Atkins Introduces Legislation to Protect the Environment, Improve Healthcare, and Help Prosecute Human Traffickers

Friday, February 3 2017

Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) this week introduced new bills that will strengthen the San Diego River Conservancy (SB 214), bolster language-assistance services in medical care (SB 223), and help prosecute human traffickers (SB 230).

 SB 214 builds the capacity of the San Diego River Conservancy to  protect and enhance historic, cultural, and natural resources within the watershed along the 52-mile San Diego River. In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 392, legislation authored by Sen. Atkins that made the Conservancy a permanent entity. SB 214 strengthens the Conservancy by increasing its Board of Directors from 11 members to 15 and by giving it the same authority as the state’s other conservancies. The new board members would add representation from the Santee City Council, the Kumeyaay Diegeno Land Conservancy, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the state Department of Parks and Recreation. Among other things, SB 214 will create new opportunities for cooperation between the Conservancy and the tribal nations in the San Diego River watershed.

• SB 223 will ensure that California medical patients benefit from the strong protections that are currently provided under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) when it comes to accessing language-assistance services. The bill represents a backstop in the event that the ACA is repealed. Specifically, SB 223 will codify in state law the stronger federal requirements for notices of consumer protections and language access, ensure that consumers are aware of their rights to language-assistance services in a timely manner, and align and strengthen standards for interpreter services across all sources of coverage in California. SB 223 builds on Sen. Atkins’ AB 635, which creates a pilot program for interpretation services for Medi-Cal patients and was signed into law in 2016.

• SB 230 will make it easier to convict sex traffickers by allowing prosecutors – with permission from the trial judge – to present evidence of a criminal defendant’s past crimes of sex trafficking at trial. This same rule of evidence already exists at trials for other sexual offenses, as well as for domestic violence. SB 230 allows us to treat victims of sex trafficking the same as victims of other sex crimes.