November 2017 Newsletter

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Note from Toni

Our San Diego River is a jewel – a 52-mile rural and urban waterway running from Julian to Ocean Beach – and for many local residents, it remains undiscovered. I want to do everything I can to help enhance access to the river and continue to protect its entire 440-square-mile watershed.

Overseeing the river is the San Diego River Conservancy, a state agency whose role is to preserve, restore and enhance the river and watershed. In 2015, the Gov. Jerry Brown signed my bill, AB 392, making the San Diego River Conservancy a permanent agency. With the stroke of his pen, our local conservancy joined nine other permanent California environmental conservancies, putting it in position to receive more consistent funding.

The San Diego River (Credit: San Diego River Conservancy)
The San Diego River (photo courtesy of the San Diego River Conservancy)

This year, I introduced SB 214, which builds upon AB 392 by adding representatives from the City of Santee and the Kumeyaay Diegueño Land Conservancy to the river conservancy’s Board of Directors. That will strengthen efforts to protect and enhance the watershed along the eastern portions of the river and bring our tribal neighbors and partners to the table. SB 214 also gives the conservancy greater authority to enter into joint powers agreements, which adds to the agency’s toolbox.

I was thrilled when Governor Brown signed SB 214 late last month. But it didn’t end there. Days later, he also signed another one of my bills, SB 667, which essentially creates the Riverine and Riparian Stewardship Program, This program strengthens our ability to protect and enhance waterways in throughout California, and its largest impact will be on urban rivers and streams.

SB 667 provides technical assistance with planning, design, construction and project evaluation to organizations trying to enhance or restore waterways in their communities, to reduce flood risk, improve habitat or improve public access to rivers and streams. The program encourages collaboration with our university systems, creating educational and field-experience opportunities for students in ecology programs.

The bill doesn’t appropriate funding for such projects, but it creates the comprehensive approach for how the funds will be spent as they become available.

One source of funding for SB 667 is likely to be SB 5, the major parks bond that passed this session in the Legislature and was signed by the Governor. SB 5 places on the June 2018 ballot a $4-billion bond measure that will fund projects in three broad categories: “Parks,” “Water” and “Climate and environment.”

The bond would include two major specific funding allocations that will be of interest to San Diego County residents – $200 million for restoration work on the Salton Sea, located just east of our county border, and $12 million for the San Diego River Conservancy.

In addition, the San Diego region would receive per-capita funding for local park improvements and would also be eligible for funding under numerous categories in the bond on a competitive basis. Our county historically does well in these types of grants, so we’ll be in a good position to bring in millions of dollars for projects that will enhance our quality of life.

We could see new funding for these types of projects: rehabilitation, repurpose or improvement of existing parks; deferred maintenance for county fairs; lower-cost coastal accommodations within state parks; habitat restoration in state parks; urban stream restoration (my SB 667); implementation of natural community conservation plans; and acquiring land for nature reserves that are overseen by the University of California.

I was as proud to support SB 5 as I was to introduce my bills, SB 214 and SB 667. I remain committed to protecting and enhancing the San Diego River and all of San Diego’s beautiful and natural places.

An Update on My Legislation

In September, the Legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown a dozen of my bills – and he signed all 12 of them! These included my three top-priority bills for 2017: SB 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act; SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act; and SB 230, my human-trafficking bill.

The Governor signed SB 2 in a special ceremony in San Francisco on September 29th. The new law will create a permanent source of funding for affordable housing and help reduce homelessness in San Diego and throughout the state.

Talking about SB 2 at the signing of the legislative housing package.

Talking about SB 2 at the signing of the legislative housing package.

And almost literally at the last minute – at nearly midnight on deadline day, October 15th, I received the call that the Governor had signed SB 179. This was incredibly good news. SB 179 is a groundbreaking new LGBT-rights law that will allow nonbinary residents – those who self-identify as neither male nor female – to choose a new gender marker on driver’s licenses and birth certificates. It will 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 getting name- and gender-change court orders or seeking a gender change on state ID documents onerous.

I am very proud to have authored this important legislation, and it was especially nice to celebrate this historic achievement with our community at the San Diego LGBT Center in Hillcrest on October 17th, with a large number of young people in attendance. This is their future.

My third priority bill is 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 and, more importantly, save women and girls before they’re victimized.

Here are the additional nine bills of mine that the Governor signed:

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. SB 214 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 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 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 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 could have major impacts on our children’s oral health in the future. SB 379 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. The bill 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.

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 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, after completing appropriate training, to display blue warning lights on their emergency vehicles.

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 and get a job after their release from incarceration.

SB 667: The Riverine Stewardship Assistance Program (RSAP) was created in the 2016-17 state budget. SB 667 enables the program to move forward. 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.

Affordable Care Act – Open Enrollment

I would like all residents in my district to be aware that a new open-enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began on November 1st.

My support for the ACA is unwavering. Although its implementation can be improved in some parts of the country, it has been enormously successful in California. Under the ACA, we have provided access to care for 5 million additional people in our state, including roughly 350,000 residents of San Diego County.

I applaud all the committed people who have worked so hard this year to defeat several attempts to repeal it and replace it with something that would strip millions of Americans of their healthcare coverage. Healthcare reform continues to be a topic of debate in Washington, D.C., and I will continue to both speak out in defense of the ACA and work toward a future where every Californian has access to affordable, quality care.

The open-enrollment period that begins on November 1st will end on January 31st, 2018. Please visit http://www.coveredca.com/apply/ to find out what healthcare programs under the ACA you qualify for and apply.

Learn About My Internship Program

My office offers an engaging Internship Program targeted to high-school seniors and undergraduate students who are passionate about community service. Although unpaid, our interns acquire and improve upon useful skills such as public relations, written and oral communications, and office administration.

Interns Montana Massone and Dominic Moscatello
Interns Montana Massone and Dominic Moscatello

Interns assist my district staff by attending community meetings and representing me at street fairs and other events. They might also qualify for internship credit from their university or school, as well as earn a letter of recommendation from me.

My current district interns for the fall program are Dominic Moscatello and Montana Massone. Dominic is a returning student at San Diego Mesa College and is studying political science. Montana is a graduating senior at Point Loma Nazarene University and is also studying political science, with a minor in women’s studies. I am thrilled to have them both.

If someone you know might be interested in my internship program, please have them apply online here: http://sd39.senate.ca.gov/internship-program-application

My Staff at Your Service

My district staff is always available to help constituents navigate a complex web of state agencies. 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: facebook.com/SDToni/

Web: senate.ca.gov/atkins

Around the District

About 1,000 people came out to Allied Gardens’ First Friday concert in early October. I was thrilled to help kick it off!

About 1,000 people came out to Allied Gardens’ First Friday concert in early October. I was thrilled to help kick it off!

I was honored to present, along with Ms. Peabody, the Friends of Balboa Park Betty Peabody Emerging You Leader of Balboa Park Award to Ira Bauer-Spector of San Diego Civic Youth Ballet.

I was honored to present, along with Ms. Peabody, the Friends of Balboa Park Betty Peabody Emerging You Leader of Balboa Park Award to Ira Bauer-Spector of San Diego Civic Youth Ballet.

Fun times at I Love a Clean San Diego’s Brews by the Bay fall social. I’m grateful for all they do to promote a more environmentally engaged community.

Fun times at I Love a Clean San Diego’s Brews by the Bay fall social. I’m grateful for all they do to promote a more environmentally engaged community.

It was a hot day, but that didn’t stop lots and lots of people from heading over to Mira Mesa Street Fair.

It was a hot day, but that didn’t stop lots and lots of people from heading over to the Mira Mesa Street Fair.

There’s no better place than San Diego’s LGBT Community Center to celebrate the signing of SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act. A historic occasion.

There’s no better place than San Diego’s LGBT Community Center to celebrate the signing of SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act. A historic occasion.

I enjoyed talking with women who run small businesses at the Small Business Development Center’s Women in Business Expo. There was great energy in that room!

I enjoyed talking with women who run small businesses at the Small Business Development Center’s Women in Business Expo. There was great energy in that room!

It was great to see Dwayne Crenshaw and Tony Young at RISE San Diego’s third anniversary breakfast. They do great civic work for the community.

It was great to see Dwayne Crenshaw and Tony Young at RISE San Diego’s third anniversary breakfast. They do great civic work for the community.