IEB 7/16/19 Meeting with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, AD-15

Meeting with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, AD-15, on July 16, 2019

PRESENT: Buffy Wicks; Senior Field Representative Uche Uwahemu; one additional staff person and three interns; five IEB members.

This was Indivisible East Bay’s first solo meeting with Assemblymember Wicks, following our May 10, 2019 meeting with her and Asm. Rob Bonta. We gave Wicks and her staff our pre-meeting memo and our list of IEB Priority Bills (many of which are also bills of priority interest statewide). By now bills initiated in one chamber of the Legislature have passed to the other chamber, where they must pass by mid-September, so these were the bills we focused on. With a few exceptions, we did not cover other bills that have died, that have not been included in the Governor’s budget, or that have become two-year bills and will roll over into next year.

ELECTIONS / VOTING RIGHTS:

A unifying theme of our selection of voting rights bills is supporting the major goals of the federal bill H.R.1, the For the People Act: expanding voting rights, campaign finance reform, and strengthening the government’s ethics laws. H.R.1 is an omnibus bill because the most effective changes work in tandem to complement each other. Wicks stated that she cares about voter rights and supports a variety of approaches. She was open to the idea of an omnibus bill and even suggested that she might look at authoring such a bill next session. We also discussed:

  • ACA 6, which expands voting rights to people on parole to re-enfranchise over 50,000 Californians. IEB is working with the community co-sponsors of ACA 6, including Initiate Justice, All of Us or None, and our community partner Open Gate. This is now a two-year bill. It still needs to be voted on in this Assembly this year, but will not reach the Senate until next year. Because it is a constitutional amendment it will require a two-thirds vote to pass. We asked Wicks to become a co-author, and she said she would be happy to.
  • We thanked Wicks for supporting AB 1217, which requires issue advertisements to disclose the top three funders. The bill is now in the Senate. SB 47 is another important bill for transparency, requiring ballot initiative signature gatherers to disclose the top three funders. We asked her to become a co-author. 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE:

  • Wicks supported AB 32, which prohibits the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from entering into or renewing contracts with private for-profit prisons. The bill, which is now in the Senate, has a long list of community co-sponsors, including California StateStrong; and one opponent, the CA State Sheriffs’ Association.
  • Wicks supported AB 1185, establishing a sheriff oversight board, on the Assembly floor (the bill is now in the Senate). However, more needs to be done in this arena – right now, there is no term limit on sheriffs. In response to IEB’s asking if she would consider introducing a constitutional amendment to switch from elected to appointed sheriffs or introducing a bill allowing counties to set term limits for sheriffs and district attorneys, Wicks responded that she is interested in an approach that would change the requirement that a person have a law-enforcement background in order to run for sheriff. She told us that either she or Sen. Nancy Skinner will author a bill to do that. 

STATE BUDGET:

  • Wicks joined us in being glad that Medi-Cal was expanded to include some undocumented immigrants (SB 29), but disappointed that it didn’t include seniors because of stated budgetary concerns.
  • Likewise, we were disappointed that the budget did not expand the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) program to include holders of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, though we’re glad the income threshold was expanded.

IMMIGRATION/LOCAL COOPERATION WITH ICE:

  • Just before the meeting, we learned that Oakland Airport has been one of the top airports used by ICE in California. Wicks said she had also been unaware of this. When we asked if she had any thoughts on what might be done to end that cooperation, she said that the Governor has a broader ability to do things and we may need to get to him.
  • Since our meeting, IEB testified at the Port of Oakland commissioners meeting on July 25. In response, the Port said in the coming weeks, they are committed to developing recommendations and a definitive response to the events that occurred. 

ENVIRONMENT:

  • Wicks agreed with AB 1276, a state-specific “Green New Deal” aimed at addressing the climate crisis in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, technology and infrastructure, as well as economics, education, and civil rights. She specifically supported resilient infrastructure with AB 1698 (infrastructure investment and financing).
  • SB 200, which Wicks voted for, establishes a fund to secure access to safe drinking water. It was signed into law by the governor on July 24th.

EDUCATION:

  • Wicks co-authored SB 37 with Sen. Nancy Skinner to increase the tax rate on large corporations in order to fund child care, public schools and higher education. Though it didn’t pass the Senate, she emphasized that the need for it remains. She supports Prop. 13 reform (the Schools and Communities First initiative will be on the ballot in 2020) but noted that it only provides $11 billion towards the $50 billion she believes is required to fund schools.
  • Wicks voted in support of bills that reformed how charter schools are formed and operated: AB 1505, which passed both houses of the Legislature; AB 1506, which did not; and SB 126, which has already been signed into law. She stated that she believes there are good charter schools but that more accountability is needed.

HOUSING:

Housing is a major focus of Wicks’ legislative interest. She stated that we need 3.5 million units of housing at all income levels and at higher density levels and noted the need for housing at moderate income levels, where costs are too high but people do not qualify for assistance. She is a co-author of:

  • AB 724, which was intended to create a registry of rental properties (though it did not pass the Assembly).
  • AB 1482, which would prohibit rent gouging and eviction without just cause.
  • SB 50, which provides incentives for streamlining approval of housing development.

POVERTY:

We didn’t discuss poverty with Wicks because she is already very strong on the issue. We had several priority bills on issues of poverty and hunger, and she has either authored or voted for all of them:

FUTURE WORK:

Wicks asked that we stay in touch going forward. She is developing bills for next year’s session that she would like our feedback on and support with, touching on a number of topics, including housing, hunger, privacy concerns, and reproductive rights.

By IEB Governance Committee members Toni Henle and Ion Y

Toni Henle is retired after a career in policy work at non-profits focused on workforce development. She is a member of the IEB Governance Committee, co-lead of Outreach to Organizations and a member of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

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.