New Boost Proposed for CA LGBT Businesses

LGBT businesses in California would get another boost from a proposed law now pending in the Statehouse.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) introduced legislation last week that would require recipients of California Energy Commission grants or loans to increase procurement from minority-owned business enterprises, including those run by LGBT individuals.

The measure, Assembly Bill 865, is similar to a law state lawmakers adopted last year that requires California public utilities to seek out LGBT businesses as part of their supply chains. Known as AB 1678, the bill was authored by gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) and took effect in January.

It is the focus of a training, as noted in last week’s Bay Area ReporterPolitical Notebook column, being held in San Francisco Monday afternoon to guide LGBT small business owners through the process to be certified as a business enterprise.

The federal Small Business Administration and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are co-sponsoring the event as part of a new national initiative aimed at helping LGBT small businesses tap into government contracting opportunities.

Under Alejo’s bill, recipients of funding from the state energy commission, which finances energy conservation and clean power projects, would need to report annually on their minority-, women-, LGBT- and disabled veteran-owned business procurement efforts. The funding recipients would also have to develop a verifiable plan for boosting such procurement.

“This will allow minority owned businesses to have increased opportunities for job growth and a fair chance to obtain contracts with major corporations,” stated Alejo. “To ensure accountability, the bill also requires the establishment of a Diversity Task Force. This task force will review and make recommendations about diversity in the energy industry and promote those actively engaging in diversity issues.”

The Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based public policy think tank, is supporting the bill.

“Entrepreneurship is key to the American dream, and diverse businesses deserve a fair shot at contracts with major corporations,” stated Vien Truong, the institute’s environmental equity director. “This bill encourages transparency and levels the playing field for businesses rooted in communities of color who otherwise might not get their foot in the door.”

Truong noted that the California Energy Commission is a main conduit for the state’s investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

“This is the logical next step in the effort to make sure California’s climate change policies bring real benefits to underserved communities,” said Truong.

Funds for LGBTs a legislative focus

Increasing opportunities for the LGBT community to benefit from state funding sources will be a key focus of lobbying efforts in the Legislature this session.

In addition to Alejo’s procurement bill is legislation authored by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) that would require state agencies to begin collecting LGBT demographic information by July of 2017.

As the B.A.R. reported last week, the goal of AB 959, the LGBT Disparities Reduction Act, is to arm state leaders and LGBT advocates with data on the health and well being of the LGBT community so they can fight for funding of social services addressing those needs.

Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, is the lead sponsor of the bill. It is part of its Fair Share for Equality campaign that seeks additional funding from government sources to address LGBT health and well-being disparities.

“Having government agencies collect information about sexual orientation and gender identity, as they do on other important characteristics, is necessary to assure that LGBT community needs are being met,” said EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur.

Last Thursday Chiu also introduced AB 960, the Equal Protection for All Families Act, which would modernize the state’s assisted reproduction laws to ensure all couples using assisted reproduction, whether with a doctor’s oversight or through at-home methods, are fully recognized as parents no matter their marital status.

The law would also update state family law to ensure sperm donors are recognized as donors and not later deemed to be parents with legal responsibilities for the child.