SACRAMENTO, Calif.—At the end of a hearing lasting just over 20 minutes, the California Senate's Appropriations Committee relegated Assembly Bill 1576, the "condoms/barrier protections in porn" bill, to the legislature's Suspense File, as it is doing with nearly 200 other bills presented at the committee's marathon hearing, which began shortly after 10:15 a.m. Being put in the Suspense File means that the bills are considered at one hearing after the state budget has been prepared and the committee has a better sense of available revenue. No testimony is presented, either by the bill's author or any witness for or against, at the Suspense File hearing.
AB 1576 finally reached the floor at 2:50 this afternoon, and Assemblyman Isadore Hall III delivered a shortened version of his same support for the bill that he had given at three previous legislative committees.
"AB 1576 is a workplace safety measure that would require employer-paid mandatory STD testing on adult film actors at least every 14 days and documentation that a condom or other personal protective equipment was use in all adult films produced in California," he began, adding that three policy committees—the Assembly Arts & Entertainment and Appropriations Committees, as well as the Senate Labor Committee—had already had "extensive public debate on this bill" and "received bipartisan support."
Hall went on to state that "Existing state and federal OSHA laws already require the use of condoms in adult films, period. In fact, existing federal OSHA law requires the use of condoms in adult films produced anywhere in the nation"—which of course begs the question of why AB 1576 is even needed.
Hall also claimed that the bill has "negligible general fund impact," ignoring the fact that CalOSHA or some other state agency would need to hire several additional inspectors to make sure adult movie and internet content producers are complying with the law. However, Hall sidestepped that fact by claiming that not passing the bill would cost the state even more—over $600,000 per person, he said—for treatment of performers who contracted HIV and other STDs, further claiming that most performers don't have health insurance, even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to obtain it.
"Many California studios require condoms on the set today, and are still extremely successful and profitable," he further claimed. "In fact, as recently as May 9 of this year, one adult film director made the switch to condoms and testing after acknowledging that the only reason he didn't require condoms before was because he put profit before worker safety."
That director was Axel Braun, and what Braun actually said was, "Maybe the last one [HIV-positive performer] hit too close to home, since patient zero was booked on my set the day he was diagnosed, or maybe my integrity is becoming more important than my bottom line, but I have finally come to believe that our system is broken, and I’m simply trying to do what I can to fix it on my end.” Braun also adopted a policy of only allowing actors with tests less that one week old, and required that actors be at least 21 years old.
Hall also hit on some of the other arguments that have been made against the bill, with Hall reiterating that performers in adult works are "employees like any other employee for any other business in the state," and reiterated that it wouldn't cost the state general fund any extra money.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Rand Martin followed Hall, claiming that "The bill does two things: Number one, it requires documentation that protective barriers were used when it was necessary to do so; number two, that an STD test was taken no more than 14 days before a scene was filmed. That is all the bill does." He also claimed that since he had worked with CalOSHA to "align the bill" with the agency's existing regulations, that no additional costs would be incurred—except, of course, for the additional inspectors, which Martin did not mention.
Cameron Bay and her boyfriend Rod Daily also spoke, with the former actress dropping her claim that she had contracted her HIV on an adult set, but claimed today that "Adult producers know ... that they could take advantage of workers like myself. They know the high turnover rate for workers like me and they know that they're breaking the law when they deny a worker like me the cheapest workplace barrier protection in existence, which is a condom. And they do all that because they don't have to pay for the treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. You, the citizens of California, have to pay. While the producers laugh their way to the bank, you're left with the bill: over half a million dollars in medication just for a single HIV infection like myself."
But while Bay claimed that "AB 1576 insures women like me are protected from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections," her boyfriend Rod Daily began his testimony by saying, "During my time as a performer, I only wore condoms in all of my scenes. Because of these, I was protected from STDs on set." So either Daily didn't contract his disease on an adult set, or the condoms didn't protect him—neither of which argues for the passage of AB 1576.
After the three speakers had finished, de Leon asked for others who wished to speak in support, and just three presented themselves, including Adam Cohen of UCLA's Reproductive Health Interest Group, an AHF supporter.
When de Leon asked for speakers in opposition to the bill, Lorelei Lee stepped forward, bringing with her a petition signed by "over 650 adult performers" opposing the bill, out of the 1,000 to 1,200 active performers in the industry, "so there can be no question that the majority of performers oppose this bill." She also noted that the committee had received letters from members of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, the industry's only all-talent group, which also oppose the bill.
"I want to make clear that the author of this bill does not speak for performers," Lee said. "The sponsors of this bill do not speak for performers. They have not worked with us, they have not reached out to us, and no one cares more than we do about our health and safety."
"This bill would seriously degrade the health and safety protocols that we already have in place and that we have been working to improve over the last decade," she added. "I want to emphasize that we would not work in this industry if we did not believe that our protocols have kept us safe. Under our current protocols, we have not had a single on-set transmission of HIV in over a decade. ... Performers who have tested positive in the last decade have done so after an exposure in their private lives and our mandatory test-and-stop protocols have prevented any on-set transmissions from occurring."
She also expressed concern about performers' medical information being shared with CalOSHA, noting that "Forced consent is not consent. This is a privacy violation and we do not consent to it."
She observed that "legislative condom mandates do not lead to more condom use in adult films," noting that after Measure B was passed, many productions moved out of the jurisdiction, "taking thousands of California jobs with them," including not only performers but the myriad technicians that work behind the scenes. She also noted that many productions that can't afford to move have gone underground.
"When our jobs become illegal, our employers have even less accountability, and both the stigmas and the on-set dangers that we face rise exponentially," she concluded. "Our voice and our concerns should be more important than bills that a politician is simply trying to pass a bill."
Attorney Karen Tynan next took the microphone, claiming that, "Let me be clear: AB 1576 is costly to the state, far beyond the suspense threshhold. It undermines efforts to implement a complete and effective worker safety plan." She added that the industry had spent years working with medical professionals and experts to devise the industry's current testing protocols, which she said are "more comprehensive than AB 1576, and we have the support of the workers, the performers themselves."
She reminded the committee that CalOSHA is working on its own set of regulations, and called AB 1576 "an assault on that process."
"We believe this bill will also cost money with the California Department of Public Health," she stated. "The recommendations will require the development of a list of recommended HIV tests and it's impossible to believe that this will not require additional costs to the state. This would have to be a public and inclusive process so that the Department of Public Health can understand the nuances of this industry and could listen to performers and primary care physicians," noting that such costs would require Public Health to "divert resources from more pressing matters."
She concluded by noting that six Bay Area production companies had already moved to Nevada, as well as a "San Fernando-based adult film company with $30 million in revenue transferred their entire operations out of state."
The final speaker in opposition to the bill was a new one: Aaron Fox of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, who noted that his organization was one of the ones that had sent an opposition letter to the committee last week, with the other two being Project Inform of San Francisco and AIDS Project Los Angeles (which de Leon made sure to note was a different organization from the bill's sponsor, AIDS Healthcare Foundation).
"Mandatory state-mandated HIV testing has never been something that this legislature has been in favor of except one time in its history, which was in 1996, when a boxer tested positive for HIV and the legislature passed a law that professional boxers and martial artists must be tested for HIV before they can compete in the ring," he stated. "We believe that any way of expanding state-mandated HIV testing violates privacy rights, stigmatizes people with HIV and is not something that's in congruence with all of the HIV testing laws in California that not only require consent but also require people to have the right to decline an HIV test. There's nothing in this legislation that allows people the right to decline an HIV test and that has been something the California legislature has always supported throughout its history."
At that point, de Leon called for those in the audience who oppose the bill to step forward and state their opposition—and more than 30 did, including performers Anna Cherry, Mia Coleman, Veruca James (who's also the recently elected treasurer of APAC), Jiz Lee, Mick Blue and Anikka Albrite (both APAC founders), Aiden Starr, Ariel X, Lea Lexis, Maitresse Madeline, Owen Gray and Mickey Mod, as well as FSC CEO Diane Duke and Michael Chate of MindGeek.
None of the committee members had questions or comments, but de Leon gave Hall the last word, though, and he didn't disappoint.
"I know this is not a sexy bill," he began. "We're talking about protecting the lives of those without a voice," apparently ignoring the "voice" of the 650-plus petitions presented to the committee earlier.
"These individuals who have come forward today deserve a badge of honor for the courage that they have to come back and forth to Sacramento for the last several months testifying in front of members of the legislature both on Senate and the Assembly side, talking about how they were impacted on their places of employment," he stated, apparently referring to Bay and Daily rather than the dozens of other performers who have attended those same hearings, "where they contracted a disease that will affect their lives for the rest of their lives," Hall added, implying that Bay and Daily contracted their HIV on-set, which implication has been shown to be untrue.
"For the record, Mr. Chair, this bill does not mandate testing," Hall lied. "This bill mandates documentation of testing, and there is a big difference. This bill does not mandate testing; this bill mandates the documentation of testing, and the question as I close is, Mr. Chair and members, is how many lives must be taken for profit? How many people must come up here each and every week or every other week and talk about how their lives and families' lives and many others are drastically impacted by going to work, performing a job, not receiving a reasonable level of protection afforded other employees, and as a result, now their lives have been turned upside down, their families and all of their associates?"
The answer to that question appears to be just Cameron Bay and Rod Daily, neither of whom caught their HIV on an adult set, while more than 650 other performers signed petitions and wrote letters against the bill's passage.
Apparently, Hall and his supporters will have to "commence the dialog" to drum up additional support for the bill "before the Suspense File dump next week." Opponents of AB 1576 will have the same amount of time to press their opposition to the bill's passage from the committee, and if Hall is successful, later, when the bill comes before the full Senate.