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Brown Signs Bills Providing Free Tampons, Expanding Family Leave

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Governor Jerry Brown signs a package of bills surrounded by members of the California Legislative Women's Caucus. (Katie Orr/KQED)

Decked out in “Wonder Woman” t-shirts, members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus celebrated some hard-fought victories at a signing ceremony with Governor Jerry Brown Thursday in Sacramento. Among the bills getting his signature was a measure that expands eligibility for 12-weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D- Santa Barbara) has been working on the issue for two years. She says the time off work is critical for new parents and babies.

“They are not a fun 12 weeks," Jackson said. "They are hard work."

Her bill requires companies with between 20 and 49 employees to provide the unpaid leave. Brown vetoed a slightly different version of the legislation last year. The current law only applies to workers at companies with 50 employees or more. The smallest companies will continue being exempt from the rules.

Other measures taking effect in January include one requiring middle and high schools with low-income students to provide free tampons and pads in bathrooms.

Another from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D- San Diego) provides some welfare recipients with $30 a month to buy children’s diapers. Day care centers often require families to provide their own diapers. Gonzalez Fletcher says the bill will allow women to more easily provide for their families.

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“Those women who are on Cal-Works and have a job or are getting an education and have subsidized child care, it will ensure that they get a diaper subsidy so that they don’t have another barrier to work or education,” she says.

This was Gonzalez Fletcher's third attempt at the bill. A 2014 version would have provided an $80 subsidy. It died in the Senate. Another attempt in 2016 called for a $50 subsidy, it was vetoed by the governor.

Other measures expand eligibility for state-subsidized child care, prohibit employers from asking about job applicants’ salary histories and extend the amount of time rape kits must be preserved.

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