Fall 2015 – Legislative Updates, Policy Highlights, and Looking Ahead
Now that the legislative session has recessed until January, I’m hard at work meeting with constituents in the district, and I want to provide you some updates that I hope you’ll find useful. In this newsletter, you’ll find information about some key policy changes this year, news about legislation that I authored, and reminders about how you can contact me and my office to express your views, ask questions, or receive assistance. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can assist you.
2015 Policy Highlights
Investments in Education: This year, the Legislature continued to invest in education, from early childhood through college. The Middle Class Scholarship is set to award $80 million in grants for the 2015-16 school year for California college students. The California State University system received $97 million to increase enrollment and fast-track graduation. More than 85,000 community college students stand to benefit from a substantial increase in Cal Grant funding. Additionally, this year’s budget includes nearly $500 million to improve teacher effectiveness and performance in the classroom. The Legislature also approved $265 million to fund an additional 7,130 preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots.
Fighting Poverty: This year’s budget includes a new statewide Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that will help California’s poorest residents. This new supplemental tax credit, which builds upon the existing federal EITC, will help lift working Californians out of poverty by allocating $380 million to eligible working families who live far below the poverty level. The new statewide EITC takes a step toward addressing the lack of income gains for working Californians in the Post-Great Recession recovery while providing a much-needed stimulus in the most economically distressed communities. Earlier this year, I authored AB 43, a more comprehensive proposal that would have made available a statewide EITC to all Californians who are eligible for the federal EITC. This proposal would have invested up to $1 billion in a program that has a proven anti-poverty record. I am pleased that we took the major initial step toward addressing poverty in the state budget, and I will work to expand eligibility for the statewide EITC in future budget years.
Drought Relief: In March, the Legislature passed a $1 billion drought package to provide immediate relief across the state for projects to supplement clean drinking water, fund water recycling projects, and drill new wells. Additionally, the budget included $10 million to increase water efficiency of existing infrastructure.
Anticipating Climate Change: I was proud to support SB 350, a landmark climate-change bill that pushes for stronger standards for renewable energy and building energy efficiency. This measure will reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions and harmful particulate matter that threaten Californians’ health.
Stone Legislation Signed into Law
Foster Care: I’m pleased to report that the Governor signed AB 403, my foster care reform bill that gives families who provide foster care targeted training and support so that they are better prepared to care for youth living with them. The measure advances the state’s long-standing goal of moving away from the use of long-term group home care as an alternative to finding permanent placements for youth. The Governor also approved AB 592, which makes a simple change in how the state processes paperwork for former foster youth to help them more easily access important health, education, and housing benefits for which they are eligible.
Helping Vulnerable Californians: AB 848 solves a problem that was brought to my attention by detoxification facilities in my district. It ensures the safety of people seeking alcohol and drug rehabilitation services by allowing residential detoxification facilities to provide limited 24-hour medical services to their clients. AB 918 protects developmentally disabled Californians who live in community care facilities by requiring public reporting of data about how often seclusion and restraint techniques are used on them. AB 1423 establishes a streamlined process for obtaining consent to release information to relatives or to obtain consent for a proposed course of treatment for prisoners suffering from a debilitating medical condition that is not life threatening but renders them unable to give consent.
Small and local businesses: AB 394 helps promote the quality and reputation of local winemaking businesses in the Monterey Bay area. The new law requires that Monterey County wines be labeled to identify the region where they are produced. AB 893 updates the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (ABC) ability to responsibly regulate and remove unnecessary burdens on California’s growing beer brewing industry.
Big Blue Live: For those of you who had a chance to watch Big Blue Live, the jointly sponsored PBS and BBC special showcasing marine life along California’s coast, you’ll likely agree with the rest of the international viewing audience that the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the most spectacular places on the planet. Filmed live and on location, Big Blue Live demonstrated that California’s long-term investment in wildlife restoration and management has paid off in deeply gratifying ways. If you missed the show, you can view it online at http://www.pbs.org/big-blue-live/social-hub/.
Small Business Growth: This past summer I held a series of workshops focusing on how small businesses can grow and market themselves, qualify for tax credits under the California Competes program, and navigate the health insurance markets for their employees. I want to extend a special thanks to our local Chambers of Commerce, GO-Biz, Facebook, and Covered California for partnering with my office to put on these helpful events. If you’d like more information on any of these programs, or if you would like to share concerns and ideas about how to support our local economy, call my Santa Cruz District Office at (831) 425-1503.
Disaster Preparation: Although our area was spared the devastation of wildfires that have so severely impacted our northern neighbors, this year’s fire season served as a sobering reminder for all of us to be prepared in the event of disaster. Whether fire or earthquake, flooding or rockslides, it’s important to plan how to stay safe and communicate during disasters that can affect your community. For helpful tips on developing a disaster plan for you, your family, and your place of work, please check out www.bepreparedcalifornia.ca.gov.
Do you have a bill idea?
Over my past three years in office, I have had the opportunity to meet with many of you to listen to your concerns about the way state government works. I’ve heard so many interesting and creative suggestions for ways to protect our environment, reach our most vulnerable Californians, educate our children, and more. Some of the new laws I wrote came from these discussions.
That’s why I’m inviting you to tell me if you have an idea for a state law or a policy that you’d like to see changed. It can be about any subject, large or small. My staff and I will review these ideas to see what we can do to address your issues. Of course, you are welcome to submit an idea to my office at any time; however, this time of year is ideal since new bills must be introduced early in 2016. If you have a bill idea that you’d like to submit, the best way to do it is through the comment form on my website at www.asmdc.org/members/a29. Just click the yellow Contact Mark button on my Assembly home page to send me a message.
Contacting My Office: Sharing Your Views, Getting Assistance, and Visiting My Office
Do you need assistance with a state agency like the DMV, Employment Development Department, or Franchise Tax Board? Do you have questions about state legislation? Would you like to share a concern or suggestion with one of your state representatives?
I have two district offices to serve Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties and mobile office hours in Santa Clara County.
Santa Cruz County District Office
701 Ocean Street, 318-B
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: (831) 425-1503
Fax: (831) 425-2570
Monterey County District Office
99 Pacific Street, Ste 575G
Monterey, CA 93940
Tel: (831) 649-2832
Fax: (831) 649-2935
Santa Clara County Mobile Office Hours
Times and locations vary. Contact the Santa Cruz District Office at (831) 425-1503 for more information.
You can also send me a question or comment through my website at www.asmdc.org/members/a29. Just click the yellow Contact Mark button on my Assembly home page to send me a message. I’ll respond as soon as I can.