Representing San Jose/Santa Clara: Judy Chamberlin, Marie Arnold, Claire Benson Representing Santa Cruz County: Barbara Lewis, Marcia Minnihan, Colleen Garde Senator Monning's District Director, Nicole Charles Interview at the Santa Cruz Offices
Report submitted by LWV San Jose/Santa Clara
1. Voting and Elections California experienced historically low voter turnout in the 2014 primary and general elections Many bills were introduced in 2015 to address voter turnout and engagement; a number were passed by the Legislature and signed into law, while some remain on the agenda for 2016. What legislative proposals would you support to improve the number of California citizens who register and turn out to vote? Are there other steps that government should take to engage more California residents in elections?
Senator Monning supports online registration, which we have now, also same-day registration. Last year he opposed automatic registration when people get driver's licenses or identity cards at the DMV; his concern was that undocumented individuals might inadvertently register and that would be a felony and possibly subject them to deportation.
He would like to see voting on a day which is not a work day, perhaps a Sunday, even a paid holiday, like some other countries. He supports mandatory voting but doesn't see it happening in the U.S.
Voting by mail extends the time people can vote up to 30 days; it changes the face of campaigning since the period is so long. It allows for candidates to know who has already voted and target their message to those who have not voted. He supports the experience of going to the polls but also appreciates the complexity of the ballot. Online voting may be possible but up to now there are many concerns that would need to be worked out: the possibility of fraud and hacking, and the need for a paper trail.
Senator Monning supports the Disclose Act with stricter requirements on new PACs. Money in politics has expanded the voice of the billionaires.
2. Housing Increasing the supply of housing for people of modest means is a vexing problem in California. Underlying the problem is the clash of market economics (when housing is scarce, rents skyrocket) with the strong bonds people form with their homes and neighborhoods. Even if a family doesn't own their home, they form practical and emotional attachments to what they call home because it impacts every aspect of life-from employment opportunities and friendships to access to good public education and health care.
What will you do to ensure that your constituents are not displaced from their homes, and what steps would you take to increase the supply of housing- especially housing that is affordable to people of modest means? Do you agree this would require a stable and dedicated source of funding?
Senator Monning appreciates the wording in the background, that housing is more than a home, it underlies bonds with people and neighborhoods. He sees the affordable housing problem, rentals as well as sales value, as very complex, without a good answer. The shrinking middle class contributes to the problem.
He would like to see prosecution of financial firms that contributed to the financial debacle and foreclosures: fines should go into zero and low-interest work-out loans to help keep people in their homes.
3. Climate Change
Climate change was a major issue in the first year of the 2015-2016 legislative session. The legislature passed SB350, which requires the expansion of the state's renewable energy portfolio to 50% by 2030 and an increase in energy efficiency of buildings by 50% by 2030. Similar reductions in petroleum use in vehicles were removed from the bill. SB32, which would have established a target of 80% reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the 1990 level by 2050, was amended to require only a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and to weaken the authority of the California Air Resources Board; it was held over as a two-year bill.
What are your priorities for state legislation and policies on climate change? Are there other related issues that you feel need to be addressed?
Senator Monning considers climate change the biggest threat to humanity in the long run and a huge impact in the shorter run, e.g., public health issues, coastal and flooding issues. Some effects are being experienced along the coast, among his constituency.
He was a co-author of SB350, but the personal energy reduction component was blocked by big oil. He's very proud that countries all over the world look to California because we are ahead of most in reducing CO2 gases and using renewable energy. The largest venture capital initiative in the U.S. is renewable energy in California.
He is a supporter of high speed rail and noted the immediate benefits of high speed rail for Cal Train and other transportation authorities. He also spoke of electrifying Cal Train as an example of high speed rail benefits.
4. Local Issue San Jose/Santa Clara was going to ask about transportation, but much was covered under #3.
5. General Question What major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2016? What are your personal priorities?
The top priority is the budget. The legislature has passed a budget on time and balanced for the past 5 years. Senator Monning serves on the Health and Human Resources Budget Subcommittee, which deals with Medi-Cal, day care support, CalWorks, and other related items.
He is proud of repurposing some of the money from the Managed Care Operators Tax to leverage federal money and increase funding for the developmentally disabled and support Regional Centers.
He believes in supporting the most fragile in our communities and providing a safety net through social services. One example is changing the process so it is easy to transfer eligibility for services from county to county without a lapse, as proposed in his current legislative proposal SB 1339.
Challenges are the budget, especially keeping up with the changes in the forecasts, and transportation.
QUESTION 1: Money in Politics (Campaign Disclosure) Cal-Access is the database and website for online reporting and disclosure of state campaign and lobbying financial activity. It is antiquated, inflexible, and desperately in need of an overhaul to make it robust and user-friendly for the public and the media as well as for those who are required to file disclosure reports. Would you support funding for the rebuilding of Cal-Access? Possibilities that have been mentioned include an item in the 2015-2016 state budget and a loan from the state's General Fund that would be repaid over time from an existing fund dedicated to improvement of Cal-Access. Possible follow-up question: Would you support a requirement that Cal-Access be structured to allow expansion to include electronic filing of local disclosure reports?
Absolutely committed to expanding the reform of campaign finance reform Strong supporter of transparency Cal-Access could be improved--needs funding. Has a good relationship with the Secretary of State and is member of the Budget Committee; however, cannot commit to any budget change proposals in advance of seeing the actual proposal Has co-authored resolutions to support overturning Citizens United, a "big hit on democracy." Is aware of possible federal Constitutional amendments, but recognizes the difficulty in passing an amendment
QUESTION 2, Part 1 + Early Childhood Education Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs were greatly reduced during the economic downturn. Although significant funding was reinstated last session, it is still not at the previous level, and large numbers of children, with differing needs, go unserved. Among the options for increased funding of ECE programs are 1) universal access for all four year olds, 2) limiting funding to low-income children and those with special needs while expanding the reach to three-year-olds, 3) expanding and improving service for the very young (ages zero to three), or 4) the ideal, all of the above. What would be your preference? What first? What do you think has the best chance of being funded and signed?
Strongly supports universal pre-school and pre-k; students enter school with a much better vocabulary and ability to learn that carries forward through high school Investment in early learning pays off dramatically for all of society--less crime, fewer imprisonments; better to invest in kids than to construct more prisons Universal access to pre-k could be implemented in multiple ways: Have public schools introduce pre-k classes for all their population; Upgrade daycare centers to provide pre-k classes; Incentivize corporations to support/provide pre-k education through tax incentives While Governor Brown supports a local implementation process for pre-k in public schools, there is concern the results may be a patchwork of school districts with and without pre-k programs Poverty leads to problems that can be addressed with preschool education. In California 23% are under the federal poverty level, but adjusted for California cost of living, more than 25% are under the federal poverty level Eliminating poverty must be a major goal of the legislature in CA.
QUESTION 2, Part 2 + Cap on Reserves As part of the 2014-15 state budget, the legislature adopted a trailer bill, SB 858, one provision of which would place a cap on local school district reserves, including assigned and unassigned year-end balances, under certain conditions. That provision was linked to Proposition 2 in the November election, and with the passage of Prop 2, it is now in effect. In August, at the close of the legislative session, there was an attempt to repeal the cap language, but it failed. Would you support a bill to repeal the cap and restore the authority of local school districts, in alignment with the norm of local control, to ensure school districts can maintain healthy reserves to protect students and teachers from budget cuts during future economic downturns?
Senator Monning understands the concerns of school districts about the repeal of the cap. He would want to see the wording of any bill before committing to a vote Current safeguards make it unlikely that the trigger for the cap would happen The earliest the cap would take effect is 2017 The superintendent can waive the cap if there is a compelling reason. Senator Monning believes a balanced approach can be achieved Legislature is aware of the concern of school districts, which is real, but ultimately the cap is unlikely to be triggered One of the concerns of teachers and school employees is that reserve funds will not be used for employee raises and other direct classroom or student benefits.
QUESTION 3: Water In recent months, voters approved the Proposition 1 water bond and the legislature passed significant groundwater legislation. Do you see these actions as having addressed the important water issues in your district? If not, what more should be done? What can the Legislature do to increase California's resilience in the face of future water supply uncertainties?
Recent legislation allocated $1.1 billion (from Prop1 and Prop 1E adopted several years ago) - $600 million for flood control projects (for better groundwater capture and recharge systems) and $500 million for immediate drought relief (bottled water for towns without; support of food banks that service unemployed farm workers) Coastal communities in his district are wholly dependent on groundwater Need fair allocation of groundwater usage. Supported Senator Pavley's legislation to monitor usage of groundwater.--first, need to monitor and then make allocations + long term planning Water is a public resource to be regulated in a fair, open manner; should not be considered a "private" resource Prop 1 will provide money to fix contaminated water systems In 1995 State Water Resource Board ruled that Monterey area needs another water source besides the Carmel River by 2017; thus far, no solution Desalinization plants are expensive in both money and energy; explore creative, more efficient strategies, such as Monterey's desalination angular straw (slant wells) into salt water intrusion basins 2017 deadline approaching, but Monning does not support an extension of the deadline until the remedy is greenlighted Drought: First step: declaration of emergency; next step: mandatory limitations Greatest user of water is agriculture. Land use policies are critical to solutions Suggestion: water capture by citizens (cisterns), explore tax incentives for water capture systems, such as we did with solar. Some systems out there. Public health issues would need to be addressed.
Senator Monning suggests LWV conduct educational events on linking water to land use decisions and on the feasibility of offering tax incentives for gray water capture systems.
QUESTION 4: LWV Santa Cruz County requested comments on proposed End of Life Option SB 128
Senator Monning co-introduced this bill similar to Oregon's, but believes CA proposal is better with numerous safeguards for physicians, pharmacists, and health care providers Considers the Option 1) an individual right and 2) a decision that is made signifying the importance of the patient/physician relationship Co-introduced by Sen. Lois Wolk; principal coauthor: Assembly Member Susan Eggman Passed out of Senate Health Committee 6-2; passed out of Senate Judiciary Committee 5-2; now in Senate Appropriations Committee Welcomes LWV educational efforts on the subject
QUESTION 5 What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2015? What are your personal priorities?
In addition to the end-of-life legislation and eliminating poverty, Senator Monning's priorities are: SB 203,introduced by Senator Monning, requiring a consumer-warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages containing 75 calories or more per 12 ounces, sold in CA Sees preventable diabetes as our number one public health problem for children. Sugary drinks not the sole cause of diabetes, but a leading cause Will be uphill battle to get it passed, but public education is valuable Central Coast Veterans Cemetery at Fort Ord. Groundbreaking recently, March 13, 2015 Required collaboration with many agencies and federal government, many bills introduced; great success to see it succeeding
Question 1: Bills to require the disclosure of the sources of all contributions in California campaigns and to make campaign disclosure more transparent and user-friendly in general will come before the State Senate in early 2014. Will Senator Monning see that effective measures are passed in the Senate to help voters know who is funding campaigns?
Senator Monning is very supportive of campaign finance reform. He has supported Senate Bill (SB) 2, SB 3, SB 52 and Assembly Bill 800. Senator Hill's recently introduced bill, SB 831, specifying what a legislator can do with campaign funds, is in the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments. How Senator Monning will vote will depend on what form it comes to the floor.
Question 2: The LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) is rolling out over the next few years. Implementation strategies are being drafted and there will inevitably be some adjustments. What does Senator Monning see as the ongoing role of the Legislature? Are there programs he feels should remain categorical? Are there areas he deems as off limits for spending supplemental and concentration funds?
Senator Monning supports LCFF because it ensures funds are allocated in a manner that address the needs of the community, which is especially important in lean budget times. The purpose of LCFF was to provide more equity for students. Many low-income, English language learner students and foster youth were receiving fewer state resources for their education under the categorical fund structure. If school districts and their communities agree to include specific programs in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), they can do so as long as the plan meets the basic requirements established by the State Board of Education. The Senator believes the success of LCFF depends on meaningful parent and community involvement, and that this participation will bring people into the education system. When questioned about funding for Career Tech or Early Childhood Education (ECE), Senator Monning's focus is not compartmentalized education, but education as a whole. That being said, he supports ECE. Marcia mentioned that Career Training can be helpful for children in homeless families.
Question 3: What oversight is there for LCFF decisions made at the local school level?
At the state level, the State Board of Education is regulating and overseeing the implementation of LCFF. At the local level, each school district must develop a LCAP by July 1, 2014. This plan connects district goals and actions to its LCFF spending plan. County Offices of Education (COEs) and the Superintendent of Instruction will monitor district performance to determine whether support or intervention is needed. What about diversity from one district to another? Plans need to be diverse because the needs of students differ across the state. The needs of students in East Los Angeles, for example, probably look very different than the needs of students in Napa. The LCAP approval process should more or less follow the following process: 1) School district drafts the plan; 2) School district presents the plan to the parent advisory committee and the English learner parent advisory committee for feedback; 3) School district asks the public for written feedback; 4) School district asks for comments at a public hearing; 5) School district consults with school employees, parents, and students; 6) The school district responds in writing to feedback from parent advisory committee; 7) The school board adopts plan at a public hearing; and 8) COEs must approve district LCAPs.
Question 3: Does Senator Monning think specific projects should be exempted from parts or all of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, or have special rules set for them? If so, how would he determine which projects should receive such treatment?
Senator Monning opposed proposed changes that would have essentially eliminated CEQA in 2012. The Senator does not support blanket exemptions to CEQA but has supported CEQA exemptions on specific projects and looks at every project on its own merit. However, last year Senator Monning did support the streamlining of CEQA for the construction of a new professional basketball arena in Downtown Sacramento. Although CEQA is not perfect, when there is legislation that seeks to reform or make substantive changes to the law, Senator Monning scrutinizes the organizations that are in support and opposition of the effort. This information usually gives the Senator an indication about the motive behind the proposed reform.
Question 4: What will happen with fracking California?
Senator Monning voted yes on Senate Bill (SB) 4 last year. It was the only fracking bill to pass out of the California Legislature in 2013. There is no moratorium on fracking in this bill. However, the bill does establish fracking regulations and standards. Santa Cruz County passed its own moratorium on fracking, and Senator Monning was supportive of this effort. A statewide moratorium did not prove politically feasible last year, but local jurisdictions can follow Santa Cruz County's lead and enact their own fracking moratoriums on a county by county basis. If a company has been fracking in a particular location prior to the new regulations, are existing projects grandfathered or will these projects now be regulated? Any well that an oil/gas operator wants to frack needs to file a well stimulation certification notice as of January 1, 2014, per the interim regulations which are in effect. Will there be meaningful penalties for environmental damage done? Yes, SB 4 increased the fine amount total and also made these fines applicable on a per day basis instead of applicable per violation. Fines are now not less than $10,000, but not more than $25,000, per day.
Question 5: Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and the Governor's Twin Tunnels
According to the Governor, he does not need legislative approval to move forward with the BDCP and the Twin Tunnels Project. Because of this, it does not appear that Senator Monning will be involved in these decisions. However, Senate Bill 848, authored by Senator Wolk, is the Senate's vehicle for enacting a water bond this year and was heard in Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on February 11, 2014. Senator Monning supported this measure. It should also be noted that SB 848, and the Assembly's version of the water bond, Assembly Bill 1331 authored by Assemblymember Rendon, are not in their final form.
Question 6: The group commented on Senator Monning's bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1000, which would require health warning labels on sugar sweetened beverages.
Although his soda tax bill did not pass last year, Senator Monning has high hopes for SB 1000. This bill continues to bring attention to the issue and efforts like the City of Berkeley pursuing a sugar sweetened beverage tax on their local ballot proves that.