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California Legislature Making a Positive Difference
The California Legislature recently concluded its 2015-2016 session with several key bills to improve conditions and wages for workers, provide more access to higher education, increase affordable housing and protect the environment.
For the second straight year, Governor Jerry Brown signed all of my bills that were approved by the Legislature. In this update, I am highlighting some of those bills so you can learn how my work and accomplishments are making a positive difference in the lives of California residents.
The state passed its fifth consecutive on time budget, setting aside $6 billion in reserves and paying down debts. By increasing the Rainy Day Fund, the state is aiming to reduce the boom and bust cycles that have plagued California in the past. I led a successful effort to secure an additional $5 million in funding for legal aid - assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system - the first such increase in years.
Expanding Educational Opportunities
This year's budget made a record investment in K-12 education with an increase of more than $3,600 per student over the past five years. The news is just as good for higher education. The pipeline to community colleges and state universities was strengthened with $200 million to better prepare students. Other investments will create 7,000 new higher education openings for students in the University of California and California State University systems - a total of 20,000 since last year.
California workers scored two big victories when my arbitration reform bills were signed into law to protect them in private, binding arbitration. First, targeting some of the most abusive clauses in employment contracts, the state passed SB 1241, my bill preventing workers from being forced to vindicate their rights either in another state or according to another state's laws. Increasingly, large corporations are writing into their employment contracts requirements that all litigation must take place in other states with weaker employee protection laws. Beginning January 1, 2017, California workers will go to court in California using California laws.
Under SB 1007, California consumers and employees will have the right to a certified court reporter in arbitration. Having an official record will enable a consumer to show documentation of misconduct or fraud should either occur in the arbitration process.
Largely due to our housing supply not keeping up with demand, California represents some of the most unaffordable housing markets in the country. The state passed my SB 1069 to ease some of the constraints on housing supply by lowering barriers homeowners face when trying to construct accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property. ADUs are additional independent living spaces on single-family lots that cost less to build, are managed by the homeowner and require no public subsidy. SB 1069 streamlines the permitting process, eliminates unnecessary fees, and rolls back parking requirements for ADUs built near public transit. I am proud of the large coalition, including many housing organizations and companies throughout Alameda and Santa Clara counties that support my work on this important measure.
Working with the City of Santa Clara, I passed SB 680 to allow the city to modify its original purchase agreement from the state to build both market rate housing and affordable housing for seniors, veterans and low-income families. This "agrihood" housing development will feature rooftop gardens, farmers markets and gardening classes for residents. Located at the old Bay Area Research Extension Center by Valley Fair, it will bring badly needed housing to the South Bay.
Building Sustainable Water Systems - SB 1263
In California, there are currently more than 7,600 water systems. Unfortunately, many of these small systems cannot keep up with maintenance and treatment and have been out of compliance for one or more water quality standards, putting public health at risk. Worse, these failing systems force residents, many in disadvantaged communities, to either pay for high costs of treatment or bottled water, or continue using the water and suffer exposure to contamination. I authored SB 1263 to ensure that any new water systems are sustainable by requiring a more comprehensive review of new permit applications and emphasizing consolidations with larger water districts when appropriate. All Californians have a right to safe, clean drinking water and my bill will assure it gets delivered properly.
Fighting False Advertising - SB 1130
This consumer protection bill allows county attorneys to demand more information from an advertiser if there is reason to believe the advertisement might be false or misleading to the public. While city and district attorneys can make these demands, county counsels cannot. SB 1130 will bring parity in the process where county attorneys will be able to efficiently execute their legal duty, by giving advertisers time and opportunity to substantiate claims before pursuing costly and potentially unnecessary litigation. I carried this bill on behalf of Santa Clara County.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in the California State Senate.
Senator, 10th District