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.

Fight hunger: support AB 1022

We recently reported about the Administration’s attempt to take food out of the mouths of the poor via an executive order limiting food aid benefits to just three months for unemployed and underemployed individuals without dependent children. Now East Bay Assemblymember Buffy Wicks has introduced AB 1022, which would provide a state funded nutrition benefit for CalFresh recipients subject to this three month time limit. The bill is part of a package of bills to reduce food insecurity among Californians. Indivisible East Bay wrote a letter in support of AB 1022. Please thank Assemblymember Wicks, and ask your state reps to support this bill. It shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s crucial.

AB 1022 creates the California Anti-Hunger Response and Employment Training (CARET) program, which would provide state funded nutrition benefits to people found ineligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a result of inflexible three month time limits imposed by the federal government – limits that could expose up to 570,000 Californians to hunger without helping them get decent paying jobs. Shockingly, the United States Department of Agriculture reports that people likely to be cut off by the three month limit have average monthly incomes of approximately 17% of the federal poverty level and typically qualify for no other income support.

What to do:

Contact your Assemblymember, and the Chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee, in support of AB 1022; and if you’re a constituent of Buffy Wicks (see map of Assembly District 15), thank her.

Find your Assemblymember here.

What to say:

To Buffy Wicks (510-286-1400; email):

My name is ______, my zip code is _______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for introducing AB 1022. I’m disgusted at the way the federal government is cutting food aid to people who need it. California needs to step in to fight hunger for the people of this state.

To your Assemblymember, if you aren’t represented by Buffy Wicks:

My name is ______, my zip code is _______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling in support of AB 1022. I’m disgusted at the way the federal government is cutting food aid to people who need it. California needs to step in to fight hunger for the people of this state. I hope Assemblymember ______ will do everything possible to make AB 1022 law and support hunger prevention and employment training in California.

To Eloise Gomez Reyes, Chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee (916-319-2047; email):

My name is ______ and I’m calling in support of AB 1022. I’m disgusted at the way the federal government is cutting food aid to people who need it. California needs to step in to fight hunger for the people of this state. I hope Assemblymember Reyes will do everything possible to make sure AB 1022 passes the Assembly Human Services Committee and becomes law.

 

 

 

 

Protest proposed rule limiting food aid

Action Deadline: April 2 – The war against people who need help getting food on the table never ends. We fought for a 2018 Farm Bill that didn’t cut aid or impose harsh time limits for millions of SNAP/CalFresh (food stamp) recipients, and we won in a bipartisan victory! But now Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to sneak in the back door with an executive order that would impose work requirements on people receiving food aid, limiting benefits to just three months for unemployed and underemployed individuals without dependent children. This could potentially disqualify 755,000 beneficiaries. States have always had flexibility to waive time limits on SNAP in areas that don’t have enough jobs. This proposed order would ignore the realities facing low-income Americans. We said NO to cutting food aid from the Farm Bill – let’s say NO to this too. The USDA’s mandatory comment period runs through April 2, and you can leave comments here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents#open-comment

Read on for suggestions for what to say, and for more info.

What you can do:

Leave a comment on the Federal Register website by April 2, 2019. The USDA is required to take and respond to public comments.

The Federal register page for the proposal, with information and a link to a page where you can leave a comment, is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents – to comment, click the green button on the right side that says “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT.” You can also read other people’s comments by clicking the link under the green button.

The comment page itself is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents#open-comment

What to say:

The comments below are suggestions. It’s very important to write in your own words whenever possible and especially to add your own thoughts; identical comments are bundled together and not given individual weight.

  • I oppose stricter time limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • There are already strict rules for people who don’t have children or dependents (“able bodied adults without dependents”) who get food assistance through SNAP.
  • We should not make the existing rules even worse by taking away state flexibility to waive time limits if there aren’t enough jobs for low-income people.
  • Exposing more people to time-limited benefits, taking away states’ ability to waive time limits, and expanding the people the strict time limits apply to will only increase the number of people facing hunger in this country.
  • Personal comments:
    • Why is protecting access to food assistance for people struggling to find enough work important to you personally?
    • Why is it important to your community? What’s the situation like where you live?

More info:

The Farm Bill that passed with bipartisan support in December 2018 (the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018) authorized and funded SNAP and included time limitations for unemployed able-bodied adults without children, with permission for states to waive the limits if they found that there were not enough jobs that the people in question could find. Under the new proposal, the USDA proposes to do away with this flexibility, regardless of whether there are sufficient jobs for low-income people struggling to find work. Essentially, if a childless adult between 18 and 49 years old can’t get and keep a job for at least 20 hours a week, they can only get three months of food aid over three years.

Childless people in depressed areas are just as hungry as anyone else who can’t find work and can’t afford food. The current proposal blames the poor and the hungry for their own poverty and hunger. It’s a story proven time and again to be false as well as cruel. It doesn’t help anyone find a job, it doesn’t lift anyone out of poverty, and it doesn’t keep anyone from going hungry.

As one former food stamp recipient said in a moving essay:

In his speech, Trump adjudged the state of America “an economic miracle.” But what is the miraculous quality of snatching food from more than three-quarters of a million Americans? Does one in eight food-insecure Americans point to positive economic awe? Can we safely celebrate economic prosperity when 43 million human beings live disposed to the violence of poverty?

Tell the USDA: NO.

For more background read our prior articles about SNAP:

Protect the Farm Bill in Conference

We’ve been writing for some time about the Farm Bill, an immense piece of legislation that – among many, many other things – covers SNAP/CalFresh (aka food stamps). Once again, we need you to contact your members of Congress to protect this crucial benefit that helps one in eight Americans put food on the table.

This past June, H.R. 2, the version of the Farm Bill rammed through by Republicans in the House of Representatives, drastically cut access to SNAP; the Senate passed a version that protected the program; and the bill is now in conference to resolve differences between the two versions. These differences concerning SNAP have been a huge blocker to passing the legislation, which comes up for renewal every five years, but now Democrats have a stronger hand due to winning back the House. It will be hard to pass legislation between the election and next January, when the new Congress takes over (known as a lame duck session), and especially when control is passing from one party to another – but Congress seems determined to pass the Farm Bill, and they’re feeling heat to get it done.

Please call your members of Congress and tell them to protect SNAP and oppose any stringent requirements for these benefits. Find more info about SNAP here.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for your past support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP). I’m calling to ask you to protect and strengthen SNAP and vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program or cut its funding in the Farm Bill.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Feed People – Save Food Stamps

House Republicans drastically cut SNAP/CalFresh (AKA food stamps) from the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) on June 21, and this week the action moves to the Senate, with an expected vote by Friday, June 29.

SNAP helps put food on the table for people struggling to find work, low-income families with children, veterans, and seniors. Find more info about SNAP here. This is a five-year authorization bill; we must lock in this critical part of the safety net that millions depend on. Please call our Senators and ask them to protect and strengthen SNAP, and to vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program. Call every day (yes, that’s every day!) until Friday night (June 29), and check back for updates.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for your past support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP). I am calling to ask you to protect and strengthen SNAP and vote down any Republican efforts to weaken the program or cut its funding in the Farm Bill.

 

Senator Feinstein (415-393-0707; DC: 202- 224-3841)
Senator Harris (415-355-9041; DC: 202-224-3553)

Hunger Action Day 2018

Hunger Action Day, the California Hunger Action Coalition’s 22nd annual statewide lobby day, took place on May 16, 2018 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee members Nick Travaglini and Ward Kanowsky took a bus to the event with almost 60 other advocates from the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), one of IEB’s partner organizations, to join over 300 more advocates from across the state.

Hunger Action Day provides an opportunity to be an anti-hunger policy advocate, talk to legislators about ending hunger, and meet fellow advocates from across California. This year’s theme was FOOD IS A HUMAN RIGHT, with some sobering statistics to underscore it:

  • California has the highest poverty rate in the U.S. when accounting for the cost of living: 20% overall, including one in four children
  • Reflecting that 20% figure, ACCFB serves one in five Alameda County residents
  • One in eight Californians experiences food insecurity – does not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food

Nick and Ward joined teams that met with staff of East Bay state representatives Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and Senator Steve Glazer, among many other legislators, to discuss the coalition’s priority anti-hunger policy issues. Team members, who often bring their children to the meetings, are encouraged to share personal stories to show how existing policies – or the lack thereof – affect them and their families. These real life mini-histories take up the bulk of the meetings, and for good reason, since they can have the greatest impact because of their immediacy and emotion.

The top “ask” for all teams – what we all asked the elected officials and their staffs to prioritize – related to lifting seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty. Many in these vulnerable groups rely heavily or solely on monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to get by and are forced to make impossible choices between food, medicine and housing. As a result, many are homeless or at risk of being without housing because they are living at 90% of the federal poverty level. AB 3200 (Kalra) would restore monthly payments to individuals and married couples to 100% of the federal poverty level, and would also reinstate the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) that was repealed in 2009.

Related to this priority of helping people who receive SSI combat hunger: the dismaying fact that California is the only state where people who receive SSI aren’t eligible for SNAP (CalFresh) benefits – better known as food stamps – due to a program known as Cashout. A movement to end Cashout was discussed with legislative staff by the teams, and ACCFB informed us that the very next day after Hunger Action Daythe Senate Budget Subcommittee voted to end Cashout. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee is expected to follow the Senate Subcommittee with the same actions this week. If both houses pass this measure, people on SSI will be able to get CalFresh benefits. The bottom line is that our voices matter!

If you want to get involved in IEB’s work to end hunger in California, contact Ward.

 

 

IEB Partners with Alameda County Community Food Bank

IEB, through its Outreach to Organizations Team, has partnered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB). September was Hunger Action Month, and ACCFB hosted an event on September 27 to educate the community about the farm bill, a key piece of broad legislation that funds critical anti-hunger programs, primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is called CalFresh in California.

IEB was well represented at the event, which included a celebration of SNAP’s 40th birthday, and featured presentations from Shanti Prasad, Senior Policy Advocate with ACCFB; Melissa Cannon, Nutrition Policy Advocate with California Food Policy Advocates; and Armando Nieto, executive director with Community Food and Justice Coalition.

ACCFB 9.17 event

IEB representatives included Nick Travaglini, Toni Henle, Linda Dougall, Ward Kanowsky, LeAnn Kanowsky, Harold Klobukowski, and Daryl Walke. Also pictured: presenter Shanti Prasad.

Key takeaways included the following:

  • The House Committee on Agriculture has jurisdiction over the farm bill. The committee is chaired by Michael Conaway (R-TX) with Collin Peterson (D-MN) as the ranking member. Majority members from California include Jeff Denham and Doug LaMalfa. The minority member from California is Jim Costa.
  • SNAP is on the chopping block. The FY 2018 House Budget Resolution includes drastic cuts to SNAP.
  • Even though the farm bill has not been introduced yet (it is currently subject to “listening sessions” throughout the country), we can still contact our members of Congress now and urge them to vote no on the 2018 House Budget Resolution and to protect safety net programs like SNAP.

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065