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Legislative Interviews - Personal Priorities


February 2023


Skinner:

  • Budget Committee perspective

    • Not going to speak for whole legislature; CA is about to be 4th largest economy in the world; as a state, we have incredible success in the world and yet high levels of poverty that mostly affect women and children

      • The situation got worse during the pandemic; for those in service jobs, conditions haven’t really changed, but their economic circumstance are worse now because costs of everything have gone up

      • Income inequality really stands out in CA even though the entire country is confronting this

      • Reports about wealth increases during pandemic for the wealthiest people – imagine what this amount of wealth could do; even a $500/month basic income could lift many out of poverty; an example of this was pandemic relief that lifted many out of poverty

      • The legislature and governor have done well to shore up a safety net

        • now providing 2 meals to all public school children K-12

        • SSI payment have gone up

        • CalWorks payment to families has gone up

        • Cal Fresh, Medical have gone up

        • but because we are working against inflation, people are kind of breaking even

      • Governor Newsom didn’t cut safety net programs when state in deficit = exactly right thing though other governors before him did

    • With the general fund budget, we have discretion over CDCR (prison system); CA is now the only state in the nation that has dropped the number of incarcerated individuals (by about 45%), but the budget for CDCR has not dropped; we are closing prisons, but keeping the same budget

      • CDCR had commercials recruiting staff during the Superbowl

      • A lot of the budget is in health care costs. We also have unionized workforce, so have to pay prison staff effectively

      • The state has given tools to CDCR to allow for medical release, compassion release, etc., but they aren’t using these

      • Right sizing the prison budget is essential

      • What led to the reduction?

        • Reduced prison population through realignment = many people who were in prisons are now in county jails; and now we’re under DOJ Fed investigation of jails due to abysmal conditions

        • Prop 57 and 47 also helped by reducing the sentences for lesser crimes

        • Changed felony murder statute – Skinner’s bill, resulted in 500 people released who had no active role in the crimes; Indeterminate Release means a lot of denials and can keep people in prison for 20 years with 5 out of 6 paroles denied

        • Covid court order resulted in lots of releases

  • Bill priorities:

    • want to be rational in sentencing policies

      • Parole board reform

      • parole rate is 22% and if denied, 2-3 years before can go back; even if on paper look ready, parole is still denied

    • Social media SB2878 – have algorithms designed to hook you after one search; kids do one search and keep getting served up the ads for the problem they searched for; fentanyl is often bought online; bill allows parents to sue companies for design of the algorithm when it causes harm to the child https://sd09.senate.ca.gov/news/20230202-skinner-introduces-bill-hold-social-media-companies-accountable-sale-fentanyl-ghost

    • Gun violence – we have lower per capita gun violence than many states; but loophole has allowed foreign law enforcement to use and sell unlawful guns; bill will close this loophole. not allow law enforcement to sell arms

    • All of Sen. Skinner’s bills: https://sd09.senate.ca.gov/2023-legislation - updated weekly


Wicks:


There are inequities around education funding. We need more investment in career readiness in high school and at community college. I went to community college. It shouldn’t cost a student $100,000 to get trained for a job.


I also have concerns about re-entry programs for formerly incarcerated people. They come out into the same environment that got them into trouble. If they were offered education, housing, and a job to give them dignity after serving their time, perhaps they would not resort to crime again as a way to survive. Better re-entry programs are essential.


LWV question: What is the climate in the legislature now? Do you think this will be a productive session?

BW: I always have high expectations. I have a 2-year old and a 6-year old. I’m not messing around because I need to be efficient with my time. I’m pushing for big things. For example, there is the issue of social media regulation. Tech companies need to be held to account. I did a bill last year regarding tech regulation that has become a model in 6 other states.

We are transitioning Speakers. I’m a big fan of Rob Rivas. He will bring experience with farmworker housing. I’m excited to serve alongside him on the leadership team. I think he’ll bring fresh air to the legislature.

A lot of problems feel insoluble, but I believe they can be solved. It won’t happen overnight, but I believe we can do it.



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