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Thursday, October 31, 2013

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATION: WINNING AND LOSING BATTLES FOR HIV PREVENTION



BEYOND AIDS CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE REPORT, 2013

Beyond AIDS had an active legislative season in Sacramento in 2013.  Following is a summary of victory, loss, and a few campaigns that will be continued in 2014.

SUPPORTED BILL PASSED BY LEGISLATURE AND SIGNED INTO LAW

AB 446 (Mitchell) will require all primary care providers to offer an HIV test to all adolescents and adults who have not had one in the last year, if blood is to be drawn for other purposes. It also facilitates posting HIV results confidentially for Web access, and permits oral consent for HIV testing in most non-clinical settings. The bill adds a requirement for post-test counseling, and the first version of the bill would have eliminated pre-test counseling, but this had to be changed due to ACLU opposition. The bill was sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), but usually only two speakers in favor were permitted by each legislative committee, and at every hearing, Beyond AIDS testified alongside the AHF lobbyist and provided the only testimony from a physician (Ron Hattis). We also sent letters to legislators, met with committee analysts, and wrote to the Governor to urge signature. For final text of bill as chaptered into law, see http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_0401-0450/ab_446_bill_20131005_chaptered.htm.

AB 506 (Mitchell) permits social workers to consent to an HIV test of an infant under age one who has been taken as a temporary dependent of a court, often due to drug abuse, child abuse, or neglect by the mother. Beyond AIDS supported it in principle, but tried in vain to get the language changed, so that the authorization would not need to be in writing. Written consent seemed inconsistent with our push to eliminate the need for written consent in other circumstances, including in AB 446 by the same author. The bill was sponsored by Los Angeles County, whose lobbyist was not receptive to changes and Assembly Member Mitchell was not willing to make changes without the sponsor’s agreement. In order to avoid antagonizing Ms. Mitchell (so as to permit continued close partnership on AB 446), the above point was not raised in open testimony. For final text of the bill as chaptered into law, see http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_0501-0550/ab_506_bill_20130826_chaptered.htm.

SUPPORTED BILL PASSED BY LEGISLATURE BUT VETOED

AB 999 (Bonta) would have made condoms available in state prisons. The condoms and dispensers would have been donated. It passed but was vetoed by Gov. Brown. Two similar bills in recent years had also passed but been vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, and Beyond AIDS made a big effort for the first of those. Beyond AIDS also testified at some of the hearings, met with legislative and committee staff, and wrote letters, including an unsuccessful request to the Governor to sign the bill. One of the problems in getting gubernatorial support for such a measure is that sodomy in prison (i.e., what the condoms would be used for) is still a felony, which can add a year of additional prison sentence. It may be necessary to remove that crime from the penal code. For text of bill as sent to Governor, see http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_0951-1000/ab_999_bill_20130916_enrolled.htm.

SUPPORTED BILLS STUCK IN LEGISLATURE BUT POSSIBLE TO REVIVE IN 2014

AB 640 (Hall) would require infection control practices, presumably including condoms, for the adult film industry. So far, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have local ordinances on this issue, but a judge has thrown out the L.A. ordinance. Even if this wins on appeal, there is concern is that the industry may simply move to other counties. The original bill, AB 332, was held in suspense in Assembly Appropriations. AB 640, a bill requiring a license to sell tobacco products, which had passed the Assembly, was amended in the Senate to replace AB 332, and is being held by Senate Rules Committee for a decision on whether this is acceptable. If AB 640 passes Senate in 2014, it will need to return to Assembly, which never saw it in its current form. Beyond AIDS supported this bill with letters and visits to legislative staff, and has also been involved in a slow-moving state regulatory process on this issue by attending hearings of Cal-OSHA on the subject since 2010, and by supporting the 2012 L.A. initiative. For text of bill, see http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_0601-0650/ab_640_bill_20130828_amended_sen_v94.htm.

AB 336 (Ammiano) would prohibit the use of seized condoms as evidence in prosecutions for  prostitution. In a deal with county district attorneys, it was weakened to merely require a hearing by the
judge in chambers on the admissibility of such evidence. Beyond AIDS supported it with letters and met with legislative and committee staff. The bill passed the Assembly in that weakened form and was referred to Senate Public Safety Committee, but the author became unhappy with the compromise and cancelled the hearing, hoping that the original form might be restored in 2014 if more support can be enlisted. For text of bill in present form, see http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_0301-0350/ab_336_bill_20130529_amended_asm_v97.htm.