A look into local elected officials’ work as 2019 Legislature’s session nears end

Signal file photo of the state's Capitol building in Sacramento

With four weeks left before the California Legislature concludes its 2019 session, elected officials representing the Santa Clarita Valley have shared what they are working on as deadlines approach. 

Assembly members found themselves busy Monday with nearly 160 bills returning to the floor, following the Legislature’s return from a summer recess on Aug. 12. 

Among them was Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, who has nine active bills yet to be heard by Sept. 13 — the last day for any bill to be passed. 

“As the 2019 legislative cycle comes to a close, I am proud that what we’ve achieved so far reflects our values of good governance, return on investment and improving the quality of life for all,” said Smith. “I’m hopeful that nine of our bills still moving steadily through the state Legislature will receive the governor’s signature.”

Smith’s first bill, Assembly Bill 853, which allows California higher-education students to use their ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan to cover for living expenses, was the first of three others signed this year into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

Other bills include AB 1106, which extends Los Angeles County’s Enhanced Homeowner Notification Program for at least another decade; and AB 1336, which addresses what receives funding from “Kids Plates,” a statewide program that funds child injury and child-abuse prevention.

A big focus for Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, this session has been AB 984, or the Suicide Prevention Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund, which passed out of the Senate Monday on a 39-1 vote, according to George Andrews, the chief of staff for Lackey. 

The bill would give taxpayers the choice to donate a portion of their personal-income tax return to the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, where donations will be given to crisis centers throughout the state to expand mental health resources for everyone, according to Lackey’s office. 

In July, Newsom signed into law his bill, AB 127, which stipulates that a person who is under the supervision and on the property of the CHP will now be allowed to drive a vehicle while under the influence of a drug, or while under the combined influence of a drug and alcohol, for the purpose of conducting research on impaired driving, according to the analysis.  

Senators are also keeping busy before the Sept. deadline with multiple, active bills. State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, has five bills pending in the Senate Appropriate Committee, which is expected to make its decisions on those bills next week, said spokeswoman Eileen Ricker. 

Among those pieces of legislation are Senate Bill 153, which conforms the state’s provisions regarding industrial hemp to the requirements for a state plan under the 2018 Federal Farm Bill; SB 202, or the “Doggy Donor Bill,” which offers more flexibility to the rules on animal blood donation for more improved treatment of donors; and SB 333, a measure to address the state’s homeless crisis by requiring the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC) to develop and implement a long-term, strategic plan to combat homelessness across the state, complete with specific goals and benchmarks. Just last week, Senate Joint Resolution 3, which aims to avoid the reduction of Social Security for teachers and other professionals in the public sector during a career change, passed the Legislature and will head to the governor’s desk for approval. 

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, also has active bills, including SB 727, which aims to lower California’s pre-registration age to 15 and enfranchise more the day they turn 18. The proposal passed through the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee in April.

In July, Newsom signed Stern’s human trafficking bill, SB 630, as well as endorsed the push to deliver security at places of worship in light of the Poway shooting.

“I’m proud that the Governor has already supported our efforts to fight human trafficking, ensure that all Californians are safe at places of worship and protect our vulnerable wildlife and their habitats,” said Stern. “In these final few weeks, I’ll be pushing to put bills on the Governor’s desk that facilitate trauma treatment for first responders, ensures government and industry transparency at Aliso Canyon and the Santa Susana Field Lab and bolsters emergency preparedness for future fires and earthquakes.”

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