September 2015 Newsletter

September 29, 2015



I'm sponsoring two events this week - one that focuses on protecting seniors from fraud and the second about how California is responding to a fourth consecutive year of drought that has contributed to devastating wildfires.

My Senior Scam Stopper Town Hall is scheduled for this Friday at Vintage Silver Creek in San Jose's Evergreen District. On Saturday, I'll be at Cupertino's Quinlan Community Center for my Drought Forum.







The Legislature wrapped up its year this month, passing bills that build on our state's investment in education and the economy while paying down the state's debt.


The 2015-16 state budget invests more than $68 billion in K-14, the highest level of funding in California's history; adds thousands of pre-school and child care slots; increases investments in the University of California and California State University systems to allow 15,000 more in-state residents to enroll; and deposits almost $2 billion into the rainy day reserve fund while repaying the last $1 billion in deferred payments to schools and community colleges. The Legislature also approved SB 588, which I supported, to crackdown on employers who cheat workers out of their wages.


I finished the legislative year with 10 of my bills headed to the Governor Brown's desk for his signature.


If these bills are ratified, their effect would be far reaching and beneficial: preventing the overmedication of foster care youth; reducing potentially dangerous inactions between peace officers and people with untreated mental illnesses; and eliminating an inequity in state law that has stopped four Santa Clara County cities from receiving their rightful share of property tax revenue.


Here's is a list of some of my bills that are pending:


SB 9 - This bill helps large scale rail projects such as BART to downtown San Jose get state funding faster.


It authorizes multi-year funding under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This would eliminate the practice of long-term projects having to submit requests for funding, along with engineering plans, in phases and allow project sponsors to obtain guaranteed funding over multiple years for developmental work.


SB 107 - Saratoga, Cupertino, Monte Sereno and Los Altos Hills are the only cities in the state receiving less than 7 percent of the property taxes their residents pay into the state's treasury. Their allocation is about 5 percent.


As a member of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, I worked to get language from a previous bill I introduced in a committee-sponsored bill to eliminate a 30-year-old discrepancy in the law that prevented the cities from getting the same standard percentage of returned property tax revenue as the rest of California's cities.


The estimated value to the four cities based on the current year property tax assessments is $2.5 million: Cupertino, $1.4 million; Saratoga, $650,000; Los Altos Hills, $320,000; Monte Sereno, $200,000.


With this lost revenue finally restored, these cities will have more revenue to invest into public improvement projects or municipal services without having to raise any taxes or fees.


SB 236 - Late night and pre-dawn bouts of drinking, loitering, and other nuisances on Communications Hill stairs had drawn numerous complaints from residents. But the city of San Jose was powerless to close the stairway at night because it is defined under the state vehicle code as a sidewalk and therefore publicly accessible 24 hours a day. To stop the illegal activity and improve residents' quality of life, I introduced SB 236 to give the city the authority to regulate pedestrian right-of-ways, giving city officials the option to enact a curfew on the stairway.


SB 11 AND 29 - Police officers carry firearms, two-way radios and Tasers to deal with emergencies every day. But are they equipped to cope with people who have mental illnesses?


The companion bills would require additional behavioral health and mental health training to increase safety for both peace officers and people with mental illnesses.


SB 11 calls for at least 15 hours of behavioral health instruction at academies for students who are training to become officers. The current standard is six hours.


SB 29 requires officers who conduct field training for newly hired officers to receive at least 12 hours of behavioral health training including eight hours of crisis intervention instruction and additional 4 hours in the Field Training Officer program.


The bills also call for all the training to be culturally appropriate.


SB 319 and 484 - Over half of foster care children in group homes are given powerful medications, such as psychotropic drugs that can have long-lasting side effects such as depressions and obesity.


This statistic coupled with anecdotal evidence raises a disturbing question: Are these potent drugs being used indiscriminately to sedate recalcitrant foster care youth into compliance? The frequency of use of the drugs was the subject of a Mercury News investigation.


To increase oversight of the administration of these drugs, I introduced SB 319 to give counties with public nurse programs the authority to monitor the use of psychotropic drugs given to foster care children.


Under SB 484, foster youth ombudspersons and stakeholders will establish a methodology to identify group homes with disproportionately high levels of psychotropic drug medication. Those homes would be required to submit corrective action plans within 60 days to the state and they would be subject to monitoring by the state.

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