2019 State Legislature: SCV reps’ year-in-review

Sacramento, State Capitol Building
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From the ongoing debate over independent contractors to affordable housing and the public safety power shutoffs, California’s Legislature tackled a variety of issues in 2019, many of which are expected to return in 2020. 

About 20% more proposed laws were introduced this year than in 2018, with more than 2,600 laws that either passed or failed this legislative session.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had until Oct. 13 to sign or veto pieces of legislation after legislators’ last day in September. Here’s a look at what passed among the bills introduced by the Santa Clarita Valley’s four Senate and Assembly representatives, as well as other efforts they focused on in 2019. 

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita

Wilk, who stood behind expanding the state’s hemp industry and co-authoring legislation such as Assemblywoman Christy Smith’s Assembly Bill 1637 (unclaimed property), shifted his focus toward the end of 2019 in light of the controversial public safety power shutoffs that left communities in the SCV and across California blacked out during periods of high wind activity and fire danger. 

In November, he wrote a letter to Newsom, calling for a special session of the Legislature to investigate the power outages. 

“California is the fifth-largest economy in the world but when the wind blows the power goes out for millions of Californians,” he said last month. “How anyone could accept this as the ‘new normal’ is beyond me.” 

Part of what encouraged him to take the issue to Sacramento was hearing from hundreds of families, many of whom are older adults and are ill, on their struggles without power. They expressed their concerns during town hall meetings in Agua Dulce in November. 

The investigation is expected to continue in 2020, as well as legislation Wilk pushed out in 2019, such as Senate Bill 333, which would require the state’s Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to develop and implement a statewide strategic plan to address homelessness.  

Wilk’s SB 153 received Newsom’s signature, which aims to ensure California is well-positioned to be at the forefront of the cultivation of industrial hemp by revising the state’s provisions regulating cultivation and testing.  

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita

Smith received Newsom’s signature for nine out of 11 bills in her legislative package this year and launched her 38th Assembly District Advisory Committees with focus areas in education, public safety, small business, economic development and veterans.   

“It’s hard to believe a year has already passed since I was elected to represent the 38th Assembly District community and the people of California,” she said in a statement. “In one year, we’ve accomplished so much, and it’s truly been a collaborative effort. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you and will continue to fight for you.”

Bills that passed include: 

  • AB 543, which makes school sexual harassment resources accessible.
  • AB 629 authorizes the Victim Compensation Board to provide compensation equal to loss of income or support to human trafficking victims.
  • AB 853 allows ScholarShare to pay for expenses associated with colleges such as rent and textbooks.
  • AB 1051 updates the course load cap for nursing faculty.
  • AB 1106 allows Los Angeles County to continue its Enhanced Homeowner Notification program to service homeowners and residents at risk of losing their housing.
  • AB 1507 updates the California Charter Schools Act by requiring schools to have their Local Control and Accountability Plans reviewed and approved, and closes the loophole that has allowed school districts to approve charter school sites outside of their boundaries. 
  • AB 1637 works with the State Controller’s Office to streamline the unclaimed property request process.
  • AB 1729 increases high school enrollment in summer community college courses.
  • AB 1336 funds more childhood unintentional injury preventative programs.

In her first year, Smith also obtained local budget investments such as $450,000 for the new Santa Clarita Valley senior center at Bella Vida and $397,000 to modernize Boykin Hall at College of the Canyons. 

State Sen. Henry Stern 

Stern’s 2019 year focused largely on the environment, with Aliso Canyon taking front and center stage of his five bills that will become state law in 2020. 

Senate Bill 463 demands transparency and accountability at Aliso Canyon by requiring chemical monitoring at gas storage wells, as well as requiring the newly renamed California Geologic Energy Management Division to review and revise its policies in response to the Aliso Canyon root cause analysis. 

Other bills set to take effect in 2020 include: 

  • SB 542 offers post-traumatic stress injury support for first responders.
  • SB 630 aims to strengthen efforts against human trafficking by ensuring local jurisdictions implement effective laws.
  • SB 748 creates a Youth Poet Laureate position for state teens.
  • SB 471 makes subpoena delivery safer and more cost-effective, allowing civilian witnesses to be served electronically. 

“From facilitating mental health care for first responders to requiring neutral, science-based chemical monitoring at Aliso Canyon, I’m proud of the work we did this year on behalf of our community,” said Stern in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of the people in the 27th District in the upcoming year, pushing for action to ensure that the lights are kept on and our people and property are resilient in the face of wildfires.” 

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R Palmdale

Lackey, who has joined Wilk and Smith in demanding the end of public safety power shutoffs, called victory this legislative year after killing SB54, which would have allowed bars in pilot cities to remain open until 3 a.m. 

“Not only have I dealt with traffic safety, I’ve worked these hours in question for over two decades,” said Lackey in September on the State Assembly floor. “I’ve sat in the homes of people to share the absolute worst news. People have lost loved ones because people were impaired.”

His two-bill package focusing on developmental disabilities and one on suicide prevention received the governor’s signature in 2019: 

  • AB 169 extends protections to off-duty guide, signal and service dogs.
  • AB 1351 fortifies inclusive transportation for individuals with intellectual and developmental challenges to allow for more seamless traveling across the state.
  • AB 984 allows taxpayers to contribute their own money to a new voluntary contribution, in which funds would go toward state crisis centers that are active members of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

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