July 2021 Newsletter

July 2021 Newsletter

Pandemic-Related Support

While the pandemic forced us to be physically distanced, over the past year and a half my team and I were focused on remaining very present and active in service to our district. Since the start of the pandemic, our office has been flooded with calls and emails asking for help with unemployment challenges, small-business support, residential and commercial rental issues, inquiries about state government, and more. My small team was able to resolve more than 3,000 individuals’ and business owners’ cases in our district; we are actively assisting nearly 600 more. 

On the broader statewide level, in March of this current fiscal year the legislature and the governor activated an economic relief package that included more than $2.1 billion in grants supporting California’s small businesses. We also approved a program to allow companies to deduct up to $150,000 in expenses covered by loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Plan. And in late April, the legislature and the Governor approved AB 80 to give the small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic a $6.2 billion tax cut over the next six years

More help is coming. My colleagues and I approved the Fiscal Year 2021-22 state budget, which will provide Californians with billions more in pandemic-related relief and support for small businesses and nonprofit organizations; a “rainy day” reserve of more than $25 billion; and substantial investments in education, health, social services, and infrastructure. 
 

 

We toured Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant with other officials to discuss the recent sewage spill and next steps. An investigation is underway.

 

State Budget Highlights

For the new fiscal year that started July 1, we crafted a state budget that puts historic investments into many key aspects of life and infrastructure in California. It includes strong commitments to climate change adaptation and mitigation, housing and homelessness, recycling infrastructure, K-12 and higher education, early childhood education and health, small business and tourism recovery, and so much more. We recognize that this flush budget is likely a one-time phenomenon, and we are taking this opportunity to build up reserves and pay down liabilities to put us in a stronger place for the inevitable next time our economy struggles. 

While the size of the surplus is reflective of the fact that some of our fellow Californians have been incredibly successful this past year, we also know that so many others have suffered tremendously. That is why we are investing in helping those people who struggled, from working single moms to small business owners, from those who lost their jobs and homes to those who saw their livelihoods go up in smoke in our hospitality, service, and arts and cultural sectors.

Nearly two-thirds of Californians will receive Golden State Stimulus checks – direct payments of $600. (Qualified families with kids will receive an additional $500.) Low-income renters and landlords will receive more help to cover back-rent and prospective rent for several months into the future, as well as past-due water and utility bills. The new budget also includes an additional $1.5 billion for a total of $4 billion in direct grants to California’s small businesses, on top of $6.2 billion in tax relief.

I was joined by entertainment industry leaders to discuss what the state is doing to help the hard-hit sector recover from losses due to COVID-19.

 

We recently visited Geffen Playhouse and discussed the pandemic’s impact on performance venues.

 

Pandemic-related economic relief includes an unprecedented $400 million in funding for the creative sector. It bolsters our entertainment and tourism industries by providing additional funding of $180 million over two years for the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program. For independent venues, live events businesses, and minor league sports, $150 million was allocated to provide support after being shuttered for over 15 months. Museums and cultural institutions will receive $50 million. The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the Museum of Tolerance received significant state money to assist with their respective museum expansions. Our Legislative Jewish Caucus was also able to secure $50 million to assist synagogues, mosques, churches, temples, and community centers in improving security in the wake of the rise of hate crimes in our society. 

I am also pleased to report that we succeeded in securing a $2 million allocation for Topanga State Park and Will Rogers State Historic Park for deferred maintenance projects; $10 million to rehabilitate the Redondo King Harbor Seaside Lagoon; and $11 million for Los Angeles County to build a pedestrian bridge over Pacific Coast Highway to safely connect the beautiful new Potrero Canyon Park with the beach and bike path. I also voted to build upon the largest-ever commitment to addressing chronic homelessness, including $12 billion in new funding statewide for programs over the next two years.

My colleagues and I have our work cut out for us for the remainder of this year, with far-reaching and complicated issues ranging from climate change to the business atmosphere.
 

 

 

Our district team had a great time painting the Hermosa Beach lifeguard tower during Pride month.

 

 

2021 Legislation

I’ve introduced a number of pieces of legislation this year, focusing on good government and transparency, environmental protection, transportation planning, social and economic development and advancement, a vibrant arts and entertainment economy, and advocacy for vulnerable people. 

I presented Senate Bill 44 to the Assembly Judiciary Committee in July where it passed with unanimous, bipartisan support.

 

SB 44 will speed up the approval process for green mass transit projects in Los Angeles County, which will be crucial when Los Angeles hosts the Olympics in 2028. I proposed SB 44 to make environmentally beneficial, zero-emission mass transit projects eligible for potential expedited CEQA review. From my perspective, LA can’t build out its mass transit system soon enough. As our economy has picked up with the reopening, I’m reminded of this every time I get into my car at rush hour.

When it comes to individual transportation, California still has no strategic policy for the widespread deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Facilitating a thoughtful rollout of AVs as they become more commonplace will require careful, deliberative oversight. SB 66 creates an Autonomous Vehicle Task Force that will oversee the coordination of cohesive policies and proactively ensure new technology furthers public safety, economic equity, and environmental goals. 

I am also working to build on California’s Career Pathways Program, which provides skills and connections that lead to permanent, good-paying careers in the motion picture and television industries for people who traditionally lack access to these fields. SB 611 allows the California Film Tax Credit program to increase the job ratio, or how many "below the line" jobs a production creates, in order to award tax credits to productions. It’s been a fantastic partnership effort involving studios, producers, and unions representing Hollywood workers, as well as several of my colleagues on the California Film Commission where I’ve served for the past two years.

Inspired in part by the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration, I authored SB 628 to establish the Creative Workforce Development Act of 2021. This program would provide employment and job training for artists and creative sector workers through public programs, and focus on uplifting disadvantaged communities that may not otherwise have opportunities to pursue careers in the arts.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed vital Census data needed for the decennial redrawing of political district boundaries (“redistricting”). When the City of Beverly Hills brought this issue to my attention, I introduced SB 590 to prevent prolonged vacancies of some local offices by extending the terms for municipal officials that are set to expire in March or April 2022 to align with the June 2022 statewide primary election. 

In order for voters to make informed choices, political advertisements should not be deceptive about who is trying to persuade them. SB 752 will ensure political advertisers cannot obscure the person or interest group that is paying for an ad. I also authored SB 459 to shed light on a murky practice in the final days of any legislative session, where a flurry of spending and political advertising can crowd social media with little clarity about the funding source. High-pressure lobbying tactics targeted at elected officials’ constituents can be anonymous. The public, the press, and lawmakers deserve to have a real-time sense of the scope of influences on high-stakes legislation. I’ve been working very closely with California Common Cause, the California Clean Money Campaign, and the League of Women Voters on these important transparency bills.

After the Los Angeles Times examined how an exponential boom in hospice care providers has “spawned a cottage industry of illegal practices, including kickbacks to crooked doctors and recruiters who zero in on prospective patients at retirement homes and other venues,” I introduced SB 664 and called for the State Auditor to look into the hospice care industry. Our audit request was unanimously approved and it’s my hope that our work will fix the problems highlighted in the Times expose. 

On a similar note, the debate over conservatorship laws and conservatee rights is powerfully illustrated by the fictional and real life stories told by the Netflix film I Care a Lot and the documentary The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears, both released earlier this year. Currently, only attorneys on a court-approved list can represent conservatees. This means that a conservatee who wants to petition the court to change or end a conservatorship may only do so using attorneys that the court itself approves. I introduced SB 724 to advance due process rights of conservatees and proposed conservatees by providing them with the guarantee of legal counsel, the clear right choose an attorney of their preference, and requiring conservatee attorneys to be a zealous advocate on their client’s behalf.

Criminal justice sentencing has often been applied inequitably. Certain automatic add-ons to long sentences have been shown to have no demonstrable positive effect on public safety yet are injurious to individuals, families, and communities. In partnership with Governors Brown and Newsom, the Legislature worked several years ago to repeal two types of ineffective sentence enhancements on a going forward basis. SB 483 would improve fairness in the legal system by allowing courts to retroactively rescind those particular types of sentence enhancements.

 

Courtesy of Nathan Rott, NPR

 

On the environmental front, I’m continuing work related to climate change adaptation and natural resources protection. I introduced SB 83 to provide local governments with an innovative financing option to alleviate the risks of the rising ocean while protecting both property owners and taxpayers. Many coastal cities are facing impossible dilemmas where constituents are asking them to spend more and more of their meager budgets fighting the sea through expensive sea walls and other remediative efforts. SB 83 would create state-backed low-interest mortgages for buying properties that will be threatened in the next two decades, allowing owners to sell while a house still has value. The local government can then rent out the property while repaying the loan, at least breaking even, even opening the possibility of net revenue gain. Then when the property is at risk of flooding, the house can be demolished without taxpayers bearing the cost. 

 

SB 433 builds on the California Coastal Commission’s proven success with handling access violations and provides clear authority to issue administrative penalties for unpermitted damage to wetlands, natural habitats, or coastal waters. All fines in the Coastal Conservancy’s Violation Remediation Account will be used to support projects that restore and preserve coastal resources. We have worked with stakeholders to craft a bill that protects property rights but ultimately strengthens the Commission’s critical work protecting coastal access for all Californians. 

Tackling the plastic pollution crisis remains one of my top priorities. SB 343 expands the existing “Truth in Environmental Advertising” law (that prohibits use of the word “recyclable” on unrecyclable products) to say manufacturers cannot use the chasing-arrows symbol (also known as the recycling symbol) or any other suggestion that a material is easily recyclable if it is not. 

SB 343 builds upon the work enshrined in SB 54 that we’ve been working on for several years now that seeks to create a coherent statewide approach to reducing waste and plastic pollution. According to the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board, our proposal “create[s] a stark choice for California — and for the U.S., which has been shamefully slow to address the single-use plastic problem. Either the state can continue to think small by banning the annoying plastic product of the moment, or it can step up to be the desperately needed model for plastic trash reduction the nation needs.” We are deep in negotiations over the bill and are planning on moving it forward in the coming year.
 

 

I was joined by other state and local leaders earlier this month at the iconic La Brea Tar Pits to call attention to the need for safeguarding cultural assets in the face of increasingly frequent climate disasters.

 

Wildfire Mitigation and Response 

In May, my colleagues and I announced a package of bills aimed at mitigating wildfire risk in our state.

 

I was part of a small team of legislators who worked to secure the governor’s commitment to more than half a billion dollars in additional funding to increase fire prevention in our parched state. This new investment will focus on forest management projects such as vegetation thinning, and will set aside money for low-income residents to fireproof their homes.

To help communities prepare for the impacts of climate change like these worsening wildfires, I have long advocated for a climate resiliency bond to fund projects to reduce fire risk and restore damaged areas. After countless hours of negotiation, I am happy to report that many aspects of this bond are now contenders for more immediate state funding, thus eliminating the need for a ballot measure that requests voter approval for more borrowing.
 

 

 

We had a wonderful time celebrating our Woman of the Year, Corie, for all of her hard work and positive impact on our community.

 

 

Senate District 26 Woman of the Year

Every March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, each legislator selects a Woman of the Year. Through the years we have honored a group of extraordinary women from our community. This year’s Woman of the Year was no less extraordinary, Hollywood Hills street artist Corie Mattie, whose striking murals can be seen throughout Los Angeles County. Also known as the “L.A. Hope Dealer”, Corie has spread inspiration and positivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. She uses her skills not only to highlight societal challenges but to play a role in their solutions. She has contributed her captivating artwork to raise significant amounts of money to fight homelessness, help people experiencing food insecurity, and support the Black Lives Matter movement. A shining light during some of the darkest moments of 2020 and 2021, Corie is a fierce advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and a model trailblazer pushing the boundaries of what society expects women to say and do. We had the pleasure of holding an in-person celebration of Corie and her work recently.

 

 

 

Senate District 26 Nonprofit of the Year

In June, each legislator honored a standout nonprofit organization in their district. Based in Santa Monica, AllTogether LA stepped up in the pandemic to protect the well-being of vulnerable people, particularly seniors. In March 2020, when she recognized the growing urgency of community needs, Lorena Camarena founded AllTogether LA by fusing multiple organizations to leverage resources and infrastructure. This innovative nonprofit brought together background-checked volunteers who can quickly assist with simple yet life-saving tasks: picking up medication, grocery shopping, providing social support, and more. Lorena and her team continue to adapt their service model to the changing impacts of the pandemic as they remain steadfast in their commitment to uplifting neighbors in need.