By Anna Olsen and Sahaily Zazueta
SACRAMENTO, CA – A bill package for the 2022 Legislative Session was released this week by Los Angeles Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) with goals “to stop criminalizing poverty and start prioritizing economic stability.”
Senator Kamlager is the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, an organization centered around providing equal opportunities for the Black community in the United States, and Chair of the Budget Subcommittee #4 on State Administration and General Government, which focuses on fair housing and employment practices.
A multitude of proposed new bills were introduced by Kamlager, each centered around economic justice.
“I am excited to introduce my largest legislative package yet,” shared Senator Kamlager.
She added, “Too often we overlook–or worse, criminalize–the plight of Californians who are working to make ends meet. We let criminal records hinder the ability of formerly incarcerated individuals to find jobs and allow parents to be separated from their children based on weak standards of proof. This legislative package sets out to do just that.”
Many of the bills focus on replacing our current punitive justice system with rehabilitative justice.
If passed, SB 1304 would require the California Department of Corrections to increase the amount of money given to individuals released from prison from $200 to $2,589.
Currently, individuals released from prison are provided with a small amount of money, enough only to buy a bus ticket, the lawmaker argues, noting California provides the most out of any state at $200, with Alabama and Louisiana offering only $10.
“This is really about making sure that when people get out, we are not perpetuating a cycle of economic violence,” said Kamlager during an interview with the Guardian. “We have got to stop legislating poverty.”
SB 1286, titled the California Clean Slate Act, would automatically expunge misdemeanor offenses from the records of those who avoid recidivism and complete all responsibilities ordered by the court within the required time frame.
Senator Kamlager continues to advocate for the California Abolition Act, which she introduced in 2021. This act, also known as Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, would remove slavery and involuntary servitude from the California Constitution.
Currently, Article 1 Section 6 of the California Constitution allows for slavery and involuntary servitude as a means of punishing crime.
A statement on the front page of the California Abolition Act website argues that “Today, that practice continues in the form of forced labor in prisons, which falls disproportionately on Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous people and reflects broader disparities in the criminal justice system.”
Additionally, the legislative package includes five bills aimed at building health equity and social program access.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature, stakeholder groups, and advocates in the district to undo the economic injustices that mire our state,” stated Kamlager. “I’m all in for the fight to reinvest in California’s communities.”
SB 996 would expand access to the CalWORKs program by eliminating asset tests and some deprivation requirements.
CalWORKs is a public assistance program that provides aid in the form of money and resources to families in need.
The current CalWORKs eligibility requirements outline that a child must be deprived of parental support because of the absence, disability or death of either parent, or because the principal earner is unemployed.
Kamlager’s SB 1055 seeks to prevent the Department of Motor Vehicles from withholding issuance or renewal of a driver’s license to applicants who have missed child support payments and are currently living at or below the poverty level.
SB 1085, another Kamlager bill, seeks to redefine what “neglect” means within Dependency Court hearings and amend Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
The amended code would require that any child who is the victim of serious physical harm or is at risk of future harm due to parental violence or neglect is established within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
This bill would prevent children from falling under this same jurisdiction solely due to conditions of financial difficulty, which would protect families in California who might be at risk of separation due to poverty, homelessness, and a lack of resources.
Another Kamlager measure, SB 1139, prohibits the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) from charging incarcerated individuals a fee to access their medical records. The bill also requires the CDCR to implement a grievance process to ensure that health care services offered by the department are humane.
Kamlager’s SB 1245 seeks to create and fund a pilot program in the County of Los Angeles to ensure equitable access to abortion.
The Kamlager legislative package also includes two bills aimed at fighting climate change and encouraging sustainability.
SB 1052 would expand the area covered by the Baldwin Hills Conservancy to include the Upper Dominguez Channel and the Ballona Creek Watershed, communities that have historically been victims of disinvestment.
The Baldwin Hills Conservancy has a mission to gain control over open space to use for restoration and protection of wildlife.
SB 1187 has a goal to fight against the extensive material waste produced by fashion retailer brands.
If passed, this bill would require the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to implement a three year “Circular Fashion Economy Pilot Program” in Los Angeles, in which they would work with garment manufacturers and report on the possibility of recycling fabric.
And Kamlager’s SB 679 would establish an independent L.A. County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency with goals to increase the amount of affordable housing in Los Angeles.
This bill would allow the agency to implement necessary taxes and raise and allocate funds for the purpose of financing affordable housing expansion projects.
Senator Kamlager has also included SB 1275, a bill that would authorize state agencies to accept cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as a method of payment for government services.
As Senator Kamlager stated during an interview, “At the end of the day, what I’m doing is representing communities and providing a platform for people to speak their truth about how they want the government to work for them.”