June 2017 Newsletter

June 8, 2017

A Note from Toni

Kicking off Small Business Month in May at the Capitol.

Small businesses, if you think about it, enrich our own personal quality of life and enhance our neighborhoods and communities – from my nail salon in Mission Hills, my massage therapist in Hillcrest, my auto mechanic in Normal Heights, my veterinarian in Kensington, and the wine bar in my own community of South Park / Golden Hill to the network of independently owned endeavors throughout my Senate district and the San Diego region.

South Park is a perfect case for how small businesses shape a community. Historically a quiet smaller neighborhood, South Park has recently become a more desirable destination in San Diego, and that’s thanks to its nearly 100 small businesses –clothing and gift boutiques, hair salons and tattoo parlors, restaurants and bars, ice cream shops and cafes, dog groomers and toy stores, gyms and yoga studios.

Every quarter, South Park holds a neighborhood “walkabout” that used to be a smaller community gathering where the stores would stay open late on a Saturday night and residents could socialize together. But the walkabout has exploded, becoming a popular destination for people who live all over the city.

That’s all due to the businesses that have set up shop in the neighborhood – unique companies that can’t be found anywhere else. This is happening in communities throughout San Diego and California, and behind all those businesses are people who had a dream, a vision for a specific need that they could fill to provide goods or services for their neighbors and a livelihood for their families.

Small businesses are the backbone of California, employing more than 6.5 million people – about half of the state’s workforce – and driving our economy forward.

In San Diego County, there are about 77,000 companies that employ fewer than 50 people. That’s 95 percent of all companies in our region, accounting for nearly half of the local workforce. About 60,000 businesses employ fewer than 10 people, accounting for 74 percent of all businesses. And about 46,000 companies – 57 percent of the total – employ fewer than five people.

I want to make sure everyone knows about the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development – Go-Biz for short – which provides a range of services for companies big and small and assists anyone who has a vision for a company of their own. Visit Go-Biz online at business.ca.gov.

One of Go-Biz’s successful programs is the California Competes tax credit program. It has provided 104 San Diego-area companies with more than $92 million in tax credits, helping to create more than 13,500 new jobs. Many of those are small businesses.

The state Legislature honored small businesses throughout California at a luncheon in Sacramento on June 5th, including the small business of the year from my 39th District: Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant in Kensington. And on June 23rd, we’ll recognize additional businesses from San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach at a reception here in San Diego

Even though it’s a number of months away, November 25th will be a great opportunity to support small independent shops in our communities – it’s Small Business Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving.

And let's not forget our incredible farmers markets – one almost every night of the week throughout our cities in San Diego County. Farmers markets give small businesses a venue to bring specialty foods, innovative ideas and fresh vegetables right to our neighborhoods.

I encourage you to support the independent stores and shops that make your life easier.

An Update on My Legislation

My 2017 bills – addressing issues such as housing, human trafficking, healthcare, LGBT rights, environmental protection, labor, and juvenile justice – are making their way through the legislative process. Here’s an update on their progress:

SB 2: The Building Homes and Jobs Act, SB 2, is eligible to be considered on the Senate floor. It creates a permanent source of funding for affordable housing by imposing a small fee on the recording of certain types of real-estate documents – not including the sale of residential or commercial property. California’s housing crisis is getting worse day by day, and too many people are spending too much of their income on housing. This bill will help thousands of low-income residents every year.

Speaking in favor of SB 562, the Healthy California Act, on the Senate floor.

These bills have been passed by the Senate and are now in the Assembly for consideration:

SB 179: The Gender Recognition Act, SB 179, would make California the first state in the country to allow nonbinary residents – those who self-identify as neither male nor female – to choose a third gender marker on state-issued identity documents.

It would also make it easier for transgender, intersex or nonbinary Californians to obtain state identification documents that accurately reflect their gender, removing several barriers that make it onerous for people seeking name- and gender-change court orders or seeking a gender change on birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and identity cards.

SB 214: In 2015, the governor signed AB 392, my bill to make the San Diego River Conservancy permanent. SB 214 builds on that, strengthening the conservancy’s capacity to protect and enhance historic, cultural, and natural resources within the watershed along the 52-mile San Diego River.

The bill adds representation from the city of Santee and the Kumeyaay Diegueño Land Conservancy to the conservancy’s Board of Directors and provides the conservancy with greater ability to enter into joint-powers agreements.

SB 223: When it comes to healthcare regulation, state and federal laws are not completely in alignment. In some ways, the federal Affordable Care Act is stronger than state law in nondiscrimination protections and language-services standards.

SB 223 would require all health plans in California to meet the highest standards in nondiscrimination measures, consumer protections, and language-assistance services – no matter what changes might occur to the Affordable Care Act. It would ensure equal access to affordable healthcare regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, or disability.

SB 230: Right now, a prosecutor attempting to convict an accused sex trafficker is not allowed to bring up the defendant’s past sex-trafficking crimes as evidence in trial. That is not the case for certain other types of sex crimes.

SB 230 would add sex trafficking to the list of offenses for which prosecutors may, with a judge’s permission, share this type of information with the jury. This will make it easier to convict sex traffickers

SB 285: Currently, public employers are barred from interfering with, intimidating, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against employees while those employees are exercising their right to have union representation.

SB 285 strengthens the law by making it clear that not only do public employees have the right to form a union or engage in union activities without interference – they also have the right to become members or remain as members of a union without interference, intimidation, or coercion.

SB 310: Transgender people who are incarcerated should have the same right as anyone else to legally change their name or gender and to be recognized for who they are. SB 310 – the Name and Dignity Act – establishes the right of people incarcerated in state prisons and county jails to access the courts to obtain a name or gender change. It also requires corrections officials to use the new name of a prisoner who has successfully obtained a name change.

In addition to providing transgender prisoners with a sense of dignity while incarcerated, SB 310 will increase the chances for them to successfully reenter society.

SB 379: This bill makes minor changes to current law that I believe will have major impacts on child oral health in the future.

The bill allows schools to facilitate dental screenings by requiring parents to opt-out if they do not want their children to receive an assessment. However, any treatment of students would still require prior consent. It also adds data on tooth decay to the list of data that must be reported to the county and encourages schools to send oral-health data to the state.

SB 379 will allow us to screen more children, which will in turn lead to more treatment, better collection of statewide data, and improved overall oral-health strategies.

Asking my colleagues to vote “aye” for SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act.

SB 437: This bill improves the effectiveness of a joint working group of the Department of Managed Healthcare and the Department of Insurance. It does this by requiring the group to review two new topics: grievance and consumer-complaint processes that pertain to timely access to care, and state implementation of federal healthcare reforms.

SB 462: This modest but necessary bill clarifies that probation departments may access juvenile case files in order to comply with reporting requirements. It also allows courts to authorize probation departments to engage third-party researchers for limited access to juvenile case files to conduct research on juvenile-justice populations and the programs that serve them.

SB 462 ensures that no personally identifying information from a juvenile case file may be released, disseminated, or published.

SB 548: By law, local firefighters may not go on strike amid labor disputes with their employers; they’re limited to filing grievances with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). Unfortunately, PERB is often unable to rule on these complaints in a timely manner.

This bill would allow firefighters to take their claims to court if PERB is unable to rule on them within 150 days or opts not to issue a decisio

SB 562: The Healthy California Act would create a universal, single-payer healthcare system in our state.

SB 587: Currently, probation officers are not permitted to display blue warning lights on their certified emergency vehicles, as other law-enforcement officers are. But probation officers at times are called on to respond in emergency situations, and without blue lights, they’re not able to alert other officers and the public when responding that they are peace officers and are there to assist.

The bill would allow probation officers to display blue warning lights on their emergency vehicles, and would require them to complete an Emergency Vehicle Operations Course certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

SB 625: This bill would reestablish an “honorable discharge” program for juvenile offenders who meet certain criteria, paving an easier path for them to access higher education or vocational training or get a job after their release from incarceration.

SB 667: This bill enables the Riverine Stewardship Assistance Program (RSAP), which was created in the 2016-17 state budget. The RSAP provides technical and financial support for stream restoration, reduced flood risk and improved habitat corridors, empowering communities to reconnect with and take pride in their neighborhood waterways.

My Staff at Your Service

My district staff is always available to help constituents navigate a complex web of state agencies.

In 2015, one of my constituents was suffering from cancer and could not work due to his condition. Almost two years later, he is recovering from chemotherapy treatment and contacted our office for assistance with his State Disability Insurance claim.

During his treatment and time away from work, he was not able to file the disability claim during the required time period. We contacted the Employment Development Department on his behalf and helped resolve his case. Because of his arduous situation, he was paid disability insurance benefits retroactive to 2015.

I am pleased that my staff was able to help him, and we wish him all the best as he continues his recovery.

If you’re having trouble working out an issue with any state agency, please call my office at 619-645-3133, and my staff will do everything in their power to help.

My District Staff
Myrna Zambrano: District Director
Deanna Spehn: Policy Director
Jason Weisz: Senior Field Representative
Toni Duran: Field Representative
Chevelle Tate: Field Representative
Ryan Trabuco: Scheduler / Field Representative
David Rolland: Communications Director

Where to Find Me Online
Twitter: @SenToniAtkins
Facebook: http://facebook.com/SDToni/
Web: http://senate.ca.gov/atkins

Around the District

I love animals! And I love the San Diego Humane Society’s Walk for Animals!


I enjoyed visiting with Red Cross CEO Bill Earley at the relief organization’s Shelter of Hope fundraiser.


Lots of people braved the cold to attend Fiesta de los Penasquitos in Rancho Penasquitos.


I was happy to help kick off San Diego River Days and thank volunteers at the Dog Beach cleanup. Great turnout!


The San Diego chapter of NOW’s Wine and Women event was energizing!


I’ll take any opportunity to celebrate volunteerism – here, I helped honor Mira Mesa Volunteer of the Year Sabrina Bazzo


I’ve had the privilege of representing Kensington-Talmadge since 1994. It was great to check in with the Ken-Tal Association in May.


It was fun chatting with constituents at Fiesta del Sol in Solana Beach. Fantastic event!