The first two months of the year have been busy ones, both here at home and in Sacramento.
As of February 19, all legislation for the year was introduced at the Capitol. Some of my priorities this year include pushing for more transparency in fire fee spending, helping improve the process by which our state’s veterans make the transition to civilian life, and putting in place resources to keep our communities safe. I’m looking forward to building on my record of having the most bills by a Senate Republican signed into law last year. Be sure to stay tuned for more information to come!
From this point, committee hearings will start in earnest as we begin reviewing the various pieces of legislation that have been proposed. I remain committed to working against efforts that would increase your taxes, on gas, property or otherwise, and bills that seek to curtail some of the basic Constitutional rights and liberties of all individuals.
Throughout February, our state and community also observed Black History Month, with various groups holding events across our region. Many included special remembrances for the victims of the December 2 terror attack in San Bernardino, including the Black Chamber of Commerce (Inland Empire) Black History Super-Expo, which I was honored to take part in.
As we look back on this history, consider this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who made this observation about our nation’s founding:
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As always, it is a privilege to represent you in Sacramento. I’ll keep you posted.
Unforgettable Heart Awards. Each year, the Unforgettables Foundation, started by my good friend Tim Evans, recognizes charities and nonprofits from around the Inland Empire for the good work they do in our community. Their commitment to neighbor and family is a testimony to the strength of our region. Congratulations to this year’s honorees! Read more about this event here.
San Bernardino County District Advocates for Better Schools. I appreciated meeting with the members of the San Bernardino County District Advocates for Better Schools (SANDABS). The organization, made up of school district board members and superintendents, represent the member districts of San Bernardino County on state and national issues. Pictured here (from left to right): Jane Smith (Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified Boardmember), James Willingham (Mountain View Boardmember), Shawn Judson (Superintendent, Etiwanda School District), Sylvia Orozco (Chino Valley Unified Boardmember), Susan Bobbitt-Voth (Director, West End SELPA), myself, Lori Rhodes (Superintendent, Redlands Unified), Lorena Corona (Fontana Unified Boardmember), Ted Alejandre (San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools), Barbara Alejandre (San Bernardino County Schools), Karen Gray (Silver Valley Unified Boardmember), Tom Courtney (Lucerne Valley Unified Boardmember), and Jerry Almendarez (Superintendent, Colton Joint Unified).
Azusa Pacific University. Thanks to Political Science professor Abbylin Sellers for inviting me to speak to her State & Local Government Class at Azusa Pacific University. Great questions and discussion.
Water Talk. This month, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California hosted a Riverside Community Leaders Briefing on Water. It was a productive conversation with Congressman Ken Calvert (on left of stage), MWD Chair Randy Record (center), and local leaders on the need for more water storage and reliability in our state.
Inland Empire Legislative Caucus. I have the privilege of chairing the Inland Empire Caucus. Our bipartisan group meets throughout the year and we recently met with local officials to discuss the year ahead. The meeting included updates from San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon and the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors regarding the December 2nd terror attack in San Bernardino. Pictured here from left to right: myself, Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (vice-chair), Senator Connie Leyva, Assemblymember Marc Steinorth, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon, and San Bernardino Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Bob Dutton.
San Bernardino Area Chamber. Thanks to the outgoing members of the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for their service. Pictured here are members Michelle Berg and Dennis Craig.
Yucaipa Chamber of Commerce. At its recent installation dinner, the Yucaipa Chamber honored Brenda Heusterberg (center) as their Ambassador of the Year. Also pictured here, from left to right, is San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos, Rosilicie Bogh from Assemblyman Chad Mayes’s office, former Chamber Board Chair Nancy Kenny, myself, and Jan Leja from Congressman Paul Cook's office.
Mr. Clutch. The legislature honored the Golden State Warriors for their 2015 NBA Championship season. On hand representing the team was Los Angeles Laker great Jerry West who sits on the executive board for the team.
In 2011, leaders of the majority party in the legislature assessed a “fire prevention fee” on hundreds of thousands of property owners throughout the state without meeting the constitutionally mandated two-thirds vote for approval. Because it failed to reach this threshold, I and many others continue to believe the “fee” is actually an illegal tax and have worked to repeal it and/or see it overturned.
Until that time, however, property owners should at least know exactly how and where the money is being used. My new legislation, Senate Bill 1136, shines more light on this program by requiring CalFire, in its annual report to the legislature, to clearly identify each program and subprogram for which the department uses money generated from the SRA fee, including an itemized accounting of these expenditures.
Each February for the last five years, I have had the privilege of participating in the Unforgettable Heart Awards, an annual event to honor charities and volunteer organizations throughout the Inland Empire for the work they do in our community. It is put on by The Unforgettables Foundation, whose mission it is to aid families who have lost a child and do not necessarily have the means to pay for funeral or burial costs. The role of private charity in American life has been a tradition in our nation since before its founding and one that is made evident here in our region. To read more of my op-ed in the San Bernardino Sun, click here.
In my January newsletter, I invited you to attend a community coffee on February 27 in Redlands. We have rescheduled this meeting for Saturday, April 2, at Muffin Top Bakery in Redlands. Please stay tuned for details about this and other community coffees in the future!
This year, I will be hosting the third annual Patriots of the Past, Present and Future Recognition Ceremony and Dinner to honor servicemen and women of every generation and the local businesses and organizations that have supported them.
“Patriots” will be recognized in different categories, including Business, Health Care, Education, Public Safety and Community Service. There will also be a special recognition for young people who have done great work in our region.
Be sure to save April 1 to attend this event! This year it will be held at March Field in Riverside. Please contact our office for more information.
PATRIOT SPOTLIGHT: Remembering Last Year’s Patriots
At last spring’s Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future, it was an honor to recognize Hemet resident and Navy veteran Herbert “Bill” Harrison as the 23rd Senate District Patriot of the Year. Bill served during World War II, surviving six days at sea after his minesweeping ship, the USS YMS-472, was sunk off the north shore of Okinawa near Japan. After his time in the military, Bill dedicated his life to serving others and formed a construction company that built over 50 churches up and down the West Coast. For his work, Bill was nominated as a Patriot of the Past in the Business category. At 93 years old, he continues to travel around the country sharing his story of survival and faith, which is soon to be made into a feature film. More information can be found at 6daysonaraft.net.
THE NEXT GENERATION: Riane Castro
Riane Castro is a sophomore attending Cal State San Bernardino. She is majoring in Political Science with a minor in Pre-Law. She currently works on campus in the Santos Manuel Student Union in the Administration Office, where after a year she rose to the position of lead student assistant.
A resident of Yucaipa, Riane aspires to attend law school at Columbia University, UCLA, or Pepperdine University and enter the world of policy advocacy in the fields of women’s rights and civil issues. Riane developed a passion for law and government when she was in high school and became more interested in the possibility of effecting policy change for future generations.
To ensure if this career path is something she desired, Riane says that she applied to be an intern in our office with the hope of gaining knowledge about the behind-the-scenes work of a legislative office and building her network.
Throughout her time in our Rancho Cucamonga office Riane says that she has discovered many things about not only local government but also her beliefs and thoughts as a future politician. She says she had the pleasure on multiple occasions to discuss current and crucial issues with not only her co-interns but the staff as well, deepening her love for politics. Thanks for your hard work, Riane!
Prior to the recent budget crisis, the General Fund was the predominant fund for financing state government programs. However, as the chart above demonstrates, other funds (federal, special, and bond funds) have now become the primary sources for state spending. Prior to the most recent budget crisis, 53 percent of state spending came from the General Fund, but now it is less than 47 percent. During the recession, this shift allowed legislative Democrats and others to claim state spending had been slashed when in fact it grew dramatically as other fund increases offset some General Fund program reductions.
Furthermore, since the budget focus tends to be on the General Fund, the growth in other fund spending has occurred with scant oversight or attention. It is a sly way to grow spending while appearing fiscally austere and responsible. Senate Republicans are committed to holding government accountable to the people by fighting for transparency on this and other issues.
Since this structural shift occurred in response to the Great Recession and has not been reversed during the last six years of budgetary growth, the state will have fewer options to shift costs from the General Fund to other funds to cushion a future recession.
This past fall, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska addressed a dinner meeting of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and talked about the principles of American exceptionalism. In his remarks, he observes that “government is the tool by which we create a framework for ordered liberty; it guards the natural liberties of the people so they can go out and build flourishing lives.”