Although the proceedings were different from traditional ceremonies in the past due to COVID-19 safety measures, California legislators whose districts include the Santa Clarita Valley were sworn into office Monday, including newcomer Suzette Martinez Valladares for the 38th Assembly District.
The newest member of the local Sacramento delegation was sworn in at the Golden 1 Center arena in downtown Sacramento along with the rest of the Assembly, where members were seen wearing masks and sitting in physically distanced seats.
“The voters sent me to Sacramento to get work done,” said Valladares in a prepared statement. “I’m here to fight for everyday Californians, and I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”
Valladares introduced Assembly Bill 90 and 91 Monday. AB 90 aims to protect vulnerable foster youth from identity theft by extending existing credit freeze protections up to 18 years old, while AB 91 looks to reduce state license fees for small and micro-businesses.
It was straight to business for incumbents Sen Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, making clear their priorities and sharing they would introduce new legislation. They each secured their re-election early on in November.
Wilk and Lackey focused largely this year on addressing a series of issues related to the Employment Development Department, following a backlog of 1.6 million claims and reports of widespread fraud and poor customer service as an estimated 15 million Californians applied for unemployment benefits due to the pandemic.
Wilk’s first order of business for the year is bringing forth a new bill that seeks to require EDD to comply immediately with the state Auditor’s 2019 recommendations on removing information such as Social Security numbers from EDD mail.
Lackey, who was also sworn in at the Golden 1 Center, said he would introduce a new bill to establish an advisory committee to provide oversight and accountability at the EDD.
“As a member of the budget subcommittee responsible for reviewing EDD’s response to the pandemic, EDD has continued to demonstrate its inability to provide critical relief to Californians during this difficult time,” said Lackey in a prepared statement. “This is the result of zero oversight and accountability that has persisted for decades.”
Stern, who is returning for a second term representing the 27th Senate District, was sworn in at his Calabasas district office as he opted not to travel to Sacramento due to COVID-19 concerns. His priorities for 2021 also include addressing EDD concerns, as well as COVID-19 and the care economy, wildfires and climate resiliency, mental health and homelessness, open space biodiversity and the future of democracy, he said, adding that he introduced three pieces of legislation that have yet to receive bill numbers.
The first aims to require employers to implement contact tracing programs and have workers report to employers if they test positive for COVID-19. The second bill looks to halt development in high fire hazard severity areas and the third would create a fire resiliency corps and offer grants to help wildfire victims.