Welcome to my fall newsletter. The last few weeks have seen dramatic changes in the political landscape of California. I am hopeful that these changes will lead to a new era of Californians working together to strengthen the institutions and opportunities that made our state great.
First and foremost, I am very happy about the passage of Proposition 25, which will allow a simple majority vote of the legislature to pass the state budget. For the last several years I have been working on this because I believe that it is an essential first step in ending budget gridlock and dysfunction in state government.
When the opportunity arose this year to take the issue directly to the voters, I enthusiastically supported and fought hard for its passage. I am delighted that Californians voted for this positive change.
It means that our state budget will no longer be held hostage by a few legislators demanding tax breaks and special treatment for special interests more than $2 billion in corporate giveaways in last-minute budget deals in the last few years alone. Budget negotiations will start sooner, bringing deal-making out of the back rooms and into the daylight of legislative hearings.
I am also hopeful that the election of Governor Jerry Brown will lead to a new era where we once again work together in support of our schools, colleges and universities, roads, bridges and health clinics all of those great public institutions that were once the basis of California's thriving economy and the envy of the nation. That sense of purpose of working together for the common good so that everyone benefits -- has been missing from our state and we need it back.
With a new legislative session beginning in January and a spirit of reform in the air, I am looking forward to positive change in Sacramento. I want you to know that one of my first actions when the legislature reconvenes will be to work to overturn a disgraceful legacy left by the former Governor: his line-item veto of child care services for low-income working parents. Because of that one action, millions of parents are being forced to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for their children. I cannot think of a more destructive hit to our economy than forcing low-income workers to give up their jobs.
Communication between us should be a two-way street. If you have ideas for legislation, want to discuss issues in our district or need assistance, you can contact me through my website (www.senate.ca.gov/hancock) or call my offices in Sacramento or Oakland.
Senator Loni Hancock
FEATURED IN FALL NEWSLETTER
Californians wondering about the state's budget situation had a unique opportunity to ask state senators questions during a series of three live internet town halls in August. More than 650 questions were submitted about governing and priorities in our state. It was my privilege to participate in the first of these town halls along with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
To hear the entire interview, please click this link: http://senweb03.senate.ca.gov/focus/townhall/budget/TownHall-20100824.aspx
WHERE BUDGET CUTS HURT
In September, I led a group of reporters on a bus tour of my district to visit locations where people have been most affected by the Governor's budget cuts and the late budget.
We visited the Berkeley Center for Independent Living to meet with advocates working for the disability community and seniors. Systems Change Advocate Lauren Steinberg commented that if In-Home Supportive Services are cut, "we would not be able to fulfill our mission of helping disabled people live and work independently."
At Berkeley City College, Peralta Community College District Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen and over 50 students expressed their frustration with the fact that, even after cutting approximately 1,000 classes, the district is still $13 million in the red and there is "no end to the line of students" waiting to get in.
The last stop on the tour was at BANANAS, a non-profit child care referral and support agency serving Northern Alameda County families. Susan Stevenson, who oversees the Albany Unified School District's after-school programs, described the "devastation on parents' faces when she tells them there are no childcare subsidies available, putting their ability to work in jeopardy." BANANAS Program Director Arlyce Curry stated, "our childcare infrastructure is crumbling right before our eyes."
I am very grateful to the advocates, students and parents who took time out of their day to share their personal stories. It is my hope that as we move forward with a new administration and new legislative session, we remember the human lives being impacted by our budgeting decisions.
For more information on this event, read the Oakland Tribune by clicking this link: http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_15976224?source=most_emailed
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE TOUR
On Saturday, October 16, I participated in an Environmental Justice Tour for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, hosted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.
The tour included: a stop at the AMCO superfund site in West Oakland (recognized by the EPA as one of the most toxic in the nation); a town hall meeting with environmental advocates and leaders; and a stop at Mandela Foods (an urban food cooperative fighting to bring fresh produce and healthy food to West Oakland an area without a major supermarket).
The tour provided a unique opportunity to discuss issues, view developing success stories and get a first hand look at ongoing challenges on the path to environmental justice for many of California's communities. This tour and town hall are part of a nationwide Environmental Justice Tour series featuring Administrator Jackson and coordinated by the EPA and the Congressional Black Caucus as part of an effort by the Obama Administration to assess environmental issues in underserved communities.
The Oakland stop highlighted local efforts to address environmental issues that have impacted underserved communities in the city and to illustrate the extensive collaboration between the EPA, local government agencies, and grassroot community groups to confront these issues and develop solutions.
OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT PROGRAMS
Recently, I joined Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, Oakland Unified School District Board Directors Jumoke Hinton-Hodge and Jody London and other officials to visit several schools in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), including West Oakland Middle School, Street Academy, Reach Academy, and Laurel Elementary.
Tim White, Assistant Superintendent, shared future plans to modernize some of the school facilities, with much of the funding coming from local school measures. This funding is helping OUSD meet the strategic vision of full service community schools.
Our delegation had the opportunity to meet with principals and teachers to share information about after school programs. We observed the strong commitment by the directors of the after school programs who told us that regular participation in a high quality after school program is linked to significant gains in test scores and good study habits, keeping kids safe and helping working families.
Earlier this fall, I partnered with other Democratic women legislators and grassroots supporters at a rally at the State Capitol, calling on the governor to stop targeting women, children, and students with the pain of cuts to balance the budget. We also urged the governor to postpone his trip to China and stay in the state until a fair and responsible budget was enacted.
Rally participants called the governor's budget cuts and program eliminations short-sighted and destructive to the state's economy and social stability. The proposed cuts to K-12 education risked losing another 35,000 teachers and school employees and increasing class sizes. The proposed cuts to and elimination of safety net services such as CalWORKS, adult day health care, and in-home care would destroy the public systems that have served us all well and add thousands to the unemployment rolls.
The point was made that a budget agreement must be balanced, and everyone must be willing to share in rebuilding our state.
You can view and listen to my remarks by clicking the link:
CLEAN SLATE EVENT
One in five adults in California has a criminal record. Many have successfully completed their sentences, however, they face numerous barriers to employment, education and housing that make it difficult to re-integrate successfully back into their communities.
The Clean Slate program assists formerly incarcerated people who have served their terms and completed probation to get on the right track.
My office, in collaboration with other elected officials, law schools, local advocacy group All of Us or None and the East bay Community Law Center, will host an event titled "A Day of Forgiveness and New Beginnings" on Saturday, December 4, in Alameda County to provide legal assistance and advice to eligible individuals with a criminal record.
For more information on this event, please contact my district office at 510-286-1333.
As we end move towards the end of the 2010 legislative session, here are some of the bills I introduced that successfully made it through the legislative process and were signed by the governor:
- SB 27 - Sales and Use Tax Relocation: Prohibits a local agency from entering into any form of agreement with a retailer, a consultant or agent representing a retailer, or any person that would involve the payment, transfer, diversion or rebate of any amount of Bradley-Burns local tax proceeds for any purpose if the agreement results in a reduction in the amount of revenue that is received by another local agency from a local retailer.
- SB 205: Quality School Construction Bonds: Will free up $773 million in federal school construction bonds and expedite school construction, rehabilitation and repair projects to improve schools and put Californians to work.
- SB 1007: CalPERS Election Reform: Will require candidates for both the CALPERS and CALSTRS board to file campaign reports on a schedule similar to candidates for other elective offices.
- SB 1035: Lien authority: Will give East Bay Municipal Utility District the authority to place a lien on residential property for delinquent payments accrued by the property owner, an authority that most other water utilities in the state already possess.
- SB 1320: Transit fare evasion and passenger misconduct: administrative adjudication: This bill would authorize the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District and several other transit agencies to adopt an ordinance enforce civil administrative penalties for fare evasion or passenger misconduct, instead of criminal penalties.
In this increasingly technological age, it is becoming easier for identity thieves to steal Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and other personal information that is not often secure.
It can be both financially and emotionally devastating to become a victim of identity theft, however, there are many resources available to help with recovery, as well as valuable information on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim. Please visit the following websites for more information on this important issue:
Identity Theft Council - helps victims through the process of response and recovery at no charge to the victims. Each council is a partnership between local law enforcement, credit unions and banks, Chambers of Commerce, and locally trained volunteer counselors.
Elder Financial Protection Network - partners with financial institutions and financial professionals throughout the United States to halt and prevent elder financial abuse. They also work directly with elders to empower them to avoid financial exploitation.
California Office of Privacy Protection - the first state agency in California dedicated soley to promoting and protecting the privacy rights of consumers. Its mission is to identify consumer problems in the privacy area and encourage the development of fair information practices.
Identity Theft Resource Center - provides victim and consumer support as well as public education.
ENSURING HAPPY HOLIDAYS FOR ALL
As the year draws to a close, I would like to encourage you to be proactive about giving back to the community and offering your time and/or resources to those in need during the holiday season, and throughout the year.
These have been difficult economic times for many families in California, which is all the more reason to reach out. There are many opportunities to give your time, share your talents or make a contribution to local food banks, faith organizations, shelters and senior centers.
Wishing you peace and joy in the New Year!