Our office is here to serve you. If you’re having difficulties with a state agency, need a question answered about pending legislation, or want to know more about upcoming events, please give us a call at (909) 919-7731. You can also email me at Senator.Morrell@sen.ca.gov.
Members of my staff hold regular monthly office hours across the 23rd Senate District. If you have an issue or concern that you would like to share in person but can’t make it to our main office, please plan to stop by. You can view the entire schedule here.
With the arrival of spring in recent weeks, the legislature entered into its next season of committee hearings to review pending legislation. My colleagues and I have had the opportunity to vote on several proposals as well as present our own bills for consideration. In this issue of the Morrell Monthly, I share with you some of the highlights.
The last month was also filled with special events both in Sacramento and here in the 23rd Senate District. Near the end of March, the Inland Empire Caucus recognized first responders and emergency personnel who were involved with the December 2 attack response in San Bernardino. I also had the honor of hosting the third annual Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future ceremony at March Field Air Museum in Riverside. Additionally, I joined Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) for a series of town halls on the legally suspect fire tax. I encourage you to read about each of these throughout the newsletter.
It is a privilege to represent you at the Capitol. As always, I’ll keep you posted.
Patriot Spotlight: Patriots of the Past, Present, & Future 2016
On Friday, April 1, I joined 350 people from around our community in recognizing local veterans, service members, and young leaders at the third annual Patriots of the Past, Present and Future Recognition Ceremony at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside.
The evening included a special recognition of Yucaipa resident and Afghanistan War veteran U.S. Marine Corporal Justin Crabbe as “Patriot of the Year” for the 23rd Senate District (pictured here at left with Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and service dog Gnome).
We also took time to remember the life of the late U.S. Marine Sergeant Joshua Ashley of Rancho Cucamonga, whose mother Tammie was able to adopt the military dog, Sirius, who served with him in Afghanistan (pictured below, from left, Ryan Orr of Operation Community Cares, brother Jordan Ashley, mother Tammie, and Sirius).
Other highlights of the evening included music provided by the 40s-era group The Swing Dames, military anthems sung by the California Baptist University Men’s Chorale, and presentation of colors by the Hemet High School Air Force Junior ROTC.
You can also watch a video recap of the evening by clicking on the picture below.
Honoring December 2nd Attack First Responders. The Inland Empire Caucus recently recognized first responders representing the over 300 individuals who took part in the response effort following the terror attack in San Bernardino. Floor ceremonies were conducted in both the Senate and the Assembly.
For more information, including a list of the honorees, click here.
Adult Education. We welcomed San Bernardino and Fontana Adult Schools to Sacramento this month. Pictured here from left to right: Fontana student Henry Rush, San Bernardino teacher Luis Pedraza, San Bernardino principal Karen Bautista, myself, Fontana student Claudia Facundo, San Bernardino student Fred Barajas, and Fontana principal Cindy Gleason.
Community Associations Institute. Local representative from the Community Associations Institute stopped by for a meeting in our office this month. Pictured here (from left to right): Bob Harvey of the Sundance Community Association, Thomas Clyne of Associa, Dana Mathey of Redlands, Chris Schwartz of Sun City, myself, Pat King of Beaumont, Lee McIntyre of the Sundance Community Association, Lanie Wurtz of the Sundance Community Association, and Jeremy Wilson of Banning.
Homes for Our Troops. This month, the nonprofit Homes for Our Troops came to Redlands to break ground on a new house for Marine Staff Sergeant Hans Blum, a 12-year veteran who lost both of his legs and injured his left hand while serving our country in Afghanistan. Community partners in the project include Stater Bros. and Budget Blinds. Hundreds from around the community came out to support SSgt Blum.
Please join me in thanking him for his service. Read more in the Daily Facts here.
On Saturday, April 16, I joined Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) for town hall meetings regarding the status of the fire tax being assessed on hundreds of thousands of property owners throughout California.
I provided an update on SB 1136, legislation I am authoring this year to increase transparency in how the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is spending revenue brought in by the tax. Currently, the bill has passed the Senate and is on its way to the Assembly.
As fire tax bills begin hitting mailboxes again, one key takeaway, is that in order to be considered part of the class action lawsuit being brought by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association you must both pay the tax as well as file a petition for redetermination, appealing the bill. This is the best way to protest the tax (and potentially qualify for a refund if the lawsuit succeeds), rather than refusing to pay it altogether.
Throughout the past month, both the Assembly and Senate have held committee hearings to consider pending legislation. I presented several of my bills as well as voted on a number of measures put forward by my colleagues. Here are some of the highlights from the past month:
- Senate Bill 1155 - I am authoring this bill, also known as the Welcome Home Act, to remove a barrier for veterans seeking work in California. SB 1155 would encourage immediate entrance into the civilian workforce by waiving the application and initial license fees paid to the state in order to receive an occupational license. This policy shift will help veterans as they apply for jobs. SB 1155 passed two Senate policy committees with unanimous support and is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Read more about the bill here.
- Senate Bill 1080 - This bill was brought to our office by the American G.I. Forum in response to the vandalism of the Mexican-American Veterans Memorial in Sacramento’s Capitol Park last summer. SB 1080 would hold individuals who vandalize the gravesites or memorials of veterans or first responders to greater accountability for their crimes by enhancing legal penalties for actions such as defacing or stealing items left in memory of loved ones who served in the military. Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support, Democrats on the Public Safety Committee blocked its passage. Read more here.
- Senate Bill 1457 - Another bill that I am authoring would enable local school boards to authorize more time for students to participate in released time studies as well as give officials discretion to consider certain programs for elective credit toward a student’s high school graduation. Released time refers to programs in which students leave school during the day to participate in moral and religious instruction. Under these programs, public school students have an opportunity to receive a small amount of private education, at no cost to their parents or to the school. Currently, these programs exist in 32 states, including Ohio and South Carolina, and serve more than 260,000 students. SB 1457 passed out of the Senate Education Committee and will be considered by the full Senate soon.
- Senate Bill 269 - This proposal would provide relief to businesses who are demonstrating a concerted effort to comply with ADA accessibility requirements by providing an opportunity to resolve identified construction-related violations without being subject to penalties or litigation costs. The measure seeks to rein in frivolous lawsuits brought against business owners. It is now on its way to the Governor’s desk. I’m proud to be a co-author on this measure.
- Making California Affordable - Senate Republicans have committed ourselves to reclaiming the promise of the California dream by proposing measures to make our state an affordable place to live. Reports, including one by CNBC, rank California as one of the most expensive states in the nation. Along with my effort to waive government fees for veterans entering the workforce (SB 1155), I’m proud to support my colleagues’ proposals to improve the outlook her for all Californians. You can read more here.
Hundreds of other bills are also making their way through the legislative process in Sacramento. I’ll keep you updated on my measures and others of note as the year continues.
Our Sacramento office welcomed Taisiya Tveretinova as an intern early this spring, following her fall graduation from California State University, Sacramento. She brings with her a passion for legislative affairs, administrative experience, and the completion of a rigorous undergraduate program in Biomedical Studies.
Although born in Russia, Taisiya is native to Sacramento, being raised in the area since she was a toddler. During middle school, when her family naturalized as citizens, her interest in government first began.
Following an early graduation from high school, she continued her academic pursuits in Sacramento, to stay near the Capitol. Taisiya says that she wants to “add a beat to the heart of her state.” With her dedicated nature and an appreciation for what life has to offer, she says there is no limit to her interest in policy and research.
During her free time, she enjoys exploring nature and the urban scene, as well as taking in music and the arts (especially medieval history), stories on biotechnology, and mixed martial arts.
We are excited to have her on board. Thanks for your hard work, Taisiya!
April marks Autism Awareness Month. The condition affects one out of every 68 American children, including many here in California. A few weeks back, I met Brian and Gina Walden and their family at an awareness event in our area. Their son Ethan has overcome many challenges brought on by autism. I asked if they could share their story with you:
Our 11-year-old son Ethan was diagnosed with severe autism at 2 ½ years old. He was tested developmentally as low as a 6-month-old baby. We were told he would likely never speak and that we should lower our expectations as he would probably always be in a special education. At the time he was nonverbal, had severe meltdowns, and when frustrated, would bite himself, fall to the floor, and purposefully bang his head on the ground.
After years of therapy, prayer, and a lot of faith, he has beaten the odds. Ethan made amazing improvements, becoming verbal, making friends and enrolling in a regular education classroom. By third grade he even won the young scholar of California award.
Now as a family it is our desire to give back and help other families who are dealing with a diagnosis of autism. We know firsthand the mental, financial, and emotional stress put on the family when a child is diagnosed with special needs.
Through our 501c3 nonprofit called the “Brand New Day Foundation” we provide grants to families of children with autism. By providing grants for counseling, advocacy, therapy, and medical care, we help the family with services they can’t afford on their own. We also provide free autism conferences and bring together specialists in their field to teach parents the latest developments in autism care and research.
Tax day, which fell on April 18 this year, is a day most of us dread. Millions of Americans e-file or mail in their tax returns - along with their hard-earned money - thinking their tax bill is paid. But they are wrong.
Americans actually have to work six more days this year to reach Tax Freedom Day - the day when all taxes assessed by government are paid and we can keep the money we earn.
On Tax Freedom Day, Americans collectively have earned enough money to pay the nation’s total tax bill for the year. In 2016, that date for most Americans will occur by April 24. Here in California, however, our Tax Freedom Day is not until April 30, due to higher state and local taxes.
Nationwide, Americans’ federal tax burden is $3.3 trillion and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of almost $5 trillion. That’s about $1 billion more than Americans will spend for housing, food, and clothing combined.
Despite this burden, state and local lawmakers are considering new taxes and fees that will take even more money from our pockets and add more days that we work for the government instead of ourselves. At some point, we have to say, “Enough”!
“I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
- Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820