man in suit with mask reads book in state capitol chamber
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, chair of the state's Jewish caucus, reads a book handed out by the caucus to other lawmakers on Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 8. (Photo/Courtesy California Jewish Caucus)

Jewish caucus unveils priorities to finish up 2021

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus on Thursday released a list of its priorities for the legislative year, including a set of bills aimed at preventing hate crimes and improving Holocaust education in response to increased attacks targeting the Asian American community and a rise in antisemitic incidents.

Other bills focus on criminal justice reform, elimination of the death penalty, suicide prevention and increased services for the homeless, along with a slate of of “tikkun olam” measures meant to “bring our Jewish values into the policymaking process.”

The caucus, which has 18 members, is also pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to approve $50 million in the 2021-22 budget for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps houses of worship improve their security measures. Last year, no money was allocated because of the pandemic. The budget must be approved by June 15.

June 4 is the last day either the Assembly or the Senate can pass bills it has introduced, with a Sept. 10 deadline for a bill’s passage.

The following are bills the Jewish caucus is prioritizing:

  • AB 57 would increase law enforcement training and data collection surrounding hate crimes and strengthen laws against online harassment of minority groups. Introduced by the new caucus chair, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel from the San Fernando Valley region, the bill includes recommendations from a 2018 state auditor report that found law enforcement to be inadequate in reporting hate crimes.
  • AB 587, also introduced by Gabriel, would require social media companies to disclose content moderation practices when it comes to hate and harassment on their site. The bill would also require these companies to submit a quarterly report to the state attorney general that details their current terms of service and data about violations. The bill is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL released a study in January that found most major social media platforms had insufficient policies and practices surrounding Holocaust denial content.
  • AB 1126, introduced by Los Angeles Assemblymember Richard Bloom, would create the California Commission on the State of Hate & Violent Extremism. The commission would monitor hate crimes, create annual reports and policy recommendations for the state’s lawmakers, and require four public forums per year on the “state of hate” in California.

The caucus described the following as “Tikkun Olam” legislation.

  • ACA 2, from Assemblymember Marc Levine of San Rafael, is a constitutional amendment that would get rid of the state’s death penalty. The amendment needs a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to be on the 2024 ballot.
  • AB 775, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman from Palo Alto, would install a “Basic Needs Coordinator” at each of the state’s community colleges to help students who are low-income, homeless or experiencing food insecurity.
  • AB 988, introduced by Berman and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan from the East Bay, would utilize the emergency phone number 988 to serve as a suicide prevention hotline and a way to call in professionals for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • AB 1020, from Assemblymember Laura Friedman, who represents portions of Los Angeles, would bolster parts of the Hospital Fair Pricing Act, expanding patient eligibility for charity care or discounts payments.
  • SB 54, known as the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act from state Sen. Ben Allen, representing parts of Los Angeles, would require plastic producers to use only materials that are at least 75 percent recyclable.
  • SB 73, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, would discontinue mandatory jail and prison sentencing for nonviolent drug crimes in favor of probation or a suspended sentence.
  • SB 344, introduced by state Sen. Robert M. Hertzberg from the San Fernando Valley, would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to offer grants to homeless shelters that offer food and veterinary care for individuals’ pets.
  • SB 355, from state Sen. Josh Becker, who represents parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, would expand the number of people who can qualify for court fee waivers.
  • SB 446, introduced by state Sen. Steve Glazer, who represents part of the East Bay, would make it possible for people wrongly convicted of crimes in the state to be compensated.

 

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.