Brown signs bills to help Cal­i­for­nia women, fam­i­lies

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Kath­leen Ron­ayne The As­so­ci­ated Press

SACRA­MENTO » Cal­i­for­nia women will have more tools to fight pay dis­crim­i­na­tion, more re­sources to buy di­a­pers and pay for child­care, and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for parental leave un­der bills signed Thurs­day by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Cal­i­for­nia is not just about Sil­i­con Val­ley, it’s not just about agri­cul­ture, it’s not just about Hol­ly­wood — it’s about fam­i­lies and kids,” Brown said be­fore sign­ing the bills out­side a Sacra­mento cen­ter that pro­vides re­sources for home­less women.

The 26-mem­ber leg­isla­tive Women’s Cau­cus cham­pi­oned the nine bills aimed at im­prov­ing the lives of Cal­i­for­ni­a­women and fam­i­lies, with sev­eral fo­cus­ing on vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. They are broad in scope, aimed at help­ing women in the work­place and at home.

“Cal­i­for­nia is once again lead­ing the way when it comes to­help­ing­wom­en­who need it the­most,” saidAssem­bly­woman Lorena Gon­za­les Fletcher of San Diego.

One bill re­quires small busi­nesses em­ploy­ing between 20 and 49 peo­ple to of­fer 12 weeks of un­paid­ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity leave to em­ploy­ees, giv­ing new par­ents as­sur­ance they can stay home with their chil­dren with­out be­ing fired. Ex­ist­ing state law only im­poses that re­quires for larger com­pa­nies.

An­other work­place-fo­cused bill bans em­ploy- ers from ask­ing ap­pli­cants about their past salaries. That builds on a 2015 law signed by Brown mak­ing it eas­ier for­women to push for equal pay.

Sev­eral other bills fo­cus on health and well­ness. Among them is a re­quire­ment that pub­lic schools with high pop­u­la­tions of low-in­come stu­dents pro­vide free tam­pons and­men­strual prod­ucts in women’s and girl’s re­strooms. Assem­bly­woman Cristina Gar­cia, chair of the Women’s Cau­cus, has dubbed her­self the “tam­pon queen” in her fight for the bill.

“I’ve heard from young girls across the state who miss school on a reg­u­lar ba­sis be­cause they can’t af­ford th­ese prod­ucts,” Gar­cia said.

A bill by Gon­za­les Fletcher will al­low low-in­come women on pub­lic as­sis­tance to get up to $30 a month help to buy di­a­pers for chil­dren un­der three. Brown ve­toed a sim­i­lar bill last year.

Other bills in the pack­age will:

• Make ob­tain­ing sex­ual im­ages or sex­ual acts through ex­tor­tion a crime, some­times called “sex­tor­tion.”

• Al­low par­ents tak­ing English as a sec­ond lan­guage or high school equiv­a­lency cour­ses to be el­i­gi­ble for sub­si­dized child care.

• Pro­vide home­less ben­e­fits such as ho­tel vouchers to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims who are await­ing shel­ter space.

• Re­quire the state to keep rape kits on file for 20 years.

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