls it a job killer. But new parents ought to be able to spend 12 weeks, at least, bonding with their child without worrying they will be fired.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation last year, worried it could lead to litigation. Jackson is working on amendments to head off lawsuits. For the good of parents and their newborn or newly adopted children, we hope she succeeds.

Jackson also is carrying SB 169 to enshrine into California law Obama administration guidelines related to Title IX, which guarantees girls and women equal access to education. Obama had concluded, appropriately, that sexual harassment extended to physical sexual acts including sexual coercion, and emphasized that schools were responsible for responding to allegations of sexual violence.

Jackson’s bill would backstop those protections to the K-12 schools and colleges and universities, an important step toward gender equality. Kids can’t learn if they’re being harassed. Jackson’s bill could take on added urgency as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to announce Thursday that the Trump administration is modifying those Obama-era rules.

Lawmakers often start out with lofty ideas, only to see them whittled back. Such is the case with SB 273 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. He had hoped to raise the age of consent to marry to 18. Facing opposition from the ACLU, he pared back his bill. That’s too bad.

We would have preferred that California followed New York’s lead. There, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill raising the age of consent to marry to 18, from what it was, 14.

Under Hill’s bill, judges would conduct private interviews with children 17 or younger who seek to marry, though 17-year-olds who have high school diplomas would be exempt from the interview requirement. The bill also would require that data on the prevalence of child marriage be collected. As we say, it’s a start.

This year, as in all years when sessions close, lobbyists line the Capitol hallways hoping to buttonhole legislators to make their final pitches. But some bills that lack high-priced advocates manage to make it to the ends of session. We urge lawmakers to take the time to cast a favorable vote on these four.

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