Attendees: From San Jose/Santa Clara: Marie Arnold, Sandy Mory, Leslie Hallenbeck From Santa Cruz County: Barbara Lewis (lead), Sue Becker, Marcia Minnihan
Q1: Funding of Elections: What legislative measures would you support to ensure adequate and stable funding of election administration in California? Make sure elections get consolidated, e.g. by having fewer off year elections and fewer special elections. Electronic voting systems need updating and new equipment is needed, and unfunded mandates are a problem. Since the General Fund is under stress this year, Assemblyman Stone supports updating equipment and systems and whatever can be accomplished in this area.
Q2: Public Higher Education: How can California meet the challenge of enrolling more students, including students with greater needs, at the UC and CSU? Is more state funding needed? Where does this issue rank in your legislative priorities? Assemblyman Mark Stone supports making higher education a priority and continuing this year's success in funding it at a higher level than prisons, a reversal of the prior funding priorities. He supports focusing on the under served community by pell grants and other such aid. There are not enough slots for California students in the mix. The fact that public higher education is not covered in Proposition 98 as well as the passage of Proposition 13 putting more pressure on K-12 has contributed to the budget problems.
Q3: Water Resources: What kinds of legislative proposals would you support to ensure that enough water of adequate quality is available for municipal and industrial uses, agriculture, and the environment in the face of over-stretched surface water and groundwater resources and climate conditions different than those California experienced in the last century? We are the last western state to manage groundwater. Most surface water is caught up in over allocation of water rights. Residential water is 20% of use and industrial and agriculture the other 80%. A better job of moving water around would produce energy savings. The Environmental Safety and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees are very important in the work on managing water resources. Mark Stone supports using storm water as a supply source, recharging aquifers, long-term storage, recovering dam capacities, holding water from snow packs, improved battery systems for water and solar, and using cap and trade money. Water and energy are related.
Q4: Affordable Housing In discussing the affordable housing question posed by the San Jose/Santa Clara League, Assemblyman Stone recommended changing the fixed tax structure to fund what we need funded. Following the passage of Proposition 13, home owners are paying the bulk of the per cent of property taxes while commercial properties can change hands many times without a property tax increase.
Q5: What other major issues do you think the Legislature must address in 2017? What are your priorities? The legislature should prioritize the health care system, the federal push back on immigration, and environmental protection. The legislature also needs to address transportation infrastructure and water. Some personal priorities are reforming the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, prison reform, coastal and climate change adaptation.
Representing San Jose/Santa Clara: Marie Arnold, Paula Radzinski; 3 members from Santa Cruz County Report submitted by LWV Santa Cruz County
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?
We have not done a good job of getting people to vote. Having voters vote a full month before the election and the Motor Voter bill are moves taken. The top two initiative has silenced voices of minor parties in politics. Mark Stone would support same day registration and weekend voting and any way we can stop disenfranchising voters and get them to vote. He is interested in doing online voting, as long as we can secure the system, in the future when problems are resolved. Eventually there will be online voting when voters are ready and problems are resolved.
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?
Yes, we need a stable and dedicated source of funding. Recent legislation, the transfer tax, failed. There is a task force in the Assembly looking at the housing issue. Bay Area legislators are taking the lead. The State's role is to provide resources for letting local government deal with affordable housing. AB2 has been difficult to implement. The elimination of Redevelopment Districts has been devastating.
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?
Mark Stone co-chairs the Environmental Caucus, which is looking at what is being done in districts throughout the state. Fran Pavley is the other co-chair of this caucus. Oil companies have too much power and are obscuring the truth.
4. General Question What major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2016? What are your personal priorities?
Priorities: Environmental, child welfare, prison reform
We need to look at how we are adapting to changes, e.g. greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental justice is a major issue, e.g., water quality being worse in poor communities. We need to come down hard on water polluters. Cannabis growers need to crack down on bad actors.
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?
Assembly Member Stone believes that the topic of money in politics is not yet enough in the public's view and we need to improve the rules regarding disclosure and depth of reporting. He absolutely supports funding to upgrade and support Cal-Access and hopes that the newly elected Secretary of State will make it a priority to update the system to state-of-the-art. Modernization is a one-time expense and could come from the budget surplus; Gov. Brown supports one-time expenditures from this source. Ongoing money could come from the General Fund or the Secretary of State's budget. The Secretary of State runs the system.
Assembly Member Stone supports electronic filing of local disclosure reports. Local reporting could be done through a county system (Santa Cruz County has its own system, as do some other counties), or through Cal-Access. The reporting should be as clear and instantaneous as possible. The voters and media need the ability to understand where funding is coming from for both candidates and ballot measures. (Within a certain number of days before an election, the Assembly Member has to report within 24 hours contributions over $1000.)
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?
Assembly Member Stone supports all of the above choices. So far he sees more lip service than action in the legislature. There should be universal access to early childhood education. We should look at services for the 0-5 year olds as a way to improve opportunities for children and their families. Starting early helps in achieving 1) closure of the gap in education, 2) reducing prison pipeline, and 3) reducing the cycle of poverty. Parents need support in how to be parents. Our educational system should be a continuous process from birth through college. California's high poverty rate, highest in the nation, is exemplified by the average: a working woman of color with two children. Yes, she needs child care, but more than that, the child needs developmental opportunities. Practically, we may have to step backward from 5-year olds: first 4's, then 3's, etc. That being said, the 0-3's are important for family development and for the children starting off on the right foot. We need to screen 0-3's for educational/developmental problems. There is a federal mandate; we need a state mandate. (He is working on this, as we currently screen only about a quarter of students.) He is looking at what children we are reaching and what children we are not. Every pediatrician should have screening tools. There is only a small group that will need intensive care. The successful implementation of this will alleviate child abuse and spousal abuse as well as help the child's development.
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?
SB 858 was a push by the Governor to cap school district reserves. The Assembly narrowed the cap to certain circumstances such as only if the state is in dire economic difficulties. The idea behind the cap is that school districts would not put so much money in reserves that it would be a detriment to the classrooms. Assembly Member Stone has no problem in repealing the cap, although he thinks the cap will rarely kick in and thus not have much of an impact. The Assembly was successful in narrowing the impact, a win in limiting the effect. The cap only takes effect when Prop 98 kicks in. This is an interesting double message of giving more local authority, then trying to control local reserves.
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?
Groundwater legislation is not as significant as it should have been, nor as strong as in most of the western states. Santa Cruz County has already done much and nearly conforms with the groundwater bill requirements. Most of Pajaro and other groundwater basins are in compliance. Santa Cruz County is ahead of the curve in addressing issues such as salt water intrusion and pumping issues in moving toward sustainability. Facilitating progress in the Central Valley is harder than one would think; farmers are fearful of legislation, even if it helps them. For the first time, Santa Cruz County will be part of the funding of the state water distribution system even though we won't benefit. (Always in the past funds for dams have been user-based, along with federal money.) Now we will all be paying for Central Valley dams. Bottom line, he is supportive of the bond and groundwater policy. As a state, we should be moving more quickly and require slower areas to become part of the solution.
QUESTION 5: What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2015? What are your personal priorities?
Assemblyman Stone's personal priority in addition to the above is poverty. The poverty rate in California is the highest in the U.S. It is long past time for CA to have the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), as 25 states have. The way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of the underserved. Assembly Member Stone is leading the effort.
Second personal priority: Congregate care system for foster children - moving foster children out of group homes into a family environment. Long-term congregate care leads to problems; youth need families. Congregate care is temporary; getting them into more permanent circumstances is important and requires a big effort.