Gay ‘Conversion,’ Vaccination Opt Out, Immigration and More: California Gets 191 New Laws
Parents who don’t get their kids vaccinated will need permission from their doctor’s office before enrolling them in school. Psychotherapists can’t try to convert gay teenagers into straight ones. And some undocumented immigrants can get driver’s licenses.
These changes in California law came about over the weekend as Gov. Jerry Brown signed some 191 bills into law and vetoed nearly as many, in a flurry of legislative action. Brown was in a rush to beat the deadline of midnight, Sunday, when the bills would have expired.
You can get a complete list from the governor’s website. But here are some of the most controversial or far-reaching:
AB2109 will require parents who enroll students who have not received the required public school vaccines to get a waiver from a physician or a nurse practitioner saying they have received information about the benefits and risks of immunization.
Brown signed the vaccination bill amid what Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, called the largest national whooping cough epidemic in 50 years.statement. The new requirement will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Opponents, including former “Saturday Night Live” actor Rob Schneider of Pacifica, said it infringes on parental rights and increases medical costs for families, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“There shouldn’t be government coercion to force parents to jump another hoop to have to make decisions on … what’s the best interest of their child,” Schneider said, according to the newspaper.
Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’
Effective Jan. 1, mental health practitioners are prohibited from trying to change the sexual orientation of anyone under 18, in what’s known as “reparative or conversion therapy.”
The therapies “have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” Brown said in a statement.
Mainstream associations representing psychiatrists and psychologists have dismissed reparative therapy in recent decades. A number of mental health associations in California — including the state’s Board of Behavorial Sciences, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and the California Psychological Association — supported the legislation, the Associated Press reported.
But some organizations and ministries continue to use counseling and prayer to try to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations. Gay rights activists have said the damage they inflict on individuals can be deep and lasting and can put youth at higher risk of depression and suicide.
Conservative religious groups and some Republicans have argued that banning conversion therapy would hinder parents’ right to provide psychological care for children experiencing gender confusion.
Brown vetoed a bill Sunday to regulate overtime and meal breaks for nannies, maids and other domestic workers.
In his veto message, the governor said he wants the state Department of Industrial Relations to study the potential impacts of new rules before they are drafted.
“What will be the economic and human impact on the disabled or elderly person and their family of requiring overtime, rest and meal periods for attendants who provide 24 hour care?” Brown wrote. “What would be the additional costs and what is the financial capacity of those taking care of loved ones in the last years of life?”
The veto drew criticism from Sylvia Lopez, a worker with the California Domestic Workers Coalition, which sponsored the bill, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It is a huge disappointment that Gov. Brown chose not to recognize the people caring for California’s families and homes as real workers,” Lopez said, according to the newspaper. “For decades we have tirelessly cared for California’s homes, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities without the protection of basic rights.”
Brown also vetoed a bill requiring farmers to provide continuous access to shade and “suitably cool” water to their workers.
Assembly Bill 2676 would have imposed a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000 for violators, with the penalty escalating if the victim suffered injury.
In his veto message, Brown said farmers who don’t provide shade and water should not be treated as criminals. “While I believe enforcement of our heat standards can be improved, I am not convinced that creating a new crime — and a crime that applies only to one group of employers — is the answer,” Brown wrote. “Instead, we should continue to enforce our stringent standards for the benefit of all workers in all industries.”
Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, said he wanted to bring the same protections to farm workers that animals already enjoy under state law, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Brown vetoed AB1081, which could have protected illegal immigrants from deportation if they committed minor infractions. The bill has been dubbed “anti-Arizona” legislation, a reference to that state’s controversial immigrant identification law.
The so-called TRUST Act would have let California opt out of some parts of a federal program that requires local law enforcement officers to check the fingerprints of people they arrest against a federal immigration database and to hold those who are in the country illegally.
The law would have barred local law enforcement officers from detaining suspects for possible deportation unless they are charged with serious or violent felonies.
Meanwhile, Brown signed AB2189 by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, letting the Department of Motor Vehicles issue licenses to undocumented immigrants eligible for work permits under a new Obama administration policy. The bill requires the department to accept as proof of legal residence whatever document the federal government provides to participants in its deferred action program.
Senate Bill 9 allows murderers sentenced to life in prison to petition for resentencing if they were minors when they committed the crime. Offenders could not petition a court until they had served at least 15 years in prison, and they could not be released until they had served at least 25 years.
They also would not be eligible for resentencing if they had a history of violence, tortured their victim or killed a law enforcement officer or firefighter, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Sponsor Leland Yee, (D – San Francisco), argued that a youth’s brain differs from that of an adult. Opponents characterized SB 9 as a danger to public safety and painted it as offensive to the families of victims killed by juveniles, according to the newspaper.