AB 226, the Pacific to Plate bill, would keep red tape from preventing consumers from buying seafood directly from the local men and women who caught it. 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.”
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.
SACRAMENTO—AB 96, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins, which would close loopholes preventing the effective enforcement of existing California law prohibiting the sale of ivory, passed out of the Legislature today and is awaiting approval by the Governor.
“California is one of the top U.S. markets for illegal ivory sales,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Every day, 96 elephants are slaughtered for their ivory. In Africa, elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered every day for their ivory, and even worse, it’s suspected that the proceeds are being used to fund terrorism. By signing AB 96, the Governor can help strengthen enforcement against the illegal ivory trade in California, which will, in turn, help put an end to poaching.”
SACRAMENTO—Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) announced today that the Assembly Democratic Caucus has selected Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) to become the 70th Speaker of the Assembly. The leadership change will occur after a floor vote in January and a transition period to be determined by the Speaker and the Speaker-designate.
“With the crush of business facing us in the coming final week of the legislative session, I decided it’s time to end all the suspense and speculation so we can focus our undivided attention on the critical issues before us,” Speaker Atkins said. “The Caucus has made an excellent choice, and I’m delighted to see everyone uniting behind Assemblymember Rendon. I know he will find the job as rewarding and challenging as I do.”
“I am deeply honored to have the support of my colleagues to become the next Speaker,” Assemblymember Rendon said. “I also know I have a very tough act to follow, which is why I’ll be working to learn as much as I can from Speaker Atkins as she leads us through the end of session and into next year. I am proud to be part of the Speaker’s team as we finish a very productive year and prepare for more successes in 2016.”
Rendon currently serves as Chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. Prior to serving in the Assembly, he was an educator, non-profit executive director, and environmental activist.
Threat of Deportation Discourages Victims from Reporting Crime
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly passed a bill today by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Speaker Toni G. Atkins to reduce the threat of deportation of immigrant crime victims and foster their trust and cooperation with law enforcement.
“Every time a criminal goes free because the victim fears deportation and the police, we are all a little less safe,” said Pro Tem De León (D-Los Angeles). “Fear and mistrust are obstacles to the administration of justice.”
SACRAMENTO—Legislation that seeks to dramatically reduce elephant and rhino poaching passed the Senate floor on a 26-13 vote today. AB 96, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would close loopholes that prevent the effective enforcement of existing California law prohibiting the sale of ivory.
"Ninety-six elephants are killed every day for their ivory – translating to 35,000 deaths each year," said Speaker Atkins. "This species loss is unsustainable and African elephants are being poached at a higher rate than they are being born, which will result in their extinction. By passing AB 96, the Legislature can help strengthen enforcement against the illegal ivory trade in California, which will, in turn, help put an end to poaching."
SACRAMENTO—Legislation that seeks to reduce recidivism passed the Senate floor today on a 39-0 vote. AB 1056, the Second Chance Program for Community Re-entry, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins, would use Proposition 47 savings to house former inmates.
“By housing formerly incarcerated individuals, we can help successfully integrate them back into our communities,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “AB 1056 can help reduce recidivism and enhance the safety of our communities by ensuring that these former inmates have a place to sleep as they pursue the goal of successfully re-entering the community and getting their lives back on track.”
SACRAMENTO—Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins announced today that she has appointed Mary Luévano to the California Coastal Commission.
Luévano, 50, of Culver City, recently took on the role of director of sustainability for Turf Terminators, a drought-resistant-landscaping company. Prior to that, from 1997 through June 2015, she was an environmental advocate with Global Green USA, a nonprofit organization committed to worldwide sustainability, rising from policy and legislative-affairs director to vice president. She began her career in public service by working for a number of elected officials at the state and national levels.
SACRAMENTO—The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) passed a resolution sponsored by Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins that encourages the federal government to responsibly budget for catastrophic wildfires. The resolution, passed by a unanimous vote, authorizes the NCSL to advocate on behalf of this policy before Congress and the federal government.
“Every day, firefighters risk their lives to stop the spread of disastrous wildfires, while states and the federal government struggle to find funding to fight bigger and more dangerous wildfires on federal lands,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Currently, federal wildfire funding is limited, placing a burden on state coffers and land-management agencies to pick up the tab. Changing federal policy to fund catastrophic-wildfire suppression through emergency spending would help ensure that states have enough funding to put out wildfires and invest in prevention programs.”
Today, the U.S. Forest Service spends more than half of its budget on firefighting, compared with 16% in 1995. Moreover, the cost of wildfire suppression has exceeded the 10-year budget average in the last eight years. This has led to an under-investment in wildfire-prevention and forest management activities, contributing to the frequency and intensity of wildfires in recent years.
Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, are considered unpredictable and therefore classified as emergency spending and not subject to budget caps. This resolution, adopted during the NCSL August 2015 Annual Legislative Summit, would seek to have catastrophic wildfires treated similarly.
Through the resolution, Speaker Atkins and elected state officials representing all 50 states are urging Congress to change the wildfire funding mechanism without delay as the U.S. Forest Service only has $174 million left for fire suppression in the current fiscal year. Wildfires are expected to continue throughout fall so current federal budget limits will force land-management agencies to transfer funding from other accounts.
Regions not as strongly affected by wildfires also have a stake in this change because U.S. land-management agencies transfer funds intended for forest and wildlife management, trail and road maintenance, and critical-habitat restoration to accounts used for wildfire suppression, cancelling or severely delaying these types of projects.
Legislation introduced in Congress makes adjustments to spending limits for wildfire suppression. H.R. 167 is in the Subcommittee on Federal Lands and has support from 120 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House, 16 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate and 243 organizations.
SACRAMENTO—A bill seeking to provide better care to limited-English speakers passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today. AB 635, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins, would require the Department of Health Care Services to seek federal funding to establish a program that would provide funding to support medical interpreter services to limited-English-proficient Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
“Getting good healthcare shouldn’t be limited to only those who speak English,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Language barriers can contribute to inaccurate patient diagnosis, failure to treat ailments appropriately, and potentially unnecessary procedures and costs. This bill accesses federal funds to support a Medi-Cal interpreter program to meet the increasing demands of our diverse population.”
SACRAMENTO—Legislation by Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins that makes the San Diego River Conservancy permanent passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today.
“The San Diego River Conservancy has established its value in the region over the past 13 years,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “The Conservancy has allocated $20 million in state funds for the watershed while leveraging millions more in federal, local and private funds. AB 392 would extend the San Diego River Conservancy indefinitely, strengthening this resource for generations to come.”
SACRAMENTO—A bill that helps prevent the extinction of elephants and rhinos passed the Senate Appropriations committee today. AB 96, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would close loopholes that prevent the effective enforcement of existing California law prohibiting the sale of ivory.
“Every day, about 96 elephants are killed for their ivory – meaning that 35,000 elephants die every year for human vanity,” said Speaker Atkins. “California is the second strongest market for ivory, and illegal sales are estimated to have doubled during the last eight years. Often, elephants and rhinos are still alive as poachers begin the gruesome process of extracting the ivory.