By Becca Cramer

Every year, the ACLU of California sponsors several bills in the California Legislature. What does it mean to “sponsor” a bill? In most cases, it means we have been involved in drafting the bill, providing input on the text. But we never work alone. Most of our bills are co-sponsored with other advocacy groups. The bill language is thus the result of a collaboration between the co-sponsors and the legislator who is carrying the bill, called the “author.”

When we sponsor a bill, we also provide resources for advocacy, which includes meeting with legislators, testifying in support, seeking support from other groups, drafting fact sheets and sample support letters, and providing communications and media support. We encourage ACLU supporters to get involved in the legislative process through our action alerts and through our annual Conference & Lobby Day.

This year’s sponsored bills

We sponsor bills on a wide range of topics that relate to civil liberties and civil rights. Here are the 16 bills sponsored by the ACLU of California this year:
Criminal Justice

  • AB 818 (Quirk) – Fair Access to Evidence:  In criminal trials, only the prosecution has the ability to run DNA and fingerprint evidence through state databases. This bill would level the playing field by giving the defense the ability to ask the court for an order to search statewide databases to see if DNA or fingerprints from the crime scene match someone other than the defendant. STATUS: Held in Assembly Appropriations
  • SB 443 (Mitchell) – Stop Abuse of Asset Forfeiture: California has stronger asset forfeiture protections than the federal government. But there is a loophole that lets law enforcement get around California’s laws if they participate in state-federal task forces. SB 443 closes the loop hole, requiring police to follow California laws before keeping someone’s personal property. STATUS: Passed Senate, failed on Assembly Floor, turned into two year bill

Education

  • SB 320 (Lara) – End Fees for Public Schools: The California Constitution guarantees the right to a free public education, but schools still charge students and families for instructional materials despite this guarantee. SB 320 safeguards students’ right to a free public education by improving the process for parents and students to file complaints when they are charged illegal fees. STATUS: To Governor
  • AB 1012 (Jones-Sawyer) – End Fake Classes: Too many students—especially students of color and from impoverished families—are being assigned to fake classes including multiple free periods, or simply sent home because no academic class is available. Others are forced to re-take classes they have already passed.  AB 1012 would stop this and ensure students are assigned to classes with educational content. STATUS: To Governor
  • SB 322 (Leno) – Reform Charter Schools: Some charter schools have implemented admissions and disciplinary policies that raise concerns about equal access to education. SB 322 would limit admissions procedures that exclude students based on academic achievement and ensure constitutional protections for suspension and expulsion proceedings. STATUS: Passed Senate, held in Assembly Appropriations as two year bill

Immigrants’ rights

  • AB 813 (Gonzalez) – Access to Courts for Immigrants: Because of a ruling of the California Supreme Court, people facing deportation for old criminal convictions have no way to go to court to challenge those convictions, even if they are legally invalid. AB 813 provides access to the courts for people to challenge legally invalid convictions when they are no longer in custody, giving many immigrants a day in court that could prevent deportation. STATUS: Passed Assembly, held in Senate Public Safety as two year bill
  • AB 1351 (Eggman) & AB 1352 (Eggman) – Second Chances for Immigrants: People who complete drug treatment after they plead guilty may have their conviction dismissed in California. But under federal law, people still face deportation. This set of bills fixes this problem by providing pretrial diversion for minor drug offenses (AB 1351) and by allowing people who have successfully completed drug treatment to expunge the guilty plea from their record (AB 1352). STATUS: To Governor

Police Practices

  • AB 953 (Weber) – End Racial and Identity Profiling: This bill addresses the daily indignities that people of color endure at the hands of police. AB 953 prohibits racial profiling as well as profiling based on other identity characteristics, such as sexual orientation. It would require the Department of Justice to collect information on law enforcement-community interactions and modernize officer training to account for implicit biases. The bill also creates the first statewide advisory board to advance fair and impartial policing. STATUS: To Governor
  • AB 619 (Weber) – Transparency on Deadly and Serious Use of Force: AB 619 seeks to reduce deadly and excessive uses of force by police and enhance law enforcement transparency and accountability. The bill requires law enforcement to report on all deaths in custody and all serious uses of force and requires the Department of Justice to make that information available to the public. STATUS: Held in Assembly Appropriations, turned into a budget item and content added to AB 71

Reproductive justice

  • AB 302 (Garcia) – Accommodation for Parenting Teens: Current law says pregnant and parenting students must be provided accommodations, but some students are discouraged from breastfeeding or pumping while at school. AB 302 requires high schools to provide students with access to a private, secure room to breastfeed or pump, to store expressed milk, and to provide these students with reasonable break time to accommodate their lactation schedule. STATUS: To Governor
  • AB 329 (Weber) – Sex Education & HIV Prevention: At 23 years old, the California law requiring schools to teach HIV prevention and providing guidance on sex ed is outdated. AB 329 updates, strengthens, and integrates the existing laws, requiring instruction materials that are appropriate for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and content that relates to adolescent relationships, abuse and sex trafficking. STATUS: To Governor
  • SB 23 (Mitchell) – Repeal Maximum Family Grant Rule: California law, called the Maximum Family Grant Rule, denies parents who receive assistance through CalWORKS additional support for any child born while the family is receiving aid—unless the mother was on certain birth control methods approved by the state or can prove she was raped.  SB 23 repeals this outdated rule, protecting the health of all newborns and ending the state’s intrusion into the private reproductive decisions of poor families. STATUS: Passed Senate, held on Assembly Floor as two year bill

Technology & privacy

  • SB 178 (Leno) – California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA): Law enforcement is increasingly taking advantage of outdated privacy laws to turn mobile phones into tracking devices and access sensitive emails, documents, and text messages without proper judicial oversight.  SB 178 updates our digital privacy laws to ensure the police get a warrant before they can access sensitive digital information, just as they would need to do before searching a home. STATUS: To Governor

Voting rights

  • SB 589 (Block) – Protect Voting Rights in Conservatorships: Disabled people placed under conservatorship are losing their right to vote without due process. SB 589 will protect the voting rights of disabled people who have been conserved by making clear that they retain their right to vote unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the individual cannot communicate a desire to participate in the voting process. STATUS: To Governor
  • AB 182 (Alejo) – Empowerment through District Elections: The California Voting Rights Act empowers California citizens to challenge unlawful vote dilution in local at-large election systems where racially polarized voting exists. AB 182 extends these protections to single-member district systems and provides clearer guidance for judges on how to design appropriate remedies to ensure that jurisdictions do not continue to dilute the voices and votes of protected communities. STATUS: To Governor

Becca Cramer is legislative coordinator at the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy.

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