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Senator Juan Vargas


Dear Neighbors and Friends:

As the fall season progresses, it is time for all Californians to begin thinking about how we keep moving our state forward in the upcoming legislative session. This November, I want to let everyone know that I am very thankful for having the opportunity to serve you in the California State Senate. This past election, I was voted in to represent California's 51st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. With this new position on the horizon, I want to reaffirm the availability of the 40th Senate District Office, which will still be open for constituents who need assistance navigating state agencies until a new Senator is elected. I will keep you updated on any changes as new information becomes available.

In this issue, I will be providing you with updates on local projects and highlights from the previous legislative session. Also, included is information on staying safe during the holiday season, consumer protection tips and how to register to vote online. Finally, I would like to salute all the men and women who have served or are serving our country honorably in the Armed Forces.

I hope that you will find this information useful. As always, please feel free to contact my district office if you ever have any questions or concerns at (619) 409-7690.

Kind Regards,

JUAN VARGAS
40th District




Senator Vargas Awards the October Citizen of the Month to
San Diego Resident Noe Flores


Noe Flores with his wife Mayra at Senator Vargas' Chula Vista District Office

Noe Flores has been an exemplary leader in San Diego and his personal story has inspired me. Born in Mexico, Noe came to the United States with his family and attended the local high school. He then put himself through college where he met Mayra, his future wife. Noe had always wanted to be in law enforcement but was not eligible due to not being a citizen. Noe has great respect for public servants who commit themselves to law enforcement and public safety. Noe volunteered for the San Diego Sheriff's Department and he worked part time at Best Buy, while he was studying to become a U.S. citizen. Upon becoming a citizen, Noe was immediately accepted into the police academy and has now been officially sworn in as a Sheriff's Deputy. I congratulate Noe on his accomplishments and for his dedication to service in our community.




Senator Vargas Awards November Citizen of the Month to
El Centro Resident Kathy Ball

Kathy is dedicated to helping fellow women and girls. Much of her efforts have been through her involvement with Soroptimist International of El Centro, a women's service organization whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls locally and globally. She also donates her time and financial resources in a variety of other ways that focus on addressing the needs of local women and girls.

She has been the driving force behind many of the service projects for Soroptimist International of El Centro. Using her unique sense of design and visionary skills, she coordinated the club's effort to make-over two of WomanHaven's emergency shelters. Under her direction, each shelter was transformed from a cold and sterile environment to a warm and comforting one that better suits the needs of the shelter's victims of domestic violence.

Another club service project she coordinated helped an emancipated foster girl to establish her home after leaving foster care by providing her and her two small children with the household furniture and bedding essential to a home.

She continues her efforts with the club's current project of creating a child-friendly atmosphere for the child therapy room at Center for Family Solutions.

As a member of Soroptimist since 1996, she has served as president and held each office at the club level. She now serves at a higher level within the organization as Program Council Member and, as such, she coordinates the programs of service in support of the Soroptimist mission.

As a business entrepreneur, she is also active within the local business community. She currently serves on the board of directors for the El Centro Chamber of Commerce.




Avoiding Foreclosures

Owning your own home is the American dream. Unfortunately, with the struggle of our economy over the last few years, more and more of those dreams are in danger of slipping away. If you are one of the many Americans today concerned about losing your home, this brochure offers suggestions and resources that might help you avoid foreclosure. A foreclosure is a specific legal process in which the lender seeks to take possession of the property due to missed payment(s). Know your options and rights as a homeowner. If you have not missed a payment, but might possibly in the future, please see the resources below.

Has life's circumstances made meeting your financial obligations tougher?

  • Divorce, increase in taxes or other financial problems
  • Credit card debt becoming unmanageable
  • Using credit cards to buy groceries or basic necessities
  • Finding it hard to pay monthly bills on time

If these situations sound familiar, take action quickly and seek guidance from your local HUD-approved housing counseling agency. Counselors are available to provide you with free information and assistance regarding foreclosure-prevention services.

HUD-approved housing counseling agencies
HUD.GOV (click on resources, then HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, and then on foreclosure avoidance counselor) or call 800-569-4287.

California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA)
KEEPYOURHOMECALIFORNIA.COM/COUNSELING.HTM

IF YOU HAVE ALREADY MISSED A PAYMENT, CONTACT YOUR MORTGAGE LENDER IMMEDIATELY TO DISCUSS YOUR SITUATION AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO KEEP YOUR HOME

To find your lender:

  • Check your monthly mortgage billing statement or payment coupon book

What you will need when you contact your lender:

  • Loan account number
  • Brief explanation of your circumstances
  • Recent income documents: pay stubs, Social Security benefits statements, disability, unemployment, retirement or public assistance statements. If you are self-employed, you will need your tax returns or a year-to-date profit and loss statement from your business.
  • List of your household expenses

Your lender will contact you soon after you stop making payments; return their phone calls or respond to their mail promptly. If your lender does not hear from you, this will require them to take legal action for payment and ultimately, a foreclosure. This will compound the cost of bringing your loan to current. It is best to not ignore contact from your lender.

Federal ProgramsState Programs

Home Affordable Modification Program SM (HAMPSM):
If you are not unemployed, but struggling to make payments.

Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP):
If you are unemployed and depending on your situation, this may reduce your mortgage payments to 31% of your income or suspend them altogether for 12 months or more.

Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets (HHF):
Early in 2010, Treasury announced that this fund would provide more than $7.6 billion to homeowners in states hit hardest by the economic crisis. California is on that list.

Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP):
If you're not behind on your mortgage payments, but have been unable to get traditional refinancing due to the decline in your home's value.

Principal Reduction Program:
For homeowners who have experienced economic hardships along with declining home values.

Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program:
For homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments due to financial hardship.

Transition Assistance Program: For homeowners seeking help for transitioning out of their foreclosed home.

To find out more about these free programs or what else is available to you, please contact:

U.S. Department of Treasury
MAKINGHOMEAFFORDABLE.GOV
888.995.HOPE (4673)

California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA)
KEEPYOURHOMECALIFORNIA.COM at 888.954.5337

PREVENTING SCAMS
In 2002 there were 16,500 foreclosed homes; in 2011, that number reached 154,510. With the amount of foreclosures increasing, there are more and more programs available to help homeowners through a distressing time. All State and Federal programs are free.

Warning Signs:

  • Promises to stop foreclosure regardless of your situation
  • Claims that all or most of their customers get relief
  • Requests that your mortgage payment go to them rather than your lender

For more information on protecting yourself against foreclosure scams, check out:

Department of Real Estate
DRE.CA.GOV/CONS_PROTECT.HTML

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, contact the following agencies to report your situation:

Federal Trade Commission
FTC.GOV or 877.FTC.HELP (382.4357)

Attorney General's office
AG.CA.GOV

Better Business Bureau
BBB.ORG




Child and Youth Holiday Safety

With the holidays and colder weather approaching, it is important that you stay safe. Fall and winter have more house fires than any other season. Between 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 house fires that started with a Christmas tree.

Remember to keep trees away from candles, as well as any other heat source. Be aware of gases such as carbon monoxide, which is odorless and can cause death. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills approximately 500 people in the United States every year. California law requires owners install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms in their rental units. California's Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 recommends everyone install a carbon monoxide alarm in their home. The cold season also means the flu season, so be sure to wash your hands often. Stay warm and dress appropriately, as cold temperatures can cause serious health problems. Travel with caution and be aware of traffic, as bad weather can affect roads. Check with CalTrans for road conditions - www.dot.ca.gov

Tips on how to keep your child safe during the holidays:

November

  • Make sure children do not play in the kitchen or near you when you are cooking
  • If you deep fry a turkey, be EXTREMELY careful
  • Be aware of food safety guidelines to avoid accidental food poisoning
  • Make sure that your chimney is clean! Have it inspected once a year, check to see if your flue is open before lighting a fire and dispose of ashes safely
  • Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

December

  • Get a fire resistant tree; if you have a live tree, always keep it well watered
  • Keep your tree away from any heat sources
  • Turn off all decorative lights before you go to bed; they could short and cause a fire
  • Make sure your candles are placed in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down
  • Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, as it could cause a flash fire

For information on holiday safety tips ranging from car safety to food and product recalls, visit the following websites:

www.usa.gov

United States Department of Agriculture,
National Agricultural Library

www.nal.usda.gov

Department of Health & Human Services,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

www.cdc.gov

www.kids.usa.gov

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
www.cpsc.gov




Internet Payday Lender Alert

Payday loans are fee-based, high-cost, short-term loans offered to people who need an advance on their paycheck. These loans are also known as cash advance loans, payday advances, deferred deposit loans, and post-dated check loans and, under California law, are limited to an amount of $300 or less to be repaid within one to two weeks. Some Internet payday lenders may not be licensed, which can put consumers at higher risk of fraud.

Increasingly, payday lenders are moving from storefronts to the Internet and many fail to obtain a license with the Department of Corporations, evading state laws and regulations designed to protect consumers. For example, state and federal truth-in-lending statutes require lenders to disclose the true cost of credit in the form of an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) prior to the actual loan.

Internet payday lenders typically advertise fees as a dollar amount rather than an APR, which can be misleading to consumers in determining the actual cost of the payday loan. Borrowers using Internet payday lending services must provide lenders their personal information, including bank account information. Upon completion of an Internet payday loan application, a lender will electronically transfer funds into a consumer's checking account.

At the close of the term, usually following the deposit of the consumer's next payroll check, the payday lender automatically deducts the loan amount and interest charged from that account.

The Department of Corporations strongly urges potential Internet payday loan customers to be wary of these types of loans. Many Internet payday lenders may be difficult to contact by providing little or no identifying information; in fact, they may be operating out of state or overseas to avoid licensing and regulation. Unlike a bank, credit union, or a California licensed lender, consumers may have no recourse should they run into trouble while doing business with an unlicensed Internet payday lender.




2012 Legislative Update

September 30, 2012 was the last day for Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills that passed the Legislature. I am pleased to announce the bills and initiatives that I have supported throughout the year that have been signed into law.

AB 278/ SB 900 (Eng/Leno):
These concurring bills known as the "Homeowners' Bill of Rights" will provide the following protections to Californians throughout the state:

  • Dual track foreclosure ban - These bills will require a mortgage servicer to render a decision on a loan modification application before advancing the foreclosure process by filing a notice of default or notice of sale, or by conducting a trustee's sale.
  • Single point of contact - These bills will require a mortgage servicer to designate a "single point of contact" for borrowers who are potentially eligible for a federal or proprietary loan modification application.
  • Enforceability: Includes authority for borrowers to seek redress of "material" violations of the legislation. Injunctive relief would be available prior to a foreclosure sale and recovery of damages would be available following a sale.
  • Verification of documents: These bills will subject the recording and filing of multiple unverified documents to a civil penalty of up to $7,500 per loan in an action brought by a civil prosecutor. This section will help curtail the practice of fraudulently signing foreclosure documents without verifying their accuracy.

SB 1221 (Lieu): This bill prohibits the use of dogs to pursue bears and bobcats except as permitted by a depredation permit or scientific research permit issued by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) or where the pursuit occurs by a dog that is guarding crops or livestock. For remaining hounding activities, the bill allows, but not requires, the Fish and Game Commission (FGC) to establish a hound tag program.

AB 2068 (Portantino): This bill, beginning January 1, 2014, increases the fees that a current or retired legislator or a Member of Congress must pay in order to have special license plates for his/her vehicle denoting that status.

SB 980 (Vargas): This bill protects homeowners by extending the January 1, 2013 sunset date on SB 94 (Calderon), a piece of consumer protection legislation, to January 1, 2017. SB 94 cracked down on individuals and businesses who were preying on troubled borrowers by charging them up-front, often nonrefundable fees under the guise of helping them obtain loan modifications.

AB 2189 (Cedillo): This bill allows persons who provide satisfactory proof, as described, that their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law, but who are not eligible for a Social Security account number, to receive an original driver's license from the DMV if they meet all other qualifications for licensure.




Senator Vargas Praises Govenor Brown's Emergency Action

On October 7, Governor Brown directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to take emergency steps to increase the state's gasoline supply to help bring down fuel prices. Senator Vargas' call to action followed a recent spike in gasoline prices, nearly $0.25 per gallon overnight to consumers and an increase of $1 per gallon to retailers over the course of a week. Unforeseen circumstances had two California refineries offline as well as a shutdown crude oil pipeline.

"Governor Brown moved swiftly to ensure Californians can get much-needed relief at the pump due to the recent gasoline price spike," Senator Vargas said. "Allowing refineries to switch to the winter grade fuel early was an unprecedented move for California, and the governor should be commended for his prompt response."

Winter-blend gasoline is a mixture that evaporates more quickly than the gasoline sold in summer months. Gas produced for use during the summer months takes longer to evaporate and is, therefore, better for air quality. Allowing an early transition to winter-blend gasoline has been estimated to increase California's fuel supply by up to 8-10 percent with only negligible air quality impacts. Winter-blend gasoline typically isn't sold until after October 31.




Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan Update

After a decade-long, joint planning process between the Port of San Diego and City of Chula Vista, the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the 556-acre Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan (CVBMP), the largest available coastal development opportunity in California, on August 9, 2012.

Located on the south San Diego Bay in the City of Chula Vista, the accepted land use designations allow the Port and Chula Vista to progress into the development phase with the goal to transform the currently underused industrial waterfront property into a world-class resort and conference destination, complemented by a mix of residential, retail, and more than 240 acres of parks and nature preserve. The next step for the Port and City is to secure a developer(s) for the master planned project by preparing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ). Marketing efforts are already underway and it is anticipated that an RFQ would be issued for initial phases of the project early next year and will be announced and posted on the Port and City websites.

The project will be implemented in four major phases over a 24-year period. The first phase includes developing the resort conference center, creating public parks and open space, restoring habitat areas, and constructing a new fire station, RV park and mixed-use residential development. It is envisioned that construction for the first phase could begin as early as 2016.




SDG&E Warns Customers About Payment Scam

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is alerting customers to be aware of an ongoing wire fraud that has been targeting SDG&E customers in Hispanic neighborhoods. Reports indicate that individuals are misrepresenting themselves as utility employees by calling customers and threatening to turn off electric and gas service if an immediate payment is not made. Customers are instructed to purchase a pre-pay credit card then directed to another phone number where information is then obtained from the card and the cash value is then removed.

SDG&E is warning individuals and businesses of this fraud in an effort to prevent them from becoming potential victims. The company assures customers that SDG&E does not proactively contact them and ask for credit card information over the phone.

SDG&E customers should not provide any financial information by phone unless they have initiated the conversation. If customers receive a phone call that makes them feel uncomfortable, and they know they have an outstanding balance that needs to be resolved, they should hang up and call SDG&E directly at 1-800-411-7343.




Celebrating California's Veterans

On November 11th, the United States honored our country's veterans with the nation's 93rd Veterans Day. I would like to thank all the men and women who have served our country to protect our freedoms. Your sacrifices deserve our deepest gratitude and respect.

For more information on benefits for veterans and their families, please visit one of the following websites:




Interstate 805 South Project Updates

The I-805 South Project area is roughly 11 miles, between East Palomar Street in Chula Vista and the I-805/SR 15 interchange in San Diego. The project includes the addition of Carpool (HOV)/Express Lanes within the freeway median. Additionally, the project includes the construction of a Direct Access Ramp (DAR) at East Palomar Street in Chula Vista that will connect to the Carpool/Express Lanes, as well as intermediate access points, direct connectors, in-line transit stations, and park & ride locations. The I-805 South Project will be constructed in two major phases.

Construction began during the summer of 2012 and will continue through various phrases until 2020. To stay connect and receive updates on construction notices, please follow the directions below:




Community Snap-Shots


Senator Vargas attends the ribbon cutting of the new King-Chavez Health Center on September 7, 2012.

Senator Vargas and Assemblymember Hueso present San Ysidro Health Center's President and CEO Ed Martinez (left) and Chair of the Board of Trustees Macario Gutierrez with a Certificate of Recognition at the Dedication Ceremony and Open House.

Senator Vargas celebrates the annual Labor Day Breakfast with local iron workers.



At Your Service

As your State Senator, I am committed to providing the highest quality of public service possible. I want to do everything I can to improve the quality and safety of our community. I am here to respond to your questions and concerns, to make decisions fairly and to put the public's interest first.

When you call, my office will respond promptly, whether you need assistance with a state agency, information on current or previous legislation, or help filling out government forms. My office is here to serve your needs. I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to represent you in this community and Sacramento. I look forward to working with you to better our neighborhoods, schools and businesses. If I can be of any assistance, please call or click here to submit an on-line form that goes directly to my district office.

Constituent Services
I can assist you if you are having
problems in any of these areas:

  • Medi-Cal
  • Auto insurance
  • Consumer complaints
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Child support and child care
  • Disability insurance
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Workers' compensation
  • Franchise Tax Board
  • Government forms and applications
  • Complaints about state departments
  • Small business assistance

Legislative Services
I want to know how you feel about issues that I may vote on. Also, if you need information about existing or proposed state laws, please contact my office. I can send you:

  • Copies of legislation and laws
  • Status of legislation
  • Bill summaries by issue area
  • Analyses of legislation
  • Legislative Counsel opinions on state laws and legal issues
  • Legislative Committee rosters
  • Information on other legislators and the legislative process

Community Services
If you have an idea for a local project, a problem with a state or local agency that is not getting solved, I can help in these ways:

Public Service Information
Various state agencies print handbooks and brochures on subjects which may be of interest to you. Here are a few examples:

  • Mediate between you and government agencies or offices
  • Assist you in obtaining funding for local projects, such as bikeways, parks, schools, or senior citizen programs
  • Bring state experts into your community for technical assistance or advice on local issues
  • Help communicate your concerns to local, state and federal officials
  • Bring state administrators into your community so they hear first-hand about local needs
  • Visit your neighborhood or group to discuss state legislation or programs
  • Consumer protection
  • Small business assistance
  • Women's rights
  • Landlord-tenant rights
  • Scholarship opportunities
  • Credit discrimination
  • Insurance
  • Seniors issues
  • Child care and child support



California State Senator Juan Vargas - District 40
Web site: http://www.senate.ca.gov/Vargas
E-mail: Senator Juan Vargas
Capitol Office:
State Capitol, Room 3092
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4040
Fax: (916) 327-3522
Chula Vista Office:
333 H Street, Suite 2030
Chula Vista, CA 91910
Phone: (619) 409-7690
Fax: (619) 409-7688
El Centro Office:
1224 State St., Suite D
El Centro, CA 92243
Phone: (760) 335-3442
Fax: (760) 335-3444
Indio Office:
45-125 Smurr St., Suite B
Indio, CA 92201
Phone: (760) 398-6442
Fax: (760) 398-6507

California State Senate Majority Caucus (c) 2014 California State Senate