What a difference a year makes! For the first time in my 11 years as a State Legislator, we didn't have to make tens of billions in cuts to vital programs. Thanks to the voters who passed Prop 30, to increase state revenues, and Prop 25, that enables us to pass a state budget with a simple majority of the legislature, we were able to pass our 2013-14 state budget on time again this year. The new budget is balanced, has a $1.1 billion reserve, pays down the "wall of debt," and makes modest but important restorations of some of the worst cuts we were forced to make during the Great Recession.
The new budget will also:
- increase funding for K-12 education and colleges and universities;
- change the way the state allocates money to education, including targeting resources for low-income students and English learners;
- create a new Middle Class Scholarship that will help make college more affordable for millions of families;
- once again provide dental care for three million Californians;
- give more help to the often-forgotten mentally ill;
- begin to restore child care programs that allow parents to go to work knowing that their kids are safe;
- continue career pathway programs to give our students better preparation for college and careers; and
- put California at the forefront of implementing President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
With health care enrollment beginning in January 2014, I urge you to take a look at the website of Covered California, the new agency that will be a resource as you consider the choices the new system will make possible: http://www.coveredca.com/.
We have started on the road to recovery. While I don't want to sugar-coat the fact that we still have a long way to go, I am hopeful that this budget represents the end of one very difficult time and the beginning of a new and better era in which California will begin to rebuild and reinvest.
It is an honor to represent a forward-looking Senate District that has been home to so much of the innovation we seek to protect. I hope that you will enjoy reading some of the positive things happening in our area.
As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions on issues that are important to you.
Senator Loni Hancock
OIL REFINERY CLEAN-UP
Last August, an explosion and fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond spewed a massive plume of smoke into the air resulting in almost 15,000 people seeking medical attention for respiratory related problems in the aftermath.
Since that time, I have worked with federal, state and local officials, constituents and agencies to make sure it never happens again. I have learned a great deal and taken 3 legislative actions:
- In the budget negotiations, as Chair of the Budget Subcommittee that deals with the Department of Industrial Relations, I helped increase the number of state safety inspectors who oversee refineries and other chemical facilities. The 19 additional inspectors is a 400% increase.
- I introduced SB 691 to increase civil penalties large air polluters must pay for serious violations of air quality in a major incident like the Richmond fire. Under current law, polluters face only minimal fines. These penalties are simply a cost of doing business for large polluters. SB 691, sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Breathe California, will help protect public health and safety.
- I also introduced SB 438 to allow for greater oversight of refinery safety. This bill would require refineries to report their schedule for partial or total shutdown of any oil refinery unit for maintenance, repair, or inspection annually to Cal/OSHA and provide Cal/OSHA with documentation on refinery safety and infrastructure. In the Richmond fire, Cal/OSHA found that Chevron had known for 10 years that the pipes at the center of the 2012 fire were corroded and in need of replacement, and that other defective refinery parts were in place at least 30 months past their last turnaround. Had Cal/OSHA known about Chevron's failure to inspect or replace those parts during recent shutdowns, Cal/OSHA inspectors could have done their own targeted inspection, which may have helped prevent this incident.
While these efforts do not remedy all of our concerns, they are a step in the right direction.
I am happy to report that several bills I authored have successfully passed out of the State Senate and will be heard in the State Assembly in the coming months. I have highlighted a few below:
SB 513 - Neighborhood Courts
Currently, if a person successfully completes a drug diversion program or deferred entry of judgment program, the person can have his or her arrest record and related court record sealed by the court in the interest of justice. However, existing law lacks a similar mechanism for individuals charged with misdemeanors and infractions who successfully complete a prosecutor-administered diversion program to have their arrest record sealed. San Francisco, Yolo, and Santa Barbara Counties currently operate pre-charging diversion programs.
SB 513 would establish a mechanism for individuals who successfully complete a prosecutor-administered diversion program to have their arrest record sealed. The sealing order does not prohibit law enforcement from access to the record. It would allow these counties to continue running their programs successfully with efficient case resolution, reduced burden on criminal courts, and community-driven solutions.
Research has shown that the presence of an arrest record can reduce opportunities for employment and that stable employment significantly lowers recidivism. SB 513 removes unnecessary barriers to obtain a job, reduces recidivism, and promotes economic stability and public safety in our communities.
SB 396 - Gun Safety Regulation
As Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, I have taken responsibility to ensure that stronger gun safety legislation is passed in California this year. The Senate has passed a package of 7 bills that comprise the most aggressive measures to combat gun violence in the nation. The package, called "The Lifesaving Intelligent Firearms Enforcement Act (LIFE)," has passed out of the Senate and will be heard in the Assembly in August.
The bill package includes my bill, SB 396, which bans possession of large capacity ammunition magazines over 10 rounds. This will close a loophole that has allowed the gun industry to enable home-modification of 10-round magazines into larger capacity magazines.
SB 283 - Expand CalFresh Eligibility
This bill would end the lifetime ban on CalFresh eligibility to people who have a past drug-related felony conviction if they are complying with the conditions of probation or parole or have successfully completed their probation or parole. SB 283 would allow these individuals to receive important nutrition assistance through CalFresh.
I have been working with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the County Welfare Directors Association of California and the Drug Policy Alliance to pass this legislation knowing that having enough to eat can make the difference to successful reentry and help reduce our high recidivism rates.
SB 254 - Mattress Recycling and Recovery
In many California cities, large numbers of used and unwanted mattresses are illegally dumped on our streets each year. Cash-strapped cities are forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars collecting and disposing of these abandoned mattresses. This year, I re-introduced SB 254 to create a recovery and recycling program for unwanted mattresses.
SB 254 will require mattress manufacturers to develop a comprehensive mattress recycling plan for CalRecycle that details how each manufacturer will collect and recycle used mattresses. The goal is to recycle at least 75 percent of used mattresses in California by January 1, 2020. The program will be similar to other recycling programs established for electronic waste and other products throughout the state.
CAMP SWEENEY VISITS THE CAPITOL
In May, I welcomed students from Alameda County's Camp Wilmot Sweeney to visit the State Capitol and speak with legislators. Run by Alameda County Probation Department, Camp Sweeney serves young men aged 15-18 in an unlocked, youth residential program.
The day in Sacramento included a lively discussion with me and Senator Kevin de Leon on how youth can help shape a better future for themselves and for the community. Topics ranged from the death penalty, three strikes legislation to job readiness.
Many thanks to Alameda County Probation Chief LaDonna Harris and my staff for organizing the day.
AGREEMENT REACHED TO EXPAND MCLAUGHLIN EASTSHORE STATE PARK
After many years of negotiations, I am pleased to announce that California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) has reached a 30-year agreement with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to manage, improve and operate the "Brickyard" site at McLaughlin Eastshore State Park along San Francisco Bay. State Parks has committed $5 million in existing Prop 84 funding to help develop this new portion for the park, soon to be accessible to the public.
With the hard work of many -- including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Save the Bay founder Sylvia McLaughlin, Citizens for Eastshore State Park, and the Sierra Club - this portion of the park will create new areas where people can walk along the Bay Trail to enjoy the views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The Park, spanning 1,854 acres and stretching 8.5 miles along the East Bay shoreline from the Bay Bridge to Richmond, provides public open space and recreation for people throughout the region.
Congratulations and thanks to all of those who played a crucial role over 40 years to make the dream of a protected and beautiful shoreline park along the Bay possible.
OAKLANDISH - MY 2013 SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Every year, the California Small Business Association gives legislators the opportunity to recognize a small business in their district as "Small Business of the Year." This year, I selected Oaklandish and was pleased to host owner Angela Tsay at the official award ceremony in Sacramento.
Oaklandish began as a public art project celebrating "original Oakland charm." It opened a retail store in 2011 in the heart of downtown Oakland, helping to trigger a revitalization of the midtown area. The store features Oakland-focused civic pride apparel and products from 100+ local crafts people and manufacturers. They also give 10% of their profit to grassroots organizations through grants, donations, pro bono design work, and marketing support.
As one of California's pioneer "B Corporations" - focusing on the "triple bottom line" of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and economic profit - the success of Oaklandish demonstrates that an innovative company can help redefine success in business.
Congratulations to Oaklandish!
2013 DISTRICT OFFICE LEGISLATIVE INTERNS
This summer, I am fortunate to be joined by a wonderful group of legislative interns in my District Office. They hail from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and are all incredibly bright and talented young people.
Throughout the summer, interns take on a number of responsibilities, including attending meetings and community functions throughout the district, assisting constituents with problems, researching issues, and learning about the California legislative process.
Here, in their own words, are brief profiles on these terrific interns:
Natalie Cha: As a life-long Bay Area resident, I am a third year Political Science major at UC Berkeley. After my undergraduate career, my dream is to become an anti-human trafficking lawyer, protecting victims from abuse. Currently my other interests include education and public safety issues, specifically regarding re-entry. I am honored to be working for Senator Hancock, who has been dedicated to propelling change within this community.
Liam Conley: Having just graduated from Saint Mary's College High School, in Berkeley, I will be attending Sacramento State in the fall. I plan on majoring in government and pursuing my love of politics in our California Capitol. I am interested in public safety and transportation, and hope I can learn about the legislative process throughout my internship.
Emily Lovell: Born and raised in Alameda, I not only love California, but am indebted to it. After finishing my freshman year at American University, in Washington D.C., I decided to pursue an internship in my beloved home state. I am thrilled to not only learn from the Senator, but to give back to the communities that shaped me. I hope to focus on public safety issues, and am specifically interested in re-entry and the steps that counties can take to help the formerly incarcerated.
My District Office offers internship positions both during the summer and the academic year. If you or someone you know is interested in interning for my district office, please contact Melissa Male at (510) 286-1333, or visit my website. Applications for Fall 2013 will be accepted beginning in mid-August.
SAVE THE DATE: FREE FINANCIAL PLANNING DAY
On Saturday, October 5th, 2013, I invite you to attend the 6th Annual FREE Financial Planning Day at Oakland City Hall, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Whether you need help with basic financial planning or more specialized advice on retirement planning, investment strategies, estate planning, taxes, employee benefits or small business issues, financial planners will be on hand to answer your questions. These planners are volunteering their time and expertise to provide unbiased financial planning information. Participants can receive as many FREE private consultations or attend as many of the educational workshops as they like.
For questions, additional information, and to register in advance (highly recommended), please visit: www.FinancialPlanningDays.org
Free Financial Planning Day is sponsored by the Financial Planners Association of the East Bay, in collaboration with my office, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, and the City of Oakland.
Governor Brown Appoints Supervisor John Gioia to California Air Resources Board
Recently, Governor Jerry Brown appointed my good friend, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, to the California Air Resources Board to fill the vacant seat representing the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Air Resources Board is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency and plays an important role in providing leadership in addressing climate change, including implementing and enforcing air pollution control rules.
Congratulations, Supervisor Gioia! It's a great opportunity to play a key role in implementing AB 32 by slowing down climate disruption and improving community health.