September 2008 E-Newsletter
Assembly District 24 Legislation Passed
Overshadowed by the controversy of the state budget were many less publicized victories. In all, 14 of my bills were approved by the Legislature - three of them are especially critical to the well being of Californians and I want to highlight them first:
- Assembly Bill 1887 requires health insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse illnesses just as they would for any physical illness. It will enable an estimated 4 million insured Californians to get treatment who currently suffer from mental health disorders or addiction but are unable to get treatment through their medical coverage. This bill expands the categories of mental illnesses that require treatment. It ends the discriminatory practice of treating physical illnesses and injuries with more importance than diseases of the mind or addictions when both are equally debilitating. The cost is an extra $3 to $6 per year to premiums.
AB 1887 awaits the Governor's signature. This important bill needs your support. AB 1887 already has the backing of the medical community and law enforcement - the Santa Clara County Sheriff's, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association - because it can reduce the costly incarceration of people suffering from addiction or mental disorders.
- Assembly Bill 346 forces the makers of alcopops - sweetened drinks fortified with liquor - to prominently label their products to tell consumers they contain alcohol. The liquor industry's marketing of alcopops has blurred the line between these alcoholic beverages and the energy and fruit juice drinks whose appearance and taste they emulate. The change in the labeling will stop kids and adults from gulping down alcopops in the mistaken belief that it's a soda or energy drink.
- Assembly Bill 433 will help feed thousands of low-income Californians who are unable to buy enough nutritious food for their families. The bill removes red tape that has stopped 86,000 families from obtaining food stamps. It also makes it easier for the children of those families to get school lunches.
The legislation essentially allows families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grants to become automatically eligible for food stamps. With $130 million in additional federal benefits pouring into the state, that money will generate about $240 million in economic activity.
Here are bills that are also awaiting the Governor's approval:
- Assembly Bill 131 temporarily allows a Level 1 Education Specialist authorized to serve students with mild to moderate disabilities to also serve students ages 3 and 4 years of age with autism as long as that teacher completes a three-unit course from a recognized university in the area of "special education, early childhood." The bill addresses a critical shortage in qualified, credentialed teachers.
- Assembly Bill 117 allows the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to accept bids from the lowest responsible bidder or to a responsible bidder who offers a proposal with the best value for contract services less than $100,000. This eliminates the need for a costly, time-consuming request-for-proposal process. Similar legislation has already been enacted for BART, the Los Angeles Metro, and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.
- Assembly Bill 152 permits the Valley Transportation Authority to use funding to repair and maintain streets, highways, and bike and pedestrian facilities. Currently, VTA is limited to the repair and maintenance of transit facilities.
- Assembly Bill 171 strengthens the ability of probate court judges overseeing conservatorships to issue a restraining order on behalf of the conservatee, ward, guardian, or conservator.
- Assembly Bill 225 allows dependent adults to obtain a single restraining order to protect themselves, other innocent people in their household, and others associated with it, such as caregivers. This change in the law would obviate the need for each individual to go to court to get their own restraining order.
- Assembly Bill 1823 mandates each county's Multi-Agency Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council have a representative from the county's Alcohol and Drug Program Administrator. The councils administer grants to local governments to reduce juvenile crime and delinquency.
- Assembly Bill 1825 establishes a process to resolve disputes between regional centers and other public agencies over which is responsible for providing services contained in the person's individual family service plan or individual program plan of a child under 6. The regional centers are private non-profit corporations funded by the state that serve people with developmental disabilities.
- Assembly Bill 2337 adds alcohol and drug counselors to the list of professions required to report incidents of child abuse. The bill also provides the counselors with liability protections.
- Assembly Bill 2344 establishes an annual $185 fee to renew a retailer's license to sell tobacco products. The revenue will be used to prevent tobacco-related illnesses. Currently, retailers pay an initial, one-time fee of $100.
The Governor has signed these bills into law:
- Assembly Bill 1824 makes permanent a regional center employee's limited immunity from civil damages for injury or death resulting from discretionary acts or omissions. The limited immunity protection was scheduled to expire Jan. 1, 2009. The law, however, does not protect against any liability that may result from a criminal act.
- Assembly 1826 sets a uniform, statewide $320 court filing fee for people seeking the return of property seized during an arrest involving controlled substances.
The Governor has adopted a policy of not ratifying any new bills until a state budget is passed. While I am just as frustrated as anyone about the budget impasse, I disagree with the Governor's stance, no matter how well intended it is. Two wrongs don't make a right. It compounds California's problems by penalizing good bills that are aimed at correcting inequities in our laws.
The budget delay is nothing that anyone at the Capitol is happy about. But when a determined minority decides to hold the state hostage by exploiting the two-thirds majority law to pass a budget, the foundation for an impasse has been laid. If Californians want to ensure future budgets are always passed on time, we must change the law to allow the state Legislature to adopt a budget with a majority vote.
Free Pancake Breakfast
Please join us for a free pancake breakfast with your neighbors where we'll talk about your ideas on community and legislative issues! Here's the date, time, and place:
Saturday, Sept. 20
8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Community Center
1 W. Campbell Ave, Campbell
Free Flu Shots
Be prepared for the upcoming flu season. O'Connor Hospital will be holding its second annual Fall Family Health and Resource Fair next month. There will be free flu shots for adults, educational materials, health screenings, children's activities, and food and beverage.
Saturday, Oct. 18
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
O'Connor Hospital Medical Office Building Auditorium
2101 Forest Ave., San Jose
For more information, call 408-947-2539
Be Part of the Green Solution!
The city of San Jose's Department of Environmental Services is observing National Pollution Prevention Week by holding community resource fairs throughout the period of Sept. 15-Sept. 18. Learn how to curb pollution and toxins in your home and garden. Bring your glass mercury thermometer and exchange it for a free digital thermometer. Free compact fluorescent light bulbs will also be handed out. And if you've got an old cell phone or pager lying around gathering dust, please donate it to the Happy Hollow Cell Phone Recycling Program to support orangutan conservation.
For more information click here to go to the calendar of events or call (408) 945-3000.
Free Golf, Photography Classes, and Trail Outings
Shave a few strokes off your golf game. Learn photo composition and how to process digital pictures. Take a refreshing guided hike through Santa Clara County's parks. Or do all three!
The free classes and outings are sponsored by the Santa Clara County Parks Outdoor Recreation Outdoor Parks. Beware -- some of the events require reservations. For more information or to make reservations, contact the Santa Clara County Parks Department, (408) 355-2255, or email Kathleen.Hooper@prk.sccogv.org, or visit www.parkhere.org.
Golf clinics are scheduled from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, Oct. 4, and Oct. 11. at the Spring Valley Golf Course, 3441 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas. Space is limited and reservations are required.
An Outdoor Photography Class will be held 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Oct. 4, at Santa Teresa County Park's Bernal Ranch. The photo workshop will show participants how to take outdoor pictures, compose them, what types of cameras and film to use, and how to design webpages and put your pictures on the web. Bring your camera - digital or film. This class is limited to 20 people so please make reservations.
Healthy Trail Outings are scheduled at various parks through late December:
- Sept. 13, 9 a.m.-11 a.m, Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch Park, meet at the Mendoza Ranch Staging Area, parking free. Hike rating: moderate.
- Sept. 27, 9 a.m.-11 a.m., Mt. Madonna County Park, meet at the Sprig Day Use Parking Area, no fee. Hike rating: moderate.
- Oct. 25, 9 a.m.-11 a.m., Uvas County Park, meet at the Uvas Parking lot, parking fee. Hike rating: easy.
- Nov. 8, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Calero County Park, meet at the Calero Parking Lot, no fee. Hike rating: strenuous.
- Nov. 16, 9 a.m.-11 a.m., Mt. Madonna County Park, meet at the Miller Nature Trial Parking Lot, parking fee. Hike rating: easy.
Dec. 21, 9 a.m. 11 a.m., Uvas County Park, meet at the Uvas Parking Lot, parking fee. Hike rating: easy.