Tag Archives: California legislature

Police oversight, clean energy & clean air in 3 clicks

Signing the petition, making the call or writing the email has never been and will never be pointless

By Nathalie Christian, May 8, 2023

Sometimes signing petitions and writing emails or calls like those suggested below can feel . . . pointless at best, and performative at worst.  But these actions – even as insignificant as they may feel – are neither.

Research, experience and most importantly results prove time and again that policymakers absolutely consider petitions, phone calls, emails and yet more petitions when making decisions. While your pebble may feel small, adding it to a pile and encouraging others in your networks to add their pebbles as well are the first steps in triggering a landslide.

In full disclosure, you may need a few more than three clicks to complete the three proposed actions laid out here today, but you can still make a big difference in the time it takes for your tea or coffee to brew. And the minutes you take today can influence years of decision-making and legislation, and ultimately the lifetimes of many.

[Note: I am ordering these by urgency, not importance. For example, while the EPA is accepting public comment on proposed regulations through July 5, there are important hearings May 9, 10 and 11 that you may want to know about.]

1. Call or Email: Tell your Assembly Members to OPPOSE Assembly Bill 538, which threatens California’s clean energy goals and autonomy

A picture of a power pole.
Major environmental organizations including 350 Bay Area Action, the Sierra Club and Indivisible advise that AB 538 could prevent California from meeting essential clean energy goals. | Uncredited image from 350 Bay Area Action.

Anyone can participate in this important action, but if you’re living Bay Area Assembly Districts 11 (Lori Wilson), 21 (Diane Papan) and 28 (Gail Pellerin), your voice is especially needed. (Find out which district you live in here. If you live in Solano County, Lori Wilson is your assembly representative.)

These three members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee are voting on a grid-related bill that 350 Bay Area Action, the Sierra Club and Indivisible will lump California in with a multistate regional transmission organization, potentially throwing a pretty big wrench in CA’s efforts to meet its clean energy goals. The phone numbers, email addresses and script below provide a quick way you can help oppose this bill.

If you’re a constituent of AD 11, 21 or 28:  Please use the following message for calling or emailing . . .

Suggested message: 

I am your constituent and a member of 350 Bay Area Action, a 20,000-member strong climate justice organization.  After long consideration, we have taken an OPPOSE position on AB 538.

AB 538 creates a new multi-Western state electricity market that would threaten California’s clean energy goals and autonomy without significantly improving access to regional energy markets.  Proposed amendments cannot fix this bill.

    • If the bill is on the Consent Calendar, please request that it be it taken off.
    • Once it’s off Consent, please don’t vote for it. Either vote against it, or don’t vote.

Thank you for your consideration!

Sincerely yours,

[Name / City]

Non-constituents:  Use the above message and simply start by saying you’re a member of 350 Bay Area Action.

2. Petition or public comment: Support the most ambitious vehicle emissions regulations ever proposed.

EPA logo

The EPA has just proposed what the Climate Reality Project is calling “the strongest regulations on vehicle emissions ever.” Despite improved regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, light- and medium-duty vehicles (like passenger cars and delivery trucks) still produce a tremendous amount of toxic tailpipe pollutants. According to Climate Reality, the regulations the EPA proposed could prevent nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2055.

Naturally, the proposed regulations are under attack by the usual suspects. While the EPA is still taking public comments, they need to hear from us. It’s up to average citizens like you and me to balance the histrionics from the conservatives and corporations who desperately want to keep fossil fuels-guzzling cars on the road.

Here are three ways you can support this ambitious new set of regulations:

3. Petition: Boost Vallejo residents demanding independent police oversight

Police officers stand in a loose formation, holding firearms. In the center of the formation is a man in a red shirt with a badge but no firearm.
The Vallejo Police Department continues to resist reform despite historic levels of community distrust. This behavior is ultimately abetted by scant acknowledgment and nearly no action made by Vallejo leaders on behalf of their constituents, who are demanding change, transparency and accountability in this petition. | Uncredited image from petition.
Members of the Solano County ACLU Chapter started this petition to demand independent, external oversight over the very troubled Vallejo Police Department. The case the petition makes is clear, compelling and actionable. Anyone can sign (even if you don’t live in Vallejo), so please take a quick minute to do so and then to share it with your networks. 

From the petition: “Vallejo Police Department (VPD) is the most troubled police department in northern California. This is clear to residents of Vallejo, potential VPD applicants, local and national media, and police professionals in the Bay Area. But this has never been directly acknowledged by our leaders, nor has there been a substantive attempt to make amends to the families who have lost loved ones, to those who have been subjected to police abuse, or to the community. Past attempts at reform have been completely ineffective.”

Read more and sign the petition at change.org . . . 

 

[P. S. I am sorry for shoving three important actions in a single post, possibly reducing the chances that you will complete any of them. The Benicia Independent has a backlog of articles and posts I want to publish and, in the interest of time and space, I am compromising. I encourage you to share these actions with your networks and really highlight the need and the urgency to ensure we have the best chance of being heard on these important topics. –N.C.]


Read more! While we’re talking about Air Quality,  check out these resources:

Susannah Delano: Recruiting a Legislature that looks like California (finally)

For the first time, a majority of our legislators are women, people of color or LGBTQ+

Gail Pellerin is the first woman from Santa Cruz to serve in the Assembly. (Bay Area News Group File Photo)

The Mercury News, by Susannah Delano, December 16, 2022

Successful groups know that recruiting great talent is essential.

College teams invest in scouting to find the kid who could be tomorrow’s star center. Major corporations recruit year-round to hit growth targets. Organizations recruit to ensure their teams reflectthe communities they serve.

In politics, though, recruitment is often left to chance, or to the good old boys network.

The 2022 U.S. Senate races reveal how decisive candidate recruitment is. Underwhelming contenders recruited by former President Trump failed in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada, and the GOP lost its chance to control the Senate.

While California has the fourth largest economy on the planet, its Legislature ranked 23rd nationally in women’s representation before the 2022 election.

That’s why Close the Gap called on progressive organizations years ago to join us in prioritizing a shake-up. Investing in diverse women early was the only way we could convert the opportunity we saw on the horizon — 90+ seats opening 2022-2028 due to term limits.

With allies across the state, we identified women who would make excellent legislators, and invited those who rose to the top to run. By the time our Legislature’s “Great Resignation” increased the number of open seats five-fold this year, higher numbers of more diverse women than we’ve ever seen were ready in targeted districts.

We had to disrupt the paradigm of candidates handpicked by insiders to elect a more representative legislature.

I’m happy to report that it worked: This week, the most diverse Legislature in California history will be sworn into office.

In a dramatic 92% increase since 2017, 50 women (the majority women of color) now serve, an historic high-water mark of 42%. For the first time, a majority of our legislators are women, people of color or LGBTQ+ – just like California is proud to be.

Here are five Bay Area examples of the new talent transforming the legislature.

Lori Wilson (AD 11) served as Suisun City mayor before winning a special election to succeed Assemblymember Jim Frazier. She is the new chair of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first Black Assemblymember to represent Solano County.

Gail Pellerin (AD 28) was chief elections officer in Santa Cruz County for nearly three decades. As county clerk, she says she “managed the office of love and voting.” She is the first woman from Santa Cruz to serve in the Assembly.

Aisha Wahab (SD 10) is the daughter of Afghan refugees who served as chair of the Alameda County Human Relations Commission and as Hayward City Councilmember. She is the first Afghan-American legislator, and will join the Renter’s Caucus.

Liz Ortega (AD 20) was the first Latina to lead the Alameda County Labor Council. She is the daughter of immigrants who were previously undocumented.

Dawn Addis (AD 30) has served as a classroom teacher, co-founder of her local Women’s March, and Morro Bay Councilmember. She flipped a formerly Republican-held seat blue in a new district stretching up to Capitola.

When women run, they win just as often as men. What’s been missing is enough female candidates competing, and the infrastructure to prepare and sustain them against hand-picked good old boys. If all it took was a cultural moment or many open seats, women would have hit parity decades ago.

A strong, diverse, effective team doesn’t just happen – you need to recruit for it.

With 50 more seats opening in the next six years, there’s a robust effort already underway to ensure our state house can raise the nation’s bar for equitable governance this decade.

Heads up to the good old boys: there’s no pushing us off the path to parity now.

Susannah Delano is executive director of Close the Gap California, an organization focused on recruiting and preparing progressive women to run for the Legislature.

Watered-Down Bill to Punish Refinery Pollution Gets Scrapped After Oil Industry Pushback

Proposal that would have punished oil refineries is dead – gutted and amended in Senate after approval by full Assembly –

KQED News, by Ted Goldberg. Aug 24, 2022

AUG 28 UPDATE
After this story was published – this refinery penalty bill was gutted and amended and now has nothing to do with refineries. Its author killed the proposal after it was weakened so much that the oil industry dropped its opposition.  – Ted Goldberg, @KQEDnews
A proposal that would have punished oil refineries that illegally pollute the air with toxic chemicals is dead, after opposition from the industry led to such a weakening of the bill that its own author pulled her support.

The state Senate was poised to vote later this month on a proposal to increase the maximum penalties for California oil refineries that violate air quality laws. If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, it would have marked the first major change to the penalty structure specific to the oil refining industry in the state in more than two decades.

AUTHOR WICKS:
‘I’m disappointed that changes made to the bill by the Appropriations Committee weakened the maximum penalties for polluters.’ – Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland)
But two weeks ago, legislators weakened the bill so much that California’s leading oil industry group dropped its months-long opposition to it. Now, the East Bay Assemblymember behind the push, whose district includes one of California’s largest refineries, has decided to kill the bill and push for another piece of legislation that has similar goals but does not go as far as her original proposal.

The legislation’s changes did not take place during multiple public hearings where lawmakers debated AB 1897 and then overwhelmingly backed the bill four separate times.

GUTTED:
You can see here how after multiple committees and the full Assembly approved the bill – and it was about to get a vote in the State Senate – it was killed, gutted and amended: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB1897 – Ted Goldberg, @KQEDnews
Instead, in a hearing behind closed doors earlier this month, state senators apparently bowed to oil industry demands, reducing some of the bill’s proposed fine increases and making the standard for the hikes more stringent.

The changes were made in the Senate Appropriations Committee, a panel charged with weighing the costs of proposed legislation. During their annual suspense file hearing, legislators decide the fate of hundreds of bills away from the public eye — and legislative leaders often use the opaque process to kill or change bills that aren’t just expensive but politically unpalatable.

“I’m disappointed that changes made to the bill by the Appropriations Committee weakened the maximum penalties for polluters,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), the proposal’s author.

Wicks represents the area of Chevron’s Richmond refinery, which has committed scores of violations against local air regulations over the last decade. On Tuesday she decided to drop AB 1897, prompted by its recent changes.

Environmentalists have long criticized fine structures for California’s refineries, complaining that companies that own the state’s petroleum plants end up paying small penalties when they often make significant profits. For example, Chevron says it made $11.6 billion in the second quarter of this year.

When Wicks proposed the bill in February, the legislation would have increased the civil penalty maximum for violations of air quality regulations from $10,000 to $30,000 if that violation resulted in “severe disruption to the community.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee cut out that phrase and replaced it with a much higher standard: “a significant increase in hospitalizations, residential displacement, shelter in place, evacuation, or destruction of property.”

The initial proposal called for maximum $100,000 fines against refineries with a “subsequent violation” within a one-year period. The appropriations panel cut that down to $50,000.

“I was watching, like, everyone else to see what would happen with the bill,” said Alan Abbs, the legislative director for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which sponsored Wicks’ proposal. “I didn’t know what the amendments would be until I saw them in print later in the day.”

In March, the Western States Petroleum Association sent a letter to Wicks, expressing opposition to the bill. The industry group said  then that AB 1897 unfairly singled out refineries.

That opposition was not enough to deter majorities of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, the Assembly Judiciary Committee, the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the full Assembly, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee — all panels that advanced the bill.

But after the changes were made in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the petroleum association changed their position last week.

“The change in our position is due to amendments that make the proposed legislation more consistent with the way air quality violations have been assessed in the past,” stated Kevin Slagle, a representative for the industry group, in an email.

A representative for Wicks says her office had no control over the amendments and was left in the dark about what prompted them.

“We don’t know who ultimately pushed these changes — the appropriations process is very opaque, and we don’t have visibility into the decisions or control over what gets adopted,” said Erin Ivie, the lawmaker’s communications director.

“Some of these changes seem to respond to criticism of the bill made by the oil industry … While we don’t know who exactly, the why seems to be to make the bill less objectionable to the oil industry.”

Earlier in the summer, the Newsom administration also quietly expressed opposition to the original version of AB 1897. In June, months before it was changed, state finance officials raised concerns about a part of the proposal that directed penalty revenue to communities affected by violations that led to the fines — instead of to local air districts charged with monitoring emissions.

“(The California Air Resources Board) maintains that the bill would effectively defund the districts due to the districts’ historical reliance on the civil penalties collected, in part, to fund their operations,” the Department of Finance wrote in its fiscal analysis of the bill.

The administration argued that if local air districts couldn’t collect enough penalty money, the state’s air resources board would need to provide more support to such agencies, something finance officials said would create “cost pressures” on state funds.

A staff analysis by the Senate Appropriations Committee made a similar argument in the days before the committee amended the bill and sent it to the Senate floor.

The death of Wicks’ bill marks the third time in the last 10 years that a proposal specifically to increase fines for refineries died in the state Legislature.

In 2013, on the heels of a major fire at Richmond’s Chevron refinery, then-state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, introduced legislation to raise such penalties. The state Senate approved the bill, but it died on the Assembly floor amid opposition from energy companies.

Five years later state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, proposed tripling some of the most serious penalties for refineries. He said then that he authored that bill, in part, because of a major refinery accident at Valero’s Benicia plant in 2017. That proposal never received its first committee hearing after opposition not only from the oil industry but also from environmentalists and the mayors of Richmond and Benicia, who said it wasn’t strong enough.

On Tuesday, Wicks decided to abandon her bill and join as a co-author on AB 2910, which would increase maximum fines for large industrial facilities that violate air pollution regulations, including refineries, from $10,000 to $30,000.

But, unlike the other bill, it would not increase penalties associated with multiple violations. And while AB 2910 calls for some revenue from those fines to go to local communities affected by authorized industry facility releases, it’s unclear how much.

The Western States Petroleum Association did not add its name to the list of groups opposed to that bill. The state Senate is expected to vote on AB 2910 next week.

Former Benician Susannah Delano on California’s ‘Great Resignation’

BenIndy Editor: Full (and prideful) disclosure: Susannah Delano is my beloved – and highly talented – daughter.  🙂  – R.S.

Legislature’s ‘Great Resignation’ provides great opportunity for women

By Susannah Delano, Special to CalMatters, February 15, 2022 Susannah Delano is executive director of Close the Gap California, a nonprofit organization that recruits and prepares progressive women to run for state Legislature.

We’re witnessing the “Great Resignation, Capitol Edition,” with more than a quarter of California’s 120 legislators exiting the building in 2022.

Why are we losing so many legislators in one year? It’s a combination of factors – redistricting, which left many incumbents with no place to run; a domino effect of open seats as members seek new roles; and the reckoning of term limit reform passed in 2012.

Where some might see chaos, we see opportunity.

The 2022 election marks the start of California’s “Great Opportunity” to elect a Legislature that truly reflects the people it serves.

California has a reputation for leading the nation forward on critical issues including climate change, equal pay, reproductive health access, long-term care, minimum wage, family leave, early education and more.

But when it comes to women’s representation – California falls short.

Only 37 legislators – less than a third – are women. Of the 37 women serving, 28 are Democrats and 9 are Republicans. California ranks 28rd in the nation for our percentage of women legislators.

Our goal is nothing short of parity for women in the California Legislature, this decade. When I briefed political insiders on that audacious goal years ago, many of them gave me a virtual pat on the head and wished me luck. But in 2022, that audacious dream is starting to look a lot more real.

In my 20 years of working to elect more racially representative, progressive women to office, I’ve never witnessed a higher caliber of candidates step up to run at the state level. As we’ve worked with the majority of these women, I can tell you they are experienced, savvy, and ready to win.

In the fight for equal representation, we are all too used to incremental progress at best. But this year, the hard work of identifying, encouraging and preparing women to run is paying off at an unprecedented scale.

With musical chairs ensuring the Legislature will lose at least eight of its women incumbents by year’s end, this historically robust wave of reinforcements is exactly what might ensure women’s numbers continue to climb in 2022.

Common sense and research tell us that running for an open seat is the likeliest path to victory for a newcomer. What’s unprecedented about 2022 is the volume of open seats, and the number of accomplished women who are ready to win.

In the 35 legislative seats open so far in 2022, an astounding 45 female candidates with the capacity to run competitive campaigns have launched so far. In nine districts, both of the top two contenders are women.

These women arrive with impressive backgrounds and track records of service to their communities. They’re nonprofit directors, nurses, labor and tech leaders, small business owners and entrepreneurs. They’ve served on city councils, school boards, and local and state commissions.

The women running for open seats in 2022 are overwhelmingly Democratic, and also present historic levels of diversity. More than 70% are women of color, and many are LGBTQ+.

In this time of legislative turnover, who comes next will determine what comes next. The nation will look to the pipeline of leaders and innovative policy solutions we battle-test here in the years to come.

While we are losing some extremely effective legislators in 2022, as long as well-prepared women keep stepping up, and stakeholders are brave enough to put their resources where their values align, voters will have the opportunity to elect new voices and transform the Capitol’s decision-making tables.

The women of 2022 are the future many of us have dreamed of for decades.

They will need to overcome a disproportionate number of barriers along their paths to election. But today, their sheer number, talent and determination should inspire us to look beyond the Capitol’s Great Resignation, and recognize this moment for what it is: California’s Great Opportunity to put the world’s fifth largest economy on a fast-track to reflective democracy.