February 2015 Newsletter

February 19, 2015

Community Coffee

My series of community coffees continues on Friday, Feb. 20, at Maple Leaf Donuts, 6473 Almaden Expressway, San Jose. I'll be there from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

These meetings help me understand what issues are important to the residents of Senate District 15. Also, residents who are having a problem with a state agency can seek a clarification through my office.

My coffees offer a face-to-face meeting with me on a first-come, first-served basis. The length of the meeting is based on the number of people waiting to speak to me. Please click here to RSVP so my staff will know how many people to prepare for.



Transportation

California's state highway system has a backlog of $59 billion in deferred maintenance. Our cities have a $78 billion price tag for maintenance and repairs.

The proliferation of gas-efficient vehicles coupled with the growth in hybrid and all-electric cars has meant a drop in gas tax revenues that fund maintenance despite more vehicles than ever traveling on our roads, increasing the wear and tear.

As the Senate's ex offico member to the California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee, I serve on a panel that will explore alternatives to the gas tax to pay for repairs, gather public comment, and make recommendations to California State Transportation Agency regarding the design of a road usage charge pilot program. This is a gigantic project with huge implications for everyone who drives in California. The issue demands rigorous evaluation and there will be no overnight solution.

But until there is an agreed upon solution, we must begin whittling down the backlog of repairs to save us from having to paying more in the future. That's why I have introduced Senate Bills 9 and 16.

SB 9 allows a portion of revenue from the Cap and Trade program to be dedicated for the multi-year funding for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce pollution. The bill would guarantee financial certainty for projects, such as a BART extension to San Jose, instead of requiring them to reapply every year for renewed funding.

Currently, transportation agencies must periodically re-apply for funding, a cumbersome process that put on-going projects at risk.

SB 16 would mandate that savings in the Department of Transportation's budget be plowed into existing road repair and litter clean-up.

Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, has already asked independent management consultants to recommend improvements to the department.

For generations, the transportation department has done a good job of constructing our freeway system. But that system is now built out. Today, we must work smarter, better, and use technology to our advantage to solve problems - and as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee I will be carefully deciding each bill that comes before me based on that criteria.



Foster Care

Nearly one in four children in foster care and 56 percent of children in group homes are receiving powerful psychotropic drugs, often without adequate oversight. As a long-time advocate for foster youth, I am taking action with several state Senators to address this issue and develop a policy to prevent the prescribing of medications beyond the safe standard of care.

On Feb. 24 in Sacramento, the Senate Human Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health will hold a joint hearing to look into the over medication of our foster youth.

Top professionals and state officials will testify about what they are doing in response to the recent findings that foster youth in California are being given mind-altering medications at rates that far exceeds those for non-foster youth.



Read Across America

Share the love of reading with East San Jose elementary school students as a volunteer for Read Across America Day. Volunteers will read to entire classrooms; shifts are available from 8:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. and from 8:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Monday, March 2.

For more information and to sign up as a volunteer, visit the United Way Silicon Valley's Read Across America Day website.

Read Across American Days is observed on March 2 - the birthday of children's book author Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.