Morrell Monthly: February 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015
Connect With Me On Social Media
Mobile Office Hours - UPDATE
Message from Mike
Keeping the state’s pension system from becoming even more insolvent
High Desert Town Hall
Community Hero Spotlight:
Helping Vets Transition to Civilian Life
Intern Spotlight: Anastasia Aguas
High Cost of Housing
In Memoriam: Remembering K9 “Sultan”

Connect With Me On Social Media

To learn more about what I’m working on in Sacramento, or events happening in the district, please visit my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. You can also email me at

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Mobile Office Hours - UPDATE

In January, the Phelan and Piñon Hills community was added to our monthly schedule of mobile office hours. They’ll be held the last Monday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon at the Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District office.

If you have an issue or concern that you would like to share in person but can’t make it to our main office, mobile office hours are great opportunities to connect with my staff. You can view the schedule for the whole district here.

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Message from Mike

February has been a busy month for me. By Friday, February 27, I will have introduced all of my legislation for the year. Be on the lookout for the complete list! Here are a couple of highlights so far:

  • Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 (Budget Transparency) - For the fourth time since going to Sacramento, I am authoring a measure that would require the state budget to be publicly available and online at least 72 hours before a vote of the legislature. Unlike my previous efforts, this bill would require final approval by the people to lock the provision into the state constitution. Read the whole press release here.
  • Senate Bill 198 (Fire Tax Repeal) - As part of the 2011 state budget vote, the majority party pushed through legislation creating a fire prevention “fee” to be assessed on properties in certain parts of the state. The problem is, most of the affected property owners already pay for services from local fire districts. It’s an unfair and unnecessary cost being pushed onto residents in rural and mountain communities. This bill, co-authored by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) would repeal it. Read the whole press release here.

The legislature also formally marked February as Black History Month in California. Events have taken place throughout the month to recognize the achievements and contributions of the African-American community to both our state and nation, including a special floor presentation in the state senate.

From our region, I was pleased to join my colleagues in honoring former Black Voice News publisher and California Black Media co-founder Hardy Brown for his work in the Inland Empire. Last spring, he was conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by California State University, San Bernardino in acknowledgement of his initiatives and achievements. To read more about Hardy and the presentation, click here. I’ve also included a photo below.

Next month, committee hearings start in earnest as we start reviewing and vetting legislative proposals. We will also begin making headway on piecing together what I hope will turn out to be a fiscally responsible state budget.

As always, it is a privilege to represent you in Sacramento. I’ll keep you posted.


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Photo of Senator Morrell presenting a Resolution to Hardy Brown
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of honoring the life’s work of Black Voice News publisher and California Black Media co-founder Hardy Brown on the floor of the state senate. Included in this photo from left to right: (back row) son-in-law and Stockton City Manager Kurt Wilson, granddaughter Kennedy Wilson, brother Vince Brown; (middle row) daughter and California Black Media chair Regina Brown Wilson, wife Assemblymember Cheryl Brown(D-San Bernardino); (front row) Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside), Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Hardy Brown, and myself. You can also watch the video here.

Photo of Senator Morrell at The Unforgettables Foundation awards
Each February, The Unforgettables Foundation honors exceptional volunteers, service groups and companies that care for and give to children, families and the less fortunate across the Inland Empire at its annual Unforgettable Heart Awards. It’s always a privilege to speak at this event. This year, the foundation’s co-founder Tim Evans surprised my wife, Joanie, with a special recognition. To all of this year’s honorees - thank you for your good work in our community!

Photo of Senator Morrell with Banning Mayor Debbie Franklin and Electric Utility Director Fred Mason
Banning Mayor Debbie Franklin and Electric Utility Director Fred Mason met with me in Sacramento to talk about some of the city’s priorities in the year ahead. Always glad to have folks up from the district!

Photo of Senator Morrell with Lily Diehl and Scott Stockdale at the Loma Linda Chamber of Commerce
I enjoyed attending the Loma Linda Chamber of Commerce officer installation and community awards. Congratulations to Lily Diehl on being named Citizen of the Year! And congratulations to incoming president Scott Stockdale!

Photo of groundbreaking of Yucaipa BMX Sports Complex
David Matza from my office (in the red shirt) joined Tim Hanson and Wendy Montgomery at the groundbreaking of the Yucaipa BMX Sports Complex, after 6 years of their working to get it off the ground. Also in attendance were Yucaipa Mayor Denise Hoyt, County Supervisor James Ramos, Yucaipa City Council Members David Avila, Bobby Duncan, Dick Riddell and Greg Bogh,Yucaipa City Manager Ray Casey, and Calimesa City Council Members Jeff Hewitt and Bill Davis. Exciting news for our region!

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OP-ED: Keeping the state’s pension system from becoming even more insolvent

During my time in office, I’ve made it no secret that our state’s debt and $340 billion in unfunded pension liabilities are among my top concerns. If we fail to address these problems now, we’ll only be passing them onto future generations, which is unacceptable. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.”

This session, I will serve as the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Public Employees and Retirement. In this capacity, I’ll have a unique opportunity to look at legislation and issues directly impacting the state’s pension system.

One proposal that is already on this year’s agenda would direct CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from companies that produce coal in order to take a political stance on the issue. While we all want a clean environment, taking this particular action would do little to further this goal and instead set a bad precedent for interfering with vetted investments that produce returns to help meet the state’s pension obligations. To read more about my thoughts on the issue, I encourage you to read my op-ed that ran in both the San Bernardino County Sun and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin by clicking here.

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High Desert Town Hall

On Thursday, March 12, I’ll be hosting a town hall meeting at the Phelan Community Center. If you’re in the area, I encourage you to attend and hear about my priorities for the year and ask questions you may have regarding state issues. I look forward to seeing you there!

WHEN: Thursday, March 12 • 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Phelan Community Center • 4128 Warbler Road in Phelan

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the District Office at (909) 919-7731 or visit

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Helping Veterans Transition to Civilian Life

A recent article in the Redlands Daily Facts highlighted the work of Cheryl Kleeman, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and Director of Military and Veteran’s Services at the University of Redlands. Her goal is to bring programs to the university that serve veterans and members of the military, especially those transitioning to civilian life. Outside of the university, she works with veterans throughout the Inland Empire, including a Women Veterans Luncheon held at the university’s Orton Center and the recent Veterans Day Parade. I want to thank Cheryl for her service. To read more about her, click here.

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Image of Intern Anastasia Aguas Ana began her internship with our office in January. She was drawn to this internship by her love of American government and Constitutional principles. She looks forward to growing in her understanding of good government through her time with us.

Currently a freshman at California Baptist University, Ana is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in Spring 2017. She would like to pursue a career in state and national politics and eventually work out of Washington D.C. at the federal level.

We’re glad to have you aboard, Ana!

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 High Cost of Housing

Image of a graph showing the cost of housing
Source: Cal Facts 2014, Legislative Analyst’s Office

In 2014, the median value of a home in California ($383,900) was 111.6 percent higher than the national median home value ($181,400), yet, the median household income of $61,400 in California was only 15.7 percent higher than the national average ($53,046). This may explain why only 54 percent of Californians own a home, far behind the national average of 64 percent, and 46 percent of Californians rent.

By national standards, California’s homeownership rate is the third lowest in the nation. In fact, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, Californians spend disproportionate shares of their incomes on housing. For homeowners with mortgages, median monthly housing costs are 45 percent higher than for the nation as a whole. For renters, median rents are 36 percent higher.

Why is housing here so much more expensive? It is a combination of several things, including a limited supply of land and a drop in construction, spurred in part by the recession. Add in policies adopted at the state and local levels and it’s not a good situation.

Before a developer builds, they have to obtain permits, take surveys, complete environmental reviews, and pay a number of fees, which can account for as much as 30 percent of the cost of a new home. These costs have to be passed on to buyers, making first time home ownership unattainable for many families. It is just one more example of too much government regulation.

We need to focus on lowering the cost of constructing homes in California, which will reduce the portion of income expended on housing (both for renters and homeowners), create jobs, boost the economy, and reduce poverty.

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IN MEMORIAM: Remembering K9 “Sultan”

Photo of Riverside County Sheriff's Department K9 Sultan

This past January, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department K9 Team lost a member of its team during a search in San Jacinto. According to Sheriff Stan Sniff, 3-year-old “Sultan,” a Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix, was the first K9 on county record lost in the line of duty. My condolences and sympathies to his handler Deputy Mark Wallace and the whole department.

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