Betty Arenson: Watching Sacramento

There are positives occurring in the California legislature that somehow elude the general public. Yes, agenda items intended to help the citizenry, yet these same issues get rejected, buried or otherwise die a slow death in some dust-filled back room. Last year the 38th District’s Assemblyman, Dante Acosta, authored AB 754; a bill targeted to benefit at-risk/foster youth. The bill’s intent was to provide opportunities for disadvantaged minors, like getting them involved in a sport that keeps them off the streets and gives them a focus other than crime. These kids need to feel like they belong, be part of a team and experience accomplishment and healthy competition. One would think that would be a legislative priority as it’s a wholly worthy cause, but not so fast. The bill was originally scored at $15 million annually, a number that is most likely much higher than the actual potential cost. Some funding discussion was had in the appropriations committee, but the bill was doomed to abeyance. The most heartrending aspect of this process was that in very short order, $30 million was found to fund matters for non-citizens; i.e. a legal defense fund. This year the foster youth bill is back with some modifications as AB 2905. It’s presented as a pilot program this time. Certain amounts of money will be provided on a one-time-per-person basis for things like uniforms for a sports activity or a field trip. It’s heart-wrenching to know that there are disadvantaged kids that manage to procure a high school degree but don’t have the money for a cap and gown, so they miss the ceremony. AB 2905 wants to prevent such depressing events. California is the most populous state in the union and the governor claims a $7 billion surplus, yet the super-majority cannot see fit to take care of foster kids? It is ludicrous that mechanisms like AB 2905 would not sail freely to enactment. Planting self-esteem and a sense that someone cares will go a long way in giving these kids a positive path in life to tread, keeping them out of the courts and the jails. It is naïve to think that arrests, detention centers, jails and prisons cost less than $15 million annually. The futures of these kids are at the whim of legislators; we should all stand behind AB 2905. Betty Arenson Valencia