By Anne Spevack

On Saturday, June 17th, Indivisible East Bay members attended a Legislative town hall with state Senator Nancy Skinner and state Assembly members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond. These three legislators have been leaders in sponsoring and supporting progressive legislation in Sacramento. They spoke on Saturday about their efforts to protect immigrants, reform our criminal justice system, and expand access to education and healthcare in spite of strong opposition by the current President’s administration. Here are a few key takeaways about current California politics and legislation:

  • Although Democrats have a majority in both houses, not all democrats are made the same. The state Senate is more progressive than Assembly right now, so although we may have seen progressive bills like Single Payer healthcare pass the senate, they will have a harder time getting enough votes in the Assembly.
  • Governor Brown is also not necessarily a supporter of the most progressive legislation. He is cautious, and keeps his opinions quiet until bills have made some significant progress in the legislature.
  • The Sanctuary State bill is moving forward, and our representatives are optimistic, but the hard selling point will be public safety.  There is evidence that that sanctuary policies can actually increase public safety due to decreased fear of police and other reasons, but we need to be getting the word out about that. The Governor has expressed concern about the effect of sanctuary policies on public safety.
  • The legislature just passed a budget. They repeatedly brought up good things that got more money, but still not enough, in this budget. Everything’s a compromise, even in blue California. For example, in the new budget, California has the highest education investment per pupil in a decade, though our representatives were quick to point out they still think it isn’t enough
  • California is a leader nationally on both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ policies–we spearheaded mass incarceration policies like three strikes and minimum sentencing. We are also spearheading the dismantling of these policies, but it’s important to recognize our mistakes and role in the current culture of criminal justice.
  • Bail reform has gotten some airtime in the legislature this year, but it has not yet been successful. We need more people in the assembly floor speaking out in support of bail reform.
  • Single payer passed the Senate, but faces big hurdles in the Assembly. The recent financial analysis doesn’t account for all costs, and no dedicated funding source has been identified yet. There are a lot of people who are holding out their votes until this happens, and it does need to happen. Our representatives were hopeful but not very optimistic about its chances this year. Representatives from SEIU spoke up saying that they thought there were a few key votes that could be influenced if we could get more of their constituents to call.

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