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Changes to California's health care, education and labor laws are among the bills the Legislature's Latino Caucus will prioritize this year.

Statistics show Latinos are more likely than other Californians to live in poverty, lack health insurance and attain little formal education, caucus chair Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said in announcing the group's priorities Wednesday.

"Fighting to turn these numbers around is why most of us got into politics and are now in the Legislature. California as a state cannot succeed unless we educate, employ and keep healthy the fastest growing sector of our work force, which is the Latino community," Lara said.

The caucus threw its support behind eight bills, including:

- Senate Bill 1174 by Lara, to place an initiative before voters in 2016 to repeal Proposition 227 and allow public schools to teach bilingual education.

- Senate Bill 972 by Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pamona, to expand the number of people on the state's health exchange board and require some expertise in marketing health plans.

- Assembly Bill 1522 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, to grant workers three days of paid sick leave.

"Studies show that in fact Latino workers in the state of California are 20 times more likely to not have paid sick days than their... Caucasian counterparts," Gonzalez said.

"So this is an important bill not only to low-wage workers, it's a very important bill to Latinos and in particular, single moms."

The California Chamber of Commerce has put Gonzalez's bill on its "Job Killers" list this year, saying the measure increases employer mandates and threatens them with penalties and litigation.

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, with other members of the Legislature's Latino Caucus on April 2, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall.



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