By Antonio Castillo
This past month, Democrats took advantage of their supermajority in both houses to implement key portions their agenda (i.e. increasing the size of government). Governor Jerry Brown signed into law five noteworthy bills. Nonetheless, even Gov. Brown disapproved of the trigger-happy regulators in his own party. He vetoed a series of bills on the grounds that they increased regulations to cover “every conceivable form of human misbehavior.” In concurrence with Gov. Brown, I believe that the legislature’s work does little but increase the size of our inefficient bureaucracy. Hence, here is an A-F report card on the legislative session, including explanations of and opinion on each bill.
New Motor Voter Act
This act was written in response to California’s record low voter turnout rates. In simple terms, the law automatically enrolls everyone as a registered voter when they get their driver’s license, unless they decide to opt out. According to the California Secretary of State’s office, about 6.6 million Californians are eligible to vote, but not registered. Emily Rusch, executive director of the California Public Interest Research Group, estimates that only half of millennials are registered to vote. Hence, lawmakers hope that the “act will make our democracy stronger.” On the other hand, Rusch noted, “[voters] are not even getting information about the election.” Her comment concurs with conservative criticisms of the bill. Hans von Spakovsky, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, asserts that automatic voter registration does not imply citizens will actually vote informed, or even at all. Gov. Brown and his administration have come up with a quick fix to a complicated problem. Meanwhile, Republican politicians speculate that the bill will lead to more voter fraud. In all fairness, this act does good by simplifying the convoluted voter registration system. However, the goal of the bill is to increase voter turnout rates and no government action can directly do so (besides compulsory voting). Ending crony politics and restoring optimism about the American system will indirectly bring people to the polls.
Senate Bill 707 (Concealed Carry Law)
In the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College that left 9 people dead, California made further increases to its firearms regulations. This legislation bans the concealed carry of handguns at colleges and schools. However, the state already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, all the while remaining among the states with the highest homicide rate.
Peggy McCrum, president of the California Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, stated, “[The new law] will make schools safer and decrease students’ risk of being injured or killed.” However, Democrats and anti-gun activists have failed to realize that Umpqua’s firearms ban failed to prevent its most recent attack. Suzanna Hopp, a former Texas state legislator, strongly opposes such bills. Hopp’s parents were killed in the Luby’s massacre of 1991. At the time, Texas did not permit concealed carry, so she left her gun in her car and was left without a means to defend her family. In a debate with former California Sen. Leland Yee, Hopp noted that most mass shootings occur in gun-free zones, like schools and military bases. Yet, environments saturated with guns, like gun shows and shooting ranges are not subject to such chaotic violence. This act will not only violate a constitutional right, but also leave students on campuses more vulnerable to deranged gunmen.
Mandated Comprehensive Sex Ed
Jerry Brown’s latest attempt at social engineering requires public school districts across California to teach comprehensive sex education; before this, schools could opt out. The sex curriculum includes lessons on abstinence, a range of contraceptives, and STD prevention. However, children in public schools will also be taught about controversial subjects, including issues related to sexuality, gender identity, and even abortion. Still, parents have the option of opting their children out. Yet, as seen in the vaccine debate, bureaucrats have found ways to subject parents to legal repercussion if they do not comply. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, asserts that the bill is a “huge mistake for the health, safety, and balanced truth that is needed for students in our public schools.” I will concede that proper sex education is necessary for students. However, Sacramento politicians and social activists are attempting to circumvent parents and indoctrinate children with progressive political agenda. Bureaucrats have no place teaching children about gender fluidity or how to legally abort a baby.
Assisted Suicide Bill
California will become the fifth state to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. Gov. Jerry Brown commented, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain … I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.” While this statement may be moving, it is couched in language that concedes the government’s authority to intrude upon the most intimate aspects of private citizens’ lives. In response to the bill’s passage, disability rights groups are fighting back. Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, states, “The dangers that we’ve been talking about are very real. Oregon data shows that people are getting lethal prescriptions who are not terminally ill.” Furthermore, the logic behind this bill leads one to ask: Why is suicide outlawed in the first place? The mentally ill are often in excruciating pain yet no politician advocates that the severely mentally ill should be allowed life-ending pills. Lawmakers should think carefully through bills concerning people’s lives, with their brains and their hearts.
Assembly Bill 379 (Rights of foster children)
This bill makes local education officials liable to the state government for noncompliance with state laws concerning foster children. Moreover, foster children now have the right to sue for their educational rights. Among these is the right to stay at their school of origin, to transfer partial credits to a new school, and to immediately enroll in a comprehensive school. Essentially, this new law gives foster children a mechanism to address grievances against the state foster care agency. Yet, the law makes note of “state-mandated programs” to be enforced upon local schools if they violate a foster child’s educational rights. Hopefully this law will not become a tool for Sacramento to manipulate when implementing its progressive social agenda in the classroom. However, I see no need to jump to such conclusions just yet.