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 resists at worldONE Festival

Janis Hashe contributed to this article

(Mis)fortune cookies! Selfie-ready resistance picture frames! A DIY “Impeachment Tree”! Henry the Indivisi-bulldog! Indivisible East Bay’s booth at the July 4th El Cerrito/worldONE Fair had it all, and more! Check out this slideshow with great photos by Mary Martin DeShaw, a volunteer photographer with Pro Bono Photography.

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A constant stream of people visited the booth, which was staffed by enthusiastic IEB and Indivisible Kensington members organized by IEB Governance Committee member and outreach team co-lead Toni. Biggest hit – everyone reading their (mis)fortunes from specially made cookies containing actual quotes from the Mueller Report. CA-11 team members Alice and Matt had the cookies made to order, after poring through the Report for quotes short enough to fit on the fortune slips! (Photos by Alice Towey).

These are the Mueller (mis)fortunes, which one did you get? (Or if you missed out, get one at our July 28 All Members Meeting, 1-3 PM, Sports Basement, Berkeley.) 

“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

“The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.”

“McGahn recalled the President telling him ‘Mueller has to go’ and ‘Call me back when you do it.'”

“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

“… several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals… “

“REDACTED”

Convinced by IEB member George to declaim their (mis)fortunes on camera, cookie readers included State Senator Nancy Skinner – watch the video! Skinner also posed for a photo with a picture frame reading “Persisting…and Resisting!” 

IEB booth at the El Cerrito worldONE July 4 Fair, photo by Heidi Rand
Senator Skinner with IEB members Denise & George, photo by Heidi Rand

Many fairgoers eagerly expressed their opinions by posting “leaves” (comments) on the Impeachment Tree board, created by IEB and Alameda4Impeachment (A4I) member Larry.

IEB booth at the El Cerrito worldONE July 4 Fair, photo by Heidi Rand
“Indivisible Tree”, photo by Heidi Rand

We also handed out several flyers asking people to take direct action to: 

  • Urge Governor Newson and Attorney General Becerra to enforce California’s sanctuary law (see our article to take the same action);
  • Ask their mayor to speak out against the administration’s anti-immigrant policies and ensure that no local funds or resources are used in cooperation with ICE/CBP raids (see our article to take the same action);
  • Help pressure corporations that are profiting from doing business with ICE and CBP in spite of human rights violations at immigrant detention centers (see our article to take the same action);
  • Make their voice heard on impeachment (see our article to take the same action).

Our booth was honored by visits from some notables – Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia expressed his support and enjoyed a (mis)fortune cookie. And the IEB July 4 Fair Judges awarded MOST notable appearance to Henry the Indivisi-bulldog, who was accompanied by his humans, Tom and CA-11 team co-lead Kristen. Henry graciously posed for paparazzi, who shot pix of him behind the very popular selfie-frames designed by CA-11 team member Janis, including “Persisting  . . . and Resisting!!” and “Make America Cake Again” which featured a cake illustration frosted with “Dump Trump 2020.” 

IEB booth at the El Cerrito worldONE July 4 Fair, photo by Heidi Rand
Henry, the Indivisi-bulldog, with Tom, photo by Heidi Rand

A fabulous time was had by all – check out George’s videos of visitors reading their Mueller (mis)fortunes, here, here, and here — and more photos by GC member Heidi in this slideshow:

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Janis Hashe is a freelance writer/editor/teacher/theatre person. She has been politically active in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga and now Richmond. Her deepest personal commitments include fighting climate change, ending factory farming and overturning Citizens United.

Photographs by Mary Martin DeShaw, Pro Bono Photo, Heidi Rand, and Alice Towey

 

 

 

Show your resistance colors by volunteering at Indivisible East Bay’s booth at the fun-tastic City of El Cerrito/worldOne Fourth of July Festival on Thursday, July 4, 2019, 10 AM to 6 PM. All you need is a basic familiarity with Indivisible and a friendly smile, and our experienced IEB members will help you with anything else. Non-El Cerrito folks welcome, kids welcome, friends welcome, folks with disabilities welcome (the event is wheelchair accessible) – you get the idea, everyone is welcome. We especially need volunteers between noon and 4 PM. To sign up for shifts or if you have questions, email Outreach co-lead Toni at tonihenle@gmail.com or message her on IEB’s Slack: @toni_henle. Read more (and see great photos from last year!) at our article.

 

Summer Impeachment Pop-Up [see our article about this great event!]

Pitch in to help IEB and co-hosts Alameda4Impeachment at our Impeach Trump event in Oakland on Sat. June 15, 1-3 PM, on the plaza outside 1301 Clay St., Oakland. We’re planning a fun, creative and family-friendly event to inspire, inform, and activate people to urge the House to open an impeachment inquiry.

  • Help us unload and set up in 30-minute shifts from 11 am until 1 pm; and clean up & tear down at 3 pm.
  • Spread the word on social media – follow IEB on facebook and share our event. On twitter, follow A4I and IEB — and RT our posts. At the event, post your great photos of the activities with the hashtag #ImpeachTrump. Also tag @IndivisibleEB 
  • Feed the resistance: bring some peaches to share as snacks! 

To help out, or for more info, email us at alameda4impeachment@gmail.com and/or join the #impeachment channel on Slack.

Photograph of IEB’s July 4th booth by Heidi Rand

Charter law reform: Get Buffy and Becky on Board

By Emily Filloy

Deadline:  Immediate and ongoing –

Four charter law reform bills currently are moving through the California legislature: AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756 would stop rampant charter school proliferation that comes at the expense of public schools and local control. All are supported by East Bay representatives Assemblymember Rob Bonta and State Senator Nancy Skinner. But our newly elected Assemblymembers, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (AD-16) and Buffy WIcks (AD-15) are still on the fence. Wicks ran as a strong supporter of public schools, but the charter school issue was a point of contention during the election, and she hasn’t committed to common-sense reforms that will at least give our democratically governed public schools a fighting chance against the billionaire-backed privatizers. We need to push Rebecca and Buffy off the fence!

Two actions are needed:

  1. If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks or Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, contact her to urge her to support the charter reform package. Read on for more info on the bills, a call script, and contact info.
  2. Sign and circulate the CharterLawReform.com petition. This petition demands four fundamental changes to state charter law that would go a long way to leveling the playing field. The beauty of this petition is that when you enter your address, it automatically sends your state reps a notice that you support their efforts to reform the Charter School Act.

We previously asked for your support for this package of bills. Things have evolved—read on for the latest:

AB 1505—Our Dream Bill: AB 1505 and 1508 were combined to create one bill that would enact the most needed reforms. AB 1505 now allows districts to deny a charter petition if the new charter school would have a negative fiscal, academic, or facilities impact on the district. It also eliminates charter operators’ ability to appeal to the county and then the State Board of Education if a district says no. These two reforms recognize the adverse impact charters have in heavily targeted cities and also return local control to our school districts. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where we expect a decision on May 16. If it passes out of Appropriations, 1505 will go to the Assembly for a floor vote. It will be highly contested.

AB 1506 would impose a cap at the number of charters operating statewide—1,323 right now—and a new charter could only open if one closes. The bill also establishes a cap in each individual district. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where we expect a decision on May 16. If it passes out of Appropriations, 1506 will go to the Assembly for a floor vote. It will be highly contested.

AB 1507 would end the ability of a district to authorize a charter school and then place it in another district. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee.

SB 756 would establish a 5-year moratorium on all new charters statewide unless the reforms in the three bills above are enacted before 2020. The bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee.

What You Can Do:

1. If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks or Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, please tell her to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756.

What to Say:

My name is___________.  My zip code is_________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging Assemblymember _____  to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756. This package of bills is essential to holding charter schools accountable to local communities and ensuring that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember _____ to support these bills?

  • Buffy Wicks: 510-286-1400; email
  • Rebecca Bauer-Kahan: 925-328-1515; email

2. Sign and circulate the CharterLawReform.com petition.

 

Emily Filloy is a retired OUSD teacher whose grown children are graduates of Oakland Unified School District. She and other educators started Educators for Democratic Schools to fight for the survival of public education.

Support AB 857, Public Banking

By Sylvia Chi

Deadline: now and ongoing –

In recent years, a lot more people have started thinking about who’s running their banks, and who’s profiting – and whether they’re the ones who are losing. Now, California Assembly Bill 857 proposes to allow local governments to apply for a banking license from the state, so cities, counties, or regions could establish their own public banks. The legislation is sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA), a statewide coalition of grassroots advocates representing areas ranging from San Diego to Eureka, as well as Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Beneficial State Foundation, and Friends of the Earth. The East Bay is home to CPBA member Public Bank East Bay (formerly Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland), one of the pioneers of the public banking movement in the United States, and we’re calling on our state legislators to sign on as co-authors of this bill. Scroll down to see what you can do to help!

In short, a public bank is one that’s owned by a government, accountable to the public, and managed by professional bankers. (For a longer description, check out Wikipedia.) In the US, the main example of a public bank is the Bank of North Dakota (BND), a state-owned institution founded in 1919 that holds state and other public deposits. BND functions mainly as a bankers’ bank, partnering with local community banks and credit unions to issue loans. It has few retail functions, but its partnership with local financial institutions makes North Dakota home to one of the most robust local banking sectors in the country.

AB 857 would allow local governments in California to create their own versions of BND, strengthening our local financial institutions and keeping our public money in the local economy. Currently, Wall Street banks are the only option for banking services for most local governments. These banks enjoy record profits and anticipate regulatory rollbacks. But why should our communities support them, since they profit from financing and enabling precisely the same fossil fuels, private prisons, destruction of communities, and other reprehensible activities that our communities are actively fighting? Public banks can be a much-needed alternative to the mega-banks, help counteract the risky trend towards bank consolidation, and serve as a source of strength for local economies. They can even help finance the projects proposed in the Green New Deal.

Public banking is possible right here in the East Bay. The city councils of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, together with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, authorized a feasibility study for a regional public bank, which reached positive conclusions. After reviewing the study, the Finance and Management Committee of Oakland City Council voted to forward the study to the full City Council, which accepted it. The next step toward creating a public bank for the East Bay is to develop a business plan and apply for a license – which doesn’t exist yet. We need AB 857 to pass so the East Bay can move forward on creating our own local public bank.

AB 857 is gaining support in the state legislature, but the East Bay’s representatives haven’t yet signed on. Let them know you want them to support and co-author AB 857!

What you can do:

Ask your state senator and assemblymember to commit to co-authoring and supporting AB 857. If you don’t know who your state representatives are, enter your address here to find out.

What to say:

My name is _______, I’m a constituent, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I support public banking as a way to strengthen the local economy. We need to pass AB 857 so the East Bay can move forward on creating our own local public bank. A public bank can help the East Bay by providing low-interest loans for underserved small businesses and affordable-housing developers, and for building needed public infrastructure. Please co-author and support AB 857.

  • Senator Nancy Skinner (email) 510-286-1333 (district) or 916-651-4009 (Capitol)
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta (email) 510-286-1670 (district) or 916-319-2018 (Capitol)
  • Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (email) 510-286-1400 (district) or 916-319-2015 (Capitol)

 

Sylvia Chi is a member of Public Bank East Bay and legislative chair of the California Public Banking Alliance.

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!

No on SB 230

Remember Stephon Clark? You should. Almost exactly a year ago, in March 2018, he was chased by the police into his grandmother’s back yard in Sacramento, shot multiple times, including in the back, and killed, because the police were suspicious of . . . his cell phone. Now the Attorney General has announced that the police who shot him will not face criminal charges. It’s past time to change when police can use deadly force. Your voice is needed: There are two competing bills in the California state legislature, but only AB 392 is good. The other, SB 230, is a weak bill being pushed by law enforcement as a counterpoint to AB 392. Contact State Senator Nancy Skinner, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee today. Read on for more info, a call script and contact info.

The Sacramento Bee says that AB 392 would provide “serious reform – not window dressing” to address the problem of death and injury caused by police use of deadly force. We need that kind of reform. When this bill was before the legislature last year, as AB 931, it passed the Senate Public Safety Committee, of which Senator Skinner is the chair, but did not pass the Senate. This year, there’s a second chance.

But SB 230 is coming up before Senator Skinner’s Public Safety committee first. Supported by law enforcement agencies, this bill would allow law enforcement officers to use deadly force, even when they have other options available and even when there is no actual threat to others. Although the bill addresses training and policy, it does so in a superficial and vague way, providing no requirements and setting no minimum standards. It does not address the fact that police in our state kill people at significantly higher rates than the national average, and disproportionately kill people of color, particularly those who are unarmed, and does not do anything to prevent future tragedies of this kind. Although it requires all agencies to maintain use of force policies, it includes no requirements for these policies, other than “guidelines” without specificity. SB 230 would thus authorize agencies to issue policies in direct conflict with the recommendations of the California Attorney General, which emphasized clarity and specificity on use of force policies. SB 230 similarly provides toothless training guidelines with no requirements beyond a short list of subjects to be given “adequate consideration.” Beyond the subject, there is no specificity on what standard officers should be trained to. This is NOT the kind of reform we need.

What you can do:

Contact Sen. Nancy Skinner at (916) 651-4009 or (510) 286-1333. Since she is chair of the committee that the bill is before, you can contact her even if you aren’t her constituent; however, if you do live in her district, you should mention that fact.

Check out this list of members of the Senate Public Safety Committeeif any of them represent you, contact them, or if you know anyone in their districts, please send them this article.

What to say:

My name is ___________, my zip code is ___________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m asking Senator ______ to vote NO on SB 230 when it comes up before the Senate Public Safety Committee. This is a weak policing bill being pushed by law enforcement as a counterpoint to AB 392, which is the real progressive police reform that our state needs to save lives. SB 230 doesn’t deserve to pass the Senate Public Safety Committee. The Public Safety Committee already passed the stronger policy through committee last year as AB 931. It would be disappointing to see the committee pass a weaker bill this year. Can I count on Senator ___________ to help block SB 230 in the Public Safety Committee?

Add for Senator Skinner: I would like Senator Skinner to use her leadership to kill SB 230 in her committee. 

 

AB 3115, Voter Education in Jails: Update

Action needed by Monday, June 25!

Voter education is just as important as voter registration. We previously discussed and urged support for AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), and now this important bill is headed for a vote in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, June 26. Please call Senator Nancy Skinner, committee Chair (and your state senator if you live in Senate District 9), by Monday, June 25: (510) 286-1333 or (916) 651-4009.

What to say:

My name is ______. My zip code is _____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Senator Skinner to vote YES on AB 3115. We should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. AB 3115 is an important bill and I ask Senator Skinner to vote YES.

Other committee members, for constituents in other parts of the state:

IEB Meets With State Senator Nancy Skinner

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!

Save Alta Bates: CNA Hosts Forum and You Can Take Action

The California Nurses Association (CNA) hosted a forum on February 3, 2018 on their initiative to save Alta Bates from closure by Sutter Health. State Senator Nancy Skinner, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley Fire Chief Dave Brannigan, and other East Bay officials and citizens spoke over the course of several hours to a standing room only audience at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.

As Berkeleyside reports, Sutter recently announced “plans to relocate emergency and delivery services to Oakland’s Summit campus by 2030, the state’s deadline for full-service hospitals to make seismic upgrades.” Every speaker emphasized that such a significant change would devastate the already overburdened health care services in the East Bay. Among other things, since Doctors Medical Center of San Pablo closed in 2015, Alta Bates has under state law been the only medical facility that serves the whole of the East Bay north of Oakland (including west Contra Costa County) where emergency services like paramedics can deliver patients.

Sen. Skinner and Mayor Arreguín addressed Sutter Health’s status as a non-profit entity and state and city governments’ ability to regulate it. Particularly, Skinner spoke of Senate Bill 687, a bill she authored that would have given the Attorney General oversight of hospital closures. Governor Brown vetoed S.B. 687 last year, and Skinner now plans to rework the bill. Mayor Arreguín questioned Sutter’s non-profit status, noting that Sutter had over $15 million in assets after 2016 and asking whether it was providing the requisite “community benefits” to receive that status and if Alta Bates’ closure would affect the answer to that question.

Near the end of the program, Chief Brannigan spoke to Alta Bates’ role in providing emergency medical services, working as a crucial node in the nexus for firefighters and paramedics. Alta Bates’ closure would increase transit time to doctors at locations in Oakland and add to those sites’ existing workload. Those minutes can make the difference in individual cases of life or death, and can be catastrophic in a regional emergency like an earthquake. And that’s not to mention the significant overhaul that the dispatch and response services would have to undergo, which would take years to implement at significant cost to taxpayers.

At the conclusion of the forum attendees filled out postcards to Sutter’s CEO, requesting that Sutter invest in retrofitting Alta Bates or sell it to someone who would retrofit rather than close it. Indivisible East Bay will continue to follow this story as it develops. In the meantime, here are some ways you can support Alta Bates:

  • Write to Sutter CEO Sarah Krevans, 2480 Natomas Park Dr #150, Sacramento, CA 95833, expressing your support for keeping Alta Bates open for the good of the community and the entire East Bay.
  • Say thank you to Sen. Nancy Skinner for her work to keep Alta Bates open and to require oversight of proposed hospital closures.
  • If you live in Berkeley or Oakland, tell your City Council member(s) you want them to support keeping Alta Bates open and to continue oversight of Sutter’s attempts to close the facility.