April 2018 Newsletter

April 2, 2018

A Note from Toni

The past couple of months have been incredibly busy in the state Capitol as I’ve transitioned from rank-and-file member of the Senate to the 48th Senate President pro Tempore -- a fancy mouthful of a title that simply means “leader.”

I’ve been busy making staffing decisions, working on institutional issues and processes, and meeting with my colleagues to hear their ideas and desires for the Senate going forward. There really hasn’t been much time to stop and reflect on what it all means.

Swearing-In Ceremony

Everything came to something of a crescendo on March 21, when the Senate voted me in as the next leader and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye administered the oath of office and swore me in.

The day started appropriately with a breakfast with my colleagues in the Legislative Women’s Caucus, and I was so pleased that some my close female friends from San Diego were able to join us. And it ended appropriately with a celebration thrown by my colleagues in the LGBT Caucus.

I say “appropriately” because I am in the fortunate position of becoming the first woman and the first member of the LGBTQ community elected as Senate leader. While I am not completely comfortable being talked about as “making history,” it’s important to recognize these milestones in gratitude to all of the courageous people who came before me and worked so hard for so long to see this happen. It is important to honor those pioneers and trailblazers.

For someone who doesn’t love to be center of attention, the ceremony itself was a bit excruciating but incredibly touching, as outgoing President pro Tem Kevin de Leon and some of my colleagues spoke kind and thoughtful words. With their dedication to constituents, their hard work, and their great ideas for improving the California experience, they and all of my colleagues inspire me more than they know.

When it was my turn to speak, I acknowledged the firsts that were being achieved, and I talked about our state’s progress and prosperity and how we must ensure that everyone – no matter how they look, who they love or where their parents were born – can climb life’s ladder and be whoever they want to be.

I also challenged my colleagues -- and myself -- to take personal responsibility for changing the workplace culture in the Capitol, to create an environment where everyone feels safe, valued, and respected. We must hold ourselves to the highest standards and lead by example.

And I told them that I have no interest in the traditional, petty rivalries that can sometimes make policy progress more difficult. Senator or Assemblymember, Republican or a Democrat, rural or urban, north, south or central – we are all Californians.

Having said that, I must acknowledge that I take immense pride in representing San Diego, and I plan to make sure our region receives an equitable share of the resources that our state government provides. I will also ensure that we are well-represented on important statewide boards and commissions that make decisions that affect our lives in profound ways.

As I sometimes say, only half-jokingly, being in leadership gives me an opportunity to remind the Capitol community that there is a part of California that lies south of Los Angeles!

In all seriousness, I am someone who will never, ever forget where I come from, who I represent, and who has lifted me up and given me opportunities to succeed.

In a nutshell, that is San Diego and the people who live here and work so hard to make it the fantastic place that it is. I consider you my partners, so -- as I said at the end of my remarks on March 21 -- let’s get to work!

Scenes from the Swearing-In

With Governor Jerry Brown
With our great Governor Jerry Brown.

Toni Atkins and Jennifer LeSar
With my amazing spouse, Jennifer LeSar.

Taking the oath
Taking the oath.

Capitol and District Staffs
With my Capitol and district staffs - so proud of them!

Christine Kehoe and Dede Alpert
With San Diego legends Christine Kehoe and Dede Alpert.

City Council colleage Jim Madaffer
With City Council colleague Jim Madaffer.

San Diego Women
With a group of incredible San Diego women.

Kevin Tilden, Ben and Nikki Clay, Robert Gleason
With my San Diego friends Kevin Tilden, Ben and Nikki Clay, and Robert Gleason.


An Update on my Legislation

In 2017, the first year of the current two-year session, Governor Jerry Brown signed all 12 of my bills that were sent to him by the Legislature. Here is a rundown of the legislation I have introduced in 2018:

SB 945: In 2016, Governor Brown signed my bill AB 1795, providing uninsured and underinsured Californians with expanded access to treatment for breast cancer and cervical cancer. SB 945 builds on AB 1795 by removing arbitrary time limits for care. Currently, the state Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program stops providing medical care for breast cancer after 18 months and cervical cancer after 24 months, regardless of medical need. SB 945 removes those limits and requires continuation of treatment as long as necessary.

SB 970: Hotels and motels are ground zero for human traffickers, which means they’re hiding their criminal activities in plain sight. SB 970 will require all hotels and motels in California to provide training for their employees on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and report those signs to law enforcement.

SB 1005: Sometimes, survivors of domestic abuse who must flee their home to get away from their abuser can’t afford the extra rent or deposit required to move their dog or cat into a new apartment. SB 1005 makes explicitly clear that survivors of violent crimes, such as domestic violence, may use state-provided victim-relocation funds to which they are already entitled to pay for expenses related to housing an animal companion.

SB 1086: Thanks to AB 1035, passed in 2014, if a public-safety officer dies from a job-related illness more than 240 weeks after being diagnosed, his or her family can still qualify for state-provided survivor death benefits. The bill stretched that statute of limitations to 420 weeks. However, AB 1035 is scheduled to sunset in 2019. My bill, SB 1086, removes the sunset and makes the 420-week limit permanent. A police officer or firefighter’s family should not have to suffer because she or he lived too long.

SB 1125: Currently, if a patient receives treatment through Medi-Cal at a community health center from both a medical provider and a mental-health specialist on the same day, the state will reimburse the center for only one visit. A patient must seek mental-health treatment on a subsequent day in order for that treatment to be reimbursed as a second visit. There’s no good reason for that. SB 1125 allows health centers to bill Medi-Cal for both visits, even if they occur on the same day. This change will ensure that more people get the mental-health services they need.

SB 1367: This bill follows up on two of my previous bills – AB 392, which made the San Diego River Conservancy permanent, and SB 214, which strengthened the conservancy’s capacity to protect and enhance the San Diego River watershed. SB 1367 gives the San Diego River Conservancy the power to help protect and enhance other nearby rivers – the Otay, Sweetwater, and Tijuana Rivers – and their watersheds by helping identify and pursue funding sources, developing strategic plans, and working with local nonprofits and government agencies.


Woman of the Year

Vicki Granowitz
With Woman of the Year Vicki Granowitz.

In March, I was pleased to welcome North Park resident Vicki Granowitz to Sacramento and the Senate floor as my 2018 Woman of the Year honoree for the 39th District! Vicki formerly was the chair of the North Park Planning Committee and is currently a member of the San Diego Planning Commission. I have known her for many years and have long admired and appreciated her commitment to improving North Park and all of San Diego. She has a warm, generous spirit and is fiercely dedicated to community service. Congratulations, Vicki – and thank you!


My Staff at Your Service

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

Recently, a constituent and business owner in San Diego was having trouble connecting with the state Economic Development Department’s (EDD) Office of Taxpayer Rights. She needed help in dealing with a lien that a bank had placed on her business’ account. Frustrated, she gave up and contacted my district office for help. My staff was able to reach EDD on the constituent’s behalf, and EDD worked with her to create a payment plan to settle the lien in a way that worked well for her.

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

Burlingame Neighborhood Association
I'm always excited to visit with my close neighbors at the annual Burlingame Neighborhood Association meeting.


Serving Seniors
It was an amazing day at Serving Seniors, where VSP Vision Care provided eye tests and new glasses for our struggling seniors.


Linda Vista Planning Group
Happy to speak with the Linda Vista Planning Group - the first local community group I got to visit with as pro Tem!


California School Employees Association
I appreciated the chance to share my thoughts on healthcare policy with members of the California School Employees Association.


Serra Mesa Community Council
Talked weighty issues with the Serra Mesa Community Council - housing, infrastructure, and redevelopment.


Rolando Street Fair
Great time at the Rolando Street Fair!

Allied Gardens-Grantville Community Council Meeting
Nice community turnout at the Allied Gardens-Grantville Community Council meeting.