CA is on fire with new progressive legislation

Climate change continues to be serious issue while CA is on fire with new progressive legislation (credit: Eunice Oh/) Climate change continues to be serious issue while CA is on fire with new progressive legislation (credit: Eunice Oh/)

California just experienced a wave of progressive legislation signed into law last week, briefly becoming a stronghold of legislative efficiency while most of the country’s governments are stuck in gridlock. Governor Jerry Brown has now signed bills into law that address sexual consent on college campuses, eliminate the “gay panic” defense in cases of LGBTQ hate crimes, and ban single-use plastic bags.

With growing discussion and debate regarding sexual assault on college campuses, the “Yes Means Yes” law is the first of its kind to be passed by a state, defining consent as “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement" and requiring colleges to provide sexual assault victims with confidential report opportunities, counseling, and access to an advocate. The provision of these
resources is tied to state funding for student financial aid.

In addition to the passing of this affirmative consent law, California passed a law eliminating the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses which have been used in court cases to reduce sentences. Previously, these defenses have been used in assault cases against gay or transgender people to claim that the assailant was too shocked by discovering the victim was transgender or gay to be held fully responsible for their actions.

Thankfully, homophobic and transphobic defenses will no longer be accepted in California, a standard other states should certainly adopt.

In terms of environmental issues, this recent display of legislative action has also banned the distribution of single-use plastic bags by grocery stores and pharmacies, and implements a 10-cent charge for plastic or compostable bags. Liquor stores and convenience stores will be affected by this ban in one year, and the 10-cent charge can only be used by stores to cover costs associated with complying with this new law. Plastic bags are a significant contributor to environmental damage, and this move should help curb the devastating ecological impacts of their overuse.

While much of the country is facing a painfully unproductive legislative season, California has become a small beacon of hope in successfully passing a number of progressive pieces of legislation.

We can only hope that other states, and our federal government, will take similar steps in the near