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Gov. Jerry Brown’s been on a bill-signing binge – all the bills passed by the Legislature this year must be signed or vetoed by Sept. 30 – but there are still a number of high-profile bills related to women in the workplace that the governor has yet to weigh in on.

One of them, SB 826, co-written by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, would require California-based public companies to have at least one woman on their board of directors.

While many businesses proclaim they value diversity, they largely agree that legislative mandates aren’t the way to accomplish it. That was the overall takeaway from many San Diego business types who weighed in to the Union-Tribune earlier this month.

That’s also the position of San Diego-based Biocom, which has eight women on its 40-member board, and is an official opponent of the bill.

“This particular bill has specific provisions which may be problematic and will disproportionately impact smaller companies with small boards. In the life science industry, many companies do not control their board slots, but rather they are controlled by capital providers. Additionally, the bill has a very short implementation window, which in the current, highly competitive market for diverse board members with sufficient scientific and business expertise to meet the fiduciary responsibilities of board membership, could be very difficult for many of our smaller member companies to comply with,” the company wrote in a statement.

But the question remains: Even the companies that say they’re committed to diversity often don’t have boards that reflect that commitment – so what needs to happen for things to change?

Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties are each tied for the lowest percentage of women on corporate boards, with 12 percent, according to CALMatters.

BofI Holding Inc., American Assets Trust, Cohu Inc., MaxLinear Inc. and Fate Therapeutics Inc. are some of the companies headquartered in San Diego County that don’t have a woman on their boards of directors. We reached out to each of them for their thoughts on SB 826, and none responded.

Here’s another startling statistic about San Diego companies: 40 percent of the companies headquartered in San Diego have no women on their boards, University of San Diego business professor Annalisa Barrett told the Legislature when she testified about the need for the bill. Barrett’s research on gender diversity on corporate boards notes that the disparities in California are fueled by a lack of women directors in biotechnology companies, many of which are located in San Diego.

Barrett addressed a common concern about the bill during the hearing – the idea that corporations wouldn’t be able to find qualified women to serve, or would have to lower their standards in order to meet the requirements.

“There may be concerns that there aren’t women who are qualified to serve on corporate boards, and in fact, this is not the case. … There are many other organizations across the country, and in fact, around the world, that have members who are seeking corporate boards service. Women directors currently sitting on corporate boards and those who are looking to serve on corporate boards who are eminently qualified to do so,” she said.

A representative for the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the bill, noted at the same hearing that there is more than one type of diversity, and that prioritizing women could mean forcing a company to value one type over another.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez was not a fan of that argument.

“There are people who satisfy being both gender and racially diverse. So I don’t think that we need to suggest that it is a discussion between men of color and white women. So that was personally offensive to me,” she said.

The Bill Signings Keep on Coming

Dozens of measures became law this week, including these bills written by San Diego lawmakers.

  • AB 2119 by Assemblyman Todd Gloria guarantees the right of foster youth to access health care services consistent with their gender identity.
  • AB 2146 by Gloria extends an exception allowing Petco Park to display signage paid for by alcohol distributors.
  • AB 2296 by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron adds licensed professional clinical counselors to laws that apply to similar Board of Behavioral Sciences licensees.
  • AB 2458 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber requires county tax collectors to post online information received from school districts about available parcel tax exemptions for senior and disabled taxpayers, and to include a message about information available online with the annual property tax bill.
  • AB 2601 by Weber requires that charter schools provide instruction on comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention, commencing in the 2019-20 school year.
  • AB 2898 by Gloria requires a governing body of a local agency to review the need for continuing a local emergency pursuant to the California Emergency Services Act every 60 days, instead of every 30 days.
  • AB 3061 by Gloria paves the way for the city to lease the EZ-8 Motel in Old Town from Caltrans for $1 a month and convert it into a homeless shelter when the agency’s lease is up in 2038.
  • AB 3177 by Assemblyman Rocky Chávez repeals existing law requiring the North County Transit District to bid contracts exceeding $50,000 for supplies, equipment and materials and, instead, allows NCTD to establish a flexible process for these contracts.
  • SB 869 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review is the legislative fix that allowed a county election reform measure to proceed to the November ballot.
  • AB 1181 by Sen. Ben Hueso bill authorizes the Office of Emergency Services to directly enter into an agreement with one or more certified community conservation corps to
    perform emergency or disaster response services.
  • SB 1191 by Hueso mandates policies and training manuals for law enforcement specific to elder abuse.
  • SB 1151 by Sen. Patricia Bates authorizes San Diego County and cities within it to establish a neighborhood electric vehicle (transportation plan until Jan. 1, 2029. KPBS has more details on what this bill would do here.

Anderson Celebrates Two Vetoes

It’s hard to be a Republican in the state Legislature. Sometimes a win means that something you don’t want to happen doesn’t happen.

That was the case this week as Sen. Joel Anderson celebrated Brown’s vetoes of two bills he opposed, including one from San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that would have required the Department of Social Services to develop a hunger screening tool to help determine whether CalFresh recipients could be exempted from time limits on benefits.

Anderson noted after the veto that he had specifically asked Brown to reject the bill.

“Assembly Bill 2152 is a backward looking solution to a very real problem of poverty in this state. Prudence and compassion would instead dictate that we stop extending a lifestyle of poverty and instead, provide and assist needy Californians with the necessary tools to overcome poverty permanently,” Anderson wrote.

Though Brown did veto the measure, he did not adopt Anderson’s logic that CalFresh benefits enable “a lifestyle of poverty.” Instead, he cited the fact that CalFresh is a federally funded program, and urged the stakeholders to work together to prevent hunger.

Anderson also celebrated Brown’s veto of a bill that would have prevented groups from paying signature-gatherers per signature.

On that bill, Brown agreed with Anderson that the measure could end up driving up the costs of efforts to places measures on the ballot.

Golden State News

Kayla Jimenez contributed to this report.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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