Meeting with State Sen. Skinner, June 2019

Indivisible East Bay Meeting with State Senator Nancy Skinner, SD 9

June 28, 2019

From Sen. Skinner’s Office: State Senator Nancy Skinner, Margaret Hanlon-Gradie 

All notes reflect remarks by Senator Skinner unless otherwise noted.

Overview, some things that California can do to fight the federal government and make the state and local communities more livable:

  • Addressing wealth disparity; we used the budget to extended medical from undocumented children all the way up to 25-year-olds; we missed getting coverage for undocumented seniors because the Governor blocked it on budget concerns; we had a bill for student health programs to provide Plan B, but were vetoed by Brown – we’ve passed it again, and are confident Newsom will sign it.
  • Hanlon-Gradie: We plan to put out an ICE raid warning in two weeks.
  • ICE is contracting less with sheriffs because of monitoring and inspecting by the state. Yolo County had a juvenile in solitary for 9 months – our bill gave powers to the AG to inspect the jails and got that fixed. Caging kids may play to some in Trump’s base, but hurts him with the overall electorate.

Issues concerning sheriffs:

  • Aware of current sheriff eligibility bill that would require sheriffs to have gone to police academy. 
  • AB1185, bill for oversight over sheriffs, is up for a July 2 committee vote; worried about the Appropriations Committee – Anthony Portantino of La Cañada-Flintridge needs to be lobbied to pass it through committee.
  • Budget for deportation concerns: added $20MM to the general legal defense fund for tenant and immigrant defense, like East Bay Community Law Center. The more money that’s available in the big pool, the more will go to immigration defense.
  • Elected vs. appointed sheriffs: as it stands, appointed sheriffs won’t get put on the ballot because of the sheriffs’ power. Was unaware that sheriffs and district attorneys have no term limits; generally opposes term limits but would consider a bill to let counties impose them.

Election Security and voting rights:

  • IEB: could CA have an omnibus election security bills like HR1? Skinner: Lobby Lorena Gonzales (AD80) – she wants to be Secretary of State and this is an issue that could distinguish her.
  • Same day registration: Agrees with IEB that Motor Voter is not enough.
  • ACA 6, Constitutional amendment, parolee voting rights: Supports, and also supports SB310, which would allow former felons to serve on juries – a civil rights issue because a black man has a hard time getting a jury of his peers. (Some question about actual sponsorship of these bills.)

Miscellaneous legislation:

  • AB1593 (plastic pollution reduction): already included in budget; AB1080 (single use plastic ban bill): already in the senate as SB54 (and there’s a duplicate clause in a another bill before the senate) 
  • Supports AB1022 (anti hunger response training)
  • Supports tax credit for children but suggests we support Autumn Burke tax credit, which is similar 
  • AB5 (codifying and expanding the CA Supreme Court Dynamex case prohibiting employers from misclassifying employees as contractors vs. employees): Skinner supports the bill and is very unhappy that the Governor is going to block it. She suggests we lobby the Governor. 
  • SB168, creates a Chief Officer of Climate Resilience: Skinner will consider co-authoring.

IEB’s May meeting with Assemblymembers Bonta & Wicks

By Ted Lam

Editors’ note: for each bill discussed we include its number (starting with AB for “Assembly bill,” SB for “Senate bill,” or “ACA” for “Assembly Constitutional Amendment”), its official name, and, where we know, its current status as of this writing, May 28. The legislative deadline to pass bills through their house of origin is May 31, so by that date most of the bills will have either “passed” to the other house, or have failed for the year. Currently, most of them are still under debate, so no status is included – but we include a link so you can check the status after May 31.

On May 10, 2019, Indivisible CA: StateStrong Director Jiggy Athilingam and about a dozen Indivisible East Bay members met with East Bay Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Rob Bonta in Oakland. We wanted to thank them for their progressive work in Sacramento, and we had questions on several of our legislative priorities. Read our pre-meeting memorandum here.  

Because Bonta was running late we opened by asking Wicks whether she was familiar with IEB, and were glad to hear that she is (she even added “I love you guys”). In response to our question about why the legislature didn’t override Governor Brown’s vetoes of progressive bills last session, she suggested we ask Bonta, since she only got to Sacramento in January 2019. She pointed out, though, that there are different types of Democrats in the legislature and that Governor Newsom is also different than Governor Brown.

We covered several criminal justice reform bills going through committees, specifically AB 392 (Peace Officers: deadly force; status). Wicks said that she strongly supports AB 392 and the other criminal justice reform bills. She commented that “392 is the progressive bill of the year. You have a good author in [Assemblymember] Weber.” Wicks recommended that other Indivisible chapters contact their state representatives, especially in the Inland Empire. We thanked her for supporting AB 277 (Parole: reintegration credits; status), noting why the cash bail system is wrong.

Assemblymember Bonta joined us, and we discussed the fact that SB 10 (Mental health services: peer support specialist certification; status: passed assembly, 5/21) stalled last year due to its risk assessment tool. Bonta noted that there are a lot of entrenched interests who don’t want to see change, and mentioned that although the bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly, they were able to put it on the ballot in 2020. Bonta said that he’s working with the Santa Clara Justice Group to fix the risk assessment tool, and he believes it will pass.

We asked Bonta about the following bills: AB 1332 (Sanctuary State Contracting and Investment Act; status), AB 4 (Medi-Cal: eligibility for all undocumented immigrants; status), AB 1276 (Green New Deal; status), and AB 1185 (Officer oversight: Sheriff oversight board; status). For AB 1332, Bonta said the Assembly plans to propose amendments to eliminate some unintended consequences. On AB 4, he said it will move, and added that Governor Newsom wants it to pass. We mentioned that Indivisibles throughout California are very excited about AB 1276, which Bonta sponsored, and we asked him to tell us how we can help. For AB 1185, Bonta speculated that the Sheriffs’ Association probably opposes this bill. He agreed the state’s sheriff system is outdated. Bonta offered that when Kamala Harris was CA Attorney General, she wasn’t eligible to run for sheriff due to the eligibility requirements, and suggested the legislature change that. Bonta was careful to say AB 1185 may not pass if the Sheriffs’ Association lobbies hard against it, and mentioned that the private prisons bill going through now will probably pass.

Bonta noted that California needs so many things: criminal justice reform, housing, and more. He mentioned that this was his seventh year, fourth term, and his most optimistic year. He considers Governor Newsom bold and progressive, and said that Newsom gave the legislature a budget that it could have written. Bonta let us know that when Indivisible pushes, it makes a difference! We are being heard. He also suggested that we reward the legislators who are doing the right things, and as for the others, said we should share our stories.

We discussed the issue of poverty, and Wicks pointed out her three food bills that are now in the Appropriations Committee, including one that is targeted to foster children. She believes that if the bills get out of Appropriations, they’ll be fine. She also mentioned the problem that some parents don’t even realize they qualify for Healthy Start. In response to our question about a child credit, Wicks wasn’t aware of anything in the works, and Bonta suggested that they could do more research on it. Wicks said she appreciates that Indivisible groups are pushing legislators to support progressive bills.

One member of our group, a Teamster who’s on the Labor Council, expressed appreciation for AB 1505 (Charter schools: petitions; status: passed assembly, 5/22), Bonta called 1505 – the bill he introduced which puts limits on charter schools – the “jewel of the package” of bills to limit charter schools, mentioning that it gives school districts more authority and takes into account financial impacts. Bonta said that he’s pretty optimistic about its chances, and noted that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is interested in and involved with the charter issue, particularly with his Blue Ribbon Commission. When we asked about helping the Oakland Unified School District, Bonta raised several challenges and suggested that a coalition could work on the issue.

After Wicks left for an appointment, we discussed elections and voting rights with Bonta, including AB 49 (CA Voter Protection Act 2019; status: passed assembly, 5/9) and AB 177 (Election Day Holiday; status), and we stressed the need for risk-limiting audits, the mechanism that allows hacking of elections to be detected. We emphasized that these bills are best seen as not as individual changes but collectively as part of a solid electoral foundation. Because the biggest suppressor of votes is a lack of time and resources, bills that make it easier to vote make it much more likely that people actually will vote. Although Bonta was not familiar with these bills he was open to supporting them, and seemed supportive of the idea of making them work to strengthen each other.

Circling back to criminal justice reform issues, we asked Bonta what he thought the chances are for ACA 6 (constitutional amendment part of Free the Vote Act, along with its legislative part, AB 646) and AB 392 (Peace officers: deadly force; status: passed committee, under debate). He noted that passage of ACA 6 would be an important step forward by amending the California Constitution to allow those on parole to vote. He pointed out that those who vote have a greater connection to the community; and he believes people don’t understand that the bill would reduce recidivism. We agreed that everyone needs to work to promote the benefits of this change to the state Constitution. Bonta mentioned that Assembly members in moderate districts who need to balance supporting law enforcement with more progressive actions might push back harder on other bills, but would in turn highlight the reduction in recidivism benefits in order to throw their support to ACA 6. We talked generally about expunging certain criminal records, which Bonta said in the future may be done in conjunction with vehicle registration. He also noted that the primary reason expungement wasn’t happening was because parolees weren’t told it was their right and that they have the option to request it.

Our meeting was very productive. Are you interested in working with Indivisible East Bay’s Members of Congress teams, or in helping us work on and track California state legislation? Let us know by email or join any of our MoC teams on Slack. For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.