The Toni Times | March 2022
This month, we continue to watch the disturbing and dangerous events unfolding in Ukraine, and pray for the safety of the Ukrainian people. Spring is often a harbinger of hope, and we certainly need that now.
I’m hopeful because March brings with it early budget actions in Sacramento, and projections continue to show that this will be another great year for historic investments and savings thanks to California’s commonsense, voter-approved revenue system. One of the first early budget actions we’ve already taken is extending California’s COVID-19 paid sick leave program through September 30, 2022. That helps protect the health of frontline workers and allows businesses to continue to stabilize and succeed. We’ve also taken early actions to restore some tax breaks for small businesses that were deferred by the pandemic.
I’m hopeful this March because, as I write this, COVID-19 numbers are continuing down after our precautions during the Omicron surge, and the path toward normal could be coming into sight. Diligence is still the word of the day though—it would be a shame, the closer we get to having safer and healthier communities, to rush ahead of the science as we navigate the ongoing—and God willing final— twists and turns of this crisis.
I’m hopeful this women’s history month because more women are running for elected office and women like our region’s own Kallie Humphries and Elena Meyers-Taylor, and former resident Lindsay Jacobellis, are bringing home medals from the Winter Olympics – and one of the most talented and generous women in the world was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, by the way, if you don’t think Dolly is rock and roll, well, she was not only bad enough to take on Jolene, she just announced she’s paying for all of Dollywood’s employees’ educational costs—not only rocking the world, but improving it!
Honestly, though, the most hope I see right now may come from Mia and Joey. With daylight saving time beginning this month, they seem to believe no matter how late mom gets home from work the chances of a long walk are going to get better. I have to say, with all the work ahead of us, that gives me something else to hope for, too!
Women’s History Month is one of my favorite times of the year, because it gives us a chance to pause and recognize the diverse achievements and contributions women have made.
Every March, my colleagues and I each select one woman from our districts to honor in the Capitol as part of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus “Woman of the Year” celebration. This year, I have chosen a woman who works on the front lines of the war on women’s rights and reproductive justice, Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood the Pacific Southwest and Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest.
With 19 health centers across San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial counties, Darrah leads one of the largest Planned Parenthood affiliates, as they provide more than 240,000 patients with in-person and telehealth care each year. As access to high-quality medical services have become increasingly critical these past two years, and with a looming Supreme Court decision on the fate of Roe vs. Wade and other laws that seek to restrict abortion access, the work Darrah and her team do to provide care for anyone in need is admirable and essential.
I invited Darrah to explain what being named the 39th Senate District’s Woman of the Year means to her.
“I am deeply honored to have been chosen for the 2022 Woman of the Year award by Senate President pro Tempore Atkins,” Darrah said. “It means so much to me to be recognized by such a relentless champion for reproductive health and rights. In the face of pandemic-related challenges and unrelenting political attacks, we have been able to stay true to our mission and our work to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need – no matter who they are or where they live. A huge thank you to the dedicated team of staff, volunteers and Board members at Planned Parenthood who fight every day to build a world where sexual and reproductive rights are treated as basic human rights, and where everyone can get the care they need without fear, judgement, or barriers.”
Congratulations, Darrah, and thank you for all you do.
Women of the District
This year, I turned to you for nominations of outstanding women in the 39th Senate District, and I was so impressed by all the incredible people you suggested. Thank you for lending your voice to support the many women leaders that make our community so great.
I will announce the list of local honorees later this month, so be sure to watch your inbox!
Last month, the City of San Diego took a positive step in helping address our state’s housing crisis by implementing the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency Act (HOME Act). This law, also known as SB 9, went into effect on Jan. 1 and was one of several pieces of legislation focused on easing the state’s housing crisis – a crisis that continues to be a focal point this legislative year.
SB 9, which received bipartisan support in the Capitol, allows homeowners to be part of the solution, creating a new source of income in their own backyard and new housing options for people who want to live in the neighborhoods where they work, all the while respecting local cities and planning agencies.
It was gratifying to see SB 9 implemented as part of Mayor Todd Gloria’s Housing Action Package. The City of Solana Beach took action as well, and the cities of Del Mar and Coronado are both proactively working to create language that tailors the law to their communities.
The HOME Act is another viable tool that families across our state can use to build intergenerational wealth for themselves and new housing opportunities for others.
Tax season is upon us! As you prepare to file, take a few minutes to see if you can get some money back in your pocket with the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC).
The CalEITC, along with the California Young Child Tax Credit, federal EITC, and federal Child Tax Credit may reduce the amount of taxes you owe or increase your refund. One of my proudest achievements as Speaker of the Assembly was the creation of the CalEITC. Since then, I’ve worked with my colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor to expand this program several times so that more and more of California’s working families can benefit from it. That included providing vital stimulus checks to assist folks struggling through the pandemic. By giving Californians more money to spend on groceries, gas, and other essential items, the CalEITC helped families while also helping our economy.
The CalEITC credit provided nearly $1 billion to families in 2021. To see if you could be one of the many to claim this benefit in 2022, visit CalEITC4Me.org.
Thanks in large part to the work of César Chávez and other labor leaders, California has long led the nation on workers’ rights, particularly the protection of farmworkers. That is why it was so disappointing when, last June, the United States Supreme Court struck down a California rule that had allowed union organizers to meet with farmworkers on farms during off hours. The regulation, which Chávez fought hard to see adopted, recognized the reality that farmworkers have long days in rural areas and often live on the property, making it difficult for them to meet with union organizers if they cannot do so on the farm. The Supreme Court’s decision is a huge blow to a farmworker’s ability to unionize and advocate for fair working conditions.
As we have witnessed throughout the pandemic, farmworkers play an essential role in keeping our grocery aisles stocked and bolstering our state’s economy. They perform backbreaking labor, often through tough conditions, such as the extreme heat and wildfire smoke that has been worsened by climate change. Chávez spent his life shining a light on the plight of farmworkers and fought for them to be treated with the same dignity, respect, and protection as workers in any other industry. That is the least we can do for people who do so much for all of us. Chávez may not be with us anymore, but his legacy lives on. His memory is one we honor. His fight for progress is one we must remain committed to, always.
State-Funded District Projects Moving Forward
(Construction signs and fencing surround the Botanical Building in Balboa Park in preparation for the upcoming updates.)
During my time as Senate President pro Tempore, it has been a privilege to advocate for state funding that benefits our communities and regional assets, both in the 39th Senate District and throughout San Diego County. I wanted to share some updates on a few of these projects.
Project Update: Balboa Park Botanical Building
In 2019, I was able to allocate $8.2 million in the state budget to restore the iconic Balboa Park Botanical Building. If you take a walk through the park today, you’ll see temporary facades and fencing are now in place around it. I’m told that the pond will soon be drained, but never fear—a number of plants will be salvaged and relocated to a nursery. Don’t let these changes alarm you—they mean the much-anticipated construction will begin soon! The upgrades, which have been made possible by a public-private partnership, are projected to finish in two years. For more information on this project, be sure to sign up for email updates from Forever Balboa Park.
Project Update: Pure Water
The $50 million included in last year’s budget for Pure Water Phase 1 is now in the hands of the City of San Diego. The city plans to use the funds to cover the pump station and conveyance to get the wastewater from its initial treatment at the North City Water Reclamation Facility to the new Pure Water plant. They will also help cover the cost of the reverse osmosis membrane technology. Once complete, the project will provide half of our city's clean, reliable, recycled supply of water by 2035. You can stay up to date here.
Project Update: Oak Park Library
Finally, an update that is particularly special to me. In February, Team Toni took a tour of the proposed site for the future Oak Park Library. What is now an empty lot within Chollas Creek Regional Park and near Chollas Lake, will one day be a brand new, 20,000 square-foot, single-story library.
The project is estimated to take four years to complete once all the funding has been allocated. Libraries are key centers of our communities and I was happy to help advocate for $300,000 in state funding for this project. Team Toni was happy to take the tour with project partners, including the City of San Diego City Council, the Parks and Recreation Department, Friends of the Library, and the Oak Park Community Council, as well as Councilmember Monica Mongomery Steppe, and the offices of Assemblymember Akilah Weber, and Mayor Todd Gloria.
Honoring Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Ardem Patapoutian
Team Toni was honored to meet Nobel Laureate Dr. Ardem Patapoutian and present him with a Senate Resolution in recognition of his outstanding work in neuroscience. Dr. Patapoutian lives in Del Mar and works at the prestigious Scripps Research Institute. His incredible and innovative research continues to push our city, region, and state forward. As an immigrant who left Lebanon during turbulent times, his achievement is even more inspiring. Learn more about him here.
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