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Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

To kill a mocking-book
To kill a mocking-book
February 21, 2024

A changing California

Becca ’23, Shaye ’25 and Claire ’23

The California State Capitol, located in Sacramento, houses the chambers of the California State Legislature. Courtesy of Robert Dimov.

The housing crisis. Dangerously accelerating climate change. Reproductive rights. The “pink tax.” The rising cost of living. Big Oil. The 40 state senators and 80 assembly members making up the newly sworn-in California Legislature will be representing the people of California on these challenges ahead. 

For the next two years, the recently elected representatives will have the responsibility of creating legislation that becomes state law. This process starts when a state senator or assembly member authors a bill. Then, the bill is introduced on the floor of either the California State Assembly or the California State Senate house. Committee hearings determine whether to pass or defeat the bill. If the bill is passed, it goes through two additional readings at the house of origin and is voted upon. If approved in the Senate house, it must repeat the process in the Assembly house and vice versa. Once the bill is approved by both houses, it reaches the governor, who signs the bill into law or vetoes it. A two-thirds vote in both houses can override the governor’s veto. If it is signed or the veto is overturned, the bill becomes state law. 

The importance of this process has been shown with the landmark Supreme Court decision on June 24, 2022, which overturned Roe v. Wade. With access to abortion no longer a federal right, state legislation determines the fate of the reproductive rights of American citizens. 10 states enforced legislatures that expanded abortion rights, while 12 states illegalized abortion. This contrast demonstrates how state legislation plays a key role in maintaining the civil rights of its citizens. With the new shift in California’s legislature, rights and policies set to begin in 2023 will as well.  

Along with other laws, two pieces of recently enacted California legislation include​​ an increase in the minimum wage and a pay transparency law. Both went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The increase in minimum wage, Senate Bill 1162, will raise California’s minimum wage from $15.00 to $15.50 per hour. This legislation was part of a five-year plan to gradually increase the minimum wage from $10.00 per hour in 2017 to $15.50 per hour in 2023.

The five-year plan was created against the backdrop of California’s steadily rising cost of living. According to CalMatters, California has a higher percentage of residents living in poverty than any other state in the nation, due in part to its higher prices of gas, utilities and food.  

Community Partnerships Program Head Javier Espinoza expressed support for this increase in the minimum wage, as well as insight into its broader implications. 

“I think it’s really hard to be a working-class person [in Los Angeles], someone who works eight hours a day and gets their income from the labor they provide,” Espinoza said. “I don’t think that people understand that when you don’t provide a minimum wage that’s liveable, it is a source of a lot of other problems like violence and crime as well.”

On the other hand, the transparency pay law requires employers to include pay ranges on all job advertisements. Under Senate Bill 3, employees will also be able to solicit the pay range between coworkers in the same position, which holds corporations accountable for paying their employees equally. Additionally, larger corporations will be required to submit more detailed information surrounding their pay to the California Department of Civil Rights. This legislation was created to better identify gender and race-based disparities and follows similar laws in other states: Washington (effective Jan. 1, 2023), Colorado (currently in effect) and New York City (in effect since Nov. 1, 2022).

“While it’s not an immediate fix to the wage gap, any sort of transparency to gender-based pay discrimination will inspire change through putting the numbers in front of people and forcing us to look at the facts of this issue,” Amelia ‘23 said.

Addressing a similar issue, the new legislature surrounding the pink tax was also implemented throughout the state of California on Jan. 1. This law prohibits charging varied prices for products substantially similar in quality or use, eliminating the ability for businesses to engage in gender-based pricing and marking a significant step towards social equality.

The pink tax refers to the pricing disparities in female and male products; typically, goods marketed toward women are more expensive than similar goods for men. The added tax affects a multitude of products: razors, deodorant, clothing, toys and even cosmetic products. In fact, it is estimated that a woman pays about $2,381 more per year for the same services as her male counterpart (a whopping $47 billion in total).

 $2,381 more per year for the same services as her male counterpart (a whopping $47 billion in total).

This marketing strategy is largely rooted in gender stereotypes: many companies assume that because society emphasizes women’s appearances over those of men, women will pay slightly higher prices with little complaint. The tax itself reveals the extent to which sexism has permeated consumership, causing members of the Marlborough community to express their support for its repeal.

“I am extremely happy the pink tax has ended,” Isabel ’25 said. “It’s crazy to me that these companies got away with such obvious gender discrimination for so long.”

World Languages Instructor Laura  Jensen expressed similar sentiments. “I think it’s great to repeal the pink tax,” Jensen said. “It is one small step towards recognition of the ways that women are treated differently in our society.”

And while eliminating the pink tax is undoubtedly a step forward for gender equality, some community members argue that there are larger, and more important, issues looming.

“Although it’s definitely a momentous event, I feel like some of the bigger issues lie in disparities like the gender wage gaps,” Jina ‘23 said.

Debate Coach Adam Torson seconds this idea. “The socio-economic disadvantages experienced by women are primarily related to the fact that they disproportionately work in care and service industries,” he said. “Trying to address more fundamental inequalities can better improve the average quality of life for women and achieve economic gender equality.”

Though the repeal is progress, it will not significantly address women’s socio-economic disadvantages under capitalism.

California’s changing laws demonstrate how state legislatures increasingly determine the rights of their citizens. These laws advocate for greater economic equality. The Pink Tax Repeal Act fights against gender-based pricing of consumer products. The increase in California’s minimum wage allows workers to afford basic living expenses. The transparency pay law serves to fight against gender and race-based disparities in salaries and hiring. As the federal court defers decisions on individual rights, such as gun rights, reproductive rights, economic rights and voting rights, the power falls to state governments. 

Throughout the United States, recent changes in state legislature have had both positive and negative implications. On the one hand, California is seemingly moving towards greater equity in its legislation surrounding salaries. Elsewhere, the Alabama State Legislature has banned abortion completely while Florida’s House Bill 1557, also called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, restricts the discussion of gender and sexual identity in public schools. State legislature’s ability to alter one’s rights makes participation in local and state elections all the more relevant to determining a citizen’s rights. Involvement in local politics allows citizens to initiate and carry out change in our present-day America. 

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