The Legislature is back in action, and so is the Sac Report. A few weeks ago, I asked all the members of the San Diego delegation about their top priority for the New Year.

It might shock you to learn that a group of politicians did not all stick to the question too closely, but many identified one, two or a handful of things they plan to focus on.

Sacramento Report logoWhat is your No. 1 goal or priority for 2017, and how should we measure your success?

Sen. Joel Anderson

“My goal has always been to make government work for my constituents, and we measure all the aspects of our office that work toward that goal. Here are just a few examples:

Constituent letters answered: I know how frustrating it can be when it feels like no one is listening. I ran for office because I believe government should be accountable to the people it represents, and that’s why our office responds to every constituent that contacts us. In 2015 and 2016, we responded to over 41,000 constituent letters, emails and phone calls. When you call our office, you get an answer.

Constituent issues resolved: Our constituent-focused approach helped 1,434 constituents solve their problems with state agencies such as the DMV, Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department in 2016. That number is up from 1,377 in 2015.

Community outreach: We attended 1,853 community events in 2015 and 2016. I make sure that my staff or I am available at different community events throughout the district to make sure we proactively find opportunities to help my constituents. We attend events to ensure that we are available to our constituents.

Bills signed into law: I look for opportunities to work across the aisle to pass legislation that improves the lives, and protects the rights and liberty, of my constituents and their families. In 2016, I authored or co-authored 39 bills that were signed into law by the governor, which was up from 23 bills the year before.”

Sen. Toni Atkins

“It’s hard to identify a single priority as No. 1 over all others. I’d like to help move the ball forward on a number of important policy issues: affordable housing and housing affordability, human trafficking, sea-level rise along California’s 1,100-mile coastline, keeping college affordable, defending choice, protecting and expanding health care for all Californians, as well as guarding immigrants’ rights and promoting equal rights for the transgender community. These are among my short list of priority issues.

It’s equally difficult to pin down a single measurement of success in the short term. I’m pragmatic. I’m playing the long game. I will work my hardest on each of these issues – which call for a sustained team effort and oftentimes see peaks and valleys on the road to success – and let others judge as they see fit.”

Sen. Ben Hueso

“This year, I worked on measures creating a safety net for the most vulnerable in our community, making California healthier, ensuring every child has an equal opportunity through education and cleaning up our state’s environment.  A prudent budget was passed on-time for the fifth consecutive year which included $2 billion in funding for housing for the homeless, $527 million to help families stay on the job by providing child care, $300 million for services for the developmentally disabled, and a healthy $6 billion in reserves.

Some additional priorities this year will include addressing safety of Coronado Bridge, implementing border wait-time reduction strategies, improving college readiness and continuing our work at job training and job placement.

I will work on a diverse yearly program that includes budget allocations, and district constituent services.  I have always put a premium on providing excellent constituent services and supporting local nonprofits at achieving their mission of providing the best services, culture and education to the people of my district.  We will continue to work hard to keep growing our economy and create a prosperous California with a very high quality of life for everyone.”

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez

“A high priority for me will always be making sure California veterans are being taken care of to the best of the state’s ability. Veterans are few and far between in the state legislature, and they need to be looked out for. With one of the strongest military influences in the nation, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to help those who served.

Improve the quality of education from 0-5 all the way to adult education. There are many improvements we can make in all levels of education, including school choice, increased resources for 0-5 education for cognitive development and the state recognizing the importance of the investment in continuing education or adult education to make sure our workforce never falls behind in a global economy.

I plan to work with the many stakeholders involved on a western regionalized energy grid that will benefit not just California, but the many states surrounding our area. It will help make improvements to our energy infrastructure with increased storage, sharing of resources and cleaner energy.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher

“I will be focused on doing everything we can do to defend our California ideals from a Trump presidency and Republican Congress who want to harm the community I represent. But while playing defense is on everyone’s mind, I believe it’s just as important to push forward a progressive agenda that advances the priorities of working- and middle-class communities. You can expect me to pursue policies that empower workers on the job, eliminate barriers to work, stop gender bias that puts women at a disadvantage, and increase access to the ballot box for every citizen. As always, you can measure my success by what I get done.”

Assemblyman Todd Gloria

“I ran for the state Legislature to continue being a champion for working families and helping more Californians to make ends meet. My priorities in the Assembly are similar to those I had during my service on the City Council: increase affordable housing, invest in transportation infrastructure and implement proven solutions to homelessness. As part of the Assembly leadership team, I believe that our success is measured collectively and not individually. I’m looking forward to working with all of my colleagues to make progress on each of these priorities, which can then be evaluated by metrics like how many Californians are lifted out of poverty and funding levels in the state budget.”

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein

“I will continue to author and support legislation that is important to the residents of my district. The constituents of my district will measure me through my legislative package and efforts to improve our community, in addition to the assistance we provide to residents and local businesses as they encounter challenges with state agencies.”

Assemblyman Randy Voepel

“As a combat veteran who fought in Vietnam, I understand firsthand the difficulties of coming back home and working to establish a future. That’s why my top priority will be to focus on issues that benefit veterans in California. I look forward to focusing on ways to help expand opportunities for veterans to obtain jobs, ensure our state’s Dept. of Veterans Affairs is operating as it should and working with veterans groups on other ways to improve their lives. I believe my success should be measured by whether or not the Legislature can pass meaningful legislation to help veterans.”

Assemblywoman Marie Waldron

“One of my top priorities is assuring access to quality affordable health care including Denti-Cal for at-risk and underserved communities. I will continue to work for HIV/AIDS patients, children’s access and mental health access, including comprehensive treatments and rehabilitation for incarcerated individuals in our local jails.

The measure of success is when the governor signs the legislation and a patient receives the care they deserve in a timely manner.

For example, in the previous session we had numerous bills signed relative to removing discrimination for people living with AIDS/HIV, mental health outpatient treatment (Laura’s Law) program extension, Hepatitis C awareness and business incentives to hire for previously incarcerated for substance abusing individuals as independent contractors.”

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber

“A single priority is a challenge given what we’re faced with this year. But I’ve been driven in my work in the Legislature by the fact that my family came here from the segregated South because of the California Dream, where work mattered, where education was high quality and accessible from kindergarten through university, and where each generation did better than the last. I would say that the preservation and revival of that dream is my priority. Fundamental to this is that I’ll continue promoting policies that make public schools work for every single student. No exception and no excuses. I will also continue working for public safety in all communities and for fairness in the judicial system for both victims and those who have served their time. It’s also important that work is honored and compensated for in a way that people can actually support themselves. The California Dream is the American Dream actualized. My job, my top priority, is to make sure the dream is still attainable and to protect it from being diminished by forces from elsewhere.”

Faulconer’s Gov Flirtation Still a Thing

Mayor Kevin Faulconer already said he wouldn’t run for governor. Sort of. That’s what everyone seemed to take away from his May statement to the Associated Press: “I am here for four years as mayor.”

And yet that statement didn’t include the words “no,” “not” etc.

So here we are, with lots of speculation swirling that the mayor is laying the groundwork for a run. This week, Politico reports that he’s knocking on Republicans’ doors, trying to shore up support.

Faulconer sure sounded like a candidate for governor when he was sworn in for a new term late last month, touting bipartisanship and a focus on infrastructure – messages that would translate easily into a statewide campaign.

Faulconer’s own communications team included the word “governor” in its drinking game of words and phrases to watch out for in his upcoming State of the City address.

Catching Up

The final insult of 2016 was a real kick in the gut.

Sutter Brown, California’s first dog and a king among corgis, died just before the New Year. However sad it is possible to be about an animal you’ve never met, that is me.

The Sacramento Bee’s video tribute to Sutter is lovely. What a good boy.

Also just before the year ended, the Senate and Assembly leaders doled out committee assignments.

Here’s where San Diego folks landed:

On the Senate side, Sen. Ben Hueso will serve as chair of the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee; Sen. Pat Bates will serve as vice chair of Appropriations, and of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee; Sen. Joel Anderson will be vice chair of the Public Safety Committee and the Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

“Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who just crossed over from the Assembly, is the only Senate Democrat not named as a committee chair, vice chair or floor leader,” noted the Sacramento Bee.

On the Assembly side, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez was reappointed chair of the Appropriations Committee, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber will chair Budget’s Subcommittee on Public Safety and Assemblyman Todd Gloria will serve as assistant majority whip.

California’s Stormwater Rules Are a Hot Mess

The State Water Resources Control Board is supposed to ensure the state’s waters are clean. But it and its nine regional boards don’t seem to have enough staff to do the job themselves.

In recent years, efforts to clean up the state’s waters have focused on smaller and smaller sources of pollution that still add up to a lot of dirty water. The number of businesses covered by these regulations is so high that the state isn’t exactly sure what it is – it might be anywhere from 10,000 to 130,000 businesses.

But there’s only about 75 state officials who work on this type of water pollution control.

State officials told us they haven’t been able to even notify everyone who might need to comply with their regulations. Why? Because sending every business a piece of mail might create too much work.

Environmental attorneys have gotten interested in this, too. They think the state is failing to crack down even on the polluters it does know about. So, they’ve begun taking their law into their own hands, filing lawsuits against individual businesses. It’s as if the California Highway Patrol couldn’t enforce traffic laws, so whoever wanted to just started issuing tickets to whoever they wanted.

Ry Rivard

The Right Ways to Do Bilingual Ed Post-Prop. 58

This past November voters passed Prop. 58, which lifted restrictions on bilingual education that were put in place in 1998. Now, school districts and principals across the state are trying to figure out whether to grow bilingual programs – and if so, how.

This week, we talked to three experts about what needs to happen next.

Right now, because the state doesn’t track how many teachers have bilingual credentials, most school districts have no idea how supply stacks up to demand. So step one for school districts is to survey teachers and get a count to see how many can step into the role.

School districts and principals also need to understand what programs will work for their communities. So education is a big part of the plan moving forward, and that goes for parents, too. Bilingual education is good for native English speakers and native Spanish speakers alike — but parents may need additional information in order to understand the benefits.

One expert bookends her advice with a cautionary note: School districts need to go slow, move methodically and stick to what the research says works. If school districts move too quickly to open a bilingual program, they’re more likely to open programs that just don’t work.

“If we hurry into this and we don’t plan and just kind of move with the momentum, then I don’t think we’re going to get the results that our children deserve,” she said.

— Mario Koran

Golden State News

• This story on the diversity – or lack thereof – within the state Legislature has quite the lede: “There are more white men named Jim in the California Legislature than black and Asian-American women—combined.” (CalMatters)

• California is adding yet another weapon to its arsenal as it prepares to fight the Trump administration: Eric Holder. (Sac Bee)

Republican legislators are not happy about Holder. Many, including local lawmakers like state Sen. Pat Bates, Assemblyman Randy Voepel and Rep. Darrell Issa, condemned the move.

• This investigation examines the biggest reasons families in California are becoming homeless. Among them: Government assistance doesn’t come close to covering housing costs, and many assistance efforts focus on the mentally ill and not families. (KPCC)

• A Chapman professor suggests California is returning to its role as “The Great Exception.” (Real Clear Politics)

• One downside to the minimum wage increase for working families is that the pay raise could bump them out of subsidized child care. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher introduced a bill in December that would raise the income limit for those receiving subsidies. (L.A. Times)

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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