SACRAMENTO – In his first year in office, Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) wrote several new laws that will take effect on January 1, 2014. As Chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee, Stone authored many new laws that address issues that foster youth and other vulnerable children face.
NEW LAWS ADDRESSING FOSTER YOUTH CONCERNS
AB 346 will help ensure that runaway and homeless youth can access safe and appropriate short-term, temporary, voluntary shelters. Specifically, the bill would provide the state the authority to license and inspect Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelters, and to treat these shelters as a separate category designed specifically to meet the unique needs of these youth. Homeless and runaway teenagers represent some of California’s most vulnerable youth. Often victims of abuse, these youth can experience numerous emotional challenges, which can be compounded by the lack of support available to them in their time of great need. Having no safe space to stay can disrupt the simplest tasks in a young person’s life, making safe and appropriately-licensed temporary shelters especially important for this population.
“This new law helps our runaway and homeless youth by providing safe, licensed, and supportive environments where they can receive the encouragement they need to address and resolve the challenges they face.” said Stone.
Assembly Bill 216 (Stone/Maienschein) ensures that students in foster care can earn their high school diplomas in a timely manner and qualify for admission to state universities. Foster youth, on average, transfer schools three or more times while in foster care. This can result in many students in foster care falling behind in their coursework due to having to adapt to a new school environment, different curricula and varying course requirements. This new law helps to provide the statutory clarity needed to ensure that foster youth meet academic expectations. It enjoyed bipartisan support, and was an urgency measure that was adopted into law when Governor Brown signed it in September.
“Students in foster care can face many obstacles that keep them from successfully completing their education. With frequent placement and school transfers, it can be difficult for them to meet additional local graduation requirements that exceed state requirements, let alone be ready for college. I hope that this new law will help these youth achieve their educational goals,” said Stone.
AB 787 builds on 2010 foster care reforms. The measure enjoyed unanimous bipartisan support in the Legislature, and it makes several necessary changes integral to the successful implementation of the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (FCSA) of 2010. California took a significant step forward in expanding services for children in foster care with the adoption of FCSA. This Act brought critical federal matching funds into the state's child welfare system to provide foster youth who are 18 and older with the option to remain in care until the age of 21 instead of being forced out before they are ready to be independent. Ever since its adoption, FCSA has become a substantial tool in helping foster youth transition into adulthood through a voluntary program grounded in evidence to provide continued yet incremental support for our foster youth up to age 21. AB 787 builds on this work by making several necessary and integral changes to ensure the continued successful implementation of FCSA. These changes will help streamline services, clarify the authority of probation officers, and draw down additional federal funds.
“The unanimous passage of AB 787 demonstrates our state's broad and consistent support for our foster youth,” said Stone. “Barriers continue to exist for foster youth transitioning out of the system. I hope that this new law will make it easier for these kids to grow into productive and well-adjusted adults.”
AB 643 helps ensure that state and local child welfare agencies can work more closely with school staff and teachers to provide California’s foster youth with the educational support and services they need to succeed at school. The new law ensures that the many services a foster youth receives are better coordinated and helps ensure that state and local child welfare agencies can work closely with school staff and teachers. Specifically, it brings the Education Code into compliance with the federal Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) to allow state or local welfare agencies access to a foster youth’s educational records. The measure improves the educational outcomes for students in foster care while maintaining youths’ privacy and confidentiality protections. This new law furthers a part of Stone’s agenda to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth during his time in Sacramento.
OTHER STONE BILLS TO TAKE EFFECT
AB 727 is a good government bill that streamlines the process by which harbor districts, marinas and ports, acquire state approval to perform maintenance-related dredging that is essential for the maintenance of the State’s navigation systems. The measure removes bureaucratic barriers while retaining appropriate government oversight, and it is designed to ensure that such needed maintenance will be performed in a more timely manner.
Stone also authored AB 946, which authorizes Monterey-Salinas Transit District and Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District to work with the Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol to develop a Bus-on-Shoulder Program.
He wrote AB 546, which authorizes Santa Cruz County to decide whether to join other counties that consolidate elected offices for tax collection and auditing duties, helping to streamline local government processes.
Finally, he wrote Assembly Constitutional Resolution 55, which names a stretch of Highway 68 for the Ohlone Coastanoan-Esselen Nation, recognizing the Nation’s cultural significance to the Monterey Bay Area.