From left: State Sen. Scott Weiner, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, Councilwoman Barbara Bry, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Mayor Kevin Faulconer / Photos by Vito Di Stefano, Megan Wood and Adriana Heldiz

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to sign SB 145 into law – a measure addressing discrimination of LGBTQ youth regarding the state’s sex offender registry – has ignited Republican fury, fueled misinformation and spilled into the San Diego mayor’s race.

After San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted a false statement on Monday: “As a parent I’m appalled that the governor signed a law maintaining a 24-year-old can have sex with a 14-year-old and it not be considered predatory,” KUSI incorrectly reported that the bill would allow “pedophilia.” 

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who voted for SB 145, said on KUSI Monday that he has seen online conspiracy theorists and politicians try to advance “a narrative that isn’t reflective of what Senate Bill 145 does.”

Gloria announced Friday that he won’t participate in mayoral debates hosted by KUSI because of its coverage of the measure.

He said he supports the bill because it was backed by law enforcement and civil rights organizations that felt it was in the best interest of public safety and fixes an inequity that treated gay situations different than heterosexual ones.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the California District Attorney’s Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault all supported the bill. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office wrote in a letter to Newsom on Sept. 1 that it drafted the bill because officials believe the law must be applied equally to ensure justice for all Californians.

The law has scrambled typical political allegiances, with law enforcement groups and some Democrats on one side, and Republicans and a handful of Democrats on the other.

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, a Democrat running against Gloria for mayor, echoed Republicans’ concerns on KUSI. She said she agrees with Faulconer and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, another Democrat who also opposes SB 145.

“Listen, I’m a mom and there’s no case in which there is consensual sex between a 14-year-old and 24-year-old whether it’s a girl, boy, gay sex, straight sex,” Bry said.

So What Does the Bill Actually Do?

One thing that appears to have been lost in this discussion and is obscured by the comments Gonzalez, Bry and Faulconer have made: Sex with a 14-year-old is illegal. It was illegal before SB 145, and it remains illegal now.

SB 145 addresses a disparity in the law specifically with regard to whether people who commit sexual offenses must also register as a sex offender.

Before SB 145, the law treated statutory rape cases – in which the victim is between 14 and 17 and the perpetrator is between the ages of 18 and 24 and within 10 years of a victim’s age – differently depending on whether the people involved were gay or straight. In cases involving vaginal penetration, a judge had the discretion to decide whether the perpetrator should be placed on the sex offender registry; but in cases involving anal or oral intercourse, common forms of sexual intercourse for gay couples, the sex offender registry was mandatory. SB 145 allows the same judicial discretion for all cases.

Sen. Scott Weiner, who is gay and wrote the bill, said this bill is about equal treatment under the law.

“An 18-year-old having sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old is different than a 24-year-old teacher having sex with a 14-year-old student. Most judges in that case would say that person would go on the registry because there’s a power imbalance and it’s never appropriate,” he said.

Wiener said the fact that the law treats sex crimes in which there’s an age gap of 10 or fewer years differently is a separate issue that would require another bill to address.

“It’s important to distinguish the broader structure of sex offender registry. People can have whatever views they want about the 10-year discretionary standard,” Weiner said. “It’s a separate issue regardless of what structure. It is what it’s been for 76 years. The question is: Should gay people be treated the same as straight people? Our equality should not be conditioned on making some broader change to the sex offender registry.”

Dan Felizzatto, a deputy district attorney in the Los Angeles County DA’s office, echoed that statement and said legislators could introduce new legislation to change how that 10-year age gap is addressed, but thinks expanding the registry would pose its own challenges. He said law enforcement wants to be able to use the sex offender registry as it was originally intended – as an investigatory tool and to monitor serial predators.

Rick Zbur, Equality California’s executive director, said it’s been common throughout the struggle for LGBTQ rights for opponents to advance a narrative that LGBTQ individuals are deviants or predators.

“So the thing that’s so harmful about what a handful of elected officials, most of who are in San Diego, are that essentially they make these broad statements about the reasons they’re concerned with the bill like because they’re a parent and think it’s wrong for a 24-year-old to have sex with a 14-year-old, and they’re leading the public to believe that somehow we changed that age gap to make it not wrong,” Zbur said.

Kayla Jimenez

Republicans Say Hindsight Is Prop. 20

San Diego County went on record this week supporting a statewide ballot measure intended to undo some of the major criminal justice reforms of the past decade by creating new types of crimes, increasing the seriousness of others, making parole harder for certain offenders and requiring DNA collection for non-violent misdemeanors, such as shoplifting and drug possession.

The news was something of head-scratcher. But not because the four Republicans on the Board of Supervisors are in favor of Proposition 20 at a time of mass demonstrations against police brutality and the over-incarceration of communities of color.

Rather, we were confused why the owner of San Diego’s private utility was involved, and why Mayor Kevin Faulconer wasn’t taking a more prominent role.

The argument in favor of Prop. 20 is essentially this: Previous ballot measures Proposition 47 and Proposition 57, approved by California voters in 2014 and 2016, respectively, came with unintended consequences. Law enforcement cites an increase in thefts and say more DNA in the hands of government will mean more cold cases or seemingly unrelated crimes get solved. (Meanwhile, the wave of violent crimes that police groups predicted as a result of Prop. 47 has not come to pass, research has shown.)

Campaign finance records show that support for the initiative has come largely from police unions and major grocery store chains. San Diego County’s deputy district attorneys chipped in $1,000.

Interestingly, Sempra Energy, which owns San Diego Gas & Electric, also donated $10,000 to a separate Yes on Prop. 20 ballot measure committee controlled by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, a former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain.

Earlier this week, I asked a spokeswoman why the company cares about this issue, but never heard back.

As for Faulconer: In 2016 he emerged as the statewide face of opposition to Prop. 57 when he announced that he’d be running the campaign against it. He then went quiet.

The rumor among the apparatchik was that Faulconer only attached himself to the No on Prop. 57 campaign for the press: He wanted to boost his profile ahead of a run for governor in 2018. But he didn’t end up running.

At his final State of the City speech in January, the Union-Tribune reported, Faulconer blamed an increase in homelessness on the state’s softening of drug crimes, doubling down on the notion that police and courts were best suited to intervene in people’s lives. He said the statewide reforms had prevented judges in some cases from giving homeless addicts the option of avoiding jail by going to treatment.

He vowed to lead the effort to change state laws in 2020 and beyond, hinting at a run for governor. Two days later, he told Politico about his plans to launch a committee backing a 2022 ballot initiative aimed at reducing homelessness and the growing encampments. So far, he’s raised about $120,000 and is sitting on $55,000 cash.

In a statement, Faulconer confirmed that he’s supportive of Prop. 20, which, he said, “will fix unintended consequences created by previous public safety laws, like ensuring terrible crimes such as child sex trafficking or felony domestic abuse are once again treated as violent felonies. We need to close these dangerous loopholes to ensure people who commit brutal acts face the appropriate consequences.”

Jesse Marx

Boerner Horvath Is Pulling in Major Cash

A campaign missive from Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath’s re-election campaign to supporters came with a message that’s pretty typical when a fundraising deadline is approaching: “The media, the California Republican Party, and Tasha’s Republican opponent will be looking to see if we have the grassroots support needed to defend her seat and win on November 3rd,” it said, urging individuals to donate.

That message, though, belies a major influx of institutional support as Boerner Horvath’s colleagues and the Democratic Party have bolstered her campaign with tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

Over the last couple weeks, Boerner Horvath’s campaign has reported several major donations from party organizations, local and national PACs and individuals. The California Democratic Party alone has pumped more than $80,000 into Boerner Horvath’s campaign in just the last month. Her campaign also recorded a $9,300 donation from the California Teachers Association, $25,000 from the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee and many other large donations.

Boerner Horvath flipped the 76th Assembly District after several years of Republican control. She’s facing Republican Melanie Burkholder, a mental health counselor.

Boerner Horvath has also, once again, benefited from the generosity of colleagues facing less competitive races. A number of Assembly members, including Shirley Weber, Jim Cooper, Cristina Garcia and others have donated the maximum $4,700 from their campaign accounts.

All of that means Boerner Horvath is on track to have orders of magnitude more campaign cash than Burkholder. Boerner Horvath has raised more than $1.5 million so far this cycle, while Burkholder’s campaign reported raising $42,938.48 through the first half of the year (that’s a less recent filing, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison – but it does suggest a massive fundraising difference).

Sara Libby

Golden State News

Clarification: This post has been updated to reflect the outlet where Bry originally made comments about SB 145.

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