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CA Gov Gavin Newsom Risks Political Career Apparently, Signs Couple Good Bills Into Law
New ‘Ebony Alert’ will help save lives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has done some crappy stuff recently, but let’s start with a couple of things that are actually positive. It’s been a tough week.
Last night, Newsom signed a bill streamlining “the construction of affordable housing, low-barrier navigation centers, supportive housing and transitional housing,” according to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. We are generally of the opinion that if Karen Bass wants something, you give it to her.
On Sunday, Newsom signed a bill that creates a new alert notification, the first in the nation, for missing Black children and women in the state. The newly enacted “Ebony Alert” system — similar to an Amber Alert — will go into effect on January 1, 2024.
State Sen. Steven Bradford, who wrote the bill, said, “The Ebony Alert will ensure that vital resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black children and women in the same way we search for any missing child and missing person.”
The usual suspects might cry “All Lives Matter!” and suggest that California doesn’t care about white kids, but here are some facts: According to the Black and Missing Foundation, 38 percent of children reported missing in the United States are Black, but regardless of how white people might feel when more than two Black people ride the elevator with them, only 14 percent of the US population is Black.
Worse, missing Black people, even children, are disproportionately considered runaways. Runaway children don’t receive an Amber Alert, so valuable time is lost in their search. Cases involving missing Black people remain unresolved four times longer than those of missing white people.
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As I wrote in my review for HBO’s Black and Missing, the dismissive approach to Black runaways in particular is a stark contrast to how “runaways” were treated when slavery was legal: The full force of the law was devoted to their recovery. No expense was spared. Now that they are no longer someone else’s “property,” they seemingly aren’t worth the bother.
“Black women and girls are at increased risk of being harmed and trafficked,” Sen. Bradford said. “A recent report on human trafficking incidents across the country found that 40 percent of sex trafficking victims were identified as Black women.”
It’s not surprising if this is not the image of sex trafficking victims that first popped in your head. Helen Rosner wrote in The New Yorker about “the long American history of ‘Missing White Women Syndrome.’” Cases that receive an “exponentially greater level of coverage tend to have, at their center, white women, and especially younger and conventionally attractive white women,” which true-crime scholar Jean Murley concedes is “an undeniable fact.”
Once the new law takes effect, the California Highway Patrol can activate the Ebony Alert whenever the police request it and inform Californians about missing Black people through electronic highway signs, radios, TV, and other emergency alert systems. The criteria for activating an Ebony Alert is more specific than simply “Black person went missing,” but it’s expansive enough to include most people at risk.
Last year, Newsom signed the Feather Alert bill that Assemblymember James C. Ramos wrote to help locate Indigenous people — a group whose missing are too often overlooked, as well.
Newsom also signed into law California bill AB 933, which would address the disturbing trend of alleged sexual assailants suing their accusers for defamation. It was generally seen as a way for powerful, wealthy men to silence their victims.
Newsom can in fact sign good laws that help people. I was less impressed when the governor vetoed a bill Sunday that would have made free condoms available to all public high school students.
“This bill would create an unfunded mandate to public schools that should be considered in the annual budget process,” Newsom explained, trying to sound like a fiscally responsible liberal and not one of those scary tax and spend, free condoms for everyone liberals.
Newsom pointed out that California has a budget deficit of a whopping $30 billion, but unintended pregnancies, especially among teenagers, have a significant financial impact, as well.
The governor also vetoed a bill that would’ve set a $35 cap on insulin. He claims that the state has a contract with non-profit pharmaceutical Civica Rx to manufacture its own insulin for just $30. Wait, but if that’s true, then why would he oppose the $35 cap?
“With CalRx, we are getting at the underlying cost, which is the true sustainable solution to high-cost pharmaceuticals,” Newsom said. “With co-pay caps however, the long-term costs are still passed down to consumers through higher premiums from health plans.”
Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, who wrote the bill, said Newsom’s veto is “a major setback that will keep tens of thousands of diabetic Californians trapped in the terrible choice between buying insulin and buying food. […] This is a missed opportunity that will force them to wait months or years for relief from the skyrocketing costs of medical care when they could have had it immediately.”
Newsom also vetoed a pro-LGBTQ bill that would have banned employment discrimination based on family caregiver status. He appreciated its intent, of course, but was “concerned about the large burden it will place on employers, particularly small businesses, especially given the ambiguous nature of the language.” He vetoed some other queer-friendly bills with the same 1990s New Democrat, pro-business rationalization.
He also vetoed a bill banning “caste discrimination,” insisting that it was unnecessary. In fairness, some groups, including people of Indian origin, opposed the measure and claimed it needlessly stereotyped an entire community.
Here’s a more comprehensive list of Newsom’s more than 100 recent vetoes. Alas, pot smokers won’t be able to buy coffee or food from cannabis lounges. Newsom also gave a big no to decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms. Yeah, he’s obviously running for president.
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