On April 27, Indivisible East Bay had our first sit-down meeting with Senator Nancy Skinner, who represents California Senate District 9, covering Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and several other East Bay cities and towns. We met Senator Skinner in her district office in downtown Oakland, where she spends most Fridays meeting with constituents and groups. We packed a lot into the very short – less than half hour – meeting.

First, Senator Skinner was curious to hear about IEB, especially wondering where most of our members are located and what our relationship is to other local Indivisible groups. Then we launched right into our big questions about why our Democratic legislature has been falling short of the bold, progressive agenda we think it should be capable of. Skinner pointed out that due to resignations we no longer have a Democratic super-majority, which complicates things.

In response to our question about why so many bills get held up—by Democrats— in committee when it looks like they have the votes to pass on the floor, she responded that it depends on the bill:

  • According to Sen. Skinner, SB 100, the 100% Renewable by 2045 energy bill that she co-authored with Sen. Kevin de León, was held up last year because the only version that could have passed at that time and gotten the governor’s signature would have had some harmful “poison pill” provisions attached. She thinks that being patient (and she didn’t say this, but we inferred, waiting for a new governor) will get us a better bill. Of course the longer we wait the better the bill will have to be if it’s going to get us to that 2045 goal. Skinner said this was just one example of the tradeoff between pushing a bill through quickly and ensuring a bill doesn’t have any “poison pill” provisions attached to appease the other side. Sometimes a bill is critical or time-sensitive enough that add-ons may be acceptable, but she usually prefers a “clean” bill.
  • On the other hand, Skinner said that in her opinion the “health care for all” bill, SB 562, the Healthy California Act, was held up in order to protect members who did not want to take a vote.

We moved on to upcoming legislation we want Skinner to support:

  • Assembly Bill 3131 would restrict police and sheriffs’ departments’ ability to buy and use military equipment. Skinner said that it hadn’t made it to her desk yet, but that she would be sure to take a look. We will follow up to make sure she does.
  • When we called AB 3131 a top criminal justice priority, Sen. Skinner asked, what about her Police Misconduct Right-to-Know bill, SB 1421? We were happy to tell her that one is also on our priority list—and we thanked her for introducing it.
  • We also asked her to keep an eye out for AB 3115, the Jails: Voter Education Program bill requiring that county jails allow external organizations to provide voter education to the incarcerated.

We moved on to discuss urban planning, telling Skinner that while there is disagreement within IEB (as across California) about the specifics of SB 827, the controversial “housing near public transit” bill she co-authored, we agree that we want her to do something to address the affordable housing shortage and boost public transit. She told us that she used to be one of those people who thought our government should not do anything to make it easier to build market-rate housing in the Bay Area, but that as she became better acquainted with the situation she came to realize that we need the revenue from that market-rate housing in order to subsidize affordable housing.

On the subject of elections, we asked Skinner whether she was familiar with Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs). She isn’t, but expressed willingness to read our memo about election infrastructure issues, which includes a section about RLAs, the gold standard of post-election auditing of ballots that election security experts recommend all states implement ASAP. You can read our memo here.

We had no time to go into detail on election infrastructure, health care, immigration, cash bail, or CalFresh and other poverty reduction programs, but we left Skinner a detailed memo and promised to continue the discussion at another, hopefully longer, meeting very soon.

Want to get involved in talking to our state legislators about priority issues? Other state senators representing districts with a large number of IEB members are Bob Wieckowski in Senate District 10, which includes Hayward, Fremont, San Jose, etc.; and Steve Glazer in CA Senate District 7, which includes Walnut Creek, Antioch, Pleasanton, Livermore, etc. We’ve interacted with them in various ways and plan to set up similar meetings soon. Please email us at info@indivisibleEB.org if you want to get involved!

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