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San Francisco City Hall (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

SF Board Of Supervisors Votes To End 30 State Travel Ban

The law was only hurting SF while not changing any minds on the issues in the boycotted states

By Evan Symon, April 26, 2023 12:37 pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 on Tuesday to end a travel ban on 30 states that have passed restrictive laws on abortion, voting, and LGBT issues, citing that the law had proved to be ineffective in trying to change the respective laws in the different states.

The law, known as Section 12X of the Administrative Code, was originally authored by then-Supervisor Scott Wiener in 2016 and only applied to the four states that introduced LGBT restrictive laws in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide, which had been ruled on the previous year. According to the travel ban law, city employees would be prohibited from travelling to, or do business with, companies in the states that pass such laws.

While initially confined to just LGBT laws, the scope was expanded to include voting and abortion restrictions in the coming years, drastically increasing the number of states under the boycott from 4 to 30. In comparison, the state travel ban continued to only apply to those states with LGBT restrictive laws only, and, as of this month, only includes 23 states.

However, the 12X law has grown more controversial in recent years, with many finding loopholes around the travel ban and others noting that the travel ban was not having an effect on changing the minds of those in the 30 states on their laws. San Francisco was also incurring prohibitive costs resulting from the ban, harming the city more the ban was on the states being boycotted.

This culminated in the law hitting a major wall earlier this year, when a report by City Administrator Carmen Chu found the law to be entirely ineffective. In the report, it was found that the city had actually done business with states that were supposed to be boycotted, with $791 million worth of contracts and purchase orders in banned states being completed in a one-year period. Some programs, such as those giving minority students the chance to visit historically black colleges for free, had to be cancelled as many of those colleges were in banned states. And many purchase orders with banned states could simply be done through third-party contractors in non-banned states, with San Francisco essentially just paying a middle-man fee.

Conversely, San Francisco was also struck with paying $475,000 in expenses to simply implement the boycott. According to the Analyst’s report, “the law has created additional administrative burden for City staff and vendors and unintended consequences for San Francisco citizens, such as limiting enrichment and developmental opportunities. Few, if any, other jurisdictions implement travel or contracting bans as expansive as the City’s.”

With the law now clearly hurting the city, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman announced in February that he would be asking for a repeal of the law due to it’s ineffectiveness.

“It’s an ineffective policy that complicates the business of San Francisco government and makes it very likely that we pay more than we should for goods and services,” said the Supervisor.

With the backing of Mayor London Breed and many fellow Supervisors, as well as the original author, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) now having second thoughts on the action, the repeal went up for a vote on Tuesday, passing by a close 7-4 vote. While many of the Supervisors who voted for the repeal praised the intent of the 12X law, they conceded that the law was only hurting the city while also not changing any minds on the issues in the boycotted states.

End of the seven-year boycott

San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman (Photo: Official Twitter page of Rafael Mandelman)

“I do think that the intent behind 12X was good and correct, but it’s not achieving the goal we want to achieve,” Supervisor Mandelman said on Tuesday. “We have incredible needs for vulnerable populations right here in San Francisco. The better we can make San Francisco government work for our folks, the more good we can do.”

Supervisor Hillary Ronen said,  “What bothers me about 12X is that it’s really easy to symbolically act as if we’re doing something to move the needle. But in actuality, not only have we not moved that needle, things are getting worse.”
The four who voted against the boycott noted that the boycott should either be given more time to prove itself, or that the city needed to have an exit plan so that small businesses in the city would not be impacted as a result.

“We can’t make these changes without a plan,” said Supervisor Shamann Walton. “I fear the repeal will create unintended consequences for local small business contractors.”

Despite the concerns, many were happy with the repeal removal on Tuesday and Wednesday, with many echoing the supporting Supervisors thoughts that the city was being hurt by the boycott.

“I think that you would find that a lot of people in the city, on principle, were for trying to do something to hurt those states that were passing those laws against gay people and for people wanting access for abortion,” Taylor Rowland, a survey company supervisor who recently helped oversee a poll on the issue, told the Globe Wednesday. “But, at the same time, they saw that the city was spending so much on the boycott while at the same time ignoring it in many cases with the laws themselves not being repealed. It was an untenable situation. Long story short for most was that the hearts were in the right place but the execution was terrible. A decent-sized minority of the city also just hated the boycott from day one and were really happy it was on the road to being eliminated. Another decent-sized minority wanted to keep it under any circumstance whatsoever. Well, those first two groups got their wish yesterday.”

California’s state travel ban is currently being challenged with a similar repeal in the state legislature.

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2 thoughts on “SF Board Of Supervisors Votes To End 30 State Travel Ban

  1. They are completely inept.
    Basically they learned political vendettas don’t work! Duh!
    30 states they banned from travel, 2/3 of the country you tell to go f* off!
    How did you think it would end?
    Then to their dismay they find it only hurt San Francisco!
    I mean this is like watching episodes from Veep, South Park ,The Office or the Simpsons.
    Complete idiots and the sad thing is, real lives are affected.

    Calling Michael Scott, please report for duty, Mayor Breed could use your help.

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