October 2015 Newsletter
Ten of my bills were signed into law by Governor Brown. These bills range from protecting to protect foster youth, increasing the margin of safety for police and people with mental illnesses, and accelerating the construction of the BART extension to downtown San Jose.
Here's a list of the bills that were ratified:
SB 9 - Shortens construction time and saves money for mass transit projects, such as BART to San Jose.
It authorizes multi-year funding grants under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill ends the repetitive practice of long-term projects submitting funding requests, along with engineering plans, in phases. It also guarantees approved projects funding over multiple years for developmental work.
SB 11 and SB 29 - Increases safety for the public and police by improving officers' mental health training.
The bills increase behavioral health and mental health training for police officers in order to better manage and help people with mental illnesses. The bills also require training to be culturally appropriate.
SB 11 requires at least 15 hours of behavioral health instruction at academies for new recruits who are training to become police officers and requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to develop a mental health continuing education course for current police officers. The current standard is six hours.
SB 29 requires police officers in supervisory roles who conduct field training to receive at least 12 hours of behavioral health training including eight hours of crisis intervention instruction and additional four hours in the Field Training Officer program.
SB 236 - Provides the City of San Jose with new options to stop crime on Communications Hill.
The bill removes the Communications Hill's status as a 24-hour sidewalk, freeing San Jose to institute a curfew - if it so chooses - to stop late night nuisances such as drinking, loitering, littering, and lewd activity.
SB 326 - Keeps air ambulances solvent to answer medical emergencies.
The bill preserves $11 million in matching federal funds for emergency air ambulance services by extending the sunset date of an existing fee on traffic fines. It also extends the fee's sunset date until 2018.
SB 410 - Fairness for vocational schools serving low-income students.
This legislation allows the Center for Employment and Training in San Jose to receive federal and state employment and training funds by changing the legal definition of "graduate" to include all students who graduate regardless of how long it takes them to complete their coursework.
The bill ends the unfair penalization of post-secondary and vocational schools that serve low-income students who face economic impediments that may hinder them from graduating in a timely manner.
SB 319 - Public nurses: Providing an extra layer of protection for foster care youth.
SB 319 authorizes public health nurses to monitor the administration of psychotropic drugs to foster children. The bill clarifies that a child's caseworker may use the expertise of the Public Health Nurse to consult and collaborate to ensure that the child's physical, mental, dental, and developmental needs are met, and that Public Health Nurses have access to the child's medical and mental health information.
SB 484 - Detects foster care group homes that overmedicate.
Identifies group homes suspected of inappropriately using psychotropic medications and gives authority to push the group home to adopt alternative, less invasive treatment approaches.
SB 508 - Gives Transit Operators Flexibility to Better Serve Transit Riders.
The bill amends the current definition of fare box receipts and efficiency requirements for mass transit operators to remain eligible for federal and state funding. The bill eliminates liability insurance premiums, fuel costs, and other factors beyond the control of transit agencies as part of the definition of operating costs. The bill increases funding predictability for local transit systems.
SB 513 - Improves State Air Quality Program to Include New Technologies and Ability to Secure Additional Funding.
The bill reduces air pollution by updating the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program and local AB 923 incentive funding programs to take into account new regulations and new emission reduction technologies. The changes increased opportunities for projects such as school buses, trucks certified to lower emission standards, and fueling/charging infrastructure while promoting renewable fuel, hybrid, battery electric, fuel cell and fuel efficiency improvement projects.
The regular legislative year ended in September. But, the work of the Special Session's conference committee on transportation infrastructure has not stopped.
The committee, on which I serve as a co-chair, will hold two meetings this month as it begins the process of shaping a solution to fund the urgent repairs our streets and highways so badly need.
The first hearing takes place on Friday, 10 a.m., at the State Capitol. A second hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, 9 a.m., Oct. 21, in Southern California at the Ontario City Hall.
The conference committee members have a tough task: Crafting an equitable solution that will significantly reduce the state's $58 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and also gain the necessary two-thirds support in the Senate and Assembly for passage. The plan will also have to win Governor Brown's approval.
The longer we delay action, the more it will cost California because the backlog will grow. Our local governments have a $79 billion backlog and they will need more money from their allocation of road maintenance revenue that is collected by the state.
The state's gas tax has not been adjusted since the early 1990s, a situation that has contributed to the funding gap that has created the backlog. Inflation has eaten away the value of the state gas tax, leaving us with a huge hole in our maintenance fund. In addition, the gas tax has been entirely side-stepped by zero-emission vehicles which use the roads but do not pay their fair share to maintain them.
With the realization that no funding help is forthcoming from Congress, many states have passed gas-tax adjustments this year - among them are South Dakota, Georgia, Utah, Iowa, and Washington. Lawmakers in these states concluded that the best way to keep their roads in good shape was by raising dedicated revenue to meet their needs instead of tapping their general funds.
Over 90,000 homeless people live in California, accounting for 25 percent of the nation's homeless population. Santa Clara County has about 6,500 homeless people. At one time, San Jose was the site of "The Jungle," a community of 200 to 300 people living next to Coyote Creek that was biggest single homeless encampment in the United States until authorities shut it down.
It is clear that California needs a comprehensive strategy to solve the problem of homelessness. As the chairman of the Senate's Transportation and Housing Committee, I will be convening a hearing in Los Angeles to gather information and ideas from experts about the economic impacts of homelessness and how some local programs have succeeded in reducing homelessness.
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Los Angeles City Hall's Board of Public Works Session Room.
In September, I held a Drought Forum in Cupertino to update residents about the measures being taken to battle the drought, which is entering its fifth year. Joining me were California Water Resources Board Member Steven Moore and Cupertino Mayor Rod Sinks.
Californians have stepped up to the challenge this summer. We have cut our statewide water usage by 28.7 percent for the period beginning in July through the end of August, surpassing the 25 percent goal set by Gov. Brown.
In Santa Clara County, we've been able to reduce consumption by 26 percent for the period from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, according to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. In August, we trimmed water usage by 35 percent.
We must continue to be water wise even as El Nino conditions strengthen. We cannot pin our hopes of climbing out of the drought based on predictions of a heavier-than-normal rain season.
At the same time, it's prudent to prepare for rain. So, it's a good idea to check your roof, clean out gutters, and trim trees to withstand wind-driven rains.
Let's be prepared for any outcome.