With the February deadline passed for California lawmakers to introduce new legislative packages for 2020, elected officials representing the Santa Clarita Valley are highlighting the measures they are pushing for this year.
Many issues that lawmakers faced in 2019 are continuing to receive attention in legislative packages this year, particularly on addressing homelessness and housing, the environment and the controversial Assembly Bill 5 and how it has affected businesses.
At the Senate level, state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, is mostly centering his focus around homelessness and AB 5, which he voted against and is currently working alongside other lawmakers in authoring a bill to exempt newspapers and freelancers from the law.
Last year he focused on implementing suggestions from a 2018 audit he requested on how to ease the growing homeless crisis in California. This year, with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $222.2 billion budget that sets aside $1.4 billion for affordable housing and preventative care for those experiencing homelessness, “Sen. Wilk will continue his efforts to bring accountability to how we spend money earmarked for addressing homelessness,” said Eileen Ricker, communications director with the senator’s office.
Wilk is also focusing on animal abuse education and treatment, exempting military retirement pay from state income tax for state veterans and budget reform to change the one-year state budget process into one that is performed every other year.
State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, hit the ground running with environment-related issues such as California’s wildfires and public safety power shutoffs.
A series of five bills Stern introduced this year include Senate Bill 739, which would require Cal Fire to develop a training program to train individuals to support defensible space and home-hardening assessment and education efforts.
Stern also brought forth SB 1160, which seeks to support local efforts to underground electrical and communication infrastructure in high-fire-threat districts and the wildland-urban interface.
“Alongside our efforts to save our mountain lions from extinction, support the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, reverse our affordability crisis and cut costs for small businesses, I’m confident that we can make real progress on the most urgent questions facing our families, our communities and our environment,” Stern said in a prepared statement.
The 2020 legislative packages include five bills from Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, ranging from disaster preparedness to working with teachers and most vulnerable youth.
“I’m excited to build off our incredible momentum from last year with district-minded legislation that directly resulted from conversations with members of the community and key stakeholders,” said Smith.
Her package includes Assembly Bill 1837, which aims to provide schools with resources and support during emergencies and natural disasters; AB 2379, which creates an annual tax exemption holiday for some emergency supplies; and AB 3238, which helps foster youth and non-minor dependents enroll in CalFresh benefits.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, who reintroduced Gabriel’s Law in 2019 with Wilk, brought forth a bill for stronger revenge porn penalties (AB 2065) and a measure to eliminate rape kit backlog (AB 2481), which aims to provide law enforcement with advanced data to analyze criminal patterns, identify repeat offenders and ensure victims see justice.
“The current backlog illustrates that we aren’t committed to helping victims of rape,” Lackey said in a prepared statement. “The rape kit backlog has allowed countless predators to go free and continue their attacks. This bill will ensure California goes after these criminals with every tool available and delivers justice to victims of sexual assault.”
He is also continuing to push for AB 1450, or Gabriel’s Law, which he reintroduced in 2019 with Wilk. The bill would require counties to establish an online database for agencies to cross-report child abuse and neglect allegations, such as the fatal case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez from Palmdale, who was tortured and murdered by his mother and mother’s boyfriend. The case is now featured in a newly released Netflix documentary called “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”