Thursday, May 9, 2013


(San Diego)  Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, was passed by the California State Assembly today.  The bill provides transgender people seeking legal name changes to reflect their gender identity with a streamlined and inexpensive process that protects their privacy. Current law requires a transgender person to obtain a court order and to publish the name change application in the newspaper. This process can be expensive and also publicly exposes the person to potential discrimination, harassment or even violence because of being transgender.

“Transgender people are entitled to have their official documents and their legal name reflect their true identity without a burdensome and expensive process that endangers their personal safety,” says Atkins.

Transgender people’s understanding of themselves as male or female is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.  Medical science recognizes this condition as Gender Dysphoria and prescribes specific treatments to help the transgender person transition physically, so their bodies match their gender identity.  This often includes surgery, medication, and mental health support. Being transgender is not a choice.  A person’s gender identity is set at an early age and cannot be changed at will.

The transition to living in accord with one’s gender identity also involves a legal process because birth certificates and a person’s name usually reflect the sex they were assigned at birth. In California, a person seeking a court-ordered name change has to publish a notice in a newspaper for four weeks.  They are also required to have a public hearing before a judge, the record of which is also public.  The process is lengthy and can be expensive.

Forty-four percent of transgender people experience discrimination, harassment and assault.  A public name change process heightens the likelihood of these occurring.  AB 1121 allows the transgender person to avoid the public notice and court process by applying directly to the state Office of Vital Records for a name change.

AB 1121 is sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.  It will now move to the California State Senate for consideration.

Pharmacist Kickbacks Jeopardizing the Health of San Diego Patients

The following is a guest opinion by Hollaine Hopkins from the Lupus Foundation, California chapter.

Health care cost containment is a critical issue facing every participant in the health care system. Efforts to contain costs, however, appear to have given rise to dangerous financial arrangements between health insurers and pharmacists that may be jeopardizing the health of San Diego patients.

A loophole in California law allows your health insurer to give a financial kickback to your pharmacist every time the pharmacist switches your medication to older, cheaper, non-chemically equivalent drugs from those originally prescribed by your doctor, even without your knowledge.

Switching patients to non-chemically equivalent drugs is a potentially dangerous practice known as “therapeutic substitution.” Unlike switching patients to identical generic drugs – which simply function as a cheaper alternative – pharmacists who make therapeutic substitutions are subjecting patients to drugs with different ingredients and dosages, different release mechanisms, and different side effects and complications.

For the more than 1.5 million Americans living with lupus, a therapeutic switch can directly result in a decline in health. Although two medicines may treat the same condition, when the ingredients are not the same, there can be different side effects or treatment can be ineffective. There is currently no cure for lupus and many patients take up to 20 pills every day simply to mitigate the symptoms of the disease. Those patients need to know they are getting the medications their doctor prescribed.

California law currently prohibits physicians from receiving any financial incentive from insurers for prescribing any particular course of treatment. Because of a loophole in the law, however, pharmacists are allowed to take a kickback from an insurer every time they make a therapeutic switch to a cheaper drug.

Perhaps not surprisingly, physicians report a spike in the number of requests to authorize these switches, leaving physicians without any idea if the pharmacist is recommending the switch because it is in the best interest of the patient or if it is because the pharmacist is receiving financial compensation for the switch.

Pharmacists are a critical part of a collaborative health care environment based on ethics and trust. Pharmacists are rightly well-regarded figures in their communities, and when pharmacists provide counsel, patients listen.

Prescribing physicians also routinely take the advice of pharmacists on alternate therapies, without question, for any number of reasons. A pharmacist may know that a patient’s health plan does not cover the medication a doctor has prescribed, for example. Pharmacists may also have knowledge of patient history that can help patients avoid negative drug interactions.

San Diego patients should be confident that treatment decisions are based solely on what is in their best interest and should not have to worry about whether their pharmacist is being unduly influenced by health insurer kickbacks.

League of Conservation Voters San Diego Releases 2012 Environmental Quality Report Card

Report Card grades San Diego Councilmembers and Mayor on environmental record in 2012

San Diego -- League of Conservation Voters San Diego today released the 2012 Environmental Quality Report Card for City of San Diego. The Report Card identifies 17 priority votes from 2012 and grades each member of the San Diego City Council and now-former Mayor Jerry Sanders on their record on environmental issues.

Grades for the nine elected officials ranged from an 88% ‘B’ for Councilmember David Alvarez to 59% failing ‘F’ grades for former Councilmember Carl DeMaio and former Mayor Jerry Sanders.

“The good news is, the entire council showed improved scores after an abysmal 2011 report card,” said Livia Borak, President of League of Conservation Voters San Diego. “The key now will be building on improved communications to keep our elected leadership informed and engaged on environmental priorities as we move forward.”

The entire Council improved its ranking by voting unanimously on numerous positive environmental issues, including the Water Policy Implementation Task Force, approving the purchase of emergency generators for sewage pump stations, accepting the Recycled Water Study, blocking the Quail Brush energy project, approving the California Property Assessed Clean Energy financing program, and dedicating park and recreation lands.

“It’s encouraging to see stronger voting records from the council, but we still have plenty of room for more leadership on environmental justice and climate change,” said Nicole Capretz, Associate Director, Green Energy/Green Jobs Campaign for the Environmental Health Coalition. “The next step is to make sure these issues are central to long-term planning in San Diego.”

The 2012 EQRC includes a breakdown of the votes and explanations of priority issues from the past year. It also outlines ways that members of the city council can improve their grades going forward.

“In 2013, we’ll be looking to the council to address a number of issues that will impact our region for years to come,” said Jill Witkowski, Waterkeeper at San Diego Coastkeeper. “From storm water regulations that could finally make the water safe after it rains to climate change standards that seriously address the threats to our region, now is the time to commit to smart, lasting policies to keep San Diego on the right track.”

The entire report card can be downloaded at the League of Conservation Voters San Diego website at


LCVSD is a chapter of the California League of Conservation Voters, which seeks to protect the environmental quality of the state by working to elect environmentally responsible candidates and hold them accountable to the conservation agenda. By being an "on the ground" voice in the San Diego community, LCVSD provides an opportunity for environmental activists to directly impact the local electoral process while promoting environmental candidates.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


(Sacramento)  Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins of San Diego was honored today with the Cornucopia Award from California Women in Agriculture, .  The award is given annually to an urban legislator who has demonstrated a willingness to enter into dialogue with agriculture.

“While San Diego is well known as the second largest city in California, what is less well known is that agriculture is a key economic engine for San Diego County,” says Atkins.  “I am proud to receive this award and to play a role in enhancing the partnership between urban and rural California, especially by supporting the role of women in agriculture.”

San Diego County has the 12th largest agricultural economy of 3,000 counties nationwide.  It also has more small farms than any other county in the nation.  San Diego is the number one producer of avocados and nursery crops; number two in acres devoted to guavas, pomegranates, limes, and macadamias; and number 3 in honey production.  The county is also first in number of part-time farmers and second nationally in the number of farms with women as the principal operator.

More information about San Diego agriculture is available from the San Diego Farm Bureau,