Latest E-Newsletter

June 1, 2023

A Note from Toni

Ready for summer? It will be here before we know it. Another of my country music favorites, Clint Black, once had a song that said in summer, “every night is a Saturday night.” That’s something I think we can all relate to, living in a place where summer is one of the best times of year in one of the most beautiful places around.

Right now in the Capitol, it feels a lot more like Monday morning than Saturday night, however, as we are experiencing one of the busiest times of the legislative year.  We are in the midst of several marathon sessions to meet what’s called the “House of Origin Deadline.” That’s when all the bills introduced in the Senate have to be either approved and sent to the Assembly, become bills that will be finalized next year, or cross the legislative equivalent of the Rainbow Bridge. The same goes for bills authored in the Assembly. At the writing of this Note, we have passed hundreds of Senate bills, reflecting the hard work of 40 state Senators, each of whom represent nearly one million Californians.

This month of deadlines also includes California’s Constitutional requirement to complete the annual state budget by June 15. As we work with the Assembly to finalize a budget to send to the Governor, we continue to advance the Senate’s key priorities, which include Protecting Our Progress on core programs and services, responsible budgeting, and safeguarding Californians from further economic hardship. While inflation continues to be a challenge, California remains strong, and I am confident we will once again provide a balanced, on-time, and responsible budget.

On June 19th, a few days after the budget deadline, Californians will once again celebrate Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. While some attempt to minimize the stain of slavery on our nation’s history and conscience, Juneteenth is an excellent way to learn from the past as we continue to build a more equitable future. The observance of Juneteenth has grown in recent years, and I’m hoping that trend continues.

Thanks for reading, and here’s hoping a summer filled with Saturday nights is in your future!



Pride Month 2023



Even though San Diego’s LGBTQ+ Pride events are traditionally held in July, June is nationally recognized as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, commemorating the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in June 1969, which sparked the movement for LGBTQ+ equality.

Pride Month is both a time to celebrate the freedom to live our lives openly and authentically, as well as a call to action to secure and preserve equal protection under the law. While there has been remarkable progress toward equality and acceptance, the LGBTQ+ community remains under attack, with increasing violence, especially against transgender women of color, and other states introducing hundreds of hateful anti-LGBTQ+ bills.  

Each year, the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus honors individuals who have worked to advance LGBTQ+ equality. This year, I nominated Janessa Goldbeck, a decorated LGBTQ+ Marine Corps veteran who, in addition to deploying overseas, fought a policy that banned women from top jobs in the military and stood up for victims of sexual assault as a Uniformed Victim Advocate. She is the CEO of Vet Voice Foundation, a national nonprofit organization with more than 1.5 million members that gives veterans and military families a bigger say on issues like lowering costs for families, fighting the climate crisis, and tackling homelessness.

Janessa is an invested leader in the community and serves on the board of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, MANA de San Diego, Equality California, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund’s Campaign Board, UCSD’s Chancellor’s Community Advisory Group, the San Diego Mayor’s LGBT Task Force, and the County of San Diego’s Behavioral Health Advisory Board. Janessa and her wife live in Talmadge with their dogs and a small flock of hens. I’m thrilled to recognize her accomplishments and leadership in San Diego County and across the nation at the Capitol for Pride Month!


Legislative and Budget Updates


We are currently in the midst of the House of Origin deadline, when the Senate and Assembly consider bills introduced in their own houses. While there are many bills still to be heard at the time of this writing, I wanted to provide you with an update thus far.

An update on my legislation

SB 385, which would expand training for physician assistants to allow them to perform first trimester abortions under their scope of practice was approved by the Senate by a 28-8 vote.

SB 487, which would strengthen protections for California healthcare providers who offer abortion care services and gender-affirming care, was approved by the Senate by a 31-8 vote.

SB 447, which would end California’s travel ban to states that have adopted discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws and replace it with the BRIDGE Project, a donation-driven fund that could be used to create non-partisan, inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated, was approved by the Senate by a 31-8 vote.

SB 450, which would make SB 9, the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, more accessible for homeowners who wish to use it, was approved by the Senate by a 30-7 vote.

SB 519, which would promote safety in county detention facilities and ensure more transparent oversight of the Sheriff’s Departments that oversees them, was approved by the Senate by a 32-0 vote.

Budget Update

Last month, Gov. Newsom released his revised budget proposal, and while it signals that times are tough, California remains strong. My colleagues and I appreciate the Governor’s revised proposal reflecting many of the Senate’s “Protect Our Progress” key values, which include avoiding ongoing cuts to core programs, preserving our primary Rainy Day Fund, and expanding responsible borrowing – including a new Climate Bond – to avoid cuts to climate and infrastructure projects.

We remain committed to preserving transit, broadband, and other infrastructure investments, and improving funding to address our child care and homelessness needs. We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Assembly to reach a final budget in the weeks ahead, and are confident that we will be able to deliver a responsible, equitable final budget agreement.


Summer meals for students available


With the economy continuing to impact family budgets, for some families, finding ways to make ends meet during summer months can be tough. But there are resources for families to turn to when school meals are unavailable.

San Diego Unified School District is offering their Summer Fun Café at 57 sites throughout San Diego, where children and teens up to age 18 can receive a meal at no cost, with no paperwork, identification, or income verification required. Families can find serving sites near them by texting “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877-211.

All youth 18 and under also can receive free meals from the San Diego Hunger Coalition with no questions or paperwork, in partnership with No Kid Hungry. To find the nearest summer meal site near you with the Hunger Coalition, text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304-304.


Coming Soon: 100th Episode of Then There’s California Podcast


It was a piece of cake – well, pie – to spend time talking about this legislative year, the LGBTQ+ community, and of course, Dolly Parton, for the 100th episode of “Then There’s California,” the official podcast of the California State Senate Democratic Caucus.

During the episode, podcast host Brian Green and I discuss how and why food brings Americans together, and how those discussions can foster connectivity and understanding. That focus is especially poignant given my SB 447 – the BRIDGE Project – which would lift the travel ban and create in its place a marketing program to bring nonpartisan messages of inclusivity and understanding to other states. And what better a way to discuss the legislation than over a piece of my homemade egg custard pie!

The episode will be released later this month, and you can find it on Apple, YouTube, and Spotify.

We hope you find this episode as ins-pie-ring as we did!


Nonprofit of the Year: Goodwill Industries of San Diego County

Pro Tem Atkins with Goodwill Industries of San Diego County CEO Toni Griffin


I’m happy to announce that I have selected Goodwill Industries of San Diego County as our 2023 Nonprofit of the Year for the 39th Senate District. The organization will be honored on June 7 at a special event in Sacramento to honor nonprofits selected by the California Legislature.

Since 1930, they have provided employment and training opportunities to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment, helping many members of our community who require additional training and services to aid them in their goal of self-sufficiency.

Specifically, Goodwill San Diego provides resources for people whose job options are limited due to lack of work experience, criminal past, lack of shelter, prior history of drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness and residents or community members with developmental, intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Goodwill San Diego programs include:

  • Five community employment centers to help job seekers
  • Specialized job training
  • Employment services for at-risk youth
  • Support for military veterans and their families to find employment and successfully transition to civilian life
  • Assistance for those who receive Social Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance to secure employment

In 2022, Goodwill San Diego, which operates 28 retail stores throughout the county, employed nearly 1,600 individuals, over half of whom were people with disabilities or other barriers to employment, and assisted 5,330 San Diego County community members. Through the collection of donated items, Goodwill San Diego diverted over 65 million pounds of materials from landfills, and almost 6 million pounds of electronics were recycled.

For more information on Goodwill Industries of San Diego County visit their website at


Around the District




After a four-year hiatus, it was great to be back in person for the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast where we celebrate our LGBTQ+ movement and commit to the work ahead. While we honor the memory of this influential civil rights activist, we also continue supporting the many services provided by the San Diego LGBT Community Center.




    I was pawsitively delighted to join the San Diego Humane Society for their annual Walk For Animals, which supports the work they do to provide care for over 40,000 animals throughout the year!



      I celebrated World Bee Day on the rooftop of the San Diego Natural History Museum to highlight their new native garden exhibit opening in 2024! The Pollinator Party also honors the incomparable Betty Peabody, and her late husband Homer, for a lifetime of contributions to Balboa Park.



        Each year, Equality California’s Equality Awards honor the people and organizations who give selflessly to create a better world for everyone – including the LGBTQ+ community. Congratulations to San Diego awardees Mama's Kitchen; my friend and mentor Hon. Christine Kehoe; and longtime friend, Pam Morgan, who we lost late last year.



          Promises2Kids and the Council of Colleges supports former foster youth seeking higher education through their Guardian Scholars and Hope Scholars programs available at colleges and universities throughout the San Diego region. I enjoyed speaking at their community celebration!



          If I had a list of my favorite interviews, the one with this group of 5th grade students from McKinley Elementary School would be on it! We talked about women’s rights and teaching others about the importance of equality. 



          Thank you to Chief Tommie Cocroft of the California Highway Patrol Border Region, and Captain Reggie Williams of San Diego’s California Highway Patrol for working to make our roads and highways safer for everyone! I appreciated the chance to meet with them to discuss issues important to San Diego.




            The annual San Diego County Medical Society gala raises funds for Project Access San Diego, which has provided life-saving care and procedures for more than 6,350 patients across the county. Thank you to Dr. Toluwalaṣé “Laṣé” Ajayi, who is terming out as Board President, and welcome to incoming Chair, Dr. Nick Yphantides.



            Congratulations to Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest on 60 years of advocating for patients’ rights and providing millions of people in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial counties with a full range of high-quality healthcare and comprehensive sex education!



            Since 1990, Mama’s Kitchen has delivered over 11 million nutritious meals to critically ill residents throughout San Diego County. The 32nd Annual Mama’s Day was a delicious way to show support and ensure they can deliver millions more!



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