Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed

Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed

WRITTEN BY BO TEFU AND JOE W. BOWERS JR. | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA

Civil Rights Activist and Social Justice Leader, the Rev. Cecil Williams, Passes at 94

On April 22, community leader and social justice advocate Reverend Cecil Williams died at his home in San Francisco surrounded by his loved ones, according to his family.

He was 94 years old.

The reverend was a civil rights leader who advocated for the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the Bay Area.

Williams was the head pastor of the non-denominational GLIDE Memorial United Methodist Church. The church welcomed individuals from the queer community and people struggling with homelessness, housing instability and substance use disorder (SUD).

Through his work, Rev. Williams attracted national attention. Prominent political and cultural leaders such as Maya Angelou, Bono, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Clinton all attended church services at Glide.

Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) said she is deeply saddened about the passing of her dear friend.

“The Reverend changed the lives of millions through radical love, support, inclusivity, and a commitment to service to the most marginalized,” Lee said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the reverend inspired people across California to embody the values of generosity and acceptance.

Rev. Williams was, “a visionary leader whose legendary compassion and love for his community transformed the lives of people from all walks of life,” Newsom said.

Rev. Williams served as the chief executive officer of the Glide Foundation until his retirement in 2023.

State Superintendent Thurmond Pushes for Educator Training in Literacy and Math Through Senate Bill 1115

State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Tony Thurmond is advocating for comprehensive training for teachers in reading and math, emphasizing the urgent need to improve student academic outcomes across California.

On April 24, during testimony in the Senate Education Committee, Thurmond backed Senate Bill (SB)1115, which aims to provide evidence-backed educator training. The committee passed the bill with a 7-0 vote.

Thurmond pointed out to the committee that existing funding for educator training in literacy and math only covers about one-third of California’s educator workforce. SB 1115, Thurmond said, would fund the remaining two-thirds.

“This is an issue of moral clarity,” according to Thurmond. “In the fifth-largest economy in the world, and in an age when we have access to substantial brain science about how students learn, it should be unacceptable to train only some educators in the best strategies to teach essential skills.”

SB 1115 incorporates multiple research-backed methods, including phonics, and it aligns with the California ELA/ELD Framework, which encourages biliteracy and multilingualism.

Thurmond emphasized the moral imperative behind the push for enhanced training by noting that 70% of incarcerated adults struggle with reading or are illiterate.

“Every child should feel supported as they learn to read and every teacher should feel confident in their ability to support students’ foundational literacy," Thurmond said. “SB 1115 is about ensuring that all children have the opportunity to read by third grade, and that all children have a shot at the life-changing outcomes that come from early literacy.”

The next step for SB 1115 is a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 6.

California Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler Back Local News Resolution

Last week, California U.S. Senators, Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, both Democrats, announced their support for a resolution that recognizes the significance of local news.

In the resolution dated April 23, Padilla and Butler joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i) and 10 other colleagues in designating April as “Preserving and Protecting Local News Month.”

The resolution acknowledges that local news outlets are a public good essential to preserving America’s democracy.

“Millions of Americans count on the local news to help them understand what is happening in their neighborhoods and around the country. Yet local newsrooms have suffered from some of the harshest layoffs and budget cuts in recent years,” Butler said in a statement.

“It is critical that we recognize the role our local press plays in keeping people informed on the world around them,” she said.

The resolution comes at a crucial time in the media industry when employment decreased by 26% nationwide between 2008 and 2020, according to supporters of the bill. Employment in the newsroom came with great uncertainty as more than 30,000 jobs were lost in the last two decades.

Sen. Schatz said that local news helps increase civic engagement and strengthens democratic norms and practices. This resolution will help local journalists maintain healthy and vibrant communities through valuable storytelling.

Physicians for a Healthy California Releases Report Addressing Retention of Women Doctors of Color in California

Physician retention in California has decreased over the years for women doctors of color, a report by the Physicians for a Healthy California stated.

According to the report, women physicians are more likely to experience burnout than their male counterparts, a trend that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report states that Black and Latino physicians are underrepresented in the healthcare industry. Only 2.8% of physicians are Black and 5.5% are Latino across the state of California.

It also noted that women doctors of color are often assigned to serve in vulnerable and under-resourced communities.

“It is critical for health care organizations to implement effective strategies focused on the retention of this important group of clinicians,” the report stated.

Women doctors of color face career dissatisfaction, contributing to the low retention rates in California’s healthcare industry. The burnout particularly experienced by female doctors of color stems from workplace harassment and perceived lack of value at work.

Additionally, moral injury was another key factor driving women physicians of color away from the workforce. Unlike burnout, moral injury is defined as “the betrayal of what’s right by someone who holds legitimate authority in a high-stakes situation.”

Currently, two of the nine California regions used in the framework of the report -- the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley -- have less than 50 primary care doctors. Physician shortages are projected to get worse over the next few years.

By 2030, the report indicates, the demand for physicians will exceed the supply by at least 12%.

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Gov. Newsom Issues Proclamation Declaring Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared April 24 as “a day of remembrance of the Armenian genocide.”

This proclamation marks the first holiday honoring the victims and survivors of the systemic genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire on the same day in 1915. The genocide targeted Armenians, who were a minority group that were forcefully deported and killed in the early 20th century.

“We honor the strength and resilience of the Armenian people, who have built new lives and thriving communities in all corners of the globe,” the proclamation stated.

The genocide resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children. This great loss suffered by the community led to the displacement and deportation of many families, many of whom settled in California for refuge.

The declaration noted that the state government is committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of the Armenian community. The state government has taken action to address racial, ethnic, and religious hate through reinforced security at houses of worship, and cultural centers. The state has also implemented a comprehensive “Stop the Hate” program that promotes tolerance and support for victims. An anonymous hotline and internet resource have also been set up to report for victims and witnesses of hate acts.

The California Armenian Legislative Caucus Foundation sponsored an educational lunch to commemorate the 109th anniversary of the genocide.

Gov. Newsom, Attorney General Bonta Support Bill Allowing California to Host Arizona Abortion Care

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta announced last week that they are backing a bill introduced by the state legislative women’s caucus that allows Arizona-based doctors to provide abortion care in California to patients from Arizona.

Senate Bill (SB) 233 was authored in response to the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision on April 9 that an 1864 ban on abortion in the state is enforceable. The bill also aims to counter growing support for anti-abortion legislation in states with Republican-majority legislatures since Roe v. Wade was overturned, according to supporters.

“California will not sit idly by. We’re urgently moving legislation to allow Arizona doctors to provide safe and reliable reproductive care to Arizonans here in California,” Newsom said.

Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus said that abortion bans are based on laws that set women back to a time when they had limited human rights.

“Anti-abortion forces have resurrected a dead law passed at a time when women couldn’t vote and husbands beating their wives was lawful,” Skinner said.

On April 24, the Arizona House of Representatives voted to repeal the 1864 abortion ban. It now moves to the Arizona Senate for deliberation.

California Bill Wants Total Grocery Store Plastic Bag Ban by 2026

Last week, a group of lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 2236 and Senate Bill 1053 which will address plastic pollution statewide.

The bills will remove the option to receive an unwoven plastic bag at grocery, retail, and convenience stores. The bills authored respectively by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) and State Senator Catherine Blakespear (D-Encinitas) are backed by a coalition of environmental advocacy groups and organizations like the California Grocers Association.

Bauer-Kahan said that California tried to ban plastic bags a decade ago, but that effort failed. Today, she says, pollution from plastic is harming the environment and wildlife.

“With tougher rules and a push for eco-friendly alternatives, we're ready to kick plastic bags to the curb and reclaim our environment,” said Bauer-Kahan.

Blakespear said that plastic waste is a global issue that has caused irreversible damage to the environment in California.

“It’s time to improve California’s original plastic bags ban and do it right this time by completely eliminating plastic bags from being used at grocery stores,” Blakespear said.

California environmental advocacy groups continue to push for plastic bans following the passing of SB 270 which banned the single use of carryout plastic bags from most grocery stores in 2014.

Court Throws Out Controversial Law That Allowed Californians to Build Duplexes, Triplexes and RDUs on Their Properties

Charter cities in California won a lawsuit last week against the state that declared Senate Bill (SB) 9, a pro-housing bill, unconstitutional.

Passed in 2021, SB 9 is also known as the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency Act (HOME). That law permits up to four residential units --- counting individual units of duplexes, triplexes and residential dwelling units (RDUs) – to be built on properties in neighborhoods that were previously zoned for only single-family homes.

A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the cities, pointing out that SB 9 discredited charter cities that were granted jurisdiction to create new governance systems and enact policy reforms. The court ruling affects 121 charter cities that have local constitutions.

Attorney Pam Lee represented five Southern California cities in the lawsuit against the state and Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“This is a monumental victory for all charter cities in California,” Lee said.

However, general law cities are excluded from the court ruling as state housing laws still apply in residential areas.

Attorney General Bonta and his team are working to review the decision and consider all options that will protect SB 9 as a state law. Bonta said the law has helped provide affordable housing for residents in California.

“Our statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis requires collaboration, innovation, and a good faith effort by local governments to increase the housing supply,” Bonta said.

“SB9 is an important tool in this effort, and we’re going to make sure homeowners have the opportunity to utilize it,” he said.

Charter cities remain adamant that the state should refrain from making land-use decisions on their behalf. In the lawsuit, city representatives argued that SB 9 eliminates local authority to create single-family zoning districts and approve housing developments.

Former California Superintendent Delaine Eastin Dies at 76

Delaine Eastin, who served as a former state Assemblymember representing parts of Santa Clara and Alameda County -- and the first woman elected as State Superintendent of Public Instruction -- died at age 76 on April 23.

Eastin passed away from complications caused by a stroke.

Known for her power of persuasion, Eastin used her influence to be a champion for bipartisan issues that helped raise academic standards, lower class sizes, and emphasize the importance of conserving nature and the environment in schools.

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and fellow legislative colleagues said that Eastin was in demand on the speech circuit while serving as a legislator.

“Few could engender the kind of emotion and passion she delivered in every speech,” Brown said.

State superintendent Tony Thurmond called Eastin a trailblazer who inspired fellow public servants.

“California lost an icon in our school system today. Delaine Eastin’s legacy as a trailblazer in public education will forever inspire us. Her unwavering dedication to California students -- from championing Universal Preschool and the “A Garden in Every School” program to honoring our educators by establishing the California Teachers of the Year Awards -- has left an indelible mark on our state’s educational landscape,” said Thurmond.

Thurmond honored Eastin’s legacy at the California Teacher of the Year Program, an honor that she established during her time as superintendent.

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