Update on “Back to Basics” Legislation
[Editor’s note: Recently received from Senate President pro tem Don Perata, this shows progress the Senate has been able to make on good public policy in this year of the legislative session. Many of these bills are unheralded and not known to the general public.]
Last December, my Senate colleagues and I announced we were going to focus on getting back to basics. Nothing is more basic than education, transportation, housing, energy and health. This is an update on legislation in these areas. All of these bills have been approved by the Senate and are now under consideration in the Assembly.
California has an achievement gap and is facing an enormous teacher shortage. There are two bills that would help us recruit teachers and get them to the classrooms where they are most needed. If passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor, SB 1209 would streamline testing requirements for teachers and strengthen teacher mentoring programs in schools that are on the low end of the achievement gap. SB 1124 would establish a teaching fellows program to attract new professionals to the field. It would include loan foregiveness incentives for individuals who go on to teach in high priority schools.
TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING
We used the concept and many of the provisions from my infrastructure bond bill, SB 1024, to craft the infrastructure package passed by the Legislature last month. The Governor signed each of these bills, sending the transportation and air quality, affordable housing and transit-oriented development, education and disaster preparedness bonds before voters in November. Instead of the $13 billion dollars in my original bill, our state’s neglected infrastructure – and therefore our quality of life – stands to benefit from $37 billion of upgrades. The infrastructure bond package also included a constitutional amendment, SCA 7, which would restrict state lawmakers from diverting gas tax revenue to pay for non-transportation programs. This will also come before the voters in November.
A handful of energy related bills are awaiting votes by the full Assembly. They include Senate Bill 1, which would increase the availability of solar-powered homes and set performance standards for solar energy systems. SB 1 would also mandate locally owned municipal utilities adopt comprehensive solar programs. The legislation would call for an annual solar report to the public and legislature. Senate Bill 107 would force electric utilities to obtain twenty percent of their power from renewable energy resources by 2010.
Senate Bill 757, which would replace some of the petroleum use with alternative fuels, particularly in government vehicles, is under consideration by the Assembly Transportation Committee. SB 1505, a bill to create environmental performance standards for the production and use of hydrogen fuel, is waiting to be assigned to an Assembly committee.
Two other bills I authored are waiting to be assigned to Assembly committees. SB 1250 would reauthorize the California Energy Commission’s Renewable Energy Program and the Commission’s research program. SB 1368 would set a new standard for greenhouse gas emissions from utilities and electricity sellers. My legislation would prohibit new investments in these facilities unless their air emissions are at least as low as emissions from new, clean, efficient natural gas power plants.
The full Assembly will soon take up Senate Bill 437, which would make a number of changes in health care programs to increase the number of children from families with low-incomes that have health coverage.
The Assembly Health Committee is currently scheduled to review three bills from the Senate Back to Basics package. The first, SB 162, would create a Department of Public Health. Our intent here is to focus on disaster preparedness and health disparities in a more concerted way than is possible while public health is part of the Department of Health Services, which has an incredible amount of responsibility. The committee will also consider SB 1339, which would require the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to convene a work group to design a study assessing the adequacy of the state’s emergency and trauma care systems, and SB 1448, which would establish a health care insurance program to cover several hundred thousand uninsured low-income Californians who are not eligible for Medi-Cal.
The Senate also passed a number of health-related bills that are awaiting assignment to an Assembly committee. They include legislation to address the nursing shortage through high schools and community colleges, an act to put a bond before voters to retrofit hospitals, a bill to create an influenza vaccine purchasing and distribution program, and legislation allowing state and local health directors to declare emergencies when there is risk of infectious disease or biological terror.
A few bills I authored will also be sent to an Assembly committee soon. SB 1204 would require hospitals to use teams of caregivers or lifting equipment for lifting patients. This would prevent many back injuries. SB 1838 would establish a training program for additional state personnel to review hospital construction and design plans, thereby cutting back on the time it takes for hospitals to upgrade their community facilities. Last but not least, I am carrying legislation that would create the nation’s first statewide, community-based biomonitoring program. SB 1379 would measure the chemical contamination in Californians who volunteer to be tested. This data would help public health planners understand which chemicals in our environment are causing cancer and other modern epidemics. Once we know this, we can better protect the public.
Our Back to Basics bill package is full of good public policy. I look forward to updating you as these bills continue through the legislative process.
Leave a Reply