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AB 2188—Employer discrimination against cannabis users

A bill that would prohibit employment discrimination for cannabis use outside of work will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee June 29.

AB 2188 passed the California Assembly on a 42-13 vote June 27. Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), Jose Medina (D-Riverside) and Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) voted yes.

Assemblymembers Thurston Smith (R-Hesperia), Phillip Chen (R-Yorba Linda) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) voted no. Assemblymembers James Ramos (D-Highland) and Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) did not vote.

The bill, written by Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would amend the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, ancestry, disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, gender and sexual orientation.

Construction workers, licensed contractors and federal employees would be exempt from the bill’s discrimination prohibition.

“When most employers conduct a drug test, they typically screen for the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites, which can remain present in an individual’s bodily fluids for weeks after cannabis use and do not indicate impairment,” Quirk wrote in argument to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “While there is consensus that no one should ever show up to work high or impaired, testing positive for this metabolite has no correlation to workplace safety or productivity.”

Cannabis metabolites, which drug tests detect, can be in a user’s body 10 days after use for a regular user, even if the user is no longer under the drug’s influence, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The bill would allow employers to test for THC, which could indicate a person is under marijuana’s influence at work, according to Quirk.

A coalition of opponents led by the California Chamber of Commerce argued the bill would limit an employer’s ability to provide a safe workplace.

“Under California law, we believe that cannabis should be treated like alcohol – its use is legal in certain settings, but impairment must be kept out of the workplace,” the coalition wrote, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We see AB 2188 as going far beyond that by interfering with an employer’s ability to conduct pre-employment and post-accident testing under the bill’s present language, as well as creating new litigation concerns related to its new protections for cannabis use.”

The bill is sponsored by California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

SCA 10—Abortion-rights in California Constitution

The California Senate sent the Assembly on June 20 a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the rights of Californians to receive abortions.

The amendment must be approved by the Assembly, and by voters as a ballot measure in the next election, to take effect.

California case law and statutes already guarantee the right to abortions, but this amendment would enshrine the right in the California Constitution.

SCA 10 passed the Senate with a 29-8 vote. Sens. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and Richard Roth (D-Riverside) are listed among the bill’s 30 Senate co-authors.

Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) voted against the amendment.

Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) and Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) are listed among the bill’s 51 Assembly co-authors.

Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) wrote the bill.

The Amendment would add Section 1.1 to Article 1 of the California Constitution:

“The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives. This section is intended to further the constitutional right to privacy guaranteed by Section 1, and the constitutional right to not be denied equal protection guaranteed by Section 7. Nothing herein narrows or limits the right to privacy or equal protection.”

Article 1 Section 1 of the California Constitution says that “(a)ll people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”

The 1969 California Supreme Court case People v. Belous held that Californians’ right to privacy extended to a decision about whether to have an abortion, according to the analysis. This was the first time a right to abortion was upheld in a court.

The Reproductive Privacy Act amplifies that “(t)he state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”

In their argument, the bill authors said the amendment would protect the right from attacks.

“The passage of this SCA will allow individuals and families to continue to have the freedom to determine what is best for them and their families, giving people the ability to plan their lives and make intimate reproductive decisions without the government interfering,” the bill’s authors said in the Senate Judiciary Committee report.

The Capitol Resource Institute argued against the amendment, claiming the constitutional right to life is harmed by abortion.

“Whether inside or outside of the womb, life is protected and defended by the California constitution,” the Institute wrote to the Senate. “Amending the constitution to codify the right to an abortion is contrary to all efforts to defend life in California. Whenever abortion takes place, an innocent life is taken. The media, legislators and the abortion lobby have sold women the lie that they need abortion to be independent and free. The reality of abortion is that it destroys: the life of the innocent baby and the life of the mother who then has to deal with the trauma of that procedure.”

AB 2958—State Bar reconstruction to allow non-lawyers

A bill that would allow non-attorneys to practice law is being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AB 2958 already passed the Senate May 12, 65-0, with support from all Riverside and San Bernardino representatives except for Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who represents Phelan, Piñon Hills and Wrightwood.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee wrote the bill.

The bill would:

  • Reduce the annual California State Bar license fee from $395 to $390
    • Require a 2023 state audit to evaluate the Bar’s spending of the licensing fees
    • Direct $45 of the fee to legal services
      • Direct $5 of the $45 to law-student summer internships
    • Allow licensed attorneys to pay the State Bar another $5 to support lobbying
      • Limit lobbying funding to the $5 voluntary donations from attorneys
  • Repeal the Public Interest Task Force
  • Require law-education courses addressing behavioral health
  • Require the State Bar’s considerations into allowing non-attorneys to practice law to:
    • Prioritize protecting individuals from bad actors
    • Prioritize increasing access to justice for indigent people
    • To exclude corporate ownership of law firms 
  • Require the State Bar to comply with the Information Practices Act of 1977
    • The Bar would have to disclose any breach of its data system 

According to a Senate Judiciary analysis, there are 195,385 active licensees in the state.

SB 357—Bill to decriminalize loitering for prostitution on Gov.’s desk

The legislature gave Gov. Gavin Newsom a bill that would decriminalize the misdemeanor of loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution June 20.

SB 357 was passed by the Senate on a 41-29 vote Sept. 10, but was held until Monday.

Bill author Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), argued the misdemeanor offense causes discrimination.

“SB 357 simply eliminates an anti-loitering offense that results in the legal harassment of LGTBQ+, Black and Brown communities for simply existing and looking like a ‘sex worker’ to law enforcement,” Wiener argues in the Senate analysis. “Due to the broad subjective nature of the language that criminalizes loitering for the intent to engage in sex work, this offense permits law enforcement to stop and arrest people for discriminatory reasons, such as wearing revealing clothing while walking in an area where sex work has occurred before.”

The bill would allow people convicted of the misdemeanor to petition the trial court to dismiss their sentence.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee estimated the bill to increase court costs by around $1 million in one-time costs, due to record retrieval and court actions. The Committee also estimated the bill would save millions of dollars in county funds every year by cutting down on jail sentences.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the only listed opponent to the bill. The department argued the misdemeanor is needed to clear prostitutes from certain public places and business.

“A repeal of this law will take a major tool away from law enforcement, especially patrol operations. Prostitution operations require the use of extensive undercover operations and there are limited amounts of personnel and funding to do this type of work,” the department wrote in its opposition report. “Penal Code Section 653.22 allows our patrol functions to enforce this section, and there are of course way more patrol officers than there are undercover officers available for extensive operation.”

Sixty-two organizations listed support for the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Public Defenders Association, California Women’s Law Center, Legal Aid at Work, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

Sens. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Richard Roth (Riverside) and Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), and Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), Jose Medina (D-Riverside) and Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) supported the bill.

Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) and Assemblymembers James Ramos (D-Highland), Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta), Thurston Smith (R-Hesperia), Phillip Chen (R-Yorba Linda), Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) and Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) voted against it.

Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) did not vote.

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