In the last few weeks, Governor Brown has released his proposed 2011-12 State Budget and given his 2011 State of the State Address. These are available on the Governor's website and the Department of Finance website. The message in both of these was clear: Getting our fiscal house in order is a critical first step to improving the economy. The budget is a balance between cuts and revenues. This includes potentially shifting program responsibility and service delivery to the local level to create more accountability and provide better services.
In the upcoming weeks, the Senate will conduct a series of hearings to closely review the proposed cuts and determine how they will affect the quality of life for Californians. As chair of the Budget Sub-committee on Health and Human Services, we began hearing public testimony on these cuts last week. All of the budget subcommittees have hearings planned for this week and next. Please visit the subcommittees' website to review agendas and keep track of the progress the subcommittees are making.
We need serious solutions in these very serious times. Governor Brown has proposed a budget which recognizes that our state's fiscal condition is severe, and that Californians face a defining moment in our history – a moment when lawmakers and the public will have to make difficult choices that will determine what we value as Californians and the economic future of our state.
The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee prepared a detailed presentation on the Governor's proposed budget that includes specifics about the realignment of state services to local jurisdictions. Additionally, the Legislative Analyst Office has reviewed the proposed budget. Their analysis is available on their website.
Please take a look at these webpages. I invite you to contact my office with your thoughts on the budget and I welcome your suggestions on how to deal with the $25.4 billion deficit facing us in the current year. Also, my office is hosting a Budget Town hall on February 24th. The details of the town hall are featured later in this newsletter. Please feel free to contact my capitol office at (916) 651-4007 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Senate District Seven
Featured In February's Newsletter
- Commute Update - Caldecott Tunnel Project
- Cash for College - Workshops in Your Area
- At Your Service - Getting Medi-Cal for an Elderly Cancer Patient
- Budget Town Hall in Pleasant Hill and Mobile District Office Hours in Brentwood
- Contra Costa Hero - National Guard in Afghanistan
- Legislative Update - Appointments to Key Committee Positions
- Contra Costa Hidden Jewel - Briones Regional Park
- Public Service Experiential Learning - Senate Fellowship Program
Commute Update - Caldecott Tunnel Project
The Caldecott Fourth Bore Project, a collaboration between the Federal Highway Administration, California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), and Contra Costa Transit Authority to build a fourth tunnel bore will begin phase two excavation this month.
The fourth bore tunnel will be excavated in four sections: First, the upper portion of the eastern part of the tunnel will be excavated. To date, work crews have excavated more than 200 meters of earth as part of the initial drilling at the east portal and are now ready to begin excavation on the west portal.
The second phase is expected to be completed by Winter, 2012 with the full project estimated to be completed by Spring, 2014. For more information please visit the Caldecott Fourth Bore Project website at http://caldecott-tunnel.org/
Cash for College - Workshops in Your Area
It is never too early to begin thinking about ways to help pay for your child's education. The East Bay Consortium, in partnership with the California Student Aid Commission, is sponsoring a series of "Cash for College" financial aid workshops throughout the 7th Senate District in order to help students and their families apply for state and federal financial aid. Financial aid is determined by filing out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The deadline for students hoping to enroll in college or career/technical schools in the Fall of 2011 is March 2nd. You and your child are strongly encouraged to attend. Admission is free and no appointments are necessary. Trained counselors will assist you in filling out the FAFSAform.
In order to better assist you in completing the FAFSA, please be sure to bring the following information with you to the workshops:
- Your Driver's license, Social Security card or number
- Your Alien registration number, if you are not a U.S. citizen
- Child's 2010 income information
- Parent's 2010 income information
- Your tax and parent tax information; previous year taxes are okay for now if you don't have 2010 tax information
- Your 2010 bank statements
- Any records of untaxed income such as welfare benefits, Social Security benefits, or child support payments
- List of colleges your child is interested in attending
If you don't have every one of these documents, that's okay. Come to a workshop with the documents that you have and that apply to you.
February Workshops will be held at the following locations:
Mt. Diablo High School, Library and Computer Lab
2450 Grant St., Concord
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pinole Valley High School, Library
2900 Pinole Valley Rd., Pinole
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
At Your Service - Getting Medi-Cal for an Elderly Cancer Patient
In tough economic times like these, there is a terrible demand on public social services workers. Staffing is being reduced while demand is rising, creating incredible back logs. Applications that used to take 30 days to process are now taking several months or longer. However, in cases of dire need, our office can assist and try to get work processed more quickly. Below is such an example.
Last month, my staff was contacted by an elderly Contra Costa County woman who was having difficulty with Medi-Cal, the state's public health insurance program for low-income families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, foster children and pregnant women. It had been nearly four months since she applied for Medi-Cal, and in that four-month period, she had been diagnosed with cancer.
Before her physician could begin cancer treatment, they needed Medi-Cal approval. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts and furloughed staff, there has been a backlog in the processing of applications. Given the severity and urgency of this constituent's diagnosis, our office was able to contact the appropriate Medi-Cal eligibility office and request to have her application expedited.
This elderly woman just needed someone to help nudge her case along, and was relieved to begin her treatment shortly after contacting our office. If you or someone you know needs assistance working with Medi-Cal or other public services, please contact our District Office at (925) 942-6082.
Budget Town Hall in Pleasant Hill and Mobile District Office Hours in Brentwood
It seems that the state budget is continually out of balance and once again cuts to vital services are on the line. These are difficult economic times, and we need to hear your thoughts on the budget crisis. To facilitate this, my office will be convening a Budget Town Hall in Pleasant Hill on Thursday, February 24th . The town hall will take place at the Pleasant Hill City Hall, Council Chamber, 100 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, 94523 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
My office will also be holding a Mobile District Office Hours event in Brentwood on Saturday, February 26th, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It will be located at the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, 8440 Brentwood Blvd Suite C -- Corner of Brentwood Blvd & Chestnut St., Brentwood, CA 94513.
This is a great way for Brentwood area residents to get assistance with any problems they may be having with a state agency or would otherwise like to talk to me about pending legislation. No appointments are necessary and guests are seen on a first come, first served basis.
Please visit my website to find out when a Mobile District Office or Town Hall event will be held in your area. Should you have any questions, please contact my Walnut Creek District Office at (925) 942-6082.
Contra Costa Hero - National Guard in Afghanistan
Below are excerpts from an article in the Grizzly, the official news magazine of the California National Guard, which in December highlighted two National Guardsmen from Pittsburg. Capt. James Smith and First Lieutenant Antonia Ambriz are to be commended for their brave service in Afghanistan.
Capt. James Smith of Pittsburg, assumed command of the 870th Military Police Company and immediately began emphasizing readiness as one of his central themes. To him, deployment seemed inevitable, Smith told the Grizzly reporter, 1st Lt. Will Martin of the Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs office.
Upon receiving notice that his California Army National Guard MP unit would deploy to Afghanistan in 2011 to conduct a police-training mission, his preparation began.
"What I've been trying to do is immerse myself in the counterinsurgency doctrine," said Smith, whose troops spent the December holidays training in Fort Hood, Texas. "We've sent people out to classes on battlefield forensics, training, courses at the Department of Justice and security involving personal dignitaries."
As a former anti-terrorism and physical security officer at the Joint Force Headquarters in Sacramento, Smith has surrounded himself with senior noncommissioned officers and young officers whose civilian experience seems perfectly suited for the mission. Smith stated it's helpful to have numerous Soldiers with civilian law enforcement experience when training is focused on community-oriented policing. "We have lots of guys with corrections background, from police departments and law enforcement."
First Lieutenant Antonia Ambriz, Pittsburg resident and deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department, serves as a platoon leader for the 870th and shares in Smith's confidence. "I have several guys with policing experience, and one of my squad leaders have 10 or more years. They bring more to the table when it comes to this kind of mission."
Smith and Ambriz's mission is to train Afghan police, echoing the efforts of California National Guard-led police transition teams in Iraq. Such training helps provide stability and civilian confidence as U.S. forces move toward the end of combat operations in Iraq. Smith aims to repeat that success in Afghanistan. "We'll be responsible for training the police in one of the three main provinces," Smith said. "Community-oriented policing is the key over there right now. In training their police, we're helping them gain credibility with their people."
Thank you both for your continued service to the State of California and the United States.
Legislative Update – Appointments to Key Committee Positions
I have been chosen to chair and serve on a variety of committees that will hear some of the most pressing and vital issues to be debated in the 2011-12 legislative session. Serving on these committees will allow me to participate early in the development of legislation dealing with transportation, housing, governmental reform, the budget, public health and other issues that are important to Contra Costa County residents.
I have been appointed to chair the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. The committee hears legislation relating to vehicles, aircraft, vessels, the Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, waterways, harbors, highways, public transportation systems, and airports. Additionally, the committee has jurisdiction over bills relating to housing and community development. I will also chair the Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services.
Transportation and housing are two of the most important issues in Contra Costa County. We have some of the most congested freeways and costliest commutes in California. Regional planning and housing play a key role in developing an effective transportation system as well as helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have had some great successes over the years, but we have a lot more work to do. Chairing this committee will give Contra Costa County a leadership voice on these important issues.
I have a long history of addressing transportation and housing concerns. I previously served on the Concord Planning Commission, the California Air Resources Board, the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. In those positions, I worked on several local transportation projects including the Expansion of Highway 4, BART to eastern Contra Costa County, and the development of a fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel.
I was also selected to serve on the Senate Committees on Budget, Health, Energy, Utilities & Communications, and Governance & Finance as well as the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
Contra Costa Hidden Jewel - Briones Regional Park
With its rolling, grassy hills and secluded, shady canyons, Briones is a wilderness area surrounded by the towns of Central Contra Costa County. Although the park is close to Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez, there are peaks within it from which you can see only park and watershed lands for miles in every direction.
From Briones Peak, the highest point in the park, there are panoramic views of Mount Diablo and the Diablo Valley to the east, the Sacramento River and Delta to the north, the East Bay hills and Mt. Tamalpais to the west, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness to the south.
A vast array of wildlife can be found in the park including black-tailed deer, coyotes, squirrels, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures and more. There are also gorgeous wildflower displays throughout various parts of the year and numerous trails to walk along. Several locations throughout the park also make for great picnic spots.
For more information about the park, visit East Bay Regional Parks on line at http://www.ebparks.org/parks/briones.
Public Service Experiential Learning - Senate Fellowship Program
Established in 1973, the California Senate Fellows (CSF) program is one of the oldest and most distinguished service learning programs in the country. The CSF program provides an insight into the legislative process through experiential learning. It offers college graduates a paid, full-time legislative staff position in the State Capitol for 11 months. The fellowship program offers people from diverse backgrounds hands on experience with the legislative process as those fellows provide research and other professional staff assistance to the Senate.
Eighteen 2011-2012 California Senate Fellows will be selected to serve as full-time Senate staff for 11 months beginning in October 2011. Fellows are assigned to a Senator or a Committee and responsibilities include helping working on legislation, responding to inquiries, and writing press releases and speeches. Many of the CSF participants continue their post-fellowship careers as on-going staff to the California Senate. The application deadline is February 23, 2011. For more details, visit the CSF Program on line at http://www.csus.edu/calst/senate_fellows_program.html.
Our office is fortunate to have Senate Fellow Max Carter-Oberstone placed with us. He is a native San Franciscan who graduated from Georgetown University in 2007 with a double major in Finance and French. During his tenure at the university, he was actively engaged in issues of youth outreach. Max was a member of five youth outreach programs, including presiding as co-founder and president of The Duke Ellington High School Mentorship Group.
As vice-president of the Georgetown chapter of the NAACP, he focused on issues of educational equality, spearheading a successful campaign to change the university's history requirement to include a broader array of courses. He received a number of leadership awards, including the George F. Baker Scholarship, one of the most prestigious academic honors awarded to students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Upon graduation, Max worked at a New York investment bank for three years as both an analyst in the debt capital markets and a currency trader. He continued his work with disadvantaged youth through a mentorship program for children with one or both parents incarcerated. His passion for community service, and interest in the potential to affect change on an institutional level through public policy ultimately led him to quit his job and apply to the fellowship in February of 2010.
Max is focusing on issues pertaining to banking, taxation, agriculture, education, and veteran's affairs in this office. During his time in the California Statehouse, he would like to gain a strong understanding of the legislative process and become an active and valued member of our staff, serving the residents of Contra Costa County. Upon completion of the fellowship, Max plans on going to law school.