January 2018 Newsletter

January 1, 2018

A Note from Toni

The Legislature returns to the Capitol on January 3rd to start a new session. In addition to the normal business, the Senate is scheduled to hold a vote to elect a new leader, the president pro tem.

In December, current President pro Tem Kevin de León, who will be termed out of his Senate seat in 2018 and is currently running for U.S. Senate, announced that the Senate’s Democratic caucus had reached a consensus on choosing me to succeed him as leader.

Senator Atkins with Kevin deLeon
With current Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León.

I am truly humbled by the trust my colleagues have placed in me, and I will work hard every day to earn that trust. Pro Tem de León did a wonderful job of ensuring that California is a place of opportunity for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or background.

I will honor his hard work by continuing along that path and taking every opportunity to improve quality of life for all residents.

At some point after the vote, there will be a transition of leadership, and I will work closely with the outgoing pro tem to make sure that it runs smoothly and seamlessly.

I am fortunate to have had the experience of leading the Assembly from 2014 to 2016. That gives me a unique perspective as I take up the reins in early 2018 to lead the Senate.

As speaker, I enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Governor Jerry Brown and pro Tem de León. Together, we framed and implemented an ambitious agenda, and accomplished what I believe were great things for the people of California:

  • We crafted a wide-ranging, $7.5-billion water bond and sent it to the ballot, where it became Proposition 1 and passed with more than 67 percent of the vote.
  • We created California’s first-ever Earned Income Tax Credit to put more money in the hands of our state’s struggling working families and individuals.
  • After 20 years of chaos surrounding the issue of medicinal marijuana, we created a framework for regulating cannabis in California.
  • We passed SB 350, major climate-change legislation requiring California to generate half of its electricity from renewable energy sources and double energy efficiency in all buildings.
  • In the final moments of my tenure as speaker, we passed a package of six bills to more tightly regulate tobacco in California.
  • We passed the landmark End of Life Options Act, allowing Californians suffering from painful terminal illnesses to end their lives on their own terms.
  • We increased funding by $337 million to care for Californians with developmental disabilities.
  • Ahead of our big housing package in 2017, we allocated $100 million for affordable housing in the 2014-15 budget – $50 million each for multifamily rental housing and permanent supportive housing. And we created the CalWORKS Housing Program, which allocated $20 million in the 2014-15 budget for rapid-rehousing of families in our state’s safety-net program who become homeless. That program was expanded to $35 million in the 2015-16 budget.
  • In addition to setting the stage for major housing legislation, we began the conversation that led to this year’s SB 1 – $5.4 billion annually to rebuild our transportation infrastructure.

Meanwhile, I was in a great position to enhance San Diego’s influence by increasing the number of local residents appointed to important statewide policy boards and commissions.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with my colleagues in the Senate, Speaker Rendon and my former colleagues in the Assembly, as well as Governor Brown, to improve life for everyone in San Diego and all of California.

New Laws in 2018

Each January 1st, a new batch of laws takes effect. Here is a rundown of some of what will happen on the first day of 2018:

Proposition 64: Approved by voters in 2016, Prop. 64 makes it legal starting January 1st for adults in California who are 21 or older to purchase and use marijuana recreationally - limited to use in a person’s private residence or a licensed facility. It establishes regulations and restrictions for vendors and initiates a 15-percent sales tax levied on all recreational transactions within the state. A separate measure, SB 65, amends an existing law that prohibits alcohol consumption in vehicles to include a prohibition on marijuana use.

SB 3 (2016): On January 1st, the California state minimum wage will increase to $10.50 for companies with 25 or fewer employees and $11 for companies with 26 or more employees.

SB 17: Requires that prescription-drug manufacturers must alert the state of California and various other prescription-drug purchasers if the wholesale price of a drug costing more than $40 increases by more than 16 percent over a two-year period.

SB 29: Bars the state from entering into new contracts with private companies that operate immigrant detention facilities.

SB 54: Prohibits law enforcement from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration-enforcement purposes.

SB 63: Requires businesses with 20 or more employees to allow an eligible worker to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected parental leave to bond with a new child, within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster-care placement. The law also requires an employer to maintain and pay for the employee’s continued group health coverage during the time of the leave.

AB 7: Makes it a misdemeanor to openly carry a shotgun or a rifle in public places within unincorporated areas of counties where the discharge of a firearm is already prohibited.

AB 249: Requires changes in content and format of disclosure statements on certain campaign advertisements so that they prominently identity the top three contributors who have donated $50,000 or more to the campaign.

SB 258: The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 requires manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose specified chemical ingredients on a product label and on the manufacturer’s website. California is the first state in the nation to implement this legislation.

SB 396:Requires employers with 50 or more employees to include, as a part of existing sexual-harassment training, training on harassment based on gender identity, and adds transgender and gender-nonconforming to the list of individuals facing employment barriers for the purposes of workforce training.

SB 575: Permits low-income Californians to obtain copies of their medical records for free when applying for public benefit programs such as Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, CalFresh, and veterans benefits.

AB 10: Requires public schools that include any combination of Grades 6 through 12 and serve students affected by poverty to stock at least 50 percent of the school’s restrooms with feminine hygiene products at all times, and it prohibits those schools from charging for such products.

AB 19: Establishes the California College Promise, which will distribute additional funding, upon approval by the Legislature, to community colleges that meet specific requirements, and waive the $46 per-unit fee for one academic year for first-time students.

AB 21: Requires state and private institutions of higher learning that receive Cal-Grant benefits to establish policies of protection against immigration-enforcement activities on campuses.

AB 168: Prohibits employers from seeking a job applicant’s salary history information and requires an employer to provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant upon request.

AB 450: Prohibits an employer from providing federal government immigration enforcement agents with access to any non-public areas of a place of labor if the agent does not have a warrant.

AB 693: Requires the sale of ammunition to be conducted by, or processed through, a licensed ammunition vendor. The bill prohibits direct purchase of ammunition on the Internet, but it allows a licensed vendor to be an intermediary to an online transaction for their customers.

AB 830: Permanently repeals the requirement that students pass the high-school exit exam as a condition of graduation from high school.

AB 1008: Prohibits an employer, with certain exceptions, from inquiring about or considering a job applicant’s conviction history before making a conditional offer of employment, and sets requirements regarding the consideration of conviction histories in employment decisions.

They Answered Our Call for Help

You might be aware that California has a mutual-aid system, under which local agencies from around the state send personnel and resources to areas where natural or manmade disasters are a major threat to public safety.

But did you know that our country has a similar system on the national level?

Under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, ratified by Congress in 1996, states send people and equipment to other states when disaster strikes.

Senator Atkins with Chief Adams
Getting a briefing on the Lilac Fire from Orange County Fire Division
Chief Jeff Adams, who helped CAL FIRE during our emergency.

During the recent wildfires in California, these states sent mutual aid to help protect our people, homes, and businesses:

New Mexico

I am grateful to the fire authorities in each and every one of those states for sending help in our time of need.

I am also grateful, of course, to all of the firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect us.

One of those brave firefighters – a San Diego County resident – CAL FIRE engineer Cory Iverson, lost his life in December while fighting the Thomas Fire, which has ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Cory, 32, was an eight-year fire veteran who leaves behind a wife, Ashley, and a 2-year-old daughter, Evie. Ashley is expecting another child in May.

My deepest condolences go out to her and all of Cory’s loved ones.

Sign Up for 'We All Count'

There’s still time to sign up to volunteer during “We All Count,” the San Diego County Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ annual survey of people living on the streets, in their cars, or in shelters.

The count will take place on January 26th, and if you are interested in dedicating your early-morning hours (4 to 7 a.m.) for this important event, you have until January 15th to sign up.

In the 39th Senate District, there are volunteer opportunities in Clairemont Mesa, Hillcrest, Mira Mesa, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Rancho Bernardo, University Heights, Mission Valley, and Downtown. See the full list of locations.

I’ve made it a personal priority to participate and encourage others to join me at this event. It demystifies homelessness and educates us all about who the homeless truly are. It also generates the data that help determine how resources are spent on reducing homelessness in our communities.

If you would like to participate, please Register online.

Enroll for Healthcare through Jan. 31

Just a friendly reminder that the open-enrollment period for the Accordable Care Act (ACA) ends on January 31st.

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.

Healthcare reform continues to be a topic of debate in Washington, D.C., and here in California. I will continue to both speak out in defense of the ACA and work to expand access for universal care.

Visit Covered California to find out what healthcare programs under the ACA you qualify for and apply

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


My district office is located at 1350 Front St., Room 4061, San Diego, CA 92101.

Around the District

It was an honor to be grand marshal of the 54th Annual North Park Toyland Parade - and to see my friends Al (left) and Bob Fisher!

I was pleased to join the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development for a workshop on how to apply for the California Competes Tax Credit program.

Thank you to Richard Campione, shown here with his mom, for holding a holiday event for Second Chance Dog Rescue at his home in North Park.


I talked to the San Diego City Council's select committee on homelessness about how my bill SB 2 can help.


It was another great Pacific Beach Holiday Parade!


It was an amazing turnout for the holiday open house I held with Assemblymembers Dr. Shirley Weber and Todd Gloria.