October 2018 Newsletter

September 28, 2018

A Note from Toni

Senate Colleagues at the Global Climate Action Summit
With my Senate colleagues Ben Allen, Bill Monning, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Ricardo Lara at the Global Climate Action Summit.

During the past several years, California has been hit especially hard by extreme weather events, from our historic five-year drought, to floods, record heat, and, most recently, devastating wildfires. Last year’s fires were among the deadliest on record, and this year we saw the largest fire in state history, the Mendocino-Complex. Thousands of firefighters are still battling more than a dozen blazes across the state.

It’s impossible to ignore the connection between these historically intense natural disasters and the unnatural climatic changes behind them. Scientists are increasingly certain that it’s no coincidence, and they’ve been warning us for years that we’re likely to experience even worse disasters unless we get serious about climate change.

Fortunately, California has taken these threats to heart. We’ve long been a leader in clean energy, energy efficiency, and pollution reduction. September brought a few important milestones for California’s climate leadership.

Governor Jerry Brown played host to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, bringing together public- and private-sector leaders from around the world to step up our commitment to climate action. Senate Democrats were center stage after passing some of the strongest clean energy and climate policies in the nation – and the world – including making California the first major economy on the planet to commit to 100% clean energy by 2045.

Despite the recent climate-related chaos we’ve experienced here and across the nation – and the increasingly dire warnings from scientists at the Summit – it was hard not to feel hopeful about the future surrounded by so many innovative thinkers and leaders. Among the many brilliant speakers and important perspectives represented at the Summit, a couple stood out to me as particularly important.

Richard Trumka – a third-generation coal miner and President of the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in America – had a powerful message for the audience, and one that anyone who cares about climate change should heed: If climate solutions don’t lift up working people, including coal miners, we will never have the coalition necessary to make meaningful change. He argued that, important as they are, the abstract benefits of climate action don’t pay the bills or put food on the table for working families. It’s a lesson in raw politics that can’t be ignored, and it resonated with me in particular, as the daughter of a coal miner myself.

Fortunately, California has shown that climate action is also about job creation – with more than 500,000 clean-energy jobs, we’re helping families thrive while also cutting the pollution that warms the planet and drives extreme weather. Now, we have to export that winning recipe to Washington, and then the world.

Another important takeaway for me was the connection between climate action and women’s empowerment. Around the world women bear the brunt of climate change in many ways. If we want to solve this problem, we need to empower women to lead and find solutions that improve quality of life for everyone.

There are countless other lessons to be learned, and perhaps more than anything, I appreciated the way this event brought together so many people from diverse backgrounds, including elected officials from every level of government and from every corner of the planet, to industry leaders in transportation, healthcare, and retail.

We have a long road ahead of us to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, but some of the brightest minds in the world are hard at work finding solutions, and for a week, at least, we had the honor of hosting them in California.


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. This year, as I was beginning my tenure as Senate Leader, I carried six bills through the legislative process. Below is a rundown of those bills.

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. Funding for the expansion of cancer treatment resulting from the removal of these barriers was included in the new state budget that took effect on July 1, making it unnecessary for SB 945 to move forward.

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. I am grateful for the support of the California Hotel and Lodging Association on this legislation. Signed by the Governor!

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. Unfortunately, this bill was not signed, but I will continue to pursue this policy change.

SB 1086: Thanks to AB 1035, which 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. This legislation provides needed support to families of police officers and firefighters. Signed by the Governor!

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. This is neither logical nor good health-care policy. SB 1125 allows health centers to bill Medi-Cal for both visits, even if they occur on the same day. This change would ensure that more people get the mental-health services they need. Unfortunately, this bill was not signed, but I will continue to pursue this policy change.

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 ability 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. Signed by the Governor!




Old Town Building Will Soon Be a Park

Old Town Building Construction

It won’t be long before the old Caltrans complex at Juan and Taylor streets in Old Town is reduced to rubble – and then a memory. In September, I was thrilled to gather with other state and local officials, community members and representatives of the native Kumeyaay people to announce that the process of tearing down the old buildings will soon begin.

In their place will be a magnificent park that respects and reflects the rich history of the land beneath the structures and serves as an entryway to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The park will pay homage to the people who made the area home as far back as 13,000 years ago and give visitors a sense of the historic importance of the nearby San Diego River, whose route once traversed this property.

I want to thank State Parks, Caltrans, the Natural Resources Agency and the Governor’s office for working together on this project.

The project is expected to take approximately one year to complete. I’m grateful to the many people who worked with so hard, for so long, to make it happen!


Investing in Children and Life-Saving Innovation

Investing in our Children

I was so proud to join Rady Children’s Hospital in announcing California’s investment in Project Baby Bear, in which at least 100 critically ill newborns from families in the Medi-Cal program will undergo whole genome sequencing. This will lead to better, more efficient treatment and higher quality of life. I have high hopes that this pilot project will prove effective and be expanded in the near future.

It was so nice to meet little Maverick, his parents and his adorable big sister, who was having so much fun peering through the transparent podium while her mother spoke. Maverick (pictured above in his mother's arms) was suffering from seizures and under threat of organ failure before whole genome sequencing — and the information that was gathered from it — saved his life.

This cutting-edge innovation was pioneered in San Diego. It’s a great achievement for our city and a wonderful day for California.

It was also a fun coincidence meeting Daniela Carvalho (pictured below), a doctor at Rady who also happens to be the mother of Bea De Oliveira, a new intern in my district office from Torrey Pines High School!

Daniela Carvalho



My Staff at Your Service

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

Recently, a constituent whose brother is an inmate at Donovan State Prison called my office because she learned that he had undergone emergency surgery the day before, but she couldn’t get any information about his condition. It seems there was no document on file at the prison allowing for medical information to be released.

My staff contacted the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and learned that the surgery was successful and that the inmate would likely be returning to Donovan the following day. We relayed that information to his sister and worked with Corrections staff to get a release on file allowing her to receive his medical information going forward.

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
Pamela Ison: District Director
Deanna Spehn: Policy Director
Jason Weisz: Senior Field Representative
Toni Duran: Field Representative
Chevelle Tate: Field Representative
Ryan Trabuco: Field Representative
Tylisa Suseberry: Executive Assistant / Scheduler
David Rolland: Director of Media and Editorial

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

Barona Band of Mission
Pleased to help the Barona Band of Mission Indians present a grant for enhanced technology in classrooms at Johnson Elementary School in Emerald Hills.


Coastal Cleanup
Team Toni was on the scene with I Love a Clean San Diego for the 34th annual Coastal Cleanup Day! I’m grateful to the thousands of volunteers out there beautifying our beaches, bays and canyons!


Burlingame Block Party
I always look forward to coming home to the annual Burlingame Block Party. I’ve known many of the neighbors here since I was a council rep for Christine Kehoe in the ’90s.


Kehoe trail
Honored to help dedicate the Sen. Christine Kehoe Trail & Wetland Buffer at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It’s a crucial link in the Coast to Crest Trail. Christine would not give up on this project!


Pancake Breakfast
It was a fantastic morning at the Ocean Beach Town Council’s 20th Annual Pier Pancake Breakfast! I had a blast flipping and serving pancakes to the hundreds of Obecians who came out.


South Bay Pride Selfie
What a beautiful day to come together and celebrate our LGBTQ and allied community at South Bay Pride. I loved seeing all the voter registration booths and so many people of all ages talking about how important it is to vote!



I was pleased to join Spectrum at the Mira Mesa Library and present a $20,000 check to the San Diego Futures Foundation to support digital literacy among seniors in our community — and recognize the efforts of several senior tech ambassadors.