(Sacramento) – Yesterday the Assembly Democratic Caucus voted unanimously to support Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) to serve as the next Speaker of the State Assembly. Today Assemblymember Pérez spoke with the media about his selection by the Caucus to follow Karen Bass as Speaker of the California State Assembly. A floor vote is expected when the Assembly reconvenes in January.
At this morning’s news conference Assemblymember Pérez began with the following statement:
Good morning and thank you all for being here today.
I am honored and humbled to have received the unanimous endorsement of the Democratic Caucus to be the next Speaker of the California State Assembly.
Exactly one year ago last week, I was sworn in as the Assemblymember representing the people of the 46th District. My service began in a historic year where the Legislature was called upon to make some very difficult choices forced upon us by the global financial crisis.
I had intended to continue my service in a capacity other than Speaker, but ultimately decided to run after a significant number of my colleagues asked me to accept their draft for Speaker. California continues to face enormous challenges, and I believe that any Californian who is called to service must answer that call with enthusiasm and dedication worthy of our state.
I am grateful and humbled by the confidence of my colleagues who have asked me to shoulder the awesome responsibilities of helping guide California through these stormy times. My first, last and only consideration is to serve the People of California as we address the critical financial and structural issues facing our State.
Obviously the budget is going to be the major priority for this year, as we’re staring yet another 20 billion dollar deficit in the face. But we can’t solve the budget crisis without addressing the serious structural issues putting a stranglehold on California government. Reform needs to be central to any long term recovery, and I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues in implementing those reforms.[/important]
(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.
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.”
“It appears the University of California is moving in the right direction to enroll more California students—and that’s great news. When the Assembly conducted our in-depth review of the University of California this year, it was clear that the university can and should do a better job fulfilling its mission to educate California students. That’s why we included an additional $25 million for UC if it enrolls 5,000 more Californians.”
“By expanding public restroom accommodations, people with physical disabilities and their families and friends are given the dignity and comfort to go about their daily lives. These rudimentary human necessities are imperative for the health and well-being of our disabled community.”
“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.”
“I remember the challenges that I had when I was a new mother myself. As a mother I could not imagine what life would be like to not have the opportunity to care and nurture for my own child. It is only right that we give foster youth who are parents the ability to care for their child while maintaining the principals of keeping families together.”
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."