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Inventory of the Sheila J. Kuehl Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • State Assembly, 1995-2000
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material at the California State Archives
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Sheila J. Kuehl Papers
    Dates: 1995-2008
    Collection number: LP402
    Creator: Sheila J. Kuehl, California Legislator
    Collection Size: 20 cubic feet of textual materials and 1 cubic foot of audiovisual materials
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: Sheila J. Kuehl served in the California State Legislature from 1994-2008. The Sheila J. Kuehl Papers consist of 20 cubic feet of textual records and one cubic foot of audiovisual materials reflecting the interests and political activities of Kuehl during her 14 years in the California State Legislature.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Sheila J. Kuehl Papers, LP402:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition and Custodial History

    The California State Archives acquired the Sheila J. Kuehl Papers following her final term in the State Legislature.


    California legislator Sheila James Kuehl was born February 9, 1941 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her family moved to Los Angeles when Sheila was two years old, and she began working as an actress at the age of eight. From 1959 to 1963 she starred as Zelda Gilroy on the situation comedy The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1962 and from Harvard Law School in 1978. She returned to the Los Angeles area in the late 1970s, practicing family law and teaching at California State University, Long Beach, UCLA, and Loyola University. In 1989, she became the co-founder and managing director of the California Women's Law Center, where she remained legal counsel for several years. As of 2009, she continues to serve on the CWLC Board of Directors.
    In 1994, Kuehl ran to succeed retiring State Assemblymember Terry Friedman in the 41st Assembly District; she won the six-way Democratic primary with 41 percent of the vote, then defeated Republican candidate Michael Meehan in the November general election by a margin of 56 to 41 percent. Her election was notable in that it made her the Capitol's first openly LGBTQ state legislator.
    She was reelected with 55 percent of the vote in 1996 and 63 percent in 1998. In 2000, term limits forced Kuehl to retire from the Assembly; she ran for the 23rd Senate District seat of retiring State Senator Tom Hayden. Kuehl defeated fellow Assemblymember Wally Knox in the March 2000 open primary by a margin of 50 to 29 percent, and went on to win the November general election with over 70 percent of the vote. She was re-elected to the Senate in 2004 by a margin of 66 to 29 percent.
    During Kuehl's tenure, the 41st Assembly District was located on the north coast of Los Angeles County, and contained the cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica, and Westlake Village, as well as the Encino, Tarzana and Woodland Hills areas of the city of Los Angeles. The Democratic voter registration edge over Republicans remained steady at about 15 percent throughout the 1990s.
    The 23rd Senate District contained all of Kuehl's former Assembly district as well as the city of West Hollywood in Los Angeles County, and the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme in Ventura County. Like Kuehl's Assembly district, it was heavily Democratic, containing roughly twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans throughout Kuehl's time in office.
    According to the Pocket Directory of the California Legislature, Kuehl served on the following committees:

    State Assembly, 1995-2000

    Standing Committees
    Appropriations, 1997-2000
    Education, 1996
    Health, 1999-2000
    Higher Education, 1997-1998
    Human Services, 1995, 1997-1998
    Information Technology, 1998
    Judiciary, 1995, 1997-2000
    *Chair, 1999-2000
    Local Government, 2000
    Natural Resources, 1995
    Public Safety, 1995, 1997
    Revenue and Taxation, 1996
    *Vice Chair, 1996
    Rules, 1995
    Televising the Assembly and Information Technology, 1997
    Water, Parks and Wildlife, 1996, 1999-2000
    Select Committees
    California's Children, 1996
    California's Women, 1997-1998
    *Chair, 1997-1998
    Construction Fraud, 2000
    Domestic Violence, 2000
    Earthquake Safety and Preparedness, 2000
    Entertainment and the Arts, 1998-2000
    *Chair, 1999-2000
    Insolvency of Orange County, 1995-1996
    San Gabriel Valley Groundwater Contamination, 2000

    State Senate, 2000-2008

    Standing Committees
    Agriculture, 2006-2008
    Agriculture and Water Resources, 2001-2004
    Appropriations, 2007-2008
    Budget and Fiscal Review, 2001-2006
    Environmental Quality, 2001-2008
    Government Modernization, Efficiency, and Accountability, 2005-2006
    Health, 2005-2008
    *Chair, 2007-2008
    Health and Human Services, 2001-2004
    Judiciary, 2001-2008
    Labor and Industrial Relations, 2001-2008
    Natural Resources and Water, 2001-2008
    *Chair, 2001-2006
    Budget and Fiscal Review-Resources, Environmental Protection, Judiciary,
    Transportation and Energy, 2002-2006
    *Chair, 2005-2006
    Environmental Quality-Toxic Materials, 2006
    Health-Aging and Long Term Care, 200
    Health-Stem Cell Research Oversight, 2005-
    Health and Human Services-Aging and Long Term Care, 2003-2004
    Health and Human Services-California's Emergency Medical Services, 2003-2004
    Health and Human Services-King/Drew Medical Facility, 2004
    Judiciary-Anti-Competitive Conduct and the Marketplace, 2006
    Judiciary-Bad Faith Liability and Consumer Rights, 2002-2004
    Natural Resources and Water-Delta Resources, 2005-2006
    Select Committees
    California Correctional System, 2003-2006
    California's Role in the World Trade Organization, 2001
    *Chair, 2001
    Children, Youth and Families, 2006
    Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health, 2001-2006
    Entertainment Industry, 2003-2004
    Forestry, 2001-2002
    Gender Discrimination and Title IX Implementation, 2008
    Genetics and Public Policy, 2001
    Genetics, Genetic Technologies and Public Policy, 2002-2004
    Health Care Crisis in California, 2005-2006
    *Chair, 2005-2006
    Health Care for All Californians, 2003-2004
    *Chair, 2003-2004
    Health Effects of Radioactive and Chemical Contamination, 2007-2008
    *Chair, 2007-2008
    High School Graduation, 2007-2008
    International Trade Policy and State Legislation, 2002, 2004
    *Chair, 2002
    *Vice Chair, 2004
    Investigate Price Manipulation of the Wholesale Energy Market, 2002-2003
    Percholarate Contamination, 2004-2006
    Regulation of Talent Agencies, 2002
    School Safety, 2001-2008
    *Chair, 2001-2008
    Urban Economic Development, 2003-2004
    Joint Committees
    Arts, 1998-2008
    Rules, 2007-2008
    Kuehl served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Assembly, from December 1996 to November 1998. She was the first woman to hold this position.

    Scope and Content

    The Sheila J. Kuehl Papers consist of 20 cubic feet of textual records and one cubic foot of audiovisual materials reflecting the interests and political activities of Kuehl during her 14 years in the California State Legislature. Kuehl's records contain bill files, subject files, hearing files, gay and lesbian media files, and press conferences. Also contained in these papers are the records related to two select committees: the Assembly Select Committee on California's Women, which Kuehl created and chaired, and the Senate Select Committee to Investigate Price Manipulation of the Wholesale Energy Market, on which Kuehl served.
    The bill files cover the subjects Kuehl emphasized during her time in the Legislature - women's rights, discrimination against gays and lesbians, health care, domestic violence, and child custody issues. One of Kuehl's most controversial pieces of legislation was the Dignity for All Students Act, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all public school programs, facilities, and teaching curriculum; it failed as Assembly Bill 1001 in the 1995-1996 legislative session, AB101 of the 1997-1998 session, and AB222 of the 1999-2000 session, before passing and being signed into law as AB537 of the 1999-2000 session. Researchers studying gay and lesbian rights should consult the individual bill files of the Dignity for All Students Act, as well as the Dignity for All Students Act subject file, which contains more comprehensive background information and correspondence.
    Also of interest to researchers studying gay and lesbian rights will be legislation by Kuehl to expand the rights of registered domestic partners (AB2211 of the 1999-2000 session) and to require public school curricula to educate students about the contributions to society made by prominent members of the gay or lesbian community (SB1437 of the 2005-2006 session).
    Kuehl also authored broader anti-discrimination legislation, addressing more than the gay and lesbian community. Her AB821 of the 1995-1996 session would have allowed employees or students found to have been unlawfully discriminated against by a public educational institution to seek civil action and court-ordered damages. AB310 of the 1997-1998 session, her attempt to expand California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, was vetoed by Governor Pete Wilson. She also authored AB1670 in 1999-2000, the California Civil Rights Amendments of 1999.
    Health care was a major policy focus for Kuehl. One of her most controversial bills was AB525 of the 1999-2000 session, which implemented disclosure requirements on religiously-owned hospitals which object to providing reproductive services such as birth control and abortion. She also wrote legislation (AB394 and AB695 in 1999-2000), which established nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals.
    In an attempt to encourage the purchase of zero-emissions electric automobiles, Kuehl authored two bills during the 1995-1996 legislative session relating to the use and sale of such vehicles. Assembly Bill 1318 would have exempted the sale of zero-emission vehicles from California state sales taxes; AB2623 would have allowed those driving such vehicles to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on state freeways. This bill file is of particular interest as an early example of public policy dealing with fossil fuel emissions and attempts to reverse the effects of climate change.
    The year after voters passed California's controversial "Three Strikes and You're Out" initiative, Kuehl attempted to amend the legislation by requiring that the third "strike" be for a violent felony, rather than any class of felony at all. Her bill, Assembly Bill 1444 of the 1995-1996 legislative session, did not pass.
    Also included in this collection are subject files, three of which expand on bill files concerning some of Kuehl's most controversial legislation. Assembly Bill 481 of the 1997-1998 session expanded upon and strengthened California's existing regulations to prevent lead poisoning from facilities and products used by children. Assembly Bill 525 of the 1999-2000 session increased disclosure requirements for religiously-owned hospitals which object to reproductive health services such as birth control and abortion. The Dignity for All Students Act, introduced in the 1995-1996 session but not signed into law until the 1999-2000 session, targeted discrimination against gay and lesbian students in public schools. These three subject files will be of interest to those researching the bill files to which they correspond, for they expand upon the bill files, with newspaper articles, reports, and correspondence. In addition, the subject file on women prisoners will be of interest to those studying this topic, which was a major focus of Kuehl's during her time in the Legislature.
    Hearing files contain information provided to legislators attending the hearing that include background information on the legislation being discussed, statistics and studies, hearing agendas, notes taken by Kuehl, and other materials. Many of the hearing files relate to legislation proposed to protect gay and lesbian students from harassment in their schools.
    Gay and lesbian media files are composed entirely of audiovisual materials. Several television programs related to homosexuality that were of interest to Kuehl can be found on VHS tapes within this series. Press conferences are also entirely audiovisual and contain discussions of pending legislation during press conferences with the public.
    Additionally, this collection includes the files related to two select committees on which Kuehl served: the Assembly Select Committee on California's Women, which Kuehl chaired in 1997 and 1998, and the Senate Select Committee to Investigate Price Manipulation of the Wholesale Energy Market, on which Kuehl served from 2001 to 2003. The select committee files include comprehensive background information on their respective topics such as government reports, publications, and newspaper articles.

    Related Material at the California State Archives

    Senate Health Committee
    Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee
    Senate Select Committee to Investigate Price Manipulation of the Wholesale Energy Market

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Kuehl, Sheila J.
    Gay rights
    Women's rights