Capitol Roundup: Transgender Referendum, Glove Law, Fake Service Dogs

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, February 24, 2014

Calif. Transgender Student Rights Referendum Fails
(Listen to the audio story above)
A referendum effort aimed at repealing California’s new transgender student rights law has failed.  Referendum backers did not turn in enough valid signatures for the measure to qualify for the November ballot.

The law signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year provoked one of the most contentious debates at the Capitol.  It allows transgender students at California schools to choose which bathrooms and locker rooms to use – and which sports and extracurricular activities they participate in – based on their gender identity, not their physical characteristics.

Opponents immediately began gathering signatures hoping to give voters a chance to reject the law this fall.  But after county election officials checked each of the nearly 620,000 signatures referendum backers turned in, the effort fell about 17,000 valid signatures short of the roughly 500,000 it needed to qualify.

The law is now fully in effect.  The California School Boards Association issued guidelines for districts on how to implement the new law earlier this month.

New "Glove Law" at Bars, Restaurants Prompts Backlash

A new California law that prohibits bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food at bars and restaurants just took effect in January – but it’s already drawing complaints and legislation to repeal the regulation.

United States Bartenders Guild Executive Director Aaron Gregory Smith, who owns a restaurant and bar in San Francisco, says the law requiring employees to wear gloves has far too many unintended consequences – to the environment and to small businesses’ bottom lines.

“How many gloves is that on a daily basis?  I can tell you it’s 175 pairs of gloves in my establishment on one average business day, and that adds up quickly,” Smith told reporters at a news conference at a Sacramento bar Monday morning. 

Last year’s legislation passed without any opposition.  Democratic Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan says the measure included a lot of provisions – and this one wasn’t adequately vetted.  So he’s carrying a new bill that would repeal the glove-wearing requirement.

Fines for violating the new law will begin in July unless Pan’s urgency legislation passes before then.

Use of Fake Service Dogs Draws Complaints from State Board

Guide dog advocates say there’s a growing problem in California of dog owners dressing their pets up as fake “service dogs” to take them places they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed.

State Guide Dogs for the Blind Board President Eric Holm, who relies on his yellow Lab “Ford” to help him live his life, says the state doesn’t have the legal authority – or money from the budget – to combat service dog fraud.

“When people violate that trust, it violates both health and public safety, it confuses consumers, it confuses vendors and it frankly undermines what we’re trying to accomplish,” Holm told a Senate committee hearing Monday. 

Holm says service dog harnesses, badges and vests are all available online, so they’re easy for unscrupulous pet owners to obtain.

At the hearing, representatives of the guide dog community, advocates for the disabled and business groups asked for legislation to address the problem.

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