The Toni Times | April 2022
These are challenging times, but with April bringing us Earth Day, and observances like Easter and Passover and Ramadan, we also have opportunities for reflection and renewal.
On the other side of the world, the war against Ukraine has stolen lives, decimated cities, and wreaked havoc on a democratic nation and its people. It’s also had a massive ripple effect on the economy, and while we watch with broken hearts the devastation inflicted by a brutal bully, many families also are grappling with the financial impacts it’s had on our own state’s economy.
Not only are we seeing massive price spikes at fuel pumps throughout California, but the price of food and other consumer goods have soared, mortgage rates are on the rise, and the cost of living in general seems to keep climbing ever higher. That’s why my Senate Democratic colleagues and I are focused on keeping Californians – the very people who make this state so successful – at the center of our focus as we continue to develop our Senate budget priorities. More on that will be revealed in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to make clear my commitment – I know these are real issues that impact real people, and we are dedicated to finding real solutions that will help Californians.
One of the ways we hope to do that is with tax relief to help offset the cost increases we’ve all been experiencing. I am actively working with my colleagues in the Legislature, along with the Assembly Speaker and Governor, to bring forward meaningful relief that will return money from the General Fund to California families – and not just those who are drivers – as quickly as possible, while not impacting funds that are vital to schools and infrastructure. As we collectively reflect on this war and its impacts, my Senate colleagues and I are renewed in our resolve to finding the most equitable path forward for California.
I’d also like to take a quick moment to highlight two specific pieces of legislation I’m focusing on this spring.
- SB 1041 would make permanent the sales tax exemption for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) and other qualifying organizations that aid service members and their families. My family includes several active service members and veterans – my commitment to helping military families is rooted in firsthand knowledge of the many ways my own family sacrificed.
- SB 1375 would help address the current and projected shortage of health care professionals in California by clarifying existing law that allows nurse practitioners who meet specified criteria to practice without physician supervision, including first trimester abortion care.
There are more details about both of these bills later in this newsletter.
Jen and I hope everyone has a memorable, meaningful April. May your days offer moments for reflection, and your spirit find renewal and peace.
April is always a busy month in Sacramento as bills move through the legislative process. Budget subcommittees are hard at work vetting funding proposals, and policy committees are analyzing and debating hundreds of bills. I wanted to update you on some of my legislative priorities. I’ll be sure to update you on more bills later this spring.
Senate Bill 1041
As the daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, and aunt of active service members and veterans, I am acutely aware of the financial sacrifice that members of our armed forces make, in addition to their service to our country.
Recently, I introduced Senate Bill 1041, a measure to permanently extend the sales tax exemption for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) and other organizations that provide assistance to members of our Armed Forces, veterans, and their families. Organizations like the NMCRS provide vital support to thousands of California families, helping them to pay rent, cover medical expenses, pursue higher education goals, and so much more.
Making this sales tax exemption permanent allows these organizations to continue to provide meaningful support to military and veteran families across California.
Since 2014, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has distributed almost $11 million in aid each year to over 14,000 California-based service members, veterans, and military family members. For more information about the services that the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provides visit their website.
Senate Bill 1375
Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work at a women’s health clinic in San Diego. If you told me then that we would still be fighting for abortion access in 2022, I would have been floored and furious. Yet, in statehouses and courthouses across the country, our reproductive rights are being stolen from us. That’s not the case in California—not if I, or my California Legislative Women’s Caucus colleagues, have anything to say about it.
Right now, California is facing a serious shortage of primary care clinicians, especially in Latino, Black, and Native American communities, a problem that is expected to worsen in the next 10 years. Additionally, 40 percent of counties in the state lack clinics that provide abortions. That’s why I introduced SB 1375. This bill would expand access to abortion and reproductive care by giving more trained and qualified nurse practitioners the ability to provide first trimester abortions, within the terms of their license, without the supervision of a doctor.
The legislation clarifies that, among other criteria, nurse practitioners need three years of experience working under a physician in order to qualify to practice independently. This includes the many experienced nurse practitioners in the field who have already worked for more than three years and are ready to work independently today. It also clarifies that first trimester abortion services is an area of care that independent nurse practitioners are able to provide.
Assembly Bill 2343
Last May, my legislative colleagues and I responded to public concerns related to a high number of deaths in San Diego County Jails. The loss of life detailed in the February California State Auditor’s report was sobering and tragic. These deaths were caused by a breakdown in policies and inadequate oversight. That’s unacceptable. These people did not deserve to die. In response, I have partnered with Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber to introduce Assembly Bill 2343, the Saving Lives in Custody Act.
This bill would ensure that the state’s jail systems meet or exceed nationwide standards for care, include transparent policies and practices, and provide training and hold staff accountable. All people should be treated with dignity, even while in custody.
Before the pandemic, school groups were a common sight in the Capitol corridors, but we have not been able to host students in recent years due to health and safety restrictions. So it was especially heartening to welcome students from Christ the Cornerstone Elementary School to the California State Capitol last month.
It was an honor to meet the future leaders of our state as they explored the hallowed halls of our state’s Capitol building, and I was glad they could experience it before we start construction on the new Capitol Annex. The new adjacent building will replace the old Annex, which housed a majority of our Senate and Assembly offices.
The historic Capitol building, where my office is located, is a museum as well as a workplace, so students can learn how bills become laws and see historic rooms that have been preserved to show how the Capitol functioned in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is always a joy to meet with such inquisitive, bright young people. I think they had a good time too, judging by the wonderful thank you letters they sent. Thank you, students!
We All Count Unsheltered Survey
I’d like to thank the more than 1,400 volunteers across San Diego County who participated in the federally-mandated ”point-in-time” WeAllCount event. Team Toni coordinated with the Downtown San Diego Partnership staff and volunteers to count and speak with people experiencing homeless in the 39th Senate District.
The data collected in this count is vital for elected officials at the local, state and national level. It helps allocate resources for addressing homelessness to our communities, like the record $12 billion the state invested in last year’s budget.
And it provides a compelling glimpse at who is impacted by homelessness. My team spoke to one person living in a tent downtown who said they are a veteran who worked in construction three years ago, but a back injury forced them out of work. Another person shared that they have lived on the street on-and-off since they were two years old. Every person who is unhoused has a different story, and I’d encourage us all to be compassionate as we continue to work on ways to address homelessness and find solutions to help those in need.
New Affordable Housing Opens
Everyone deserves a place to call home, which is why it was so exciting to participate in the grand opening of the Ivy Senior Apartments in Clairemont on March 18. This site includes 52 affordable housing units for formerly homeless seniors, as well as wrap-around services and care for residents. This project is a public-private partnership success story between the state, the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego, PATH San Diego, and St. Paul’s PACE San Diego.
At the state level, I am committed to supporting more affordable housing projects like this one through budget resources, tax credits and a dedicated funding stream made possible by my legislation, SB 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, which became law in 2017. When I authored this bill, my hope was that it would be used to create opportunities for more affordable housing. Today, it is not only being used to build homes, but it is also providing a more equitable approach to achieving the California dream.
Thank you to the Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation for creating this new housing opportunity, and to all in the community who supported this project.
New Hillcrest Mural
There is some new, eye-catching artwork in the 39th Senate District! The mural on the corner of University and 6th Avenue in Hillcrest transforms the wall along the AT&T building, and it was great to participate in its unveiling last month.
Designed and created by local artist, Jason Gould, this artwork is a visual greeting saying, “Welcome to our neighborhood.” The entire project is about San Diegans collaborating on a visual way to beautify our community. Thank you to AT&T and the Hillcrest Business Association for partnering together to make it happen.
This is the quintessential example of how the arts can take what was just a building on a street corner and turn it into something memorable and engaging for the community. Be sure to check it out – alongside our small businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood, it adds to the vibrant diversity that makes Hillcrest so wonderful!
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