As I have met voters from throughout the district, they want to hear my views on many of the key issues affecting our state...
...most notably education, water, and agriculture. Below are some of my brief thoughts on these and other issues that I am committed to working on in the Senate.
I believe government’s two most important functions are to protect our public safety and to educate our youth. On the latter issue, I am fully in line with the state’s policy shift, led by Governor Brown, to return most of our educational decision-making to community education leaders. The so-called Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was enacted in 2013–14, and it replaced the previous kindergarten through grade 12 (K–12) finance system which had been in existence for roughly 40 years. For school districts and charter schools, the LCFF establishes new K–12 funding streams, and eliminated most of the 50-plus state mandated categorical programs that existed at the time.
But the LCFF policy shift will only achieve its intended goals if we have a readily understandable school accountability framework whereby parents and educators alike can know how well their community schools are doing in educating our children. As part of the LCFF, school districts, County Offices of Education, and charter schools are required to develop, adopt, and annually update a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). In addition, the SBE is required to adopt evaluation metrics to assist Local Education Agencies and oversight entities in evaluating strengths, weaknesses, areas that require improvement, technical assistance needs, and where interventions are warranted. I support the concept of using multiple measures to determine educational progress, and for local education agencies to establish the educational destiny they want to achieve, but at the same time, I will insist that such multi-dimensional evaluations be understandable and useful in helping parents gauge how well their children are being educated.
We must always ensure our schools are properly funded, and that is why I supported Prop 30 in 2012, and support its extension as set forth in Proposition 55. California still ranks in the bottom half of states when it comes to per pupil education funding. My goal is to improve our per pupil expenditures consistent with gains in student achievement, and ensure our tax revenue go to schools and programs that close the achievement gap. Our schools should offer all students their best opportunities to succeed in life and that includes expanded Career Technical Education programs, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.
Finally, I want to ensure that all college students have the opportunity to graduate with minimal, if any debt at all. I support growing our Community College, CSU and UC budgets so all students who have financial need can get the support they need to earn a degree in four years.
They say that the real measure of a person’s character is whether they do the right thing when no one is looking. I believe that’s true, but I also believe that government is for the people and by the people, and therefore the people should be looking at what government is doing at all times. Transparency and sunshine are essential to ensure that elected officials operate in the peoples’ best interest, and that is why I support Proposition 54 which will require that every bill is published in print and online at least 72 hours before each house of the legislature can vote on it; require that the legislature make audiovisual recordings of its public proceedings and publish the recordings online within 24 hours; and allow any individual to record any open legislative proceedings either through audio or visual means and use these recordings for any legitimate purpose.
Earning the trust of the people is always hard for elected officials to achieve. Raising money to underwrite the cost of getting elected makes the task of earning trust more difficult, given all the talk of dark money in campaigns and the influence money has on an elected official’s decisions. Consistent with my strong support for sunshine in government, I have supported and will continue to support the toughest campaign finance legislation that has and will come before me as a legislator, requiring 24 hour disclosure by all parties’ contributions, in any amount, whether contributed directly to the candidate or through a third party PAC
Agriculture remains California’s number one industry. California’s gross agricultural product ranges between $45 and $55 billion annually. Nonetheless, I know that our farmers and ranchers in California face some difficult challenges in maintaining the state’s agricultural dominance, including competition from international markets and wide swings in commodity prices, drought, shrinking labor supply, and complying with important regulations that protect our environment.
I have supported, and will continue to support policies and programs that give California farmers a competitive edge over competitors from other states and countries. I support improving our transportation freight infrastructure so that growers can get their product to market efficiently by expanding trade corridors and improving international ports. I also support a multi-faceted approach to enhancing our agricultural water supplies, including more surface and groundwater storage and facilitating ad hoc water trading so limited supplies can be moved to locations with the greatest need. I am working to improve our supply of farmworker housing so that farms and dairies have a reliable and stable labor force, and I have worked closely with both agricultural and environmental interests to reduce climate pollutants effectively and affordably, and to recycle food waste into compost and transportation fuels.
If nothing else, 5 years of drought have made us all acutely aware of how precious and limited our state water resources are. Under our State Constitution, water is in the public trust, meaning the State is responsible for ensuring that sufficient water is available for all beneficial uses, including domestic (drinking), agricultural (irrigation), and environmental (fish and wildlife). To carry out this responsibility, I believe all solutions to maintaining an adequate supply of water must be on the table.
Storing water, of course is key to a stable and long term water supply, and I support efforts to increase both surface and underground storage. I have encouraged the California Water Commission to carefully consider the multiple uses of a Sites Reservoir when allocating Proposition 1 water bond funding. I also support implementation of the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act so that we have a reliable supply of underground water reserves to use during future droughts.
Water recycling is becoming more important in stretching our limited supplies. As a Napa County Supervisor I was instrumental in creating the North Bay Water Reuse Authority, which is implementing projects to recycle tens of thousands of acre feet of water that can be used to safely irrigate our crops.
I support reasonable conservation goals and believe that conservation programs should be tailored to each geographic region of the state. For fairness, I believe that different conservation goals and the means to reaching those goals should consider variations in regional climate conditions.
California is the tech-capitol of the world, and I believe we should use technology to also contribute to improving our water supplies. To that end I support desalinating both ocean water and brackish sub-surface water in ways that are energy efficient and environmentally compatible. This will require advances in the technology of desalination, but given the potential abundance of supply that can result, it is worth the investment.
Finally, I support the "'Coequal goals” for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. Further, the coequal goals should be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place. While I support the coequal goals for the Delta, I am opposed to the proposed Delta Tunnels. California can achieve water supply stability and reliability in many ways, as mentioned above, without risking the harm the tunnels pose to our fragile Delta ecosystem.
Today, seniors are 20% of California’s population, and this figure will double to 40% in the next 20 years. In a perfect world, the state would have the capacity to serve our seniors with fluid access to the variety of services necessary to maintain independence and live in the least restrictive environment possible. During this time of economic crisis, however, services for seniors have been cut to the bone and economies of scale have been overlooked.
For example, it is less expensive to maintain a healthy life in one’s home, yet services provided by In Home Supportive Services have been slashed. Seniors deserve choice and I will work to restore services at all levels of care – independence, home health care, residential communities, skilled nursing facilities, hospitalization, and long term care with an emphasis on keeping seniors as close to their social support systems as possible.
Elder abuse is another issue of major concern. Following in the footsteps of Napa County, which has the only licensing requirements for caregivers, the state of California should enact similar protections that include background checks for every care worker who provides services.
I believe that climate change is a serious threat to our children and grandchildren. We must act now to both reduce climate pollutants and to adapt to environmental changes that are already underway, such as sea level rise, periodic drought, infestations of invasive species, and an increase in wildfires.
I am proud of my votes to extend our Global Warming Solutions Act, and to reduce short lasting climate pollutants. I have authored legislation to enhance the diversion of organic waste from landfills, thereby reducing methane emissions, and to promote alternative forms of energy, including solar, wind and biomass generation. I continue to support incentives to encourage the purchase of zero-emission vehicles and to increase the use of public transportation.