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SACRAMENTO – In an effort to help California veterans and their families get off the streets and into homes, the California Assembly unanimously passed the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act, authored by Speaker John A. Pérez (D – Los Angeles). Assembly Bill 639 focuses on providing housing for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless, as well as providing services to help them obtain and keep their homes, such as job training, underemployment assistance, mental health counseling, physical rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment.
“We are also seeing an increased number of younger veterans and women veterans and their families becoming homeless at rates faster than their Vietnam-era counterparts,” Speaker Perez said. “Providing more supportive housing opportunities will help to reduce the number homeless veterans and also significantly decrease healthcare and public safety costs as many homeless veterans unfortunately get tangled in our jail system and disproportionately use our emergency rooms.”
The Act 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. More than $1 billion of voter-approved funds has been put aside for single family homes and farms, while the need for multifamily, transitional and supportive housing has greatly increased. 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).
California has the largest veteran population in the US, with almost two million veterans calling California home—a number which is expected to rise by over 200,000 when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down. California also has the most homeless veterans than any other state, with 25 percent of homeless veterans in the nation residing in the state. If AB 639 passes, California will be at the forefront of the country’s efforts to end veteran homelessness by 2015.
(Sacramento) - In an effort to help California veterans and their families get off the streets and into homes, the California Assembly has unanimously passed the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act, authored by Speaker John A. Pérez (D – Los Angeles). Assembly Bill 639 focuses on providing housing for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless, as well as providing services to help them obtain and keep their homes, such as job training, underemployment assistance, mental health counseling, physical rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment. “We are also seeing an increased number of younger veterans and women veterans and their families becoming homeless at rates faster than their Vietnam-era counterparts,” Speaker Perez said. “Providing more supportive housing opportunities will help to reduce the number homeless veterans and also significantly decrease healthcare and public safety costs.” Here’s more in this Assembly Access video.
SACRAMENTO—The Assembly Budget Committee today approved a balanced budget proposal that pays down the state’s structural deficit, creates a revamped “Rainy Day” fund, and will reduce fees by 40 percent for middle class students attending a college in the state’s UC and CSU systems. The bill passed 16 – 10.
“Today’s action by the Budget Committee sets the stage for the Assembly to approve a responsible, on-time balanced budget by our constitutional deadline of June 15th,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). “This budget includes $2.5 billion in reserves and set-asides, approves targeted investments in K-12 and higher education to strengthen the middle class, and creates new efficiency standards in state government, and we will move swiftly to approve our third consecutive on-time budget.”
The budget proposal adopted by the Assembly Budget Committee is balanced, with structural surpluses ranging from $1.5 billion to more than $4 billion over the next several years. It provides a total of $4.7 billion to continue paying down California’s debt, which will be paired with a genuine rainy day fund to be put forward to the voters for their consideration in the 2014 General Election.
“California has clawed its way to a budget surplus and we are not taking it for granted,” said Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “This budget saves money for a rainy day and pays down debt. It also invests in better opportunities for our children, veterans, and small businesses. We must continue our commitment to fiscal discipline while laying the groundwork for long term prosperity.”
In addition to strengthening fiscal responsibility, the Blueprint for a Responsible Budget calls for new investments in middle class Californians, including the adoption of the Middle Class Scholarship Act. It also calls for targeted investment in childcare funding to keep low income parents working; funding to reduce California’s worst-in-the-nation child poverty rate; and investments in targeted interventions for low income and English-as-a-second-language students to ensure their success.
The budget approved by the Assembly will next be sent to the Legislative Budget Conference Committee, which will put forward a budget proposal to be considered and adopted by both houses of the Legislature by the June 15th Constitutional Deadline to pass a budget.
SACRAMENTO--Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) today released the following statement regarding the announcement of the health insurance plans that will be offered by private insurance companies through Covered California. Speaker Pérez authored the legislation establishing Covered California, the nation's first Health Care Exchange authorized under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“Today's announcement shows California's national leadership on health care reform continues,” said Speaker Pérez. “This is a critical step in helping ensure Covered California meets the October deadline for pre-enrollment and the January deadline for full operation of the Health Care Exchange. I'm pleased the plans announced today appear to be in financial reach for many Californians. That's right in line with the goal of Covered California to provide a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can access affordable, quality health coverage products.”
Covered California is charged with creating a new insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to health insurance. With coverage starting in 2014, Covered California will help individuals compare and choose a health plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Financial help will be available from the federal government to help lower costs for people who qualify on a sliding scale.
SACRAMENTO – Advancing one of Assembly Democrats top priorities, a key Assembly committee today approved $6 million to help California veterans obtain the federal benefits they are owed, funding which will potentially bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to the state, veterans and their families.
“The most basic obligation the state owes our men and women who have served in our nation’s military is to ensure they are receiving the benefits they’ve earned and the services they deserve,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). “The Subcommittee took the right steps today to help our state’s veterans obtain the pension and compensation benefits they’ve earned. The backlog of these claims is an important issue that must be solved swiftly and efficiently.”
The California Department of Veterans Affairs (Cal Vet) and County Veterans Service Offices (CSVSO) work with California veterans to help them obtain the federal benefits they are owed, such as medical care, education, burial, compensation and pension benefits. According to the California Research Bureau, out of the 79,614 pending claims, 60,629 have been pending for over 125 days—the federal government’s definition of a backlog. Two out of the three US Department of Veteran Affairs federal offices in California have a claim processing turnaround time well above the national average of 349.6 days—in the Los Angeles office, it takes almost 620 days to process a claim, and in the Oakland office, it takes about 618 days.
Of the $6 million approved today by California Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration, half will go toward hiring 36 people at Cal Vet to work in tandem with the three US Department of Veteran Affairs federal offices in California to greatly reduce the backlogged claims and ensure new claims are being processed properly. The other half will be distributed to CVSO to assist veterans in filing claims and to increase outreach and productivity. As a requirement of receiving the funding, Cal Vet will produce a detailed annual report for the next three years.
California has the most veterans in the nation with 1.9 million, and with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down, an estimated 208,000 additional veterans will be returning to civilian life in California. The funding will be pending final approval in the legislative budget process.
SACRAMENTO – In letters to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and San Diego County City Selection Committee, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) today requested a new list of nominees to fill a seat on the California Coastal Commission.
“Pursuant to Section 30301.2 of the Public Resources Code I am rejecting your proposed California Coastal Commission nominees that you submitted to me on April 23, 2013,” wrote Speaker Perez. “By taking this action I am requesting… a new list of additional nominees.”
The Speaker requested that the agencies submit the names of no less than three county supervisors and three City council members within 45 days.
The term of Commissioner Esther Sanchez, an Oceanside City Council member, expires May 20, 2013. She was appointed to the seat by former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.
Keep California Moving – Fix the Roads Roundtable (Fresno)
Speaker Atkins Joins Business, Labor and Local Leaders to Keep California Moving
Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins discussing California’s transportation issues at Fresno press conference.
FRESNO—Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins and a large coalition of local government officials, business leaders and transportation advocates today provided an update on the Legislature’s special session on transportation infrastructure. They emphasized the reasons why new infrastructure funding is vital to keep California moving.
“The Central Valley is vital to California’s economy, and fixing our infrastructure is vital to the Central Valley,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Many Valley communities and businesses are dependent on the lifelines provided by Highway 99 and Highway 5. They need to be kept in good shape. That’s why we are working closely with the state’s local elected officials and business community to ensure we can enact real solutions to the state’s transportation problems in this special session of the Legislature.”
“It’s fundamental that California be able to move goods and people in a modern, efficient way,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., who called for a special session on transportation funding in June. “The problem is clear and we’re going to find the right path forward. The potholes don’t wait, the congestion doesn’t wait.”
A study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that peak-commute drivers in Fresno waste 23 hours a year sitting in traffic, resulting in an estimated cost of $495 per driver. More than 75% of motorists in Fresno County drive their own cars instead of taking public transportation, and that takes a heavy toll on the roads.
“Some of the roads in Stanislaus County are literally crumbling under my tires, and the Seventh Street Bridge in Modesto needs basic maintenance so badly it is no longer safe for heavy trucks and busses,” said Vito Chiesa, president of the California State Association of Counties and a Stanislaus County supervisor. “Reforms and accountability measures are needed to ensure taxpayer dollars are going toward transportation, but it is an indisputable fact that we need new revenues to address the severe maintenance backlog of our local streets and roads. I urge lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in Sacramento to find a workable solution. The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost when we do finally fix our roads.”
Fixing all our roads now would cost more than $100 billion, but waiting 10 years would push the cost to nearly $300 billion. Every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure produces $5.20 in economic benefit, and every $1 billion that gets spent on transportation infrastructure leads to roughly 18,000 jobs.
Darius Assemi, Granville Homes President and CEO and California Transportation Commission Commissioner, added, “We need more revenue along with reforms to ensure Californians’ tax dollars are spent wisely, and solely used for transportation purposes to fix our deteriorating roads.”
Transportation funding has not kept pace with the state’s aging infrastructure. Most of the funding comes from gasoline excise taxes, which have not kept up with inflation. California collects 30 cents per gallon, a value that hasn’t increased in 25 years and, in fact, decreased by 6 cents in July. This means that the purchasing power of today’s excise tax is at an all-time low. Increased fuel-efficiency standards allow cars to travel more miles with less gas, also generating fewer gas-tax dollars to fix the roads.
According to multiple studies in recent years, California faces numerous transportation problems:
California has the second-highest share of roads in “poor condition” in the nation. More than half of our state roads need rehabilitation or pavement maintenance.
Our state has six of the 10 cities with the worst road conditions in the nation.
Nearly 1/3 of our bridges and overpasses show signs of deterioration, or do not meet design standards.
Nearly 70% of California’s urban roads and highways are congested.
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.”
Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, District 14
"The over 280,000 Californians who are our friends, family and community members should no longer endure being stripped of vital resources such as transportation, respite care, along with independent and supported living programs. These services are not only cost-saving to the state, but most importantly they are essential to the health and well-being of our developmentally disabled community."
Assemblymember Susan Eggman, District 13
"This issue is of immense importance to all Californians, and I was confident that the full Assembly, reflective of and responsive to the people it represents, would do the right thing and move us closer to making it possible for terminally-ill Californians to decide for themselves how to manage their last days.
Assemblymember Luis Alejo, District 30
"It is important that students build knowledge of the various racial and ethnic groups in our state. Assembly Bill 101 is the vehicle to make that a reality, cultural diversity is inherent to the development of human and civil rights, and Ethnic Studies enhances student achievement as an essential component of a culturally diverse education."
Assemblymember Chris Holden, District 41
"In our high-tech economy, a college degree will no longer be an option; it will be a requirement for jobs of the future. Concurrent enrollment opens doors of opportunity for students who might never have thought it possible to go to college."
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, District 56
"Our disadvantaged communities continue to be disproportionately burdened by traffic congestion, poor air quality, obesity due to physical inactivity, and other negative impacts of our transportation system—and my bill seeks to remedy that."
Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell, District 70
"LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide and suffer significantly higher dropout rates than their straight peers. Giving teachers the tools they need to foster a supportive learning experience will improve academic achievement and make our schools safer for LGBTQ students."