The California Legislative Women's Caucus celebrated in Sacramento Thursday as Governor Jerry Brown signed eight bills authored by their members.
The caucus says this was the first-ever special signing ceremony specifically for women's bills.
Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, chair of the caucus, was one of several female lawmakers who spoke to the importance of the event.
"Today’s historical nature should not be lost on any of us," she said. "Because while we have made great strides, and with the signing of these laws we further advance the needs of women and girls in California, we still have to continue to fight for our power and control of our bodies and our destinies on a daily basis."
Among the most controversial bills the governor signed at the event were AB 168, which forbids employers to ask applicants for past salary information, and SB 63, which guaruntees 12-week parental leave for employees of small businesses.
Garcia earned the nickname "tampon queen" with the passage of AB10, which requires public schools serving low-income 6th to 12th graders to provide free feminine hygiene products in bathrooms.
And Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher crowned herself "diaper queen" after AB480 was signed. The bill gives CalWorks recipients with infants and toddlers a $30 stipend for diapers.
"Persistence pays off, and we have to keep bringing up these issues that are nontraditional issues," she said. "Anyone who has a child understands the cost of diapers, but you don’t think about what do people do who can’t afford those?"
The governor also signed:
AB273: Parents who are taking English as a Second Language and High School Equivalency classes eligible for subsidized child care
AB557: Increases access to CalWorks homeless benefits for victims of domestic violence
AB1312: Requires rape kits and other forensic evidence be kept for rape survivors for at least 20 years
AB1386: Gives patients more information about genetic breast cancer risks
Earlier this month, the governor signed SB500 from women's caucus member and Democratic Senator Connie Leyva. It expands the definition of extortion to include demands for sexual activity and images of intimate body parts.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the USC Price School of Public Policy, says that the success of the bills shows growth on the part of the women's caucus.
“What it helps do, is to point out that the women’s caucus can move and does move legislation that is by-and-large women’s centric, dealing with issues that might not have been dealt with even ten years ago."
Most of the bills take effect in January.
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