The Lookout: Black LGBTQ+ Leaders and Allies Applaud Three California Bills

(Watching your tax dollars, elected officials and legislation that affects you)

June is Pride Month and lawmakers in California are advancing a number of bills to make life safer and less difficult for people who are LGBTQ+.

Some of the proposed laws aim to address challenges that impact various segments of the African American LGBTQ+ community — either directly or circumstantially.

The first is Senate Bill (SB) 357. If the Legislature approves it, the law will repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, which penalizes loitering with the intent to engage in sex work. This particular bill, if approved, supporters say will significantly reduce the risks and dangers many LGBTQ+ people at the lowest ends of the socioeconomic ladder face. Many of them are young people who turn to sex work because of a number of reasons, including being unsupported by their families or the social structure because of their sexuality; trauma brought about by sexual or physical abuse; drug addiction; unemployment, among other factors.

Based on English Elizabethan “poor laws,” loitering laws in America were developed as a part of the Black Codes in the late 1800s as a means to arrest Black people in order to sell their labor in a practice called convict leasing.

“These laws were created to eradicate us,” said Dr. Jon Paul Higgins, a California-based social justice advocate and writer who is African American.

“So, when you talk about the importance of repealing these laws, it’s not even just about the law, it’s about getting to the root of what’s creating these laws,” Higgins explained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “many persons who exchange sex may have a history of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental health issues, violence, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, and drug use.”

In California – and across the United States — a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by those challenges — all of them considered social determinants of good health by Public Health professionals.

Because of the vagueness of these loitering laws, many critics have noted that they gave police a wide range of arresting powers to target “undesirables” like Black people and people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Higgins explained.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), author of this bill, says it would help make the streets safer for sex workers who are a part of a marginalized community.

“Sex workers are workers, and they deserve respect and safety,” Wiener said. “We must work toward a future where people — especially the most marginalized — aren’t criminalized because of who they are and what they look like. Anti-sex workers loitering laws are deeply pernicious, and they need to be repealed.”

SB 357 also allows those convicted of California Penal Code Section 653.22 to seal their records.

SB 357 was passed by the Senate Public Safety Committee 4-1 and has now been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Another bill concerned with safety is Assembly Bill (AB) 1094 which would require the State Department of Public Health to establish a 3-year pilot program in up to 6 participating counties to collect gender identity and sexual orientation data in violent death cases in order to get more accurate data about hate crimes.

According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 2019 Hate Crime Report, Black people accounted for 9% of the county’s population but 47% of the total racial hate crimes.

The report also stated that 2019 saw a 64% increase in hate crimes targeting trans people, many of which were Black or Brown, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“Yet another year with alarming levels of bias-motivated crimes underscores just how urgent it is to address this hate crimes epidemic,” said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President. David is the first African American to lead the organization, the largest advocacy body for LGBTQ+ people and issues in the United States.

“This year, we saw a tragic new record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in this country, particularly against Black and Brown transgender women,” he said.

Following the Stonewall riots in New York, Black trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy became influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights at the time when discrimination and hate crimes against people like them were much more commonplace.

Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), author of AB 1094, explained why he feels the bill is crucial.

“I deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that my Assembly colleagues gave today to AB 1094,” Arambula said in a statement. “This legislation may be centered on data, but its purpose encompasses compassion and empathy to better understand what is happening in our LGTBQ+ community — particularly among the youth — when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths.”

AB 1094 has passed in the Assembly and is now on its way to the State Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill (SB) 379, which has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, would ensure the University of California Health System [UC Health] only contracts with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services, such as gender-affirming and reproductive care.

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Black mothers have a 3 times higher maternal mortality rate and a 2 times higher morbidity rate than white mothers while Black men are 70% more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic White men.

People in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to have access to competent healthcare, largely due to issues with discrimination, according to Cigna.

Higgins spoke from personal experience about the intersectional nature of being both Black and in the LGBTQ+ community.

“For me, being a Black nonbinary person and meeting a provider who has all of these bias ideologies or stereotypes about Black people… there are all of these preconceived notions about who I am as a Black person and then you add on the nonbinary-slash-trans part of it, there’s just a lot of underlying stereotypes and bias,” Higgins said.

Jasmyne Cannick, founder and CEO of Empowerment Justice Strategies, praised this bill for moving with the tides of progress.

“In 2021, it makes absolute sense for UC Health to contract with healthcare facilities that provide LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare services given the population that it serves,” Cannick said.

“We are moving towards a more inclusive society and these are the types of bills that will ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community can receive healthcare they need,” she continued.

Higgins, Cannick and other advocates say it means a great deal that California lawmakers are making an effort to ensure that these “warriors” can continue to do so safely, and that those who just wish to live their lives without fear for being who they are may do so more boldly.

Calif Govt Still Has Plenty of Goodies to Encourage People to Get Vaccinated

Manny Otiko | California Black Media

If you haven’t yet won a prize during the state’s Vax for the Win campaign, there are still plenty of incentives available for people who decide to get vaccinated.

The original program created a lottery that gave cash prizes to people who received Covid-19 vaccines. That part of the program ended on Tuesday. But there are still plenty of goodies available, according to Sammi Gallegos, press secretary for the State COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, speaking during a news briefing organized by California Black Media in partnership with The Center at the Sierra Health Foundation and the State of California titled “Get Smart on COVID-19.”

Joining Gallegos were physicians Dr. Jerry Abraham from the Kedren Community Health Center in South Los Angeles and Dr. Andrea Goings, a pediatrician in Los Angeles and the founder of a mobile medical care service called BabyDocHouseCalls.com.

Organizers say the “series is designed to equip Black journalists with the information they need to write authoritatively about COVID-19 vaccinations and harm reduction measures – topics where there is significant misinformation and widespread mistrust.”

According to Gallegos, there are a host of prizes still available, including $50 gift cards, grocery store cards, tickets to amusement parks, and vacation prizes, including $2,000 to go along with the trip. Gallegos said they are still one million gift cards available. Local NBA teams have also donated merchandise to be included as prizes.

The incentive program has worked. Gallegos said that since they implemented the program, vaccination rates went up by 2%. The statewide vaccination rate is about 70% which is in the range of herd immunity (between 60 % of 70%). However, African American vaccination rates are about 45%.

About 40 million vaccines have been administered so far, said Gallegos.

“Californians have waited a long time for June 15 as many of the restrictions that have defined our lives for over a year are beginning to wind down,” said Gallegos in a press release. “But it’s important we all still continue to stay vigilant by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when needed to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”

For more information about vaccinations, go to MyTurn.ca.gov to schedule an appointment or call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-422-4255 (833-4CA-4ALL.)

Doctor’s Orders: Don’t Post Your COVID-19 Vaccine Card Online

Manny Otiko | California Black Media

Public health experts are warning vaccinated people to not post photos of their vaccine cards on social media or anywhere else online.

“Don’t share it on social media because there is protected health information on it,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham, a physician who works at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles.

He warned people who get vaccinated to keep the information on the front of the card away from the view of scammers or other bad actors who could compromise their security.

Abraham says, for now, the white CDC vaccine cards are the only proof that an individual has been inoculated against COVID-19.

“Really the only piece of evidence you have right now, that is absolutely your confident verification is that CDC vaccination card for COVID-19 vaccines that lists your first and second dose from Moderna or Pfizer or just that one shot from Johnson & Johnson.”

Usually on the back the series is completed after that. That data is entered and pushed to the California immunization registry, he said.

Abraham made the comment during a news briefing organized by California Black Media in partnership with The Center at the Sierra Health Foundation and the State of California titled “Get Smart on COVID-19.” Dr. Andrea Goings, a pediatrician in Los Angeles and the founder of a mobile medical care service called BabyDocHouseCalls.com, also spoke at the event.

Organizers say the “series is designed to equip Black journalists with the information they need to write authoritatively about COVID-19 vaccinations and harm reduction measures – topics where there is significant misinformation and widespread mistrust.”

Other consumer advocates and public safety experts have also shared their concerns about people posting their vaccine Cards online. They say sometimes criminals work for a long time piecing personal information together about possible victims, including birth dates.

Aiming for a California Comeback: Tavis Smiley Returns to Radio

Tanu Henry | California Black Media

Popular radio and television personality, whose career first began to skyrocket in the 1990s on Black Entertainment Television and proved its staying power until about four years ago in 2017 — is aiming to once again become a familiar face and name in American media.

This past weekend, Smiley reentered the game on Juneteenth. But, this time, not only as a talk radio host but also as an owner, putting his mark on a format that is both “unapologetically” progressive and African American.

Smiley owns the majority share in KBLA 1580 Los Angeles. Smiley along with a group of investors dropped $7.5 million to purchase the radio station with a reach of about 12 million people in Southern California.

The station is expected to be on air 24 hours a day seven days a week.

“We just want to be a voice for those who have been voiceless for too long in this city, speak a truth that is otherwise not being considered,” Smiley said of the station.

In 2017, Smiley, who was born in Mississippi and raised in Indiana, was fired from National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service for having romantic affairs with people on his staff.

For now, Smiley says he’s focused on the launch of the station, its potential impact and the adventure ahead.

“The opportunity to have a Black-owned and Black-operated talk radio station in this city, where talk radio for too long has been all day, all night, all White, is an opportunity that is begging for someone to take advantage of it. So. I’m dumb enough to try,” Smiley said.

Loaded With “Comeback” Support, Lawmakers Approve California’s $267 Billion Budget

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

The California legislature approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $267 billion state budget for fiscal year 2021-22. It is packed with support for programs and policy initiatives intended to drive California’s economy out of the downturn caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Cash that will be pumped into the general fund accounts for the major share of the budget, with a total of $96 billion directed to K-12 education and community colleges. That amount is based on minimum funding requirements set by Proposition 98, a ballot initiative that voters approved in 1998.

Although California lawmakers approved the budget in time for the state reopening, “And while we proudly embrace the California comeback, this last year reminds us that we need to plan for the unexpected,” said Gov. Newsom.

“We must maintain a strong fiscal foundation that does not overcommit the state to long-term spending it cannot afford, which could lead to future cuts,” he said.

Gov. Newsom first proposed the budget in January this year, and added some revisions in May, including funding to address issues affecting Black and Brown communities. Although lawmakers say they aim to prioritize long-term issues such as childcare and public health, Gov. Newsom says he wants to focus on reviving the job market by supporting the tourism industry and small businesses to amend California’s economic crisis.

Gov. Newsom announced the full reopening of the state on June 15 at Universal Studios Hollywood as nearly half of California’s population is fully vaccinated. The state also lifted COVID-19 restrictions, including social distancing, mask requirements, and county tiers in most public settings statewide. The state continues to offer cash prizes to newly vaccinated residents as part of its “Vax for the Win” incentive program which started in June this year.

The state’s fiscal year starts, “With the largest surplus in California history, we’re using this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an economic recovery that will leave nobody behind – with money going directly back to Californians, the nation’s largest small business relief programs, and unprecedented investments to address California’s most persistent challenges such as homelessness, climate change and equity in our education system,” said Gov. Newsom.

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who is a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, shared the governor’s optimism about the newly approved budget. He highlighted the economic inequality accelerated by COVID-19 and its impact on low-income families in California. Holden expressed confidence that the budget makes investments in priorities that will address the state’s most important issues.

“This time last year, we feared the pandemic would destroy our economy and leave the state in a deep hole,” said Holden referring to the legislature’s decision.

“Even though the outlook for beating the virus is in sight, we know families continue to struggle in this pandemic,” he said.

However, since the legislature approved the budget, “we are in a much better position than we ever thought given the circumstances. We are making robust investments for priority issues including our economic recovery, education, and homelessness while contributing at a record level to our reserves,” said Holden.

Most Democratic lawmakers gave the budget a thumbs up, but some Republicans remained hesitant about the certainty of California’s economic recovery based on the newly approved budget.

Republican lawmakers claim that the state’s budget is a “placeholder budget” used by legislators to take advantage of loopholes in California’s constitution.

California’s constitution mandates that the legislature pass the budget by midnight each year on June 15 — or lawmakers forfeit their salaries.

The day before the state’s reopening, Republican Sen. James Nielsen was vocal about his opposition to the newly approved budget in a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee meeting.

“This is a fake budget. It’s a feel-good budget. It’s a ‘let us get paid’ budget. But, what we’re voting on is not going to be the [real] budget,” said Nielsen.

“We already know what they’re voting on today, it’s kind of a fraud on the people to make them think, ‘Oh, look at all these wonderful things we’re getting,’” said Nielsen.

The pushback from Republican lawmakers raised questions about the state’s final budget as Gov. Newsom and California legislators negotiate and modify how funds will be allocated. This process has to be completed by July 1, when the budget goes into effect.

Last week, Gov. Newsom also eliminated executive orders he implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. New executive orders he signed lifted the stay-at-home order and the county tier system following the approval of the budget and the reopening of the state.

The California Department of Public Health also released a new order that removed restrictions in public spaces, including at schools and during major events.

As of June 15, people in California are no longer required to wears masks or social distance. But state officials recommend that non-vaccinated people still protect themselves in public places to prevent infection.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

The L.A. Baptist Community Mourns the Loss of Reginald Pope

The L.A. Baptist community is mourning the recent death of Pastor Reginald Pope, who served for 45 years as the senior pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and as the founder of Watts Area Ministers. He was 89.

In 2015, the city of Los Angeles recognized Pope for his contributions to the Watts community with Councilman Joe Buscaino designating Compton Avenue—from 109th Street to 110th Street—as Pastor Reginald A. Pope Way.

“The landscape of Los Angeles has changed dramatically in the passing of Paster Reginald Pope. He was an asset to our church community,” said Pastor Ticey Brown of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church. “He was cool, caring and will definitely be missed as one of the elder statemen of our great city.”

The sudden death came as a shock to many in the faith community as well as the church he pastored for nearly a half century.

“He wasn’t ill, so it was sudden,” said Pastor Alvin Stafford, who was appointed pastor of the church when Pope—who was his great uncle— retired.

“For over 45 years, he’s been faithful and a pillar not only in our church and community, but our family. He had a gift and a calling for teaching, and he honored and praised the Lord all the way to the end.”

“He was a mentor and a great friend”, said Pastor Robert Taylor of the Beulah Baptist Church in Watts. “He taught me basic principles on how to survive as a pastor and that’s important. Not to mention that he was responsible for getting me involved in the Watts Area Ministers and now I’m president.”

The non-profit—initially organized to re-activate the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Watts some years ago—has since become a viable force in addressing the needs of the Watts community.

The Ringgold, Louisiana native—who had a gift for singing— joined Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in 1975 and was able to grow the church from 80 people to 250 with ten associate ministers. He retired last year. 

“The most satisfactory thing in my ministry is to see the growth of the members. It is not necessarily about numbers but is about the spiritual balance and well-being. That’s most satisfying to me,” Pope told L.A. Focus in 2019. “I try to get my members motivated to take outside what we do inside these walls.”

“Any time a person comes to Christ and gets his life in better shape, that’s motivation, that’s encouragement and that’s fulfillment and what ministry should be about.”

A viewing is scheduled for June 30 at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church from 1-5pm. Funeral services will commence at 11am on July 1 at Paradise Baptist Church.

SBA Launches Community Navigator Pilot Program to Help Hard Hit Small Businesses

In accordance with President Biden’s priority to deliver equitable relief to hard-hit small businesses, the SBA (Small Business Administration) recently announced that it is accepting applications for its new Community Navigator Pilot Program. Established by the American Rescue Plan, the program will leverage a community navigator approach to reach our nation’s smallest businesses, with a priority focus on those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as women and veterans.

Applications will be accepted through July 12, 2021 at grants.gov., with award decisions to follow by August 2021.  Competitive grant awards will range from $1 million to $5 million for a two-year performance period.

Selected partners will engage in targeted outreach for small businesses in underserved communities to help small businesses get the resources and support they need to get back on track as the economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Community Navigator Pilot Program is a crucial addition to our SBA programs because it helps us to connect with small businesses that have historically been underserved or left behind. These businesses – the smallest of the small in rural and urban America, and those owned by women, people of color, or veterans – have suffered the greatest economic loss from this pandemic,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “If we’re going to build back better, we need to ensure that all entrepreneurs have the support they need to recover.”

The Community Navigator Pilot will provide counseling, networking, and the assistance needed during this time of economic recovery.

“The SBA understands the importance of partnering with organizations as well as smaller, local institutions that are already embedded in the fabric of the Main Street business communities they serve,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership Natalie Madeira Cofield. “Community Navigators are the backbone of aiding underserved and underrepresented communities across the nation with recovery.”

For more information on the Community Navigators Initiative, please visit www.sba.gov/navigators.

T.D. Jakes and Tyler Perry Announce Significant Investments in Atlanta

Tyler Perry is expanding his empire with the addition of 37.5 acres to the existing 330 acres of Fort McPherson property that his studios now occupy. However, the property is not an extension of his studio. Instead, he intends to use the land to create an entertainment hub that would be open to the public and include a retail stores, restaurants and a theater district. 

“Today is a good day,” said Perry. “I’m grateful for the opportunity this gives Tyler Perry Studios to extend our footprint in Atlanta and create more opportunities for the people of Southwest Atlanta with restaurants, entertainment venues and other business opportunities. I’m looking forward to collaborating with my friend T.D. Jakes on his separate but adjacent project and I also want to thank Governor Kemp and Mayor Bottoms for their continued efforts to make Atlanta a better place.”

In a separate deal, the Local Redevelopment Authority Board of Fort McPherson approved the sale of approximately 94.5 acres of remaining land on the historic army base to T.D. Jakes Real Estate Ventures, LLC. 

The unanimous vote, which comes after nearly two months of negotiations, clears the way for the Dallas-based real estate firm to redevelop the property for mixed-income housing and retail. The development is part of Jakes’ long-term vision to cultivate quality affordable housing for the underserved in a model that will be duplicated across the country.

“In my travels across all of America, I see too many Black and Brown working-class people still falling victim to the continued gentrification of our neighborhoods. I’m extremely excited about the accessible ownership options that will exist for future residents of this multigenerational community. This project will bring solutions to the quality-of-life problems and elevate the lives of the Atlantans that will live, work and play there,” Jakes said.

“We share in the City of Atlanta’s belief that the redevelopment of this fertile neighborhood is critical to the future growth of Atlanta,” Jakes continued. “My vision is to develop an oasis within our cities for working families, walking them toward economic viability through financial literacy programs, live-work spaces, mixed income housing and multigenerational options that are so imperative to the betterment of our society.”

“This agreement marks another monumental chapter in the history of Fort Mac,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “Thank you to Tyler Perry and Bishop T.D. Jakes for their vision and investment in the Southwest Atlanta community. The positive impact will be felt for generations to come.”

Governor Kemp characterized the deals as a real shot in the arm.

Said Kemp, “Significant job creation such as this will create more opportunities for hardworking Georgians and surrounding small businesses, which are the real backbone of our state’s economy.” 

California to Pay 100 Percent of Low-Income Tenants Back Rent Going Back to April 2020

Staff

Those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to the point where they have not been able to keep up with their rent and have worried about what will happen when the ban on evictions in no longer in force, are in luck.

Governor Gavin Newsom has announced that anybody that’s been impacted by this pandemic and have not been able to pay their rent, can have 100 percent of their rent paid by the state of California going back to April of 2020.

With the move, Newsom would be killing two birds with one stone—making landlords whole while forgiving unpaid rents for those who would have otherwise been evicted.

In a tweet, Newsom dubbed it as “rent forgiveness on a scale never seen before in the United States”.

The program—which is still being fine-tuned by legislators— would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can prove hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 900,000 households in California are behind on rent, with an average of $4,600 in rental arrears according to an analysis by PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute.

California has put a pricetag of $5.2 billion on the program, with most of the funds coming from the federal government. Analysts say it’s more than enough to cover the cost, with Newsom also stating that the payment of utility bills could also be on the table.

In the meantime, the state’s eviction ban is set to retire at the end of the month. Housing advocates want it extended. Those representing landlords disagree, pointing to the state’s economic recovery and the fact that many of them have not been paid any rent for more than a year.

“The moratorium has now been in place for almost a year and a half. Throughout that time, small property owners, folks who have saved their whole lives to buy a rental unit, elderly persons who use rental income to pay for their current care … have faced a lot of significant challenges,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “It is incumbent that we find a way to phase out the eviction moratorium, but based on what I’m hearing, now is not the time.”

Newsom is expected to extend the deadline. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors already voted to extend a moratorium on evictions through September 30. The local moratorium applies where it does not overlap with state protections for residential tenants. It also covers commercial evictions, no-fault evictions and prohibits ousting tenants for unauthorized occupants, pets and other nuisances.

Asm. Akilah Weber’s First Bill Pushes California to Be Prepared for Next Pandemic

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

As more Californians get vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases are on the decline, there’s an argument to be made that the state has rounded the corner from the worst stages of the global crisis.

As of June 6, 53.1% of Californians had been vaccinated and there were 757 new COVID-19 cases, down from the 40,423 new cases on Jan. 7.

However, the worst numbers remain stark. Some 63,544 Californians have died of the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego), who was sworn in to represent the 79th District in April, has co-authored her first bill in the lower house of the state Legislature. It aims to ensure that California is more pandemic-ready than it was when the COVID-19 crisis began in 2020.

Weber won a special election earlier this year to replace her mom and former Black Caucus chair, Dr. Shirley Weber, in the Assembly after Gov. Newsom appointed the elder Weber late last year as California’s 33rd Secretary of State.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1207 would establish the Pathways Through Pandemics Task Force in the California Health and Human Services Agency as a vehicle to prepare the state for the eventuality of a pandemic.

“The bill would require the task force to convene various entities to engage in discussions on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, develop and recommend best practices for an equitable response to future pandemics, and determine the impact of state laws on coordinating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as specified,” the bill reads.

Weber, who is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, stressed the importance of this bill for California’s future.

“We must learn from the mistakes of our past in order to improve the possibilities for our future,” Weber stated. “This is what establishing a Pandemic Taskforce through the passage of AB 1207 will do. The COVID-19 pandemic touched the lives of every Californian and impacted every business within our great State.”

Weber went on to discuss the way the pandemic has pulled the curtain back on some of the vital systems on which all Californians rely.

“[COVID-19] changed the way we learn, the way we interact with each other and the way we live our lives. It also exposed some deep gaps in our society with regards to equity, access and our level of preparedness for a public health crisis,” Weber stated.

Weber specified who she believes suffered from these “deep gaps” during the pandemic in a Facebook post.

“California’s response to the pandemic highlighted existing inequities for people of color and low-income neighborhoods,” Weber wrote.

The bill passed on the assembly floor with 78 votes in favor and zero votes against.

Weber, who unpacked the bill before her colleagues on the Assembly floor June 3, tweeted that AB 1207 is her first authored bill. She also thanked her partner on the bill Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood).

“Today I presented my first authored bill, AB 1207 on the Asm floor. [AB 1207] creates a taskforce that will research and develop strategies for future pandemics. Thank you [Assemblymember Luz Rivas] for partnering with me on this bill. Together we are ensuring California prioritizes health for all,” Weber tweeted.

Rivas expressed her support for the bill in response to this tweet.

“Congrats! You’re the right author that will bring public health expertise to this issue. Onward,” Rivas tweeted.

Weber also received praise from Mayor Catherine Blakespear of Encinitas.

“Great start to your illustrious career in SAC and good choice of a partner in [Rivas],” Blakespear tweeted.

Weber spoke about the inevitability of another public health crisis and asserted that AB 1207 would help Californians be prepared for it.

“The next pandemic is not a matter of ‘if’ but rather a matter of ‘when,'” Weber warned. “AB 1207 makes a modest investment to ensure California has a roadmap for the future public health crises so that we can address the deficiencies we saw in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and allow us to be better prepared for the future.”

According to the text of the bill, AB 1207 would require the established task force to report their conclusions about pandemic readiness to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2024.

In a Facebook post, Weber again stated why she believes this bill is necessary.

“Together, we are ensuring we do everything we can to invest in sustainable plans that value the life and health of all Californians during a pandemic,” Weber wrote. “Now, on to the Senate!”


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