Looking back on your first year in office, what were the highlights, and, looking ahead, what are your plans for next year?
I worked hard during my first year in office to serve my constituents, and I look forward to another year of helping vulnerable Californians and leading the fight to protect our environment.
I’m pleased that the legislature passed an on-time, balanced budget last year, and for the first time in many years, the state did not have to make drastic cuts to programs that help foster youth, the elderly, and the disabled. While this is good news, these Californians continue to suffer as billions of dollars in budget cuts from previous years decimated essential services they need. As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, this year I will continue to advocate for critical programs on which so many Californians rely.
Additionally, this year I served as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Human Services, which I will continue to lead in 2014. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to review and support legislation that promotes educational attainment, employment, and self-sufficiency for families. The committee also considers legislation that affects the developmentally disabled, the elderly, foster youth, and, this year, I will pay special attention to how federal cuts to CalFresh, formerly known as food stamps, could affect California families. And along with my colleagues in the Senate, I will also encourage changes to the standards in residential care facilities for the elderly to help keep residents safe.
I am happy to report that I wrote several new laws, helping California youth, set to take effect in 2014. I wrote a new law that helps protect kids who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by ensuring that emergency shelters serving these youth are safe and properly staffed. And, working with one of my Republican colleagues, I co-wrote a bipartisan law that helps foster youth achieve their educational goals, whether that is a high school diploma or admission to a four-year college, by streamlining high school transfer credit requirements. And finally, I wrote a law that helps public schools better serve foster youth by ensuring that the many services a foster youth receives are better coordinated between child welfare agencies and school staff.
I was disappointed that several environmental causes fell short of passage through the Legislature this past year, particularly those related to plastic waste. These include proposals that would have created a statewide plastic bag ban, as well as a bill I wrote to require plastic waste producers to help pay for the cost of cleaning up the waste from their products. In my role as Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection, I convened several hearings on these and other subjects related to keeping our coastline and ocean environments pristine. Clearly, it will be difficult to pass comprehensive legislation that will reduce harmful plastic pollution at the state level; nevertheless, this year I will continue to fight for such policies here and investigate potential solutions.