SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A travel ban on government workers that was once meant to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community could soon be repealed if Governor Gavin Newsom signs a bill headed to his desk.
Senate Bill 447 by state Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, puts a new program in the place of the lifted travel ban: the BRIDGE (Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, and Gender-supportive Equality) Project. That program will encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and create a fund that can go toward nonpartisan messaging to discourage discrimination.
The bill passed the Senate Tuesday in a 31-to-6 vote. It now proceeds to Newsom and would become effective immediately if signed.
“I remember what it was like to grow up in a time and place where conversations about someone being gay or lesbian only happened in whispers,” Atkins said in a statement. “While years have passed since then, there are still areas of our country where the LGBTQ+ community — and especially our LGBTQ+ youth — feel isolated and fearful for their safety. The BRIDGE Project would be a conduit of hope and compassion, and encourage others to open their hearts and minds to be more accepting and inclusive. It’s within all of us to be that light.”
In 2016, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1887, which prohibited state agencies, departments, boards and commissions from using taxpayer dollars to travel to states with laws that discriminated against people based on sexual orientation. Initially affecting four states, the travel ban grew to 26 states as more legislatures passed laws deemed discriminatory. That’s hindered Californians from conducting research and business.
According to a bill analysis, state workers, including lawmakers, continued to travel to those states, though not in an official capacity. Newsom last year took a family vacation to Montana, leading to media reports. At other times, lawmakers had to use political donations to travel to Tennessee for a National Conference of State Legislators, or skip events in restricted states.
SB 447 will help California better position itself as a leader on inclusivity, Atkins said.
The BRIDGE Project will be within the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, called GO-Biz. It will heighten public awareness and promote civil rights and anti-discrimination via educational efforts.
The bill allows GO-Biz to contract with advertising groups. GO-Biz must have an advisory committee, which will provide counsel on media campaigns. Any media campaign cannot promote a political purpose or feature public officials or candidates for public office.
Additionally, no state worker is required to visit a state that has a discriminatory law.
Assemblyman Rick Chavez Zbur, a Hollywood Democrat, presented Atkins’ bill on Monday in the Assembly, where it passed 64 to 12.
“As attacks on the LGBTQ+ community across the country grow, building bridges to change hearts and minds in these communities is now more important than ever,” Zbur posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Also on Tuesday the Senate passed SB 253 in a 27-to-8 vote and sent it to the governor’s desk.
If signed, U.S.-based companies doing business in California that had over $1 billion in annual revenue would have to publicly report their annual greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and the bill’s author, on the Senate floor. He added: “It’s time to level the playing field and have transparency for the public.”
Wiener has said that the state can no longer expect large companies to willingly report their emissions. Instead, they must face a requirement. His bill would boost the state’s position as a leader on climate change, as well as grant consumers information when deciding on what companies to patronize.
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