We are excited to share that seven (7) bills that we supported this year were signed into law!
“We” are SURJ Bay Area’s Policy Committee (formerly the Policy Working Group). We are working in service to and in collaboration with our POC-led partner organizations that work on legislative advocacy: Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None (AOUON), Essie Justice Group, and Initiate Justice. We listed our work-in-progress in a couple of earlier blogs (SURJ Bay Area Policy Priorities For 2019, Updated SURJ Bay Area Policy Priorities for 2019, Cross-Over Edition) and now that this year’s legislative cycle is over, we’d like to celebrate some successes, as well as get ready for next year!
The following seven bills that we supported were signed into law:
AB 45 — Medical Co-Pays: Eliminates the copays for medical and dental services inside of California prisons and jails. Co-sponsored by: Initiate Justice, Ella Baker Center
AB 392 — Change of Police Use of Force: Changes the law to restrict the use of deadly force by police to only when necessary to prevent death or serious injury. A related bill that we opposed, SB 230, which funded new training for officers, was also passed. The legislature crafted a compromise that linked together the passage of the amended AB 392 and SB 230 bills. We highly recommend reading the press release from the Anti Police Terror Project, a co-sponsor of AB 392, to better understand the compromise package’s tradeoffs.
AB 942 — Access to Safe Food Choices & Food Security Act: Expands access to low cost, prepared meals at authorized restaurants with CalFresh benefits by making it a statewide program instead of an opt-in by county. Co-sponsored by: All of Us or None
AB 965 — Youth Offender Parole Hearing Credits : Allows people to earn credits to advance their earliest possible Youth Offender Parole Date. Co-sponsored by: Initiate Justice, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
SB 36 — Pretrial Risk Assessment and Accountability : Requires each county to maintain specified data for each individual that undergoes an assessment using the risk assessment tool for pretrial release. Co-sponsored by: Ella Baker Center
SB 136 — The RISE Act: Repeals a mandatory one-year sentence enhancement that is added to an individual’s base sentence for each prior prison or felony jail term served. Co-sponsored by: Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Ella Baker Center
SB 310 — The Right to a Jury of Your Peers: Deletes the prohibition of persons who have been convicted of a felony from being qualified to be a trial juror. See the Skinner press release for more details. Co-sponsored by: All of Us or None
Of the remaining bills we worked on, a couple have become two-year bills that we will continue to support when they are re-introduced in the legislature next year, and one was vetoed by the Governor. These include:
SB 144 — Elimination of Fines and Fees: This bill would end the assessment and collection of administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal justice system. Co-sponsored by: Ella Baker Center, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. This is now a two year bill.
ACA 6 / AB 646 — Free The Vote Act: These bills will place an initiative on the California ballot to change the California constitution to allow people on parole the right to vote and change the corresponding language in the elections code. Co-sponsored by: Initiate Justice, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Californians United for a Responsible Budget. This is now a two year bill.
SB 42 — Getting Home Safe Act: This bill would have addressed the problem of unsafe, late-night jail releases and require local county jails to provide appropriate and adequate resources to people upon release to enable them to return home safely. Co-sponsored by: Essie Justice Group, Anti Police Terror Project. Governor Newsom vetoed this bill (see the Young Women’s Freedom Center article).
As we mentioned in our 2018 Retrospective, grassroots efforts spearheaded by our partners are gaining momentum in dismantling the prison industrial complex. Many thanks to those of you on our Legislative Action List who made phone calls to your legislators and the Governor to advocate for these bills.
We’d like to continue to harness this momentum and to extend our reach throughout California. If you aren’t yet part of our Legislative Action List, please join and get your friends and family to sign up too! We’re especially interested in expanding the reach of our list by asking you to share this with others who live in other parts of California; having more coverage across the state will allow us to influence more legislators. During key moments in the legislative year, those who sign up will be contacted with their legislator’s name, phone number, and a call script with a request to spend a few minutes calling their legislator. We activated this list in August, September and October, generating over 200 calls for AB 45, AB 965 and SB 136.
Please sign up at this link to continue making phone calls to fight for racial justice.
Next year is shaping up to be another year of important legislative work, including pushing the Free the Vote Act (ACA 6 / AB 646) through the legislature and then supporting it and other related propositions on the 2020 ballot. Keep a look out for upcoming political education sessions and workshops for other opportunities to support our work in 2020!