(Sacramento) – Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico and other legislators will partner again this year with Yellow Ribbon America for the 6th annual toy drive, Operation Christmas for Our Troops and Their Families. “Operation Christmas” is part of a nationwide, non-partisan effort to show support for deployed as well as at-home military members and their families. According to the Pentagon, this is the largest holiday effort on behalf of the nation’s men and women in uniform.
Previous “Operation Christmas” drives have collected and distributed over 350,000 items in five years. The food, bikes, DVDs, games, gift cards and other presents are donated every year to the military families. A large number of retailers, churches and community organizations participate, as do more than 200 National Guard Armories, Reserve Centers and Active Duty military installations.
This year, starting Thursday, December 10th, Yellow Ribbon America’s “Military Santa” (Rick Sihner) and “Military Elf” Rodney Stanhope will be living in a shed in a Sacramento mall parking lot 24 hours a day for 12 days to draw attention to the toy drive and collect donations. The shed will be located in the Arden Fair Mall parking lot along Arden Way.
“Our men and women in military deserve our appreciation for their work and the stressful situations they endure every day,” Torrico said. “The stress on their families and the time apart from loved ones is tremendous. Yellow Ribbon America and the volunteers do a great job of reaching out to them and giving as much assistance as they can.”
Yellow Ribbon America was founded in 2003 as a nonpartisan, grassroots effort to unite all Americans in directly helping our military members and their families during wartime. Local businesses, residents, churches, and community groups focus their resources on helping families in their communities.
Earlier this year the State Legislature honored Yellow Ribbon America with a resolution declaring the week of June 29 through July 5 as Yellow Ribbon Week. The resolution, ACR 81, was jointly authored by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) and Assembly Member Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia).
(Sacramento) – The Assembly Committee on Education on Wednesday held its fourth and final informational hearing aimed at ensuring California is competitive in seeking federal “Race to the Top” education grants.
Following the hearing, legislation to strengthen California’s application to win federal funding grants under President Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative was introduced by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education.
“We are approaching the finish line for California’s race to the top application, but our efforts to improve our schools can’t end there,” Brownley said. “AB 8 X5 moves the goal even higher, aiming for a transformation of California’s schools that goes beyond one-time funding and builds a long-lasting environment where students and teachers – working closely with parents – can succeed and thrive.”
Consistent with public testimony from a series of Education Committee hearings, AB 8 X5 follows recently released Race to the Top guidelines and will improve education for all California students by:
Identifying the persistently lowest-achieving schools, requiring them to implement one of four models for transforming to higher-achieving levels.
By August 2, 2010, requiring the State superintendent to develop a set of state content standards in language arts and mathematics that are internationally benchmarked, that build toward college and career readiness, and that reflect the national common core standards being developed by a national consortium of education leaders.
Removing the cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the state, while requiring modest new fiscal and academic accountability standards for charter schools that are consistent with those for traditional public schools.
Targeting a portion of the federal RTTT funds to low-achieving schools for high-quality, targeted professional development to leverage a positive environment in schools.
Continuing to expand California’s data system and to use that data to improve classroom instruction and to better inform parents and the public about student progress.
Maximizing the amount of the new federal funding that is allocated to local education agencies.
“California’s application for Race to the Top must be competitive so we can bring home this crucial funding for our schools,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said. “The Assembly got the facts and got the input from educational stakeholders and the public that will help us have the strongest possible application. This collaborative effort will be reflected in the legislation the Assembly will be taking up next week.”
Assemblywoman Brownley has led four Assembly Education Committee hearings this fall, bringing together representatives of industry, teachers, administrators, parents and school boards to examine each of the reform areas states must address to compete for a portion of $4 billion in Race to the Top grants. Those reform priorities include: developing great teachers and administrators, turning around struggling schools, developing common standards and assessments, and using data to improve instruction.
Pending referral, the bill will be heard and voted on by the Assembly Education Committee for the 5th Extraordinary Session at a hearing December 9 at the State Capitol.
Assemblymember Brownley's opening statement at the Assembly Education Committee’s Race to the Top hearing.
(Sacramento) – On a bipartisan basis the California State Assembly today passed a historic plan to increase water supply reliability while improving the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the source of drinking water for two-thirds of the state. The plan includes both a comprehensive policy package that improves water conservation, groundwater monitoring, water rights and governance as well as a water infrastructure bond to be placed on next year’s ballot.
“The package includes conservation and storage, groundwater protection, water rights protection, and Delta protection and represents the most significant water infrastructure and policy advances since the State Water Project in the 1960s,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said. “This is a responsible plan -- no one is getting 100% of what they want. Everyone who gets something has to give something, too.It is the only way to balance the many different individual interests for the overall greater good of having a safe and stable water supply for the entire State of California.”
Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, and Assemblymember Anna Caballero(D-Salinas), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Local Government, worked with Speaker Bass and other leaders at the capitol to help negotiate the water package.
“The package of water policy bills passed by the Legislature today reflects the most significant improvement in California’s water management in decades,” Huffman said. “The bills, if signed by the Governor, would set critical water conservation mandates, finally bring California more in line with other western states regarding groundwater monitoring and enforcement of water rights, and the Delta bills would provide the direction needed to resolve the 30 year gridlock over water and fisheries in the Delta. I believe these bills will significantly help to reverse the water crisis in California while also protecting and restoring the ecosystem and salmon fisheries in the Central Valley and Delta.”
“I was honored to be part of the Speaker’s negotiating team to craft a comprehensive water package to help solve California’s water problems. We worked really hard to create a water package that will bring resources to communities hard hit by the lack of water. Additionally, the package will prioritize drought relief water projects for farmers and farm workers; helping to put people back to work and create jobs,” Caballero said.
“This package deserves to be signed by the Governor and then the bonds need to be passed by the public,” Bass said. “It is our best hope to ensure clean, reliable water for California’s families, farms and businesses.”
Speaker Bass says one of the keys to passage of the bond will be educating voters on the complex issues related to water.
(Sacramento) – Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), during a news conference at the state capitol this afternoon with Assemblymembers Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), said she’s hoping a comprehensive water solutions package can be brought to the full legislature for consideration soon. Speaker Bass says the package will be the focus of committee hearings before any floor votes are taken. And, she noted, the first informational hearing on the water package was held today by joint Senate and Assembly committee. The Speaker says the water package will include a strong conservation component, strict water rights enforcement, the creation of a Delta Stewardship Council and a multi-billion dollar bond package to pay for desperately needed infrastructure improvements and delta restoration.
Speaker Bass’ opening remarks to media at this afternoon’s news conference.
(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Pedro Nava(D-Santa Barbara) announced today the introduction of The Oil Industry Fair Share Act, AB 6x1. The legislation will establish an oil severance tax of 10% on the gross value of each barrel of crude oil pumped by companies in California. This tax will provide approximately $1.5 billion in additional revenue to the General Fund. These desperately needed dollars could be used for public safety, education, health programs for children, human services, and other vital programs.
“California oil companies are getting a free ride. California is the only major oil producing state that does not charge a severance tax on oil extraction. It is time for California to catch up with Alaska, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas. We need to collect the people’s share of this potential revenue source by forcing Big Oil to pay its fair share,” said Nava. “California has been giving away public assets to Big Oil for far too long.”
Nava was joined earlier in the day by school employees, seniors, healthcare provders, organized labor, and environmentalists at a Capitol news conference announcing the introduction of the bill. California is experiencing unprecedented budget shortfalls. Schools, universities, health programs, public safety, state parks, and various other aspects of the government have faced severe cuts. While unemployment has skyrocketed, oil companies in California are anticipating increased profits from rising oil prices.
These budget cuts have affected the most vulnerable citizens.
- “With $18 billion in cuts to education, this could be an important source of revenue to save important services for our students,” said Jai Sookprasert, the tax policy analyst for the California School Employees Association.
- “Seniors have borne the brunt of these draconian budget cuts; we have seen a reduction in adult day health care programs that allow seniors to stay in their homes, the elimination of Alzheimer’s research, and aid to low-income seniors has been slashed,” said Gary Passmore of the Congress of California Seniors. “The Fair Share Act will bring much needed revenues to support these essential programs.”
- “Recent budget cuts are harming nurses’ ability to provide for the critical health needs of people in our state,” said Elizabeth Pataki, RN, of the California Nurses Association. “An oil severance tax could provide much needed revenue to help pay for Californians’ healthcare needs.”
- “The last round of budget cuts has affected every Californian,” said Willie Pelote of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. “We are dismantling programs and need to ensure that sufficient revenue is available to mitigate the State’s fiscal crisis.”
- “Oil companies have been making enormous profits while depleting finite natural resources and polluting the environment,” said Gina Goodhill of Environment California. “It is time they pay their fair share.”
(Sacramento) – Today the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government held the first in a series of joint hearings. Senate Chair Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Assembly Chair Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) led the discussion on legislative branch and budget process reforms.
“State government needs a new blueprint based on best ideas here and across the nation. It needs to focus on our state’s top priorities, reflect innovative and long-term thinking, and encourage bipartisanship,” said Feuer. “Ultimately, this reform effort is about creating the conditions for California government to succeed.”
“We’re going to deliver meaningful and immediate suggestions to the Legislature as we work toward better serving the citizens of California,” said DeSaulnier.
Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass formed the bipartisan select committees in September to address the pressing need for state governmental reform and evaluate major reform proposals. To accomplish this ambitious effort, the committees will jointly host five hearings at various locations throughout the state, taking on topics including ballot box budgeting and initiative process reforms, legislative oversight of state government agencies, and relationships between state and local governments. The committees’ work will culminate with the introduction of reform legislation when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
“State government needs to be more transparent, efficient and effective,” said Speaker Bass. “Today’s hearing is the first step in the process toward reforming our system of government and making it work better for the people of California.”
“Those of us inside the Capitol are quite familiar with state government’s systemic problems. If the current system isn’t working for us, then it isn’t working for Californians. That has got to change,” said President pro Tempore Steinberg.
Panelists at the first hearing represented elected offices, policy think-tanks, academic institutions and media outlets. Current and former elected officials weighed in on areas of improvement to the Legislature, among them State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, former Assembly Republican leader Robert Naylor and Inspector General Laura Chick.
Assemblymember Feuer’s opening remarks at today’s hearing. mp3
Assemblymember Feuer says its clear state government needs to be transformed. mp3
Assemblymember Feuer says the committee is looking for concrete results that make California government more efficient, transparent and customer friendly. mp3
Assemblymember Feuer says everyone on the committee is dedicated to finding the common ground needed to forge real solutions. mp3
(Sacramento) - Assemblymember Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance) announced that Governor Schwarzenegger signed his legislation to create a cost-effective solution to deal with the growing number of abandoned boats in California’s waterways. Assembly Bill 166 will establish a vessel turn-in program that permits boat owners to transfer ownership of their dilapidated vessels before they become an environmental hazard.
"This is a huge win. AB 166 is a much needed law that will go a long way toward solving the environmental problem of boats that pollute our rivers, lakes and coastlines," said Assemblymember Lieu. "I am thrilled that the Governor agrees that California needs to address the environmental degradation created by these boats that have been illegally abandoned by their owners."
Local governments, law enforcement agencies and environmental organizations are reporting an enormous increase in the number of vessels that are abandoned in California waterways. Reports indicate that there were as many boats abandoned in the first quarter of 2009 as there were in all of 2008 – a sign of a weak economic time when people are shedding luxury items such as boats.
"Abandoned boats in our treasured waterways pose a navigational, environmental, and economic hazard for Californians," says Sara Aminzadeh, Public Affairs Associate for San Francisco Baykeeper, one of the bill’s sponsors. "AB 166 will help keep derelict boats, and the oil, sewage, and other hazardous materials that they contain, out of our favorite swimming, kayaking, and boating areas. The bill will help protect people, fish and wildlife from the pollution hotspots created by abandoned boats."
However, there is a shortage of available funds to help clean up these sunken vessels so they continue to degrade local waterways for years. Under the new program established by AB 166, local agencies would be able to accept title of vessels from willing owners for the purpose of disposal. Abating vessels before they are abandoned will protect the state’s waterways and is the least expensive disposal option.
"We look forward to adding this new tool in our battle against abandoned vessels and their effects on navigation and the environment," said Captain Paul Gugg, Captain of the Port of San Francisco, U.S. Coast Guard. "Allowing boaters to voluntarily turn in their boats for disposal will reduce the amount of abandoned vessels in our waterways and further strengthen our unified front on this problem."
"Our clients are looking forward to the implementation of this new program," said Bill Krauss, advocate for the bill’s recreational boating and marina cosponsors. "We have worked hard for two years to see this bill through, and with it finally becoming law, we can now work even harder to clean up our state’s waterways."
AB 166 is cosponsored by San Francisco Baykeeper, California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Association of Harbor Masters & Port Captains, California Marine Parks & Harbors Association, California Yacht Brokers Association, Marina Recreation Association, Northern California Marine Association, and Western Boaters Safety Group.
(Sacramento) – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill (AB) 962, authored byAssemblymember Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) late last night. The bill restricts the access to bullets by criminals, gang members and other persons prohibited from possessing firearms.
“I am very pleased that the Governor approved giving law enforcement the valuable tool to track down armed and dangerous criminals and gang-bangers in our communities,” said De León. “AB 962 will take ammunition out of the hands of those dangerous individuals and is a critical component for cracking down on the gang violence terrorizing neighborhoods in many urban communities across California.”
AB 962 prohibits the selling of handgun ammunition to criminals and gang members. It also mandates that ammunition must be safely stored and requires purchasers of ammunition to show ID and provide a thumbprint. The thumbprint will enable local law enforcement to conduct reliable, real time background checks on ammunition purchasers and track down those that illegally purchase such ammunition.
AB 962 is built upon successful local ordinances in Los Angeles and Sacramento and which has led to the arrest of hundreds of armed and dangerous criminals and the confiscation of hundreds of firearms, including machine guns, assault weapons and bombs.
According to a RAND study, this type of law reduces illegal ammunition purchases and increases the detection and apprehension of dangerous persons who should not be armed and are likely to commit additional violent crimes in the future.
In just the last year, the Sacramento Ordinance allowed law enforcement to track down and arrest individuals who were prohibited from purchasing ammunition. Of those arrested, nearly 200 hundred were armed and dangerous criminals;151 had felony convictions; Five gang members, 44 were on probation; 41 were second strikers; two of them were third strikers; four were sex offenders; and two had been to prison for murder.
Assemblymember De León says he’s very pleased the Governor signed AB 962. mp3
Assemblymember De León says AB 962 ONLY regulates the sale of ammunition, not guns. mp3
Assemblymember De León says, under AB 962, criminals will not be able to get ammo for their handguns. mp3
Assemblymember De León explains why a statewide handgun ammunition law is needed. mp3
Assemblymember De León says reducing gun violence by regulating the sale of ammunition will benefit all Californians. mp3
“This bill brings California’s election recount process into the 21st century. Elections are a fundamental democratic principle and we must make every effort to ensure their integrity. I believe AB 44, will do just that.”
As Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, I know the importance of college affordability and safety. We must ensure students are provided with safe learning environments. In addition, students need transparency in higher education costs in order to make informed financial decisions for college."
"We know that students in foster care are more likely to achieve their full potential when they are provided services designed to meet their particular needs. It's imperative that foster youth get the support and resources they need to succeed academically."