California Dream Act II (SB 160, Sen. Gil Cedillo): While existing state law (AB 540, Firebaugh) extends in-state tuition to all students, including immigrants, who attend a California high school for three years and graduate, students without legal immigration status are ineligible for federal and state financial aid. SB 160 would allow undocumented immigrant students who qualify for in-state college tuition to receive a California Community College Board of Governors (BOG) fee waiver. SB 160 also requires the California State University and the California Community Colleges, and requests the University of California, to establish procedures enabling these students to participate in student aid programs. An estimated 18,000 students may be eligible for the BOG fee waiver under this legislation.
Teacher Credentialing (SB 1209, Senator Jack Scott): In California, students at schools with high percentages of students of color are four times as likely to have an unprepared math or science teacher as those at the white majority schools. Fifty-three percent of intern teachers work in schools that are predominantly minority while only 3 percent work in schools serving the lowest proportion of minority students. SB 1209 provides comprehensive reform to strengthen and eliminate barriers to the teacher credentialing process in California. For example, the bill allows an out-of-state teacher to instruct English learners based upon a valid out-of-state English learner instruction authorization. This bill is intended to prevent the estimated 27,000 shortage of teachers as soon as the 2007-08 school year.
Fair Testing for English Language Learners (SB 1580, Sen. Denise Ducheny): California has the largest percent of English Language Learners in the nation. English Language Learners consistently score lower on the Standardized Test and Results (STAR) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) than students who are native English speakers. Education experts, however, are unable to ascertain to what extent these poorer outcomes result from a) language difficulties in understanding test instructions, questions and answers or b) the academic content on which they are allegedly being tested. SB 1580 provides English Language Learners with the opportunity to demonstrate their academic achievement by allowing them to take achievement tests in their primary language, when the test is available, or take a modified version of the test that allows English Learners to better understand test directions, questions, and answers.
Enforcing Language Access for Parent Involvement (AB 680,Asm. Wilma Chan). Existing law requires translation of written notices and reports to parents whenever 15 percent or more of a school’s student population speak a single language other than English. AB 680 increases language access by strengthening requirements of the California Department of Education to monitor and enforce existing law. One in four students in the K-12 public educational system in California, or nearly 1.6 million pupils, are English learners. Of this number, approximately 85 percent are Spanish speaking, 2.2 percent are Vietnamese speaking and 1.5 percent speak Hmong.
Fair Minimum Wage Increase (AB 1835, Asm. Sally Lieber): People of color make up 53 percent of California’s labor force, but 73 percent of the 1.4 million Californians earning less than $7.75 per hour are workers of color. Nearly six in ten are Latino and the majority are over the age of 25 and working full-time. AB 1835 increases the minimum wage to $7.50 per hour effective January 1, 2007 and to $8.00 per hour one year later. While this increase will have a significant impact for low-income families, the bill lacks a cost of living adjustment and, by January 2008, a single working parent of three will still earn slightly below the federal poverty level.
Overtime Compensation for Domestic Works (AB 2536, Asm. Cindy Montañez): Under two wage rulings by the Industrial Welfare Commission, personal attendants providing in-home care for children, the disabled and the elderly were exempted from overtime compensation requirements. People of color, mainly women of color, comprise more than three fourths of these workers. AB 2536 restores overtime protections to childcare providers and fines employers who fail to pay any household worker through liquidated damages.
Employment Discrimination in Civil Service (AB 1897, Asm. Mervyn Dymally): Currently the State Civil Service Act prohibits state employers from discrimination based on race and other protected categories. AB 1897 allows the State Personnel Board to order the state to pay the complainant's attorney's fees if the state engaged in illegal employment discrimination. California employs nearly 210,000 workers, 48 percent of whom are people of color. There are approximately 1,500 job discrimination complaints filed annually by California state workers.
Employer Health Coverage Disclosure (AB 1840, Asm. Jerome Horton): More than 2.5 million workers of color in California do not receive employer-based healthcare benefits. Increasingly, these adults must turn to the state for assistance for themselves or their children. AB 1840 requires the Department of Health Services and the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board to report on businesses that have 25 or more employees receiving public benefits and to calculate the cost to California. Only 37 percent of Latinos, 47 percent of American Indians, 55 percent of Blacks, and less than a third of Asians under the age of 65 have employment-based health insurance, compared to 71 percent of whites.
III. Health Equity
California Health Insurance Reliability Act (SB 840, Sen. Sheila Kuehl): Seventy-one percent of California’s 6.5 million uninsured are people of color. SB 840 would provide California Health Insurance System (CHIS), a single-payer healthcare system, to provide health insurance coverage to all California residents. A study by the Lewin Group, an independent firm with 18 years of experience in healthcare cost analysis, found that a single health insurance coverage program similar to SB 840 could achieve universal coverage while reducing total healthcare spending in California by $343.6 billion over the next ten years.
Protections against Predatory Hospital Billing (AB 774, Asm. Wilma Chan): People of color make up three of every four uninsured Californians. Over half of the uninsured are Latino. The uninsured face unfair over-billing practices by hospitals, often paying higher rates than those with insurance. AB 774 provides hospital patients with basic consumer financial protections and protects self-pay hospital patients from being charged more than the insured. According to an article in Investors Business Daily, at Catholic Healthcare West the uninsured accounted for 2.6 percent of all patients, but 77 percent of the total profit; at Tenet Healthcare the uninsured made up 1.5 percent of the patients and 35 percent of the total profits, and at Sutter Health the uninsured were 3.4 percent of the patients and 45 percent of total profits.
Diversity of California Physicians and Their Communities (AB 2283, Asm. Jenny Oropeza): Although the state's physicians are slowly becoming more racially/ethnically diverse, Blacks and Latinos remain underrepresented among California's physicians. In 2001, legislation was passed authorizing the California Medical Board to collect information on physicians’ ethnic backgrounds and primary languages (AB 1586, Asm. Negrete McLeod). AB 2283 would expand upon this legislation by allowing the Medical board to aggregate data based on zip code to determine the demographics of the community served. In addition, a new reporting requirement would allow policy-makers, researchers and health officials to better assess this data.
Task Force for Language Access Resources (SB 1405, Sen. Neil Soto): According to the 2000 Census, one in five—6.2 million—California residents is limited-English proficient. There are fewer than an estimated 500 professional healthcare interpreters in California and, of these, only a fraction have been formally trained in healthcare interpreting and work full time as healthcare interpreters. SB 1405 requires the Department of Health Services (DHS) to create the Task Force on Reimbursement for Language Services to develop a mechanism for leveraging federal matching funds from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to pay for language assistance services and to assess model practices in other states. The Task Force will be comprised of health department officials with representatives of hospitals and community clinics, consumer groups, healthcare advocacy organizations, health interpreters and physicians.
Access to Interpreter Services in Civil Court (AB 2302, Assembly Judiciary Committee—Jones (Chair), Evans, Laird, Levine, Lieber, and Montanez): Existing law requires a court interpreter in civil cases for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment that prevents them from speaking or understanding English. However, the law does not provide a court interpreter for other parties who are not proficient in English. AB 2302 requires that the court provide an interpreter for any civil court proceeding unless notified of arrangements for a private interpreter. This mandatory interpreter services legislation will help ensure equal access for millions of Californians wishing to pursue justice and defend their rights. Forty percent of all Californians speak a language other than English at home.
New Californians Act (AB 2060, Asm. Hector De La Torre): In California there are approximately 2.7 million immigrants eligible for naturalization, but there are not enough services available to aid them in becoming naturalized. AB 2060 requires the Department of Community Services and Development to contract with and allocate funds to local organizations to provide free naturalization services. In 2004, 145,600 Californians were naturalizedÃ¢Å½Â¯43 percent were from Asia, and 25 percent were from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Civil Rights Housing Discrimination (AB 2800, Asm. John Laird): While existing law provides 17 fair housing protections to prohibit discrimination, the list of protected classes varies from statute to statute. This bill aligns all nondiscrimination statutes throughout California's fair housing laws. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex (including gender identity), marital status, sexual orientation, familial status and source of income.
Reauthorization of Voting Rights Act (AJR 37, Asm. Ridley-Thomas): This year marks the 41st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which aimed to curb race-based voter disenfranchisement. Over the past four decades, this hallmark civil rights legislation has abolished discriminatory policies such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and voter intimidation. It has been critical to the federal monitoring of elections and protection of minority voting rights. The Act has not been reauthorized since 1981, and key provisions are set to expire in 2007. AJR 37 proposes a statement of support for the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Removing Employment Barriers for Individuals With a Criminal Record (AB 861, Asm. Karen Bass): In California, 71 percent of the adult prison population are people of color and 85 percent of the wards of the California Youth Authority are youth of color. When released, ten percent of adult parolees are homeless, half are illiterate, and 70 to 80 percent are unemployed. AB 861 removes barriers to becoming a licensed barber or cosmetologist. The legislation authorizes the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology to issue probationary licenses to applicants who have a former criminal offense, requires notification to those denied licenses of rehabilitation of steps required to qualify, and establishes a fair hearing process to challenge a denial of application. The bill also requires the Board to research and report to the legislature the impact of these changes.
Assistance for Human Trafficking Victims (SB 1569, Sen. Sheila Kuehl): Forced labor occurs in at least 90 cities across the United States; at any given time, 10,000 or more people are forced to toil in sweat shops, clean homes, labor on farms, or work as prostitutes or strippers. The majority of these individuals are people of color from the Global South. SB 1569 provides access to critical services for immigrant survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes while they await processing from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Homeland Security.
Education on Human Rights and Deportation (SB 1575, Sen. Joseph Dunn): Although two thirds of California’s K-12 students are children of color, many youth do not learn substantively about the history of human rights in California. SB 1575 requires the social science course for grades 7-12 to include instruction on the unconstitutional deportations to Mexico during the Great Depression, an often-neglected piece of the state’s history.
Education on Tolerance (AB 1056, Asm. Judy Chu): Nearly two-thirds of all hate crimes are motivated by race and ethnicity. Over the past two years, California schools have seen an increase in inter-group tensions and bias- motivated incidents. Racial violence between youth is a growing problem in both urban and suburban communities, as the state and local demographic shifts. AB 1056 establishes a pilot project grant program to help integrate inter-group relations and tolerance instruction in the existing History and Social Science curriculum. The measure authorizes the California Department of Education to award 10 grants to applicable schools.