The Assembly Democrats won $780 million worth of improvements to the Governor's revised budget that will benefit millions of Californians Read More
Statement from Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego)
“The Governor’s signature is the next step for a prudent and progressive budget that will make California a better place to live, work and play. We are sending more money to schools, helping working families by expanding child care and preschool and establishing a state Earned Income Tax Credit, and we improve higher education funding and financial aid. The budget the Governor signed today makes important investments and pays down debt while adding to state reserves. It is not only a reflection of our state’s economic health, but a plan that will continue to help build California’s fiscal fitness.
“While the budget signed today is clearly the best one we’ve had in years, there is more work to do on Medi-Cal, DDS and infrastructure. Today, I will be appointing the members of the Assembly committees for the special sessions that have been called on health care and infrastructure. Those committees will take the lead in resolving the important issues still before us.”
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly Agriculture Committee unanimously passed Assembly Bill 38 by Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), which is an effort to ensure every California child has access to healthy and nutritious food by creating the Office of Farm to Fork in the Department of Food & Agriculture. The new office will be tasked with promoting access to healthy, California grown foods in underserved communities by bringing public health officials, agriculture industry leaders and educators together to make sure California’s children receive nutritious meals.
“Fruits and vegetables with the ‘California Grown’ label are known for their quality throughout the world, and Californians—especially kids—should have the proverbial first bite at the apple when it comes to the nutritious and healthy food grown in our state,” said Speaker Pérez. “Rural and urban communities throughout California do not have reliable access to quality, nutritious food that helps improve their health and quality of life, and this legislation will help to address this critical, if often overlooked, issue.”
AB 38 expands on the Speaker’s previous legislation, AB 581, which established the California Healthy Foods Financing Initiative, a program intended to eradicate food deserts — large geographic areas with little to no access to affordable, quality, healthy foods — and increase access to healthy and nutritious foods.
Residents of “food deserts” have disproportionally higher incidences of diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease and premature death than people living in areas with access to health foods. Speaker Pérez’s efforts have received strong bipartisan support in the past, including today’s unanimous approval of AB 38.
The bill will next be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
SACRAMENTO – The Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act, authored by Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) passed the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee today, 8-0. Assembly Bill 639 provides California’s voters with the opportunity to repurpose $600 million in existing veterans’ bond funds to respond more effectively to the housing needs of today’s veteran population and their families.
“As citizens of this state and country, it is our basic obligation to stand up for the men and women who have devoted their lives to protecting our nation,” said Speaker Pérez. “This legislation gives Californians the chance to make sure that the people who have served in our military—who have sacrificed for their country—will not have to worry about where they and their family will sleep.”
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez presenting AB 639 to the Assembly Veteran Affairs Committee on April 30, 2013.
The Act focuses on providing housing for veterans that are homeless, at-risk for homelessness, and in need of services such as mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, job training, physical rehabilitation, and unemployment assistance. AB 639 expands on proven and cost-effective supportive housing and service models that will reduce veterans’ homelessness, leverage public and private dollars, and decrease other public costs (e.g. health care and incarceration expenditures).
“The Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act, by leveraging about $3 billion in private, local, and federal investment, will ensure that thousands of our most vulnerable veterans can get off and stay off the streets by using existing California resources,” said Deb DeSantis, Corporation for Supportive Housing’s President and CEO. “CSH applauds the Speaker's leadership on helping to end homelessness among veterans in California through this critical bill.”
AB 639 also focuses on creating housing that is affordable for veterans returning from service. According to the California Association of Veteran Service Agencies, “Thousands of young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are returning and trying to re-enter the job market and often finding themselves staying with a relative or ‘couch surfing’ because they can’t afford housing. Funding made available through Assembly Bill 639 will offer these veterans the dignity of safe, supportive, and affordable housing.”
More than $1 billion of voter-approved funds has been put aside for single family homes and farms, while the need for multifamily housing has greatly increased.
Almost two million veterans live in California, more than any other state in the nation, and 25 percent of homeless veterans live in California. If AB 639 passes, California will be at the forefront of the country’s efforts to end veteran homelessness by 2015.
Opening remarks from Speaker Pérez at the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on AB 639. (3:11) mp3
Speaker Pérez says its time for the state to help the huge number homeless veterans in California. (:11) mp3
Speaker Pérez explains how AB 639 will help homeless veterans. (:23) mp3
SACRAMENTO – The California Assembly today passed Assembly Bill 113, legislation designed to end the backlog of business filing forms at the Secretary of State’s office and requiring the state to process the forms in no more than five business days by November 2013. The bill passed the Assembly 60 - 5, and now it heads for Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
“I applaud the efforts taken by my colleagues in the Assembly for passing this important legislation in a quick and bipartisan manner,” said Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). “Every day a business waits for its paperwork to be processed, the owners are prevented from hiring workers, selling goods to customers and helping California stay on a path to economic recovery.”
More than 122,000 business related filings are waiting to be processed by the Secretary of State. Last year, at the direction of Speaker Pérez, the Assembly transferred $1.2 million from savings in its operating budget to dramatically reduce a backlog that had reached over 80 days, but the backlogs returned, causing a two month delay before businesses could open to the public and hire employees.
AB 113 will give additional funding to the Secretary of State to tackle the backlogged business filings, and it will increase the Secretary of State’s budget by $1.6 million to ensure that the new five day business filing standard is met.
SACRAMENTO – Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) appointed Mark Vargas to the California Coastal Commission, effective today.
"California's coast is one of our most important environmental and economic assets," said Speaker Pérez. "Mr. Vargas will provide an important voice in the Commission's ongoing work to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource."
Vargas, 36, was the Speaker's appointee to the Little Hoover Commission. He resigned from that post yesterday.
A United States Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional, he is the President of Mission Infrastructure, a project management firm which serves both government and private agencies in Los Angeles and San Bernardino. The company recently completed a community mitigation fund project with the Port of Los Angeles, American Lung Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Vargas also is Chairman of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Personnel Commission. He was previously the Southern California Director for the Secretary of State. Vargas also served as a Special Assistant to Governor Gray Davis for four years. In the Governor's Office, he helped attract life-sciences interests in the state, and he served as a liaison to the Mexican government.
The California Coastal Commission is composed of 12 voting members who are appointed in equal number by the Governor, the Senate Rules Committee and the Speaker of the Assembly. Vargas replaces William A. Burke, who resigned earlier this month. Vargas's appointment will last until May 20, 2015.
What Others Are Saying About the Appointment…
Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Attorney Adrian Martinez:
"Mark has a history of bringing diverse voices together on complex issues. He will bring new energy to this vital commission protecting California's treasured coast. We expect his experience from leading community programs at the Port of Los Angeles will serve him well at the state level and congratulate him on this appointment."
Heal the Bay Science and Policy Director Sarah Sikich:
"We've been pleased with the Speaker's previous appointments. The Coastal Commission is a critical decision-making body on the many issues that face California's coast from to climate change to habitat protection. We look forward to working with Mr. Vargas to ensure that our coast remains healthy and accessible for all."
California League of Conservation Voters CEO Sarah Rose:
"The Speaker has been a great leader on coastal protection and we extend our thanks for the appointment of Mark Vargas to the California Coastal Commission. Vargas' experience suggests that he will work as a commissioner committed to protecting our coastal resources for all Californians."
SACRAMENTO – Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement regarding today’s announcement by the Department of Toxic Substances Control to order the Exide Battery Recycling Plant cease operations immediately due to environmental hazards:
"Today's announcement by the Department of Toxic Substances Control that they have ordered the shutdown of Exide Battery recycling facility is a major victory for the residents and workers of the Southeast Communities. This has been an issue of great concern to the residents of the Southeast communities, and I have urged DTSC to look into this issue. I am deeply grateful for their action as the continued operation of this facility represents an enormous public health risk in an area that already has too many sources of pollution, and by shutting down this facility, we are removing a major threat to the health and well-being of the communities of the Southeast."
SACRAMENTO – Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement regarding the release of the cap and trade investment plan from the Air Resources Board in response to AB 1532, his legislation from last year requiring the proposal:
“This investment plan is an important step forward in ensuring that California remains a leader in clean energy technology and greenhouse gas emission reduction. In my AB 1532 from last year, we thought it was necessary for the state to use the money raised from the cap and trade auctions in the most strategic and beneficial ways possible to achieve California’s ambitious climate goals. The Administration has been true to that charge by proposing investments in low-carbon transportation and sustainable communities, clean energy technology, natural resource protection, and waste reduction and recycling efforts. These investments will reduce our carbon footprint, complement many of California’s other environmental efforts, and help us retain our competitive advantage in the clean energy field. I want to thank the Administration for their hard work on this plan and I look forward to continue working with them and my colleagues on this important issue.”
In 1988, during the first election I was old enough to vote in, Republican Party officials in Orange County sent uniformed guards to polling places in Latino neighborhoods. Once there, according to news reports, the guards displayed English and Spanish language signs saying it was illegal for noncitizens to vote, sat alongside election officials at some polls, and reportedly wrote down license numbers and questioned voters about their citizenship.
The sad fact is that, while demographics are making their job more difficult, in the intervening 25 years those who would try to silence minority voices at the polls haven't changed their minds, they've just changed their tactics. Instead of guards in blue uniforms, they are now turning to conservatives in black robes.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote.
This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the fate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires the Justice Department to issue a "preclearance" of any changes regarding redistricting or other kinds of voting laws in a number of jurisdictions nationwide, mostly in the South, but also in several counties in California.
When he introduced the Voting Rights Act, President Lyndon Johnson said, "Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right."
During recent oral arguments before the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia appeared to dismiss the Voting Rights Act as some period piece with "a wonderful name" that fuels "a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement."
What it really fuels is protection from racial exclusion:
.Exclusion in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature passed a law that would have forced many poor and minority voters to travel to State Public Safety Offices - and pay up to $22 for copies of their birth certificates - before being able to get a voter ID.
.Exclusion in Florida, where the Republican governor and Republican mayor of Miami Dade did their best to reduce early voting time - even stranding hundreds of potential voters in line - and where Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian-American woman, had to wait in line for hours to vote.
. Exclusion in California, where, when I went to vote last June, I was continually asked for my ID and prevented from voting in violation of state law - until another poll worker finally came over and said, "He's right. You can't ask for an ID. And he's on page six of the ballot."
What if I hadn't been on the ballot or been a recognizable individual, or had not been someone fully aware of the law? Minority voters shouldn't be at the mercy of individual poll workers. Minority communities should not be at the mercy of redistricting schemes that ultimately seek to disenfranchise them and dilute their influence.
That's what the Voting Rights Act prevents, and that's why it has such a prominent target on its back in 2013.
Americans need to push back strongly against anyone who would weaken the Voting Rights Act or who propose electoral policies that are at best simply divisive, and at worst direct attacks on the ability of people to participate in the process.
Without a hint of irony, this week the Republican National Committee released an "autopsy" of its 2012 campaigns. While it ignores many of the obvious reasons for Republican losses around the country last November, the report does spend a considerable amount of time paying lip service to the need for the GOP to better connect with minority, female and young voters.
Here's an idea for the RNC and for conservatives like Justice Scalia - if you want to connect with minority voters, maybe letting them actually vote would be a good place to start.
After all, almost 50 years later, there is still no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.
SACRAMENTO – Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement regarding today’s bombing of the Boston Marathon:
“The thoughts and prayers of all Californians are with the victims of today’s vicious an calculating attack, their families, and with the people of Boston, whose city has now joined the ranks of those communities directly affected by terrorism. We must be patient and allow law enforcement to do its job and investigate this appalling act of violence, and I am confident that the President is absolutely correct in stating that those who planned and carried out this attack will be brought to justice.”
SACRAMENTO – Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) today honored artist, author, and holocaust survivor Erica Leon of Boyle Heights during the Assembly’s recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“I am grateful and humbled to honor Erica Leon today as a part of the Holocaust Remembrance Day,” said Speaker Pérez. “Erica has lived through great fear and evil, but she has shown us through her remarkable story and her numerous pieces of art that the human spirit triumphs over adversity. She is a treasure in my community, and her paintings, sketches and writings are a gift for generations to come.”
Leon, who spent most of the war hiding in Nazi-occupied Hungary, immigrated to Los Angeles in 1991, when she reconnected with her long-lost fiancé, Bob, whom she was originally engaged to when she was 17 years old. The couple married when she was 70.
Over the past 20 years, Leon has made hundreds of paintings and sketches of Hungary during her visits to her home country. Her memoir, Her Story in History, which is archived at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, was inspired by her desire to share her life lessons and experiences with her family.
“I wrote my memories for my grandchildren, Eve and Akos,” Leon wrote. “I want them to remember that there is hope always in life. There is music and nature - in these you will never be disappointed. Life is full of wonderful things along with the tragic ones.”
Leon has had three exhibits devoted to her artwork, two at Hollenbeck Palms and one at the California State University Applied Gerontology Institute.
For the past nine years, the California State Assembly has honored survivors of the Holocaust during the California Holocaust Remembrance Week. This year, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council has designated April 8, 2013 as Yom Hashoah—the International Day of Remembrance—and the week of April 7 through April 14, 2013, as the Holocaust Remembrance Week.
SACRAMENTO – Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) today called on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to take immediate action regarding the threats to public health from the Exide plant in Los Angeles.
In a letter to DTSC Director Debbie Raphael, Speaker Pérez, who represents residents jeopardized by emissions from the plant, called for an immediate investigation into potential violations at the plant and for a rapid response to on any findings from that investigation.
Speaker Pérez also called on the DTSC to take immediate action to ensure the following: site characterization and remediation of all past and present contaminations; financial assurances, such as an account from Exide, in place for clean-up so that taxpayers are not left with the bill; a finalized permit for the facility so that the company and the community can start anew with the most rigorous standards and protections for neighborhoods and workers in place.
“The latest revelations about extensive arsenic releases and the threat to public health across the City of Los Angeles are just one more chapter in this terrible story of ongoing pollution and malfeasance,” Pérez said. “I applaud the Los Angeles City Council for their efforts to get to the bottom of this and the South Coast AQMD for their efforts to force the company to clean up its act. However, more must be done to protect residents who live in the impact area of this out-of-compliance plant and the workers who work within it.”
Speaker Toni G. Atkins, District 78
“Immigrants helped build California, immigrants shape the California we know today, and immigrants will help propel California into the future. On behalf of my colleagues in the Assembly, I am proud to support Immigrant Heritage Month to honor the immigrants who are such an important part of our economy and culture.”
Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, District 7
"We owe it to our children and we owe it to the families across California, to ensure that children are ready to start school and be successful. AB 47 will ensure that we keep the promise made to our preschoolers last year and provide each of our low-income children access to quality preschool."
Assemblyman Rich Gordon, District 24
“This Supreme Court decision, which finds that states cannot prohibit same-sex marriage, is historic not only for the LGBT community, but also for all Americans who value fairness and equality. The institution of marriage provides over 1,000 legal and financial privileges. More importantly, it is a powerful symbol of a couple's love and commitment.”
Assemblymember Nora Campos, District 27
"I applaud the Supreme Court for turning back the attempt to undermine the ACA and upholding the tax credits to families who buy health insurance through the federal marketplace. I am confident that the ACA will continue to rein in the cost of health insurance and provide access for all Americans to the security of knowing that a doctor and medical assistance is within reach."
Assemblymember Das Williams, District 37
“I’m most interested in ensuring the UC and CSU systems are funded at a level that expands students’ enrollment; and that community colleges, maintain their increased funding. As a champion for higher education, I know it is imperative that new graduates are as prepared as possible to enter today’s modern, expanding workforce.”
Assemblymember Shirley Weber, District 79
“In addition to increasing funding for K-12 education by $8.2 billion, this budget makes sizeable investments in early education, higher education and student financial aid. Also included is the centerpiece of our efforts to reduce poverty - the Earned Income Tax Credit - that will help improve the financial stability and increase the buying power of 825,000 working families in California.”