March 2013 Newsletter

March 12, 2013

MEET ME

Come to my community coffee or drop by my Open House and visit my new Senate District 15 office in Campbell. I am also sponsoring an Education Roundtable about school funding.

District Office Open House
Thursday, March 14; 4:00-6:30 p.m.
2105 S. Bascom, Ave., Suite 154
Lincoln Court building, about a block south of the Pruneyard Shopping Center, Campbell.

Discuss community and legislative issues with your District Office staff. Meet Senate District 15's Woman of the Year: Angel Kelly. Light refreshments will be served. For more info, contact the District Office at (408) 558-1295. To RSVP click here

Coffee with Senator Jim Beall
Friday, March 15; 8:30-10:00 a.m.
Evergreen Coffee Company
4075 Evergreen Village Square, Suite 150, San Jose

Have a one-on-one chat with me. Because of the popularity of these coffees, and out of politeness for those waiting, your time with me may be limited. To RSVP click here

Education Roundtable
Thursday, April 4; 6:30-8 p.m.
Evergreen Community Center
4860 San Felipe Road, San Jose

Carolyn Chu, of the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office, will discuss Proposition 30 effect on education and Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to restructure classroom funding.
To RSVP click here


TRANSPORTATION

The signs are clear: Unless we act, our transportation system is approaching the end of the road.

  • A U.S. Census Bureau study released this month showed the Bay Area has more "mega-commuters'' - motorists who travel more than 50 miles and spend 90 minutes or more driving to work -- than any region of the country. California has more than 1.5 million drivers who commute an hour or longer to work.
  • Faced with deteriorating streets, the San Jose City Council voted to investigate new ways, including evaluating the potential of ballot measures, to finance much-needed maintenance.
  • Transportation funding from Proposition 1B - a $19 billion bond passed by state voters in 2006 - is drying up along with the federal stimulus funds that contributed $74 million for local street improvements and hybrid bus purchases in Santa Clara County.

The Legislature is taking action to take the uncertainty out of transportation funding with measures such as a proposal to amend the constitution to lower the voter approval requirement of a special tax to provide funding for local transportation projects from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent.

I support establishing a 55 percent voter majority for transportation bond measures because everyone benefits -- shorter travel times, less gas consumed, and less pollution --from efficient roads and mass transit.

In the past, voters have recognized the necessity to lower the two-thirds majority threshold for the common good. In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39 to allow school bond measures to be approved with a 55 percent majority.

To tap the potential for districts with strategic mass transit stations, I've introduced SB 628, legislation that would allow local governments to establish infrastructure financing districts to cluster residential and commercial development around the stations. Its goals are to get people out of their cars, revitalize districts, and cut urban sprawl.

This proposal borrows from the concept of redevelopment agencies but with important provisos. Like redevelopment agencies, the new districts will use tax-increment financing to get projects going and set aside 20 percent of new residential for affordable housing. But if an infrastructure financing district does not show proof of reaching its adopted goals for five consecutive years, it would be banned from spending any more money on new projects. Any excess property tax increment for the new projects would be returned to the affected tax entities.


MENTAL HEALTH

I have the honor of being appointed as the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health. Mental health has long been a high priority for me.

The cost of untreated mental illness is staggering. I've often pointed out that the U.S. racks up $105 billion a year in lost productivity alone due to mental illness. But more important, 57.4 percent of all Americans will suffer a mental disorder in their life.

To ignore the real need make mental health treatment affordable and accessible, imperils all of us. California has trimmed its mental health programs budget by $765 million from 2009 to 2012 while the number of people with mental disorders who are entering our prisons increases. From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of inmates diagnosed with mental illness climbed from 19 to 25 percent. It doesn't take long to realize that effective preventative programs can save lives and careers but also save taxpayer dollars.

The Select Committee will measure how mental health impacts state and local government budgets as well as draft a policy plan that coordinates every state department that deals with mental health.