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Q&A: State Sen. Toni Atkins On Housing, Single Payer And LGBT Rights Bills

State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, talks with Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gar...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, talks with Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, at the Senate in Sacramento on May 31, 2017.

Q&A: State Sen. Toni Atkins On Housing, Single Payer And LGBT Rights Bills


State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego


Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is in town to talk about the Transgender Work Opportunity Act and other bills making a final push in the last weeks of the legislative season.

She spoke to KPBS Midday Edition about the LGBT rights bill, as well as the trio of housing bills making a final push for a 2/3 majority approval in the state Assembly and the last-minute revival of SB 562, the Single Payer health care bill by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Below is the interview, edited for clarity.

Q: You are promoting this transgender rights bill at the same time directives barring transgender military personnel are about to be issued by the Trump administration. Is this bill in response to what is happening in Washington?

A: No, actually I think this bill has been in the works for quite some time. You know California is on the leading edge and front of equality for all people. This bill builds off of a bill that I did several years ago, AB 887, which defines gender as including gender expression and gender identity. This takes it the next step. And state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is here today in San Diego to talk about his bill, SB 396 which would require training. And you know it makes sense. The law supports equality for all including the transgender community in California. We want to make sure employers know what the law is, and we want to make sure employees understand their rights. And this bill takes it a step further. So we have been marching in this direction for some time. I wouldn’t say it is a reaction, but it is obviously needed now more than ever given what’s going on at the federal level.

Q: What exactly would SB 396 require businesses to do?

A: All businesses in the course of human resources require some training for staff and managers on all laws in California and federally. This would say that there needs to be training for businesses that have 50 employees or more they would have to include some training about rights that extend to the transgender community. And so it would be inclusive of what we already do in terms of the training we should provide related to gender, women, ethnicity, the transgender community. So it’s one step further to make sure that training is in place.

Q: Are you confidant that this (bill) will be signed by the governor?

A: Well, if there is any indication of the legislation that the governor has signed before related to equality for all, I am optimistic that yes he will. You know because remember this is all about employers understanding and being able to follow the law so they don’t get crosswise. I do not think some of it is intentional on the part of employers, but where it might be we need to send the message that all people are included under civil rights non-discrimination workplace legislation.

Q: A trio of bills that are being referred to as the affordable housing package are heading for a vote in the state assembly. Senate Bill 2, that you introduced, would add a fee to some real estate transactions to generate money for low-income housing. Your bill and a proposed $3 billion bond for low-income housing both need a 2/3 majority vote in the Assembly. Do you think you have those votes?

A: We are still working on the votes. And I think we are still a few votes short. We have three weeks left and the nature of this time of year, as you know, is that we’re all really busy working very hard to get the necessary votes for our bills. I am optimistic but you know we’ve been working on this bill and a permanent source of funding for low-income housing that will affect our most vulnerable Californians in every community in California. So I’m optimistic, we are making our case, we are working with the governor's office to make sure that we are doing as much as we can to get that money back home into the communities to do the most good.

Q: Earlier this year you introduced a bill to bring single-payer health insurance to California. That bill passed the state senate but it was not allowed to come up for a vote in the assembly. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is now the subject of a recall because he prevented that vote. Do you support the recall effort?

A: No I do not. I think that there is a dialogue to be had. Clearly I supported and am a principle co-author of single payer and (SB) 562. This is a legislative process. And you saw this week he stepped forward to put together a select committee to have that dialogue that he says needs to happen. I support that. Anything that keeps our discussion alive to figure out how to do a system that provides health care for all, I support. I don’t support recalls based on one action or one vote. People elect representatives to go do the serious work. If each and every one of us have to be afraid to engage in a dialogue that is not simple, that is not easy, that is complex, if we have to worry about facing a recall for every vote we take, you are basically shutting down government. And so I do not support it, but I am really happy to see the step that Speaker Rendon took this week, because this is exactly what we want.


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