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Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Marty Block Visited OB Town Council


Speaker Atkins, Lt James Gartland, Jeff Hatfield, President San Diego Lifesaving Association & Senator Block (Photo: Susan Peinado)

Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Marty Block took part in the protest against ALEC on Wednesday July 22, 2015 and that evening both appeared at the Ocean Beach Town Council (OBTC) meeting to speak and hand out certificates of appreciation to the recipients of the OBTC Community Awards.

The town council meeting was masterfully chaired by club Secretary and OBTC President, Gretchen Newson (who was also at the ALEC protest earlier that day).

Both politicians spoke to some of their recent legislative achievements, and neither appeared to want to leave first – could it be that they are gearing up for a competitive Senate District 39 race next year (as has been rumored)? Or will Speaker Atkins be persuaded to run for Mayor?

As previously reported in the OB Rag and reprinted with permission:

State Senator Marty Block
Senator Block introduced himself as having worked at San Diego State University for 26 years, President of the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees for 8 years, and member of the San Diego County Board of Education for 8 years. He was elected to the State Assembly in 2008 and served 4 years, and chaired the Higher Education Committee.

Block was elected to the State Senate in 2012 for his first term that runs until 2016, and then he will be termed out in 2020. He chairs the Education Budget sub-committee that handles the budget for K12 and higher education, which is about half of the state budget.

Good, local staff are key to providing constituent services and Senator Block advised any one with a California state issue or problem to contact our Ocean Beach local representative, Roberto Alcantar whose contact details are available at Marty Block’s website . (Roberto regularly attends the OB Town Council public meeting every month.)

Senator Block talked about various workshops including protecting seniors from fraud, helping veterans find work and helping vets with relevant education.

Obviously the budget is an important part the Senator’s work. His first year in the legislature California had a $42 billion deficit. In 2008 there were 4 all-night sessions in Sacramento trying to reach a budget deal, and where one of his colleagues remarked that it was “the most people he’d slept with since the ‘70s”. Thanks to Proposition 25 those days are behind us. Now we have a majority budget vote “like 48 of the other 50 states” and budgets are set in a timely fashion.

Last year Senator Block carried a bill to make sure that lifeguards in San Diego have the same protections as those in many other parts of the state if they are injured on the job. He said:

“If they’re hurt protecting us, their families are protected.”

An issue close to Senator’s Block heart is Human Trafficking. A constituent had come to him a couple of years ago with a story of how one of her daughter’s best friends had gone for a joy ride with some gang members, and for almost a year didn’t come home. It turned out that she was being sold up and down the state into human slavery, being prostituted.

Senator Block helped pass legislation to increase penalties for human traffickers, and to increase fines for those who allow human trafficking to take part on their property with the fine money split 50:50 between law enforcement and helping the victims.

Last year the Senator carried a bill that for the first time in the history of California that allows Community Colleges to offer 4 year degrees in subjects with high workforce needs.

Later in the fall there will be a townhall called “There Ought to Be a Law” to allow constituents to suggest ideas for legislation and Roberto will inform the council once the date is determined.

Two bills of direct interest to Ocean Beach:

– Water quality testing used to take 24-48 hours, this caused health issues for residents and was an economic drag for businesses like the OB Hotel when tourists came to San Diego and were unable to enjoy the ocean for 24-48 hours. SB1395 now allows a new, safe 4-hour test to be used in the state.

– The OB Mainstreet Association lobbied to change the regulations on reporting trespassing offenses every 6 months, to make it open ended to allow police to enforce trespassing laws.

Senator Block then fielded questions:
Interest on student loans? Yes, too high, but federal issue to discuss wit Scott Peters;
Smog test exemption for old cars? Unlikely, most legislation wants to reduce pollution;
Fracking? Referenced a study driven by Senator Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County) whose results will direct whether to impose a total moratorium

Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins
Toni Atkins has been speaker of the Assembly for a little over a year, and has spent the last few months working extensively on the budget.

The budget has $97 million more for CSU and $25 million more for UC than originally allotted. The extra UC money is tied to California student enrollment. The Assembly has continued middle class scholarships, where 85,000 students (statewide) have received up to 40% of their tuition costs $12,000/year (UC) and $5,500/year (CSU). At San Diego State 4,600 students took advantage of this program and 1,800 at UCSD with 60 of those students from Ocean Beach.

The budget also has an earned income tax credit for 2 million more Californians, helping lift 50,000 out of deep poverty and 50,000 more from near poverty. There are about 1500 taxpayers in Ocean Beach that will be able to take advantage of this state program.

Developmentally disabled MediCal reimbursement rates are still being worked on in Sacramento during the last month of the session.

Housing support programs received an additional $35 million for Homeless Outreach Teams (HOT) together with the Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams (PERT) and Serial Inebriate Programs.

San Diego County will receive $20 million more for housing for homeless to try to get people off the streets. Prop 41 sees an additional $75 million for homeless Veterans, and Cap and Trade will produce another $200 million more statewide for affordable housing.

Legislation (AB392) was passed to increase the timeline for the River Conservancy to be made permanent, and Speaker Atkins’ mention that in the water bond $17 million is allocated for the San Diego River and watersheds drew applause from the audience.

The budget also includes measures to make sure that 1,100 miles of California coastline is accessible and the backlog of 1,800 enforcement cases is gone. The threat of fines from the Coastal Commission resolved the issues.

Pacific to Plate (AB226) will enable fresh fish to be sold at the harbor much like at a farmers market.

California Competes Tax Credit has $200 million of tax credits available for small businesses. With the last $150 million program $34 million came back to San Diego. The application process is straightforward and there is a workshop to help businesses apply that’s being held in Torrey Pines, Friday July 31, 2015, 2-3pm. Details and Registration.

Lastly Speaker Atkins thanked everyone for all the help with the recent Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) Sock Drive. After all the heavy rain at the weekend the VVSD was really grateful for the support.

The Speaker then answered questions on:
Fracking? Really need to get thoughts and views to the Governor’s Office. The Assembly and Senate have recommended a moratorium. The study is important but let your views be known to Governor Brown.
SB128 End of Life Option Act (or Death with Dignity)? Speaker Atkins hopes to see the bill reintroduced in special session and for it fare better with a different make up of health committee.
Sexual assault on women at UC Campuses? The Women’s Caucus invited several women to Sacramento to highlight their Title 9 lawsuits. In her role as Speaker Toni Atkins is a UC Regent and she is a Trustee at CSU and has brought these issues forward together with Dr Webber.
Frustration with incentives for latest water restrictions helping latecomers to sustainable behavior? Understands frustration with need for a crisis to change some peoples behavior, but hopeful that water conservancy is working.