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What a Week: Bauer-Kahan's new bills (so far)

Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan.

Drought. Microplastics. Reproductive health apps. Body armor. Abortion misinformation. Toxic tents. The future of bees.

That list represents the ambitious legislative agenda for Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan -- well, her agenda so far; she's introduced seven bills in Sacramento since Jan. 26, so there's even a chance she could have a new one between the time I finish writing this column and when it publishes online.

Starting her third term representing the Tri-Valley and Lamorinda communities as part of Assembly District 16, the Orinda Democrat appears to be keeping close to key campaign priorities from throughout her tenure -- women's rights, the environment and reducing gun violence.

Three of those bills fall under Bauer-Kahan's "Clean California" package.

Assembly Bill 234, dubbed the "Microplastics Elimination Act", aims to address the scourge of non-biodegradable microplastics that permeate our consumer products, our water sources and even ourselves.

It's an escalating area of concern across the globe, and a topic that should unite us all for the good of human health -- but forgive me for not being overly optimistic about that; I've lived through the COVID pandemic years after all. We'll haggle over which solutions are right and wrong, and probably allow those responsible for the harm to just carry on.

As for her motivation, Bauer-Kahan said, "The presence of microplastics in our waterways and in our own bodies is an environmental emergency that demands immediate, decisive action. It's time for California to take bold steps to protect our children, our pollinators, and our environment from the harmful effects of microplastics."

Along the lines of harmful-to-human chemicals, her AB 267 would require cancerous and endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in fire retardants to be eliminated from tents, particularly small tents and kids' tents.

Bauer-Kahan is again trying to tackle protections for bees and other pollinators with AB 363, which would direct the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation to review the impacts of neonicotinoids for non-agricultural uses on the health of pollinators and humans, and take appropriate action as needed. A more stringent proposal by her on this topic last session was vetoed by the governor.

Also with an eye toward the environment, Bauer-Kahan's AB 460 would give new authority to the State Water Resources Control Board to stop detrimental water usage "that violate(s) the Constitution, water quality objectives, water right permits and licenses, and fish and wildlife."

In this era of persistent drought and potable water scarcity in California, the assemblymember says she's striving to stem "ongoing illegal or wasteful water use practices."

A proponent of regulations to reduce gun-related violence, Bauer-Kahan has brought forward AB 301 to limit the use of tactical body armor in California to only qualifying professionals such as police officers, firefighters and private investigators. The bill would also make it illegal to sell or distribute body armor in the state, an area that is currently unregulated.

"We cannot allow dangerous individuals to have military armaments unchecked," she said upon introducing AB 301. "This bill is a necessary step to protect the safety of our communities and ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to keep us safe."

In another area where existing law is concerningly quiet, in her view, Bauer-Kahan introduced AB 254 to give sensitive health information protections to private personal details given to apps and websites that offer reproductive and sexual health services.

She said her motivation is putting laws in place in California while other states are looking at using menstrual-tracking apps or other digital services as investigative tools to enforce bans on abortions or gender-affirming health care and activities. She hopes too that the bill will end predatory advertising that can occur based on data in such apps.

And finally, there's AB 315, which targets how "crisis pregnancy centers" advertise themselves and their services -- with Bauer-Kahan saying that these centers are run by anti-abortion groups that aggressively mislead people about what sort of services they offer and advocate.

The legislation, according to Bauer-Kahan's office, "will clarify that those marketing themselves as providing reproductive care cannot mislead prospective patients about whether or not they provide abortion services."

"With the increase in abortion seekers coming from other states, it is even more critical to end this dangerous deception," she added.

Bauer-Kahan's legislative agenda certainly covers a lot of ground, especially coming off a 2021-2022 cycle when she saw Gov. Gavin Newsom sign 15 of her bills into law. We'll have to wait and see if that momentum continues for her in her third term.

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh is the editorial director for the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.


About the Author: Jeremy Walsh

Jeremy, a Benicia native and American University alum, joined Embarcadero Media in November 2013. After serving as associate editor for the Pleasanton Weekly and, he was promoted to editor of the East Bay Division in February 2017.
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