Despite the airline and weather problems that have been plaguing travelers across the nation, I made it safely to my first two floor sessions, representing you in the California State Senate this week!
It’s a heady experience sitting at my desk that literally dates back to the Capitol’s original construction. History is everywhere, reminding us of our solemn responsibility to the people of California, and yet the chamber is alive with 40 living, breathing senators who, together with the other branches of government and the assembly, help chart our state’s future.
The big news was that Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins announced the Senate’s committee membership assignments for the 2023-24 Legislative session. I couldn’t be happier with these exciting new roles.
I’m honored to be assigned to committees on 1) Governance and Finance, 2) Housing, 3) Transportation, and 4) the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies. I also have been chosen to be Vice-Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, and the Joint Committee on Fairs Allocation and Classification.
As I learn more about the work plan and scope of each committee, I’ll be sure to share it with you!
Over both days of floor sessions, legislators spoke about people who had passed. It was an insightful peek into the lives and thoughts of my colleagues as they reflected on and honored those who had been very important in their lives, or the lives of constituents, in their district.
On the day I was sworn in last month, I introduced bills that concern two of my biggest priorities – one addressing homelessness in cities, and the other to reduce gun violence. Both are “spot” bills, which are basically placeholders that will be completed during discussion and negotiation with my colleagues.
My gun violence bill, SB 8, was featured in a Politico news story yesterday: “California is working hard to pass gun laws — and even harder to defend them.”
During my first week, I also had several meetings with advocates, other elected officials and the staff of relevant committees, about SB 7. This is my homeless-related bill that seeks to create a framework requiring every city in the state to provide opportunities for housing residents who are homeless.
Right now, state law requires cities to provide the zoning for very low income residents. But cities do not have requirements aimed at those who literally have no home, and possibly have no income.
Cities optionally choose whether to provide homeless shelters or homeless housing. Because cities have land use authority, I would like to start the conversation about how to create a framework for cities to choose to provide housing for homeless people. Additionally, I’m hopeful about being more aggressive when it comes to the state using its own land for the creation of housing that would serve the population of people who are currently living unsheltered on our streets.
For opportunities to volunteer and help quantify the homeless problem in your city, please see “Two ways you can make a real difference” at the end of this letter about participating in the Point in Time Count.
New year, new laws, a better California
Here a few significant laws that took effect January 1. I’m proud of the work that my colleagues in the legislature put in to make these happen:
- Minimum wage boost: Senate Bill 3 increases the statewide minimum wage to $15.50/hr.! This is crucially important to ensuring economic justice, particularly for essential workers.
- Safer bicycling: AB 1909 is a jam-packed bill called an omnibus that changes several laws – and it’s all aimed at making bicycling safer. For example, drivers are now required to move to an additional lane, if available, when passing a cyclist. Please make sure to share the road and look out for your bike-riding friends and neighbors.
- Protecting transgender health care: SB 107, authored by my colleague Senator Wiener, establishes California as a sanctuary state for transgender healthcare and protects them from legal action by other states if they get that care in California. I’m proud of the work of all Californians who make our state welcoming and inclusive.
- Fairer school discipline: Authored by San Diego legislator Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, AB 2598 seeks to correct the disproportionate use of discipline in schools toward students of color, mainly Black students, by implementing alternative, evidence-based tools to improve students’ well-being.
- Addressing the housing crisis: AB 2011 and SB 6 are related to housing, one of my top priorities. These laws will serve to increase housing in areas zoned for retail and commercial spaces. Another housing bill by my colleague Assemblymember Ward, AB 950, will allow property owned by Caltrans to be sold to cities at its original value for affordable housing development. Together, we’re identifying strategies to putting the right housing in the right places, for all income categories.
- Compassionate court: SB 1338, or CARE Court, aims to address our homelessness problem. It’s inhumane to let individuals struggle on the streets. CARE Court is designed to connect court-ordered individuals to the care they need.
These are just a few of the promising advancements taking effect this year. Check out other San Diego and Orange County legislators’ webpages for their additional accomplishments.
A great way to enjoy the sunshine tomorrow!
One of my favorite local events is Cyclovia Encinitas, a yearly happening where cars take a backseat to bikes, skaters and pedestrians on downtown Encinitas’ main drag, Coast Highway 101!
There’s nothing quite like the sensation of strolling down the middle of a car-free main street with your family, exploring a beautiful coastal community. I’ll be there on my bike, and if you spot me, please say hello!
Two ways you can make a real difference
If you live in the San Diego County portion of District 38 and want to contribute to a better future, here are a couple of very worthy ideas:
We All Count
Early in the morning of Thursday, January 26, the annual Point in Time Count will take place in 36 locations across San Diego County, and you’re invited to participate. (Orange County conducts its count every other year; its next event will be in January, 2024.)
The count identifies how many individuals and households are homeless in a community, including those living on the street or other unsheltered locations, and what some of their key characteristics are.
When I was mayor of Encinitas, I volunteered for the Point in Time count (seen above with my husband Jeremy) and found it to be very rewarding. Understanding more about homelessness helps communities and the government target resources and policies effectively. The count is also an excellent opportunity to increase awareness of homelessness and to inspire action.
Serve on a board or commission
Here’s a great chance to get involved in your local leadership and have your say “in the room where it happens.”
Orange County has a website with Boards, Commissions and Committees openings that you can access here.
In San Diego County, Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer is holding a Zoom webinarthis Monday, January 9th, from 6-7pm to talk about opportunities to serve on county boards and commissions.
A report on all vacancies is here. If you’re interested but can’t Zoom on Monday, you can head to the County’s website, search for listings, and attend a public meeting to learn more.
I hope you’re savoring your weekend and relishing this break between storms. I’m making the best of my short time in the district before I head back up to Sacramento for more adventures in governance!
I haven’t fully adjusted to the reality of spending most of every week there, but little by little I expect to acclimate to this new lifestyle. I’m staying in a hotel for the time being while I’m there, but the room number changes each week so there’s a lot of packing and unpacking!
With gratitude for the chance to be here,
P.S. We met the threat
Yesterday, January 6th, was the second anniversary of the thwarted attempt to overthrow our government at our nation’s Capitol. It’s a painfully fresh reminder that each of us must stay involved and diligent to protect our precious democracy.
One of the most hopeful takeaways from 2022 is that so many of us pushed back on that threat by stepping up, voting and volunteering!
P.P.S. Surf’s up!
I joined the crowd at Swami’s Beach watching yesterday’s swell. It was truly epic. Experts only in the water!