By Toni G. Atkins
Happy New Year! January is a good time to regroup, recover, and recharge after the busy holiday season. For the state Senate, January also means returning to Sacramento for the second year of our legislative session.
During the legislative recess, I enjoyed taking part in dozens of meetings and events in the 39th Senate District, which focused on everything from affordable housing to human trafficking to celebrating the achievements of local businesses and community leaders. Now, I’m eager to join my colleagues for another productive year in the state Capitol.
Our annual deliberations on the state budget begin this month after Governor Newsom announces his initial proposal. Then, the Senate Budget Committee moves forward with its review. Last year, we enacted a bold and responsible budget that included record funding for education, strong reserves in case of economic downturns, and addressed several important projects in our region. I believe this year’s budget will be equally beneficial.
Two areas where we made major investments last year — health care and housing — will again be the subject of legislation in 2020. While we increased the number of Californians with access to health care and reduced the cost of health care for middle-class Californians, the Legislature must continue to work with the governor on the path toward health care for all.
Because there is not enough affordable housing construction to meet the need, we have to fix that by being thoughtful about building homes in places that will increase access to jobs, reduce the time people have to spend in their cars, and help us meet California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Our region has a strong recreation and tourism industry, and is home to the largest concentration of military facilities in the world. Because these vital sectors of our economy all face threats from climate change, especially sea level rise, I am particularly pleased that the Senate will be advancing a $4.1 billion bond measure that will help communities invest in climate resiliency — including addressing sea level rise, preparing for droughts, and preventing wildfires.
In fact, wildfire preparation will continue to be one of our highest priorities in 2020 — and beyond. In November, the Senate held a hearing to examine issues involving the power shutoffs Californians have endured during our ever-expanding fire season. Another hearing is scheduled later this month to focus on telecommunications issues that arise during wildfires. San Diego’s experience in establishing recovery and prevention protocols after the 2003 and 2007 fires was basically learn-as-we-go. Having been through that reinforces my belief that California needs a comprehensive wildfire action plan, implemented in a timely and transparent manner so Californians know what to expect, and when.
No doubt it will be a busy and challenging year ahead, but one filled with many opportunities to make California an even better place to live.
I hope 2020 will also be a year of health and happiness for you and your loved ones.
—Toni G. Atkins represents District 39 in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.