Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was festive and energizing. After a busy legislative year, I was happy to get a little time off, and I’m ready to get back to work to address the issues affecting tens of millions of Californians.
The New Year also means new laws taking effect, including laws I authored. (Under the California Constitution, new laws typically take effect the January 1 after they are signed by the Governor.) Below are the laws I authored in 2018, which will help address our mental health and addiction challenges, expand clean energy, address our housing shortage, reform our criminal justice system, and protect and celebrate California’s diverse communities.
I am grateful every day for the honor of representing you and working to pass legislation that will have a real impact on people’s lives. Thank you for this opportunity.
SB 822: Enacts the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation, putting California at the forefront of ensuring all of our residents have access to a free and open internet. The bill ruffled feathers in Washington: a mere 30 minutes after Governor Brown signed the bill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California to overturn it. The telecom and cable industries quickly followed suit. Net neutrality is now the law of the land in California, though the law’s enforcement is on hold as these lawsuits work their way through the courts. We worked with a broad and deep coalition of advocacy, business, labor, and academic leaders to get the bill passed, and I want to thank Senator Kevin de Leon and Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago and Rob Bonta for their collaboration.
SB 1045: Creates a new type of conservatorship for severely mentally ill and drug-addicted people on our streets — people who are dying on our streets, unable to make decisions for themselves, and frequently detained on psychiatric holds — in order to get them stable, healthy, and into housing. It is neither compassionate nor progressive to allow people to die on our streets when we have the ability to help them. I want to thank Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman for their help getting the bill passed: The two of them even came up to Sacramento to testify for it and are working to implement this new conservatorship in San Francisco.
SB 923 (with Assemblymember Marc Levine): Sets statewide eyewitness identification standards to help prevent eyewitness misidentifications that lead to innocent people being convicted and actual perpetrators remaining free. We worked closely with the Innocence Project and ACLU to pass this long-overdue reform bill.
SB 700: Creates a rebate program to expand the installation of renewable energy storage systems in California by making it more affordable for homeowners and others to purchase and install these systems. More energy storage will address the imbalance between when solar energy is created (daytime when people are at work) and when energy is consumed (when people get home at night).
SB 918 (with Assemblymember Blanca Rubio): The Homeless Youth Act, which increases the state’s focus on the 15,000 homeless youth living on our street. Two-thirds of California counties don’t have youth-specific homeless programs. We also obtained nearly $30 million in the state budget to help homeless youth. We worked with a fantastic coalition of youth advocates to pass this bill and will continue to work to provide better support for our at-risk and homeless youth.
SB 892 (with Senator Richard Pan): Designates Lunar New Year as a day of special significance in California and requires the Governor to honor Lunar New Year annually. Also under SB 892, all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to conduct exercises recognizing the traditions and cultural significance of Lunar New Year.
SCR 110: Calls on the medical community to stop performing medically unnecessary, nonconsensual, and often irreparably harmful sex assignment and genital “normalization” surgeries on intersex infants at birth. Instead, medically unnecessary surgery should be delayed until intersex individuals can decide for themselves whether to pursue surgery at all, at an age when informed consent is possible. We worked closely with intersex advocates on this resolution and will continue to work with them to protect the dignity and self-determination of intersex children.
SB 726: Protects low income families receiving CalWORKS benefits from penalties when counties negligently over-issue their benefits in small amounts. Previously, counties were required to seek repayment from people who have no resources, even if the collection process was more expensive than the amount collected. Counties will now have the discretion to decide whether to pursue collection.
SB 765: Updates and closes loopholes in my 2017 housing streamlining bill (SB 35). SB 35 is already resulting in thousands of new units of housing at all income levels.
SB 785: Protects immigrants testifying in court from irrelevant and harassing questions about their immigration status. Instead, attorneys wishing to ask witnesses about their immigration status will first need to make a showing of relevance to the judge. Given that ICE is stalking our courthouses, we need to ensure immigrant witnesses feel safe coming to court. If immigrants believe that testifying in court will get them deported, they simply won’t testify, and public safety will be harmed. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon brought this bill idea to us and partnered with us to get it passed.
SB 828: Ensures that the state’s process for setting housing goals for cities is based on actual housing need. The current process is highly politicized, and wealthier/whiter communities often get lower housing goals, while lower income, less powerful communities get higher goals. SB 828 creates a much more data-drive approach to setting housing goals, so that our housing goals actually meet our housing needs.
SB 900 (adopted via the budget): Expands the Cal Fresh food assistance program to encourage incentives to use food benefits to purchase fresh produce. This so-called “double up” program provides that for every dollar of Cal Fresh recipient spends on fresh produce grown in California, the recipient will receive two dollars worth of produce. SB 900 will help low income Californians afford healthier foods grown right here in California.
SB 966: Expands on-site water reuse by requiring issuance of health and safety standards so that cities can adopt water reuse programs for their residents. Many cities would like to create on-site water reuse programs, given our chronic water shortage, but the lack of state-issued health and safety standards has given communities pause. By issuing these standards, the state will support cities’ ability to expand water reuse. I want to thank the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission for partnering with us on the bill and doing incredible analytical work about how to implement safe and effective water reuse programs.
SB 1004: Strengthens California’s mental illness prevention and early intervention programs, with a special emphasis on preventing mental illness among youth. The Mental Health Services Act — created by Prop 63 (the millionaire’s tax) — devoted about $500 million annually to prevent mental health issues by intervening early. However, there were no standards for counties to spend the money, and while some counties do a great job, other counties don’t, with some counties not spending the money at all. SB 1004 creates better structure to guide counties’ efforts to prevent mental health issues from spiraling into major, life-threatening health problems. And, given that 50% of mental health issues arise by age 14 and 75% by age 24, it’s critically important that our early intervention efforts reach high-school and college-age young people. Thank you to the Steinberg Institute and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg for partnering with us on the bill.
SB 1021: Caps drug co-pays so that people aren’t priced out of life-saving drugs, and ensures that people can utilize their insurance to obtain PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a once-daily pill that nearly eliminates the risk of HIV infection. Thank you to Health Access, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, APLA Health, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center for partnering with us on the bill.
SB 1464 (adopted via the budget): Ensures access to dental care for low-income people living with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s. These individuals need extra attention to receive even basic dental cleanings and care — for example, more than one visit, a longer-than-normal visit, sedation, a second person to help — yet Denti-Cal only paid for a short visit required by a typical person. As a result, people living with these disabilities frequently received inadequate or even no dental care, resulting in high rates of oral health problems. SB 1464 provides for expanded dental care for people living with these disabilities.
SB 1442: Requires that pharmacies always have sufficient staff available to assist pharmacists so that pharmacists aren’t left alone for long periods, thus undermining their ability to provide the best care for patients.
Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2019!