SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a package of nine bills brought by the Legislative Women’s Caucus aimed at improving services for women, children and families of the Golden State.
"The Legislative Women's Caucus is once again paving the way toward a better California, and today's actions will make a positive difference for women, children and families across the state," Brown said in a statement.
Caucus chair and Assemblywoman Christina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, saw her measure to provide free feminine hygiene products to low-income middle and high school students signed. She said the package was an important step to improving the lives of all Californians.
"The Legislative Women's Caucus is the crossroads where all perspectives unite to represent California," said Garcia. "Our priorities uplift all women – half of the population in California and the nation – through equal opportunity, access to childcare, family friendly workplaces and protecting vulnerable communities. What's good for women is good for California and the economy."
The bills span a wide range of topics including employment protections, CalWorks programs and education and benefits to assist homeless and low-income families. Despite signing the package, Brown warned the Legislature about circumventing proper procedures to expand services in the future.
“I vetoed a similar bill last year and said this new benefit should be considered in the budget process. This benefit was considered but ultimately not funded in this year’s budget. As a result, I am willing to provide this benefit through this bill,” Brown wrote in a message after signing Assembly Bill 480 by Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego.
“I caution, however, against using legislation to enact new or expand benefits. Negotiations on spending proposals belong in the annual budget process,” Brown added.
Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill provides a $30 diaper subsidy for welfare-to-work program participants.
Another bill affecting CalWorks programs is AB 557 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, which makes public assistance immediately available to victims of domestic violence.
“Like many Californians, I have seen firsthand the impact domestic violence has on families and communities – I know we can and will do more for women, men and children who need help escaping their violent environment. I applaud Gov. Brown for taking action today to help stop the cycle of abuse," Rubio said in a statement.
Brown signed AB 1312, also by Gonzalez Fletcher, which requires rape kits and forensic evidence be stored for a longer period of time and gives additional rights to rape victims.
Three of the signed bills offer meaningful employment protections, address loopholes in maternity leave and strengthen services.
Senate Bill 63, by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, provides up to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave to employees of small businesses. Employers of between 20-49 persons will no longer be able to fire pregnant employees or cancel their health care benefits.
"This is a great victory for working parents and children in California, and I am grateful to the governor for signing this bill into law,” Jackson said in a statement. “With more women in the workforce, and more parents struggling to balance work and family responsibilities, our policies must catch up to the realities of our economy and the daily lives of working families. No one should have to choose between caring for their newborn and keeping their job.”
Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, wrote AB 168, which prevents any employer – including the Legislature – from asking prospective employees about their previous salary and requires the employer to provide a pay-scale.
"The practice of seeking or requiring the salary history of job applicants helps perpetuate wage inequality that has spanned generations of women in the workforce,” said Eggman. “AB 168 is a needed step to ensure that my 9-year-old daughter, and all women, can be confident that their pay will be based on their abilities and not their gender."
Brown also signed AB 273 by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, which expands child care services for parents taking English as a second language or high school equivalency courses.
"One of my goals as a legislator is to support women. An essential part of doing that is to ensure that women and their families have access to affordable child care,” Aguiar-Curry said in a statement. “This is a big victory for California families.”
The sole Republican bill signed as part of the package was AB 1386, by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron of Escondido. Her bill provides information about screenings for a genetic marker to cancer patients.
"Women with newly diagnosed breast or ovarian cancer who may have a genetic mutation often don't get testing, or even a chance to speak with a genetic counselor who would help them weigh the necessity of such a test. Genomic testing is vital as it can guide treatment options for these women to give them the best possible odds of survival,” Waldron said.
One bill included in package was actually signed on Oct. 5. Senate Bill 500 by state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, expands existing extortion law to include demands for sexual activity and images of intimate body parts.
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