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    Family leave, farmworker bills come down to wire

    Emily Hoeven  Emily Hoeven

    Surrounded by members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Tuesday a package of bills he said would advance California’s “commitment to pay equity and supporting women.”

    Among them: a bill requiring employers with at least 15 workers to include salary ranges in job postings and another prohibiting businesses from charging different prices for similar products based on the gender to which they’re marketed.

    • Newsom said in a statement“We’re not letting up on our work to ensure all women in our state are paid their due and treated equally in all spheres of life.”

    But, as some observers noted, the package didn’t include a high-profile proposal to make paid family leave more accessible to low-income Californians — a version of which Newsom vetoed last year. He has until Friday to determine the fate of all remaining proposals on his desk.

    Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for Newsom, told me the package was based on priority proposals identified by the women’s caucus, which didn’t include the paid family leave bill.

    But the bill’s uncertain future didn’t go unnoticed by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Orange County, a darling of the progressive movement who in a Tuesday video urged Newsom to sign the bill while scribbling figures on the iconic whiteboard she’s used in many a congressional hearing.

    Under California’s current paid family leave rates, Porter said, an Orange County preschool teacher wouldn’t be able to afford the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment. But if Newsom were to sign the bill, they’d have some money “left over for necessities like food and transportation,” Porter said.

    • Porter: “We know that some workers will inevitably have to take time off. The question is, how are we going to safeguard our economy in the meantime?”

    It’s a question that Newsom may have preferred not to focus on Tuesday. The governor was focused, as CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang reports, on signing more than a dozen bills to protect and expand access to abortion and reproductive health care in California following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn federal abortion guarantees.

    He also appeared on MSNBC to talk about his outreach to voters in Republican-led states — including billboards in seven states with near or total abortion bans urging women to seek reproductive care in California, an effort that seems to have contributed to a surge in out-of-state traffic to the Golden State’s new clearinghouse website for abortion information. And he was trolling the Texas attorney general on Twitter. (Meanwhile, gun rights groups on Tuesday launched a long-anticipated legal challenge against a California gun law conceived by Newsom that co-opts the logic of Texas’ abortion ban.)

    But behind Porter’s video is the implication that if Newsom doesn’t sign the family leave bill, it would be a slap in the face to working families. A similar sentiment imbued President Joe Biden’s statement earlier this month urging Newsom to approve a bill to make it easier for farmworkers to unionize — a move that apparently infuriated Newsom, who had previously hinted he plans to veto it.

    The pointed messages from high-profile Democrats suggest that — despite Newsom’s repeated admonishments for his party to more aggressively combat the GOP on such hot-button topics as abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration and education — he may still have a ways to go when it comes to shoring up the support of progressives and workers in his own party.

    Indeed, the coalition backing the paid family leave bill is today launching full-page ads in the Sacramento Bee and “prominent online placements” in the Bee, the Los Angeles Times and Politico urging Newsom to sign the proposal.

    “California’s Paid Family Leave program was the first in the nation,” the ad reads. “Don’t let it become the worst.”


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