The Toni Times | December 2023
When I work on the monthly Note from Toni for the newsletter, I like to pour a cup of coffee and pretend like I’m talking to folks sitting around our kitchen table. That helps me share what’s been going on with the Capitol and our office in a way that’s maybe a little less formal. This month is a tough one to write, with all that is going on in the Middle East, and some of the turmoil we’re seeing in our own communities here in California and across the country. But in this holiday season, especially, we have to keep going and truly believe that Peace on Earth is possible, even if it takes levels of effort that are hard for us to even comprehend at the moment. We have to keep trying.
Hanukkah starts in a few days. This year, I know for many people joy is tempered by sadness, and even fear, as antisemitism has grown to historic proportions according to the FBI. We owe it to each other to oppose hate and discrimination in all forms. Given the enormity of history, we certainly must also remember that “never again” is right now. And I hope that this year’s celebration of the Festival of Lights can inspire miracles that lead toward a brighter path forward.
Like so many families, for Jen and me (and Joey and Mia) December means the start of Christmas decorations, music, and memories. It is a time to be grateful for the blessings we have, as well as thankful for the remembrances of all those loved and lost who are always on our minds this time of year. Though it’s hard to have a favorite time of year in San Diego, there are so many fun events going on all around town during the holidays, including the December Nights in beautiful Balboa Park that runs December 1st and 2nd—which is a great way to kick-off the season with family and friends.
One quick December policy note if I may—this time of year we usually have a pretty good idea what the budget forecast for the next year is going to be, and that informs the Legislature’s budget process as well as the Governor's. This year is a little different, because the filing deadline for tax returns was extended to November 15th. We are moving forward, and will adjust as the revenue picture becomes clearer and solidifies in May 2024.
Speaking of tax returns, this is also a good time to remind everybody that if you or someone you know is eligible for the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit, you can file for the credit—and for back years—all year-round. This is a great way to get money back in the pockets of workers and families, and also back into local shops and businesses. More information and assistance are available at CalEITC4me.org
From December 26 through January 1, Balboa Park will also be home to events during Kwanzaa, the African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, family, community, and culture. So there are even more great opportunities to visit our city’s crown jewel during the holidays. The celebration of Kwanzaa traditionally concludes with the lighting of candles, bringing us full circle with the lighting of candles to mark Hanukkah. And right now, we need all the light, love, and miracles we can get.
Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!
PS—Jen, if you’re reading, Dolly’s new album “Rockstar” comes in my size. Just saying.
One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is getting to work with and alongside lawmakers who care deeply about issues impacting California. Each year, I love being able to partner with them on legislation that uplifts Californians and builds community across our state. Here is some information on the bills I have co-sponsored and co-authored which have been signed by the Governor.
AB 268 (Weber) – Raising Standards of Care in Local Detention Facilities
As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, this legislation acts as a complementary bill to my SB 519, and will change the composition of the Board of State and Community Corrections to include both a medical professional and mental health professional. The bill also will require the Board to adopt standards of care pertaining to incarcerated persons with mental health issues. Will go into effect January 1, 2024.
SB 54 (Skinner) – Transparency in Venture Capital
This legislation will help to bring transparency to California venture capital companies and increase the capital available to firms owned by women and minorities, by requiring annual diversity reporting from VC firms. Will go into effect January 1, 2024.
SB 321 (Ashby) – Student Access to Libraries
This legislation will direct the California State Library to facilitate partnerships between elementary schools and local public libraries, connecting young students to library resources available to them. It will also empower schools and libraries to issue Student Success Cards, important resources that can connect students to library resources, including online tutors, homework helpers, books, and other educational resources. Will go into effect January 1, 2024.
SB 401 (Limón) – Crypto ATM Reform
Cryptocurrency ATMs, which often look like normal ATMs, are disproportionately placed in low-income communities and charge disproportionate transaction fees. Under this legislation, Crypto ATMs will be required to charge a maximum 10% cap on fees, mitigate harm from fraud by establishing a maximum $1,000 transaction limit per day, and will require new disclosure requirements for the operators of those ATMs. Will go into effect January 1, 2024.
SB 760 (Newman) – Equitable Restroom Access
This legislation will require all K-12 schools in California to provide appropriate and equitable access to all-gender restrooms for students to use during school hours. Will go into effect January 1, 2024.
SB 223 (Menjivar) – Privacy for Change of Gender and Sex Identifiers
This legislation will prevent online discovery of sex or gender change identifiers that could lead to “outing” and harassment of LGBTQ+ minors by requiring that any petition for a change of sex or gender identifier filed in court by a minor will be automatically sealed. Will go into effect January 1, 2024.
ACA 5 (Low) – Marriage Equality Amendment
This legislation will give voters the opportunity to remove the unconstitutional and discriminatory language in the California Constitution added by Proposition 8. It would further amend the state Constitution to protect the fundamental freedom to marry, safeguarding against future attempts to restrict marriage rights for same-sex or interracial couples. Will go before voters in November 2024.
When I was growing up, my family didn’t have routine access to healthcare, and the effects echoed – from not receiving important preventative care, to incurring hospital bills that strained our family finances beyond our means. Thanks to Covered California, though, for the last 11 years Californians have had the opportunity to sign up for high quality health insurance with the click of a button!
If you or someone you know is looking for coverage in the new year, you have until open enrollment closes on January 31 to shop, compare plans, and sign up through Covered California for insurance that begins on February 1. Many members can also take advantage of financial help to lower their monthly premiums, including an estimated 79,000 people in San Diego. Check out your options for free at CoveredCA.com.
This year’s budget allocated $1 million to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance for their California Wildlife Health and Zoonotic Disease program. It is fascinating to see first-hand the work done at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research that helps investigate and remove disease as a roadblock to conservation. One example is Avian Influenza, which can impact poultry as well as migratory birds.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds, takes a critical leadership role with its commitment to environmental stewardship. Their Water Quality Treatment Initiative is the first to incorporate natural wetlands with traditional mechanical stormwater treatment.
LEAD San Diego’s Advance program helps elevate women into executive roles, corporate boardrooms, and top leadership positions in government and nonprofit organizations throughout our community. I applaud the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce for investing in the value, perspective, and leadership of women.
I toured the Harter Veterinary Medical Center, where they provide high-quality care for the wildlife at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This state-of-the-art facility opened in 2001 with veterinary services including anything from x-rays to cataract removal and other specialized care.