October 2014 Newsletter
MOBILE DISTRICT OFFICE
Because not everyone has the time to visit my office in Campbell or meet me at one of my community coffees, I decided years ago to have my staff conduct mobile district office hours in the community. The mobile district offices offer Senate District 15 residents a convenient way to get help or information regarding a state-related issue or problem.
The following is a schedule of the dates, times, and places for upcoming mobile district offices:
- Friday, Oct. 24, Cupertino Library, 10800 Torre Ave, Cupertino; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Friday, Oct, 24, Educational Park Library, 1772 Educational Park Dr., San Jose; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 28, Alum Rock Library, 3090 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose; 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday, Oct. 30, Almaden Community Center, 6445 Camden Ave., San Jose; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
- Friday, Oct. 31, Evergreen Library, 2635 Aborn Road, San Jose; noon to 2 p.m.
Here is a list of some of my bills that was signed by the Governor. They become effective on Jan. 1.
- Audrie's Law / Senate Bill 838 - Reforms obsolete sex assault statutes by closing three loopholes that served offenders but failed victims.
Under Audrie's Law, juveniles convicted of sodomy, rape or oral copulation will no longer be able to have their charges dismissed by paying a fine or participating in community service or a treatment program.
They now will be required to complete a sex offender treatment program if such programs are available in their country. Most California counties offer them.
This bill also brings transparency to our courtrooms, allowing the public to attend hearings involving juveniles accused of specified sex crimes against a victim who is unconscious or developmentally disabled.
The idea for SB 838 came from the family of Audrie Pott. Audrie was a Saratoga teenager who committed suicide after she was sexually assaulted while unconscious by three boys. Later, photos of her taken in the moments after the attack were electronically shared with some of her school mates.
According to press reports, the boys received sentences of 30 to 45 days. Their identities were kept secret by the juvenile court because of their age.
- Senate Bill 926 - Allows victims of sex abuse 12 more years to press criminal charges against their assailants.
Currently, victims only have until they turn age 28 to seek charges. SB 926 raises the statute of limitation to age 40.
This change in the law recognizes the medical evidence that shows victims often require more time to cope with their traumatization before coming forward to expose their abusers to law enforcement.
- Senate Bill 628 - Permits local governments to create enhanced infrastructure districts to improve our crumbling roads and pipelines for future generations.
Unlike redevelopment agency boards that were allowed to pick projects and issue bonds without the public's approval, the enhanced infrastructure districts provide more protection and transparency. The districts created under SB 628 will not take away a school district's tax increment, which had been a major problem under redevelopment agencies.
With SB 628, voters will have the authority to create an enhanced infrastructure district, approve its projects and the issuance of bonds or assessment levies. A 55 percent voter approval is required.
Projects eligible for funding include affordable housing, water, flood control, energy, environmental mitigation, storm water management, and transportation - such as BART to San Jose.
- Mental Health - I worked to get language in the state budget bills to add $3 million for new positions in the Department of Insurance and the Department of Managed Health Care to improve the enforcement of mental health parity compliance by insurers.
With the lack of access to proper treatment, we have seen our fire and police departments increasingly act as the first responders for people with mental disorders.
More and more people with mental illnesses are being incarcerated, too. About 30,000 out of 116,000 inmates in California prisons have a mental disorder. The cost to house each inmate is about $45,000 to $60,000 a year.
By increasing access to mental health treatment we can improve the lives of thousands of Californians and their families while saving taxpayer dollars.
- Senate Bill 355 - Increases public open spaces by offering a tax credit to property owners to sell their land for conservation purposes.
The bill revitalizes the state's Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit, which has been used to help acquire nearly 8,000 acres of open space by providing a tax credit to the landowner who donates property for public open space. The landowner can spread the tax credit out for up to eight years.
However, the preservation tax credit program has not been used extensively, primarily because many property owners who would like to participate in the program don't owe any taxes and therefore do not have a need for a state tax credit.
But under SB 355, an approved landowner who doesn't have a state tax liability would benefit. The bill lets landowners to work with any state department, agency, board or conservancy under the auspices of the California Natural Resources Agency on the donation. To be eligible, the property must have a specified priority conservation land value and furthers the mission of the agency accepting the donation.
The donation would be subject to approval by the Wildlife Conservation Board at a publicly noticed meeting. The landowner does not receive a credit until it is signed off by the Franchise Tax Board. The donor then can transfer or sell the credit to a third party who has a tax liability that is large enough to make the credit worthwhile to acquire.