State Senate bill SB 323, also known as the controversial “Boy Scout Bill,” which seeks to deny the tax-exempt status of groups that discriminate against gay, transgender or atheist members, passed its first vote this week.
A Senate Governance and Finance Committee hearing on the bill, also being referred to as the Youth Equality Act, resulted in a 5-2 vote in favor of the measure.
Discussion of the bill, which was introduced by Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, left several concerns on the table for Sen. Steve Knight, R-Santa Clarita, which left him opposed to the bill, Knight said Thursday.
“It’s a bill that talks about discrimination against the gay community for many different organizations, and I think the Boy Scouts were pinned as the poster child here and they got kind of beat up in committee,” Knight said.
“I had several questions for the author, Sen. Lara, and he couldn’t answer them,” said Knight, who is vice chair of the Local Government Committee. “So I voted against the bill.”
“This bill would also provide that an organization that is a public charity youth organization that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or religious affiliation is not exempt from the taxes imposed by that law,” according to the text of the proposal.
Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Moorpark, who also represents portions of the Santa Clarita Valley, had no comment on the bill at this time, according to Malcolm Maclachlan, a spokesman for her office.
The broad implications of the bill meant more than two dozen youth organizations would lose their tax-exempt status as a result, Knight said. It potentially could hurt groups that were not specifically referenced in the bill due to the vagueness of the bill’s language, such as Pop Warner Football and 4H.
“What if a group doesn’t have anything in their bylaws and you decide that they’ve done this type of activity,” said Knight, who asked Lara, “What do you do to them and how do you know they’ve done this type of activity, and (Lara) said, ‘Well, we don’t.’”
“So it turned into a Boy Scouts bill, when it really takes away the tax-exempt status of more than 25 organizations,” Knight said.
The fact that it could raise taxes on individuals, because it would take away group’s tax-exempt status, meant that it had to pass with a two-thirds majority in the state Senate.
Knight said he thought the bill would pass despite the objections that were raised.
Representatives from the Santa Clarita Valley Service Center were not available for comment before deadline.
Officials at the regional council for local Boy Scout districts that oversees the local office also refused comment.