Joel Anderson: feminist?

The conservative senator, currently running for the county Board of Supervisors (against its only female member), may not be best known for championing women’s causes, but that’s exactly how he spent much of the week.

First, he threw his support behind AB 1561, a measure to end state sales tax on feminine hygiene products put forth by Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar.

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Quickly dubbed the “tampon tax,” the measure drew national attention last week, and not always in a positive way. Anderson said, “It’s hard to talk about this subject,” but he agreed to co-author the bill because he “knew a lot of people would look at it with a jaundiced eye and I thought I could help.”

Anderson also tried to call for a vote to override the governor’s veto of SB 333, a bill he co-authored last session that would have made it a mandatory felony to possess “date rape” drugs with the intent to commit sexual assault.

Prior to the passage of Prop. 47 last year, prosecutors had discretion about whether to make possession of those so-called “club drugs” a felony or misdemeanor, but under the new guidelines, having those kinds of narcotics is just the lesser charge.

Anderson argues that substances like Rohypnol, ketamine and GHB aren’t for “personal use,” (which many a raver would dispute) but point to the intent to commit sexual assaults and should carry heavier penalties because of that. “They are used for nefarious reasons,” he said. “With all the stuff that’s going on with Bill Cosby, we know that people do this.”

Brown’s message said that the bill, along with eight others that created new criminal penalties, was vetoed because it found “a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed. This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit” and contributes to prison overcrowding.

Anderson took to media and the Senate floor, asking how the issue “could not be about the war on women?”

Senate colleagues, however, declined to take up the vote on a technical point – Anderson was not the author of the bill and didn’t have the right to bring up the veto override.

Anderson’s not alone in his defeat, though: The Union-Tribune found that veto overrides rarely work.

Anderson is undeterred. He says he’s willing to bring the idea back again this session if the bill’s author, Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, chooses.

Sun Is Setting on Atkins Speakership

The California Assembly made its choice of a new speaker official on Monday, voting to replace Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who terms out this year and is in a contentious Dem-on-Dem race with Sen. Marty Block for his seat.

Atkins will be replaced by Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. In his second term as an Assembly member, Rendon benefits from the voter-approved change to term limits in 2012 that could let him serve a total of 12 years in the Assembly, giving him the potential to be one of the longest-serving speakers if he doesn’t get ousted.

Atkins and Rendon issued a joint release later in the week promising action on gun control.

“The Assembly will be working with our colleagues in the State Senate to advance legislation that prevents gun violence and keeps our communities safe, while balancing Second Amendment rights,” it read. “Too many lives have been lost and too many families have been shattered by gun violence for us not to act. When so many have fallen, the responsibility is on us to stand up and do what’s right.”

While there were no specifics of what that legislation might look like, Atkins office was more forthcoming on less-controversial issues. The speaker will introduce a resolution next week highlighting the state Earned Income Tax Credit and the $380 million in state funding available to low-income families, and make a public push later in the week to let constituents know about the funds.

The official speaker hand-over happens March 7, but Atkins will have to vacate her swank speaker offices before that date.

• Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez threw some shade at Atkins’ departure with this:

There are few votes I’ve taken as an Assemblywoman that I’ve been more excited about than the one I’m about to cast. #NewSpeaker

— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) January 11, 2016

New Bill, New Caucus for Block

Sen. Marty Block introduced human trafficking legislation last week, dubbed the Fresh Start Bill, SB 823, which had its first reading on Jan. 6. It would help victims of human trafficking to clear or seal court records related to crimes occurring while they were victims of trafficking. Often, victims are forced into prostitution and other illegal activities while under the control of traffickers. The convictions for those crimes can “be a bar to other things” like employment, said Block’s communications director Maria Lopez.

SB 823 would streamline the process for getting those convictions overturned and records expunged, often without another court appearance for the victim.

“Marty has been a longtime fighter on this issue,” said Lopez of Block’s work against human trafficking. “It’s not just a crime of violence. It changes a person’s soul.”

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus also held its first meeting of the session this week, re-confirming Block as its chair for a third year.

A former president of the San Diego chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Block helped found the caucus in 2014 and has led it ever since. But prior to its creation, Block was a founder of the so-called Capitol Knesset, a loose-knit, multifaith gathering of lawmakers, lobbyists and others that often drew up to 75 people to meetings. The caucus is smaller – its website lists 13 members including Block – but has the advantage of greater influence. Its last public action was a press conference in February 2015 to condemn the display of swastikas on a Sacramento house not far from the Capitol.

Golden State News

 Assembly Speaker-to-Be Anthony Rendon endorsed Kamala Harris for Senate, breaking from other members of the California Legislative Caucus, says Phil Willon in the L.A. Times. He adds that Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, trails in third place in the Senate race with a meager 7 percent of the vote.

Harris also released a statement Thursday condemning federal ICE immigration raids.

“The deportation raids targeting the homes of immigrant children, mothers and families seeking refuge from unspeakable violence in Central America go against our nation’s fundamental values of equality and justice for all,” Harris said. “Rather than sending vulnerable women and children back to the same dangerous conditions they were forced to flee, our national interest is better served by preventing those who pose a public safety risk from entering our country.”

 The Sacramento Bee reports on how moderate Democrats are causing divisions in the party, while gaining power.

 Regardless of political feuds, half of Californians think the state is headed in the right direction, according to a new Field Poll examined by David Siders in The Bee.

 For some, that includes new sex education rules, including the “yes means yes” standard of consent that will now be taught in schools. (KQED)

 Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote about his very personal connection to California’s new assisted suicide law.

Anita Chabria is a freelance writer in Sacramento covering politics and culture. Follow her at @chabriaa or reach her via email at

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