Press Releases

Statement Of Assemblymember Toni Atkins On Federal Report On Causes Of September 8 San Diego Blackout

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What we have here is a perfect storm of inadequacies.  The federal report on the September 8 blackout is a complex and highly technical document, but you don’t have to be an expert to understand that the blackout could have been prevented and/or mitigated through better planning, communication, staffing, tools, training, coordination and information.  Luckily, no lives were lost and no major tragedies occurred that day; however, many businesses sustained significant financial losses and every San Diegan was greatly inconvenienced.

I look forward to hearing the response of local and state power providers and managers and hope that everyone will work together, without finger-pointing or denial, to ensure the experience is never repeated.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Atkins Bill To Bar Spousal Support For Rapists Passes State Assembly On Unanimous Bipartisan Vote

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(San Diego) By a unanimous bipartisan vote, a bill carried by Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) to prevent anyone convicted of violent sexual assault against their spouse from forcing their victim to pay financial benefits to them following a divorce was passed by the State Assembly today. On a vote of 75- 0, AB 1522 was sent to the State Senate for its consideration.

“To first suffer the fear and injury of sexual assault and then to be made to pay one’s rapist is profoundly wrong,” says Atkins. “I am grateful to my legislative colleagues for their support in righting the scales of justice.”

AB 1522 was inspired by the case of Crystal Harris, a San Diego area woman who was ordered by a court to pay her husband’s legal fees plus monthly spousal support, despite the fact that he was convicted of committing violent sex crimes against her and was ultimately sent to prison. The bill is sponsored by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who brought Harris’ case to Assemblymember Atkins’ attention.

Current law already prevents spousal support in cases of the attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 would add violent sex felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from their ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding.

Contact: Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Civic Leader Nikki Clay is Chosen as Woman of the Year

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(Sacramento) State Assemblymember Toni Atkins has chosen Nikki Clay, chair of the San Diego Convention Center Board of Directors and partner in the government relations firm Carpi and Clay, as the Woman of the Year in the 76th Assembly District.  Clay was honored today in a presentation on the floor of the State Assembly.

“Nikki Clay has played a leadership role in almost every important community and civic endeavor in San Diego,” says Atkins.  “She is truly one of San Diego's treasures.”

In addition to her service on the Convention Center board, Clay was chair of the boards of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Partnership and she currently serves on the boards of Catholic Charities and The Old Globe. She and her husband, Ben, are also currently co-chairing the Balboa Park 2015 Centennial Celebration. 

Clay's past accomplishments include her appointment by former Governor Pete Wilson to the California State Board of Forestry and her appointment by San Diego Mayor Susan Golding to the 1998 Super Bowl XXXII Community Council and the Citizen's Task Force on Padres Planning.  She is a past president of the Holiday Bowl and continues to serve on the Board of Directors.

Nikki earned her Master's in Public Administration and Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts from San Diego State University, where she and her husband were recently honored as alumnae of the year.  Nikki remains active with her alma mater in a variety of capacities.

Contact: Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Atkins Bill Will Strengthen Protections Against Child Abuse And Pornography

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(Sacramento) Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) has introduced AB 1817 to require commercial computer technicians to be mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect.

“Computer technicians are on the front lines for discovering child sexual abuse and pornography,” said Atkins.  “Making them mandated reporters protects children and aids law enforcement in finding and stopping the predators who abuse them.”

Under current law, commercial film and photographic print processors are required to be mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.  The importance of this responsibility was recently reaffirmed by a photo processor’s discovery of images depicting sexual acts against children allegedly produced by an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  These images included photos of students from the school and led to the teacher’s arrest for alleged child sexual abuse.  Law enforcement has identified 23 children ages 7–10 who were victims of this teacher’s abuse.  The photo processor’s reporting of the images to law enforcement has ensured that this teacher will not abuse another child.

However, laws designed for traditional “print media” are no longer adequate in today’s digital world.  The sexual exploitation of children is now primarily hidden on personal computers and on the internet.  Using digital technology, perpetrators of child abuse can easily photograph and videotape children being forced into sexual acts, store these images and videos on their computers, and share them online.

Like their counterparts in print media who process commercial film and photos, commercial computer technicians are uniquely positioned to discover child abuse and pornography in the course of their work.

Ten states have already updated their mandated reporter statutes to include computer technicians: Alaska; Illinois; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; North Carolina; Oklahoma; Oregon; South Carolina; and South Dakota.  AB 1817 would add California to this list.

AB 1817 is sponsored by The California Keeping Innocence Digitally Safe Coalition (CA K.I.D.S.) – a coalition of community, parent, law enforcement, technology, and child abuse and neglect organizations advocating for children's safety and protection in the state of California.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Statement Of Assemblymember Toni Atkins On Historic Ruling For Freedom And Justice

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Federal Court Affirms Marriage Equality As A Constitutional Right

(San Diego) Once again, those who oppose marriage equality have had their day in court and, once again, a court has affirmed that gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry are not second class citizens, but instead are entitled to share in the freedom and justice promised by the constitution to every American.

While the opponents no doubt will continue their campaign of fear and misinformation, the light of truth and freedom shines on us today. I am confident that light will continue to shine, no matter how often they try to douse it.

As one of the 18,000 couples who were able to marry while marriage for same sex couples was legal in California in 2008, I can tell you that it does make a difference. Marriage is more than a piece of paper; it is a formal acknowledgment that one’s committed relationship is valued.  I look forward to the day when every couple who wants to marry may do so.  And I know that day will come.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Atkins Bill Will Deny Violent Abusers Spousal Support from Their Victims

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(Sacramento) Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) has introduced legislation to prevent abusive ex-spouses from forcing their victims to pay them spousal support and other financial compensation following a divorce. AB 1522 was inspired by the case of a San Diego area woman who was ordered by a court to pay her husband’s legal fees plus monthly spousal support, despite the fact that he was convicted of committing violent sex crimes against her and was ultimately sent to prison.

"The current law allowing rapists to demand payment from their spouses in a divorce is unjust," says Atkins. "Victims of violent sex crimes already suffer physical trauma, fear, and an assault on their privacy and dignity. To require them also to pay their abuser alimony or to give them a share of their pension or household goods is cruel and makes a mockery of the intent behind the laws governing the fair division of assets in a divorce."

Current law already prevents spousal support in cases of the attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 would add violent sex felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from their ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding.

AB 1522 is sponsored by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "The District Attorney's Office is in strong support of this bill and we're working hard to change the law that allowed Crystal Harris to be re-victimized. We need to make sure this can't happen again to victims of violent crime," says Dumanis.

Crystal Harris, the woman whose case brought attention to the loophole in the law, also supports Atkins' bill, saying "I never want to think of another rape victim having to go through the re-victimization process that I went through. I urge all people devoted to justice to make sure this bill passes."

The bill is already garnering strong bi-partisan legislative support, with Senators Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad) and Assemblymembers Marty Block (D- Lemon Grove), Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), Martin Garrick (R-Carlsbad), Kevin Jeffries (R- Murrieta), Brian Jones (R-Santee), Jeff Miller (R-Orange), and Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) signing on as co-authors before the bill was formally introduced.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Assemblymember Toni Atkins Reacts To Governor Brown’s State Of The State Address

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Governor Brown’s State of the State address struck an important balance between acknowledging the immediate challenges faced by our state while also maintaining a long term vision of California as a place of innovation and opportunity.

As the Legislature analyzes the Governor’s proposed budget, we must take both a thoughtful and prudent approach. The state budget is not just about numbers; it directly affects the lives of real people. It is about putting Californians back to work, keeping teachers in the classroom, and making sure our communities have cops and firefighters keeping us safe. It is about supporting small businesses, the keystone of our state’s economy, and leading the way in the creation of “green” jobs that create prosperity while protecting our environment. We also have to determine what comes next in terms of helping communities boost economic development and affordable housing.  And we have to find ways to ease the financial burden on middle class families trying to send their kids to college.

Last year, Assembly Democrats worked with the Governor to produce an on-time budget that eliminated more than three-fourths of California’s ongoing deficit.  Assembly Democrats are committed to working with the Governor to build on the progress we made by passing another on-time budget this year.

The Assembly also wants to examine very carefully whether budget proposals impacting children, the elderly and disabled, and families struggling to work and stay off welfare would actually do more harm than good.

We’ll also be working together to ensure California gets the new revenues necessary to put the state’s fiscal house in order. The Governor has taken a reasonable approach to new revenues by asking the people of California for their support of temporary revenue measures to protect priorities such as education while we grapple with our immediate challenges.  Without new revenues, draconian cuts will take place.  This is not posturing; it is simple arithmetic.  The results of these cuts could include:

  • School kids could miss out on three weeks of instruction;
  • More increase in tuition throughout California’s public university system;
  • Fewer resources with which to combat wildfires;
  • Reduced funding for already-cash strapped courts which translates into reduced public safety; and
  • Reduction of lifeguards at state beaches.

The task that lies ahead is daunting, but I look forward to working together with my colleagues in the State Legislature and with Governor Brown to restore the promise of the Golden State.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead, (619) 645-3090

Assemblymember Atkins Optimistic that Federal Courts will Recognize Marriage Equality Despite Today's Procedural Setback

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Statement On Today's California Supreme Court Ruling In Marriage Equality Case

(San Diego) The California Supreme Court ruled today that proponents of Proposition 8, which repealed marriage rights for same sex couples in California, have the legal right to defend the measure, which has been challenged on constitutional grounds in an ongoing federal case.

"Today's ruling by the California Supreme Court gives initiative proponents the right to defend a measure in court when the State's constitutional officers decline to do so. While I completely agree with Governor Brown and Attorney General Harris that Prop 8 unconstitutionally discriminates against LGBT people, I recognize that the Supreme Court was required to establish a rule that applied to all ballot measures – those we agree with and those we do not.

We now look to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to recognize that treating same sex couples as second class citizens violates constitutional principles. I am confident that Prop 8's proponents, who used erroneous and misleading arguments to persuade voters to adopt the measure and then repeated their misinformation campaign in the lower court, will ultimately be unable to persuade the Ninth Circuit that marriage equality in any way harms Californians. They may have the legal right to defend discrimination but that does not make it defensible.

As a member of one of the 18,000 couples who were able to exercise our freedom to marry in 2008 before Prop 8's passage, I urge all couples now waiting for their turn to have hope and confidence in our legal system and the principles of freedom and equality upon which our nation was founded."

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead Office: (619) 645-3090

Governor Signs Atkins Measure to Prevent Transgender Discrimination

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(San Diego) AB 887, a bill authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins to strengthen state anti-discrimination laws regarding gender identity and gender expression, was signed into law yesterday by Governor Jerry Brown.

"As Californians, we are committed to equal treatment for all," says Atkins. "This new law makes it clear that transgender Californians are legally protected against discrimination in employment, housing, and other arenas and strengthens our commitment to fairness and equality. I am gratified that the Governor recognizes the importance of these protections."

AB 887 strengthens the language of a variety of state laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender and makes it clear that gender expression and gender identity are included in those protections. Transgender people often experience job or housing discrimination because of uncertainty about the law. The new language will clarify the responsibilities of employers and landlords and ensure that transgender people are aware of their rights.

The new law takes effect January 1, 2012.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead Office: (619) 645-3090, Cell: (619) 549-3140

Atkins Disease Prevention Bill Signed Into Law

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(San Diego) Assembly Bill 499 by State Assemblymember Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today. The bill closes a gap in the law to allow young people to seek preventive treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) without an involved parent. Currently, minors have access to diagnosis and treatment services, but not preventive services such as vaccinations.

"It doesn't make sense for our state's laws to provide youth with direct access to treatment services after they have been infected, but to leave them without the medical options that would prevent them from catching these diseases in the first place," says Atkins. "Requiring parental involvement is not always realistic or safe and we need to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to utilize life-saving preventive medicine."

Great strides in preventive medicine have been achieved since many of the laws affecting medical treatment for minors were written. A number of STDs, in particular, can be prevented by vaccines or other medical interventions, including the human papillovirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer.

AB 499 is supported by medical professionals, youth advocacy organizations, community clinics, and many others. California joins Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Montana, and other states in closing this gap in the law.

The new law takes effect on January 1, 2012.

Contact – Dale Kelly Bankhead Office: (619) 645-3090, Cell: (619) 549-3140

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