Spring 2023 Newsletter
Ramadan Mubarak, Happy Easter, and Chag Sameach to all who are celebrating.
The 2023-24 Legislative Session is off to a very busy start and, as winter finally turns to spring, I wanted to update you on what I’m working on this year. I am really excited about the package of bills I have introduced to improve the lives of my constituent and all Californians.
Before I get to that, I want to acknowledge just how challenging the start to this year has been for so many of us. The first three months of 2023 were some of the most difficult in recent memory, and they came in the wake of some of the most challenging years any of us have experienced.
Tragically, on January 23rd, a gunman opened fire and killed seven farmworkers (and injured an eighth) at two farms in Half Moon Bay. This horrific shooting shattered the sense of safety and tranquility that makes the coastside so special. Whether you live on the coast or on the other side of the hill, it is important to recognize the fear and sorrow that gun violence creates. We all deserve to feel safe in our communities. As a member of the Gun Violence Working Group in the legislature, I am committed to working with my colleagues to author and support bills to address the scourge of gun violence, including two new bills I have introduced this year.
We have also found ourselves at the mercy of what feels like an endless system of storms, from atmospheric rivers to deadly bomb cyclones. The rain we’ve been hoping for came with a fury, causing flooding, sinkholes, downed trees, power outages, and further worsening the condition of our roads (including El Camino Real, an area of remarkable frustration among constituents which is scheduled to undergo a massive repaving project this spring). This has tested all of our patience and has highlighted, among other things, the inadequate and unacceptable condition of PG&E’s power grid and their communication with customers during outages.
This newsletter will provide you with an update on my work in the Assembly so far this year. I am grateful for your thoughts and feedback on my bills — or any other bills you care about — as they move through the legislative process.
In this newsletter:
- Education Bills
- Cracking Down on Hidden Fees
- Climate Bills
- Gun Violence Prevention
- The First New Law of 2023
- District Update
Assemblymember, 23rd District
Computer Science Education – AB 1054
At the top of my bill list this year is AB 1054, which will guarantee all high school students access to computer science education. Expanding access to computer science education has long been a priority of mine — in fact it is one of the reasons I ran for the Assembly.
California has fallen behind 27 other states when it comes to computer science education, while states like Arkansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee are leading the way. This is unacceptable, and it is frankly embarrassing. In addition, it is a major equity issue: schools serving low-income communities, rural communities, and high proportions of Black, Indigenous, and Latino students are less likely to offer computer science. And while female students comprise 49% of the high school population, just 30% of students taking computer science courses are female.
California, home to Silicon Valley and Biotech Beach, is at the forefront of technology and the innovation economy. We have students who grow up in the shadows of global tech companies, yet go to schools that don’t give them the skills they need to one day work at those companies down the street. We must do more to prepare our students to obtain these jobs, rather than relying on importing talent from other states or countries.
Media Literacy Instruction – AB 873
As more and more youth turn to social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube to get their news, it has become even more critical that students understand how to tell what is real from what is false. This is why I introduced AB 873 to expand media literacy instruction in schools, integrating it into core subjects that all students learn. Media literacy teaches students to look at information with a discerning eye, to decipher opinion from fact, and to ask: is this a reliable source? It is critical to the health and well-being of America’s youth.
The bill will incorporate media literacy content into core subject curriculum frameworks, including English Language Arts, Science, and Social Science, and potentially others. Other states such as New Jersey and Delaware are leading the way in media literacy instruction, and this bill will ensure that California’s students are not left behind.
Hidden Hotel Fees – AB 537
AB 537 cracks down on the growing trend of hidden fees, what President Biden termed “junk fees” in his State of the Union speech, and requires that mandatory hotel and resort fees be disclosed in the advertised room rate.
Have you ever shopped around for a hotel room, picked a room at a hotel for a certain price, and gone through the multi-step booking process, only to find that the hotel or travel website tacked on resort, destination, or cleaning fees at the very last minute? Or worse yet, you show up to check-in and the hotel informs you there's a mandatory $25 charge for a food and drink credit that you know you won't use? These types of surprise hotel fees are dishonest and misleading. AB 537 will ensure that the advertised cost of your hotel stay is the real price you pay. My bill is part of a larger legislative package this year to crack down on junk fees across a number of industries, including concert tickets, rental cars, and housing.
Addressing Climate Change
AB 841 creates an industrial electrification roadmap for California. Industrial emissions make up 23% of greenhouse gas emissions in the state - the second largest source behind transportation. While California has been a leader on transitioning from combustion to zero emissions in the electricity and transportation sectors, industrial emissions have largely remained unaddressed and stayed flat or even risen in recent years. AB 841 will develop an industrial electrification roadmap by July 1, 2024, creating a plan for a zero-emission transition into what has historically been considered a “hard-to-decarbonize” sector.
AB 643 directs the CPUC to open a proceeding to improve the solar interconnection process. California will need to roughly triple its current electricity power capacity in order to meet our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. This means that we will need to expand our clean electricity generation capacity at a record-breaking rate for the next 25 years. Solar interconnection delays are not only a financial burden for businesses and individuals seeking to connect their systems to the grid, but they also delay the state’s critically important progress towards cutting carbon emissions from generating electricity. This bill will hold PG&E accountable so that we can continue to make progress towards a clean electricity grid and eventually economy-wide carbon neutrality.
AB 735 builds up our utility workforce pipeline. California is experiencing a wave of retirements and other departures in crucial roles in the utility sector. This is creating workforce shortages that utilities must quickly address if we are ever going to meet California’s clean energy goals, maintain reliable water service, and create more resilient infrastructure. AB 735 creates a statewide approach to address workforce challenges for the utility sector through a High Road Utility Careers program at the Workforce Development Board.
Gun violence prevention bills
This year I am authoring two gun violence prevention bills. Everytown for Gun Safety ranks California as No. 1 in the country for gun law strength. It is because of our nation-leading gun laws that California has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country at 8.5 deaths per 100,000 people -- about 37% lower than the national average, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, as we know all too well, this isn’t good enough and we must do more to try to reduce gun violence in our communities.
AB 1420 strengthens California's enforcement of laws that govern the sale, transfer, and storage of firearms, which are enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Too many gun shops are violating these laws and evading DOJ oversight. Under existing law, the DOJ only has limited authority to inspect firearm dealers, which means that even if a DOJ compliance unit sees certain violations, they cannot take action on it because it is beyond the scope of their authority. This bill allows the DOJ to conduct inspection of firearm dealers at least every three years to ensure compliance with California's life-saving gun safety laws.
- AB 1598 will ensure that potential firearm purchasers know about the serious risks of bringing a firearm into the home. While most people think that owning a gun will make you more safe, research shows that having a firearm in the home increases the risk of death to someone in the household by suicide, homicide, or unintentional injury. It is important to inform potential gun buyers of the reality that bringing a firearm into their home actually makes the home more dangerous for them and their loved ones.
AB 269 was the first bill passed of 2023
It is not often that you get to see “Chapter 1, Statutes of 2023” on one of your bills. This means that I authored, passed, and had signed into law the first bill of 2023. AB 269 was an urgency measure that allows California to continue its robust COVID testing policies after the official state of emergency ended so that we can continue to make progress against the pandemic. The end of the state of emergency is a reflection of our hard work and sacrifices over the last three years, but it does not mean COVID-19 has been eradicated. My bill ensures that our incredibly effective COVID-19 testing and treatment policies will continue.
Click here to check out my full package of bills on my website, including additional bills to modernize our elections and improve the readability of our ballots, permanently cap prescription costs, and crack down on revenge porn.
Legislator of the Year for the Cal State Student Association
I was so honored to receive the CSU Student Association Legislator of the Year Award earlier this month in recognition of the laws I've championed to reform our higher education policies in California from a student centered perspective. Students have been essential partners in my work to expand basic needs services on campus, strengthen transfer pathways, increase supports for student parents, make it easier for students to vote, and protect student financial aid. It was so much fun to spend the evening with 200 passionate student activists from all 23 California State University campuses.
A Tragedy in Half Moon Bay
Earlier this year, I was standing on the steps of the Capitol with my colleagues, honoring the victims of the Monterey Park shooting that had occurred just two days before. Not even ten minutes after I returned to my office I got word that there was yet another mass shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay. In my district. California has some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country, and these smart policies are saving lives. Approximately 2,000 lives a year, in comparison to the average state. That is a big deal, but we must do more.
In addition to the gun safety legislation I have introduced, which you can read about in the legislation section of this newsletter, we also must do much more to support the farmworker community in Half Moon Bay and across California. I am proud to be working with San Mateo County and the City of Half Moon Bay on legislation to make it easier to build desperately needed farmworker housing on the coastside.
This has been one of the wettest – and most destructive – winters in recent memory. With multiple atmospheric rivers, wind gusts, and even snow and hail, hundreds of thousands of constituents have been impacted by power and communications outages, flooding, and downed trees. Our infrastructure has been tested and I have been deeply disappointed with the level of communication from our utility providers. My staff and I are meeting with them regularly for accountability. Thank you to many of you who called my District Office to help identify safety hazards. I encourage you to reach out to my team if we can be of assistance at (650) 324-0224.
District Office Open House
On January 26th I welcomed approximately 100 constituents of the new Assembly District 23 to our first District Office Open House since before the COVID pandemic began.
We shared food and beverages provided by Ada’s Café in Palo Alto, and I had a chance to speak with constituents one-on-one about the issues they care about and the ideas that they have. Topics discussed included housing, homelessness, bicycle and pedestrian safety, education funding, electric vehicles and transportation, Medi-Cal budget, oil company profits, gun safety, and road repairs. Thanks to everyone who attended, and I look forward to seeing you at my other upcoming events this year!
Woman of the Year
It was my distinct honor to recognize Dr. Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga as the 23rd Assembly District Woman of the Year in Sacramento last month. Dr. Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga is the founder and executive director of Ayudando Latinos A Soñar (ALAS), a social service nonprofit and farmworker advocacy organization based in Half Moon Bay. Belinda is a champion for farmworker families in San Mateo County. She has worked for years to bring visibility to a population that far too often is overlooked in our county. When the mass shooting in Half Moon Bay shocked the entire nation, Belinda and her nonprofit ALAS stepped up to provide emergency services to the grieving farmworker community, many of whom Belinda and her colleagues at ALAS already had longstanding relationships with. Belinda is a voice for the most vulnerable among us and a model for service to one’s community.