This week, the Legislature has been busy working to meet the “house of origin” deadline, meaning that all bills introduced in the Senate or Assembly have been passed to the other house. I’m happy to report that three of my bills – SB 1155, SB 1327 and SB 1357 – passed the Senate with bipartisan support. In the months to come, I will be working with my colleagues in the Assembly to get these bills passed and to the Governor for his signature.
As the “house of origin” deadline passes, the focus in Sacramento will shift back to the state budget. In announcing his May Revision earlier this month, Governor Brown announced that the budget gap is much larger than anticipated. Unfortunately, the Legislature did not take action earlier in the year to reduce spending, which has made the problem worse.
There is a lot of work to be done. Not only must California find billions of dollars more in budget solutions to close the remainder of the gap, but even more importantly, we must take swift action to address the structural challenges that contribute to these persistent deficits.
Your input is vital to these efforts, and I invite you to share your opinions about these reforms and the condition of California’s economy and finances. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office through my website if you have any questions, comments or insight to share. Help keep your friends and neighbors informed about what’s going on in Sacramento and around the 12th Senate District by forwarding this email so they can sign up to receive our eNewsletters as well.
Removing Corrupt Politicans
One of my bills that passed the Senate is SB 1357, which is targeted at making the process of removing a corrupt politician easier for prosecutors. In the 1970s, appellate courts began dismissing rulings made by specially selected civil grand juries, deeming accusations to be criminal in nature. However, in 1993, the Attorney General wrote a legal opinion that stated criminal grand juries could not handle civil matters. This ambiguity means that district attorney who wants to remove an elected official could either waste valuable time and money or have their whole case tossed because of a procedural error. This bill clarifies the process to ensure that does not happen.
District attorneys should have a clear path to prosecute a corrupt public official. It is my belief that we should make it easier for district attorneys to do their jobs so those that violate our public trust are brought to justice.
As I’d already mentioned, Governor Brown released his revised budget plan this month. In January, the Governor had pegged our deficit at $9.2 billion. The May Revision raised that to $15.7 billion. The increase comes from a combination of revenue assumptions that were too high ($4.3 billion) and the rest is from trigger cuts in last year’s budget that never happened ($1.7 billion). The Governor’s plan relies on $8.3 billion in expenditure reductions, $5.9 billion in tax increases and $2.5 billion in solutions such as fund shifts and deferrals.
In unveiling the plan, I was pleased to see Governor Brown has focused on permanently eliminating our state’s structural debt, but am concerned about a plan that relies on the passage of new taxes before voters have made their decision. It is unfortunate we continue to face multibillion dollar shortfalls. Hopefully my colleagues in the Legislature have the political will to make the structural reforms necessary to end the cycle.
I still maintain that the best way for us to get our budget back on track is to get unemployed Californians back to work. We must focus on creating jobs. To that end, I look forward to continuing my efforts to eliminate regulations that are stifling businesses and create a less hostile business environment.
Agriculture Metal Theft
Earlier this month, I chaired an informational hearing of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee in Fresno on the growing problem of agricultural metal theft in California. Our farm economy is losing tens of millions of dollars each year to thieves. Metal theft is particularly expensive as the damage to equipment typically far outweighs the value of the stolen metal. Farmers and ranchers across the state commonly find hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of damage to their irrigation pumps from metal thieves who are intent on stealing only a few dollars’ worth of wiring.
At the hearing, we heard testimony from a wide spectrum of those affected by this growing problem, including law enforcement, victims of metal theft and recyclers. What they told us was illuminating and alarming. For example, Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan stated that metal theft now comprises 85 percent of all rural crimes in the county.
It’s frustrating that as we try to find ways to reduce metal theft, a new state law is tying the hands of the law enforcement community. Because of the prison realignment that took place under last year’s AB 109, anyone convicted of non–violent, non–sexual, or non–serious crimes is no longer sent to state prison. They are the responsibility of the counties, many of which cannot afford to keep them in jail. As a result, metal thieves are quickly released back on the street with what amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Whether you’re a farmer whose livelihood and property is directly threatened by metal thieves or a consumer paying higher prices for produce and other goods, this problem impacts us all. Seven bills addressing metal theft have been introduced during this legislative session alone and we will have more hearings in the months ahead.
This will remain a priority for me and the Senate Agriculture Committee this year. I will continue to look at new legislative solutions that build upon current law. The risks of not doing so are too great.
Whooping Cough and California’s Immunization Law
School may be out for most students, but you can never be too cautious about your child’s health. In particular, whooping cough has become more prevalent in California than at any other time in last 50 years. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily and can be fatal, especially in babies less than a year old. As of last year, all students entering 7th through 12th grade must have proof of a whooping cough vaccine booster (Tdap) shot before starting school. Be prepared for these new requirements by visiting www.shotsforschool.org to learn more about the Tdap booster.
Around the District
Holding a community coffee at Mil’s in Patterson
Presenting the 12th District Woman of the Year award to Salinas’s Ruth Andresen.