Hunger Action Day 2019

By Ward Kanowsky

May 22, 2019 was Hunger Action Day, with over 400 advocates and community members from across California converging on the State Capitol in Sacramento for a day of meetings and joint action with our state legislators. The goal of Hunger Action Day is to make sure our elected officials know the reality of hunger and hardship in California, and to use their voices to help end it.

Indivisible East Bay member Ward Kanowsky attended the event along with several other representatives from the Alameda County Community Food Bank; IEB has been partnering with ACCFB for the past two years and this is the second year in a row IEB members have attended the event. Ward was part of two teams meeting with the staff of State Senator Steve Glazer (7th Senate District) and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (16th Assembly District) to discuss and ask for support on the following legislative priorities:

  • Increase state funding of Supplemental Security Income so the grant is above the federal poverty level: Budget ask and AB 1434
  • Protect adults harmed by the federal 3-month time limit to SNAP/CalFresh: AB 1022 (introduced by AD-15 Assemblymember Wicks)
  • End exclusion of taxpaying, immigrant workers with Individual Taxpayer IDs from the California Earned Income Tax Credit: Budget ask and AB 1593
  • Require preschool and child care meals: AB 842
  • Increase funding for the CalFood Program for California’s 41 food banks: Budget ask from California Hunger Action Coalition, of which ACCFB is a member.

Participants received some good news the following day — two of these bills, AB 1022 and AB 842 passed through the Assembly, their originating house, and moved on to the Senate.

ACCFB regularly participates in Hunger Action Day. One of ACCFB’s core values is that food is a basic human right, and this value was included in the message we delivered to legislators during meetings. The Food Bank serves one in five Alameda County residents; two-thirds of these are seniors and children. ACCFB works towards a stronger, more nourished Alameda County, where no one worries where their next meal will come from.

 

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photograph: ACCFB outside Senator Steve Glazer’s office on Hunger Action Day 2019, by Brittany Paris

March 2019 meeting with Sen. Nancy Skinner

State Senator Nancy Skinner and her aide Margaret Hanlon-Gradie met with six Indivisible East Bay members, including the founder of California StateStrong, on March 1, 2019, to talk about important bills in the current legislative session. The half-hour meeting was wide-ranging, including discussions of bills that Indivisible East Bay is prioritizing and bills that Sen. Skinner herself is introducing. Read our pre-meeting memo to Sen. Skinner here.

Police Use of force

Two bills this session deal with the issue of police use of force. We asked Sen. Skinner, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, to support AB 392. Her support will be critical to the outcome of this bill – and to the defeat of SB 230, a competing, weaker bill supported by law enforcement agencies. In line with recommendations from policing and legal experts, including the California Attorney General, AB 392 updates California law so that police can use deadly force only when necessary to prevent death or serious injury, and requires them to use tactics to de-escalate a situation or use alternatives to deadly force when reasonable. Changing to this standard will mean that officers will be trained to use deadly force less often and will be held accountable when they shoot and kill unnecessarily. Read our article and action item on AB 392 and SB 230 here.

As Committee Chair, Skinner said she cannot signal anything now, but she noted that neither the Public Safety Committee membership nor the chair has changed since last year when they approved AB 931, a bill very similar to AB 392 that ultimately did not receive a vote in the CA Senate. Skinner urged us to make sure Indivisible groups up and down the state are clear on AB 392 and SB 230 and flood their legislators with communications about them. Also, it’s important to work to gain the support of groups and institutions that have personal and moral influence with legislators, particularly the faith community, including the Catholic, Jewish, and African-American congregations.

Criminal Justice Reform

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to support AB 32, which would abolish for-profit prisons. Sen. Skinner supports ending for-profit prisons and Skinner’s budget subcommittee will hold hearings on why we still have prisoners in Mississippi, but in her opinion this is the least of the issues since California only has two privately owned prisons, which are staffed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and which operate under CDCR rules. The main issue in her opinion is that we have way too many people in prison despite sentencing reforms. Skinner suggests the focus should be on bills from last year that didn’t make it through the legislature that would have eliminated various sentence enhancements. She also suggested focusing on Assemblymember Bonta’s AB 1793, which became law last fall; this deals, among other things, with resentencing for marijuana-related offenses whose legal status changed under Proposition 64.

Importantly, Sen. Skinner will also carry a parole reform bill to increase the chance of parole by changing the criteria for the parole board’s “risk assessment.”  Now, only 18 percent of people who come before the parole board are released. The current criteria mostly have nothing to do with the prisoner’s behavior, are not under the prisoner’s control, and are stacked against black and brown people—e.g., family history of incarceration. Senator Skinner urged as many Indivisible groups as possible to email and call their legislators to pass these bills.

Sen. Skinner beat IEB to the punch discussing Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 6, which if approved by voters in 2020 will amend the California Constitution to restore voting rights to Californians on parole. IEB will be working with the community co-sponsors of ACA 6, including our community partner Open Gate, which supports people leaving prison and pursuing their education. Sen. Skinner told us she is a strong supporter of restoring rights to people returning to the community after incarceration. To our request that she co-sponsor ACA 6 when it comes to the Senate, she responded that voting rights are “very important.”

Anti-Poverty

We thanked Sen. Skinner for introducing SB 18, the Keep Californians Housed Act, co-authored by two other East Bay representatives, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Buffy Wicks. Among other things, this bill establishes a Homelessness Prevention and Legal Aid Fund in the State Treasury.

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to fund the CalFood Program at $24.5 million, to enable food banks to meet emergency needs. We asked her to support the following bills:

  • AB 1022 (Wicks), a top priority of our community partner the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), addresses the need to end hunger for adults (Able-Bodied Adults without Children) who are harmed by the federal 3-month time limit to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Senator Skinner said this bill should not be a problem, depending on the appropriations amount.
  • SB 285, co-sponsored by the ACCFB, would ensure all eligible Californians have access to CalFresh/SNAP by phone, online, and in-person through dignified means and within an integrated safety net that supports health and well-being. Senator Skinner said she is a strong supporter of making sure everyone who qualifies for SNAP gets it, and she has carried bills to this end in the past.  She thinks this will pass.
  • SB 499, Hunger-Free Schools, and AB 842, Hunger-Free Preschool and Child Care, would increase K-12 schools’ capacity to provide healthy school meals, and are spin-offs of legislation that Senator Skinner carried, so she is a strong supporter.

Finance

We asked for Sen. Skinner’s support of the public banking charter bill sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance. This will create a new type of charter/license specifically tailored to public banks, which are defined as banks wholly owned by public entities (cities, counties, school or water districts, or combinations thereof). She replied that she is a strong supporter of work around public banks.  She will have to see the language before saying she will co-author.

Senator Skinner is carrying a corporate income tax bill, intended to make corporations share some of the huge savings they reaped from the Trump tax overhaul. Corporate income taxes used to supply about 30% of the state’s general fund; that is now down to less than 9%. Under Sen. Skinner’s bill, the higher the ratio between the corporation’s top officer’s pay and the median employee pay, the higher the tax rate.

We look forward to working with Senator Skinner in the current session.

Join the meetings! Indivisible East Bay meets with the staff of our Members of Congress frequently. Be part of our team! It’s a fascinating way to find out more about the things you care about. Meetings are announced in the IEB weekly newsletter; subscribe to the newsletter for this and more!

The shutdown is our national emergency

It’s obvious to anyone who thinks before talking (or tweeting) that the government shutdown harms everyone, not just Democrats. But when pants are on fire, we need more than what’s obvious – we all need to be able to stand up and tell the truth. No, the people who long for this administration to fulfill prophecies of the end of the world won’t care, but there are millions of people who do. And so we offer this short collection of info about how the government shutdown is harming real people and the real world:

Who’s not getting paid?

  • When people think of federal employees, they may think of elected officials or high-paid white collar jobs. But federal workers as a whole make just slightly over the national average and include workers like food preparers, who make under $12/hour. These aren’t people who can afford to go without their paychecks.
  • From a National Park Service employee: “Our HR folks managed to get our Dec. 31 payroll in but who knows what’s next. It’s the lower graded employees who REALLY suffer. Some are seeking out temp jobs to fill the gap!”
  • A federal court employee reports that court employees have not been guaranteed that they’ll get paid for work beyond January 11, although they will be required to report to work as usual with or without pay. “I know several coworkers off the top of my head that can’t live without a paycheck. What are they supposed to do? I read today that some federal employees are applying for unemployment and can receive up to $450 a week but will have to return the funds once they get paid from the government. This shutdown has us scared and sick, not knowing the impact it will have on us personally and as a nation.”
  • Another federal worker: “I was planning to retire later this year but I can’t even get the paperwork going on that during the shutdown.”
  • The shutdown affects people who aren’t federal workers, too. The office that handles food stamps is staffed by federal workers, and although food stamps are essential to the people who get them, these workers aren’t considered “essential” – meaning that they aren’t coming to work and people aren’t getting the aid they need in order to eat.
  • Money and aid get held up in all kinds of ways: first-year students at a PA medical school received an e-mail saying they would get their student loan money for the upcoming term, but the funds were already late by the time the email arrived. For many people, getting money late can have serious repercussions.
  • See more personal stories here.

Health and Safety

The Environment

  • National Parks are basically semi-closed. The bathrooms are completely closed. People are driving off-road, doing what bears do in the woods, and more.
  • A park service employee reports “loss of control over schedules. … we are working on a tight timeline that is tied to many other events in the park with locked in dates. And of course, with skeleton staffs, there are serious negative impacts to delicate natural and cultural (not to mention HUMAN) resources that are being put at unnecessary risk.”
  • Wildfire prevention on federal lands – yes, the kind of thing needed to avoid huge loss of property and resources and life, especially in states like California and Nevada which are at least half federal land – has come to a halt. Of course, this is a health and safety issue as well.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is running on skeleton staffing and little to no funding as a result of the shutdown. (Let’s not even go into how that fits into this administration’s view of that agency …)

What you can do:

Call Our Senators: The House of Representatives has a bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall; we want the Senate to refuse to advance any legislation except that bill. And just before Trump gave his speech and Stormy Daniels folded her laundry on January 8, our Senators did just that. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to say thanks, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please keep it up: vote NO on everything that isn’t the House bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall.

Help those in need: In times of trouble, people always need food. Donate or volunteer at these worthy organizations:

Photograph “Open Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by Alan Levine 

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