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 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.
March is typically the beginning of busy season in Sacramento and this month has been no different. Now that bills have passed their mandatory 30-day wait period between when they are introduced and when they can be considered in committee, we’ll be debating many different proposals in the weeks ahead. With my new committee assignments, I’m particularly looking forward to focusing on issues impacting energy, education, and our state’s pension system.
One of my bills, SB 198, was already reviewed in committee this week. It would repeal the fire prevention fee being imposed on property owners across the state, an issue that I frequently hear about from constituents. Unfortunately, Democrats on the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee blocked its passage. Despite this setback, I will continue to fight for relief for property owners paying what I believe is an unfair tax.
I told you last month I would update you on my legislation for the year. Here are a few more highlights:
- Senate Bill 318 (Classroom Technology) - As more and more schoolwork relies on technology and computers, it’s important that students and teachers are prepared. SB 318 would create a pilot program in San Bernardino County to train K-12 teachers to effectively use technology and digital resources as part of their classroom instruction with the goal of preparing students for 21st century online testing.
- Senate Bill 418 (Course Catalog Rights for Service Members) - Catalog rights are the rights of students who are continuously enrolled in school to graduate under the requirements of the course catalog in effect when they first began their studies. When service members are called to active duty, they can be at risk of losing these rights. SB 418 would help California State University and Community College students performing active military service complete their college degrees by extending the length of approved absences allowed in order to maintain course catalog rights.
- Senate Bill 728 (Impact of Renewable Energy Mandates) - While there are many positive aspects of renewable energy, it can be more costly than traditional energy sources. Before imposing greater renewable energy mandates on utilities under the Renewables Portfolio Standard, SB 728 would require the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to conduct an economic review of any proposed changes, specifically focusing on its impact on low and middle income families.
March is also Women’s History Month. At the Senate, we rededicated a Capitol committee room in honor of the 42 women who have served in the State Senate. Additionally, our Republican caucus made some history by electing Senator Jean Fuller of Bakersfield as leader-elect at the end of February. She’ll be the first woman to take the helm of our caucus.
We have inspiring women here in the 23rd Senate District to celebrate as well. Each year we recognize Women of Distinction who have contributed greatly to our community. Our 2015 event will be held early this summer. Be sure to watch the newsletter for more information!
As always, it is a privilege to represent you in Sacramento. I’ll keep you posted.
Earlier this month, I visited the kids and staff at Yucaipa KinderCare.
Together, we read Go Dog Go (one of my kids’ favorites growing up).
They also showed off their artwork and impressions of me (pretty
good, I think!). What a talented bunch of readers and artists!
We had a great turnout at our community coffee at White Rabbit
Coffee Co. in Yucaipa. I appreciated the opportunity to share
an update from Sacramento and answer your questions.
Thanks to everyone who made it!
Mid-month, we held our first town hall in Phelan. The discussion covered a
wide range of issues including the status of the fire prevention fee and
legislation that I have introduced to repeal it (SB 198) Thanks to
all those who attended!
March 2nd was National Read Across America Day in
honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Our field representative
David Matza made it over to Mission Elementary School
in Redlands to recognize librarian Jennifer Williams for
organizing their event. You can find out more about this
project at www.readacrossamerica.org
Here in the district, I discussed issues impacting small businesses with business
leaders from around our area and the California Small Business Association. We
had a productive conversation on how we can get our economy back up to full
strength. Thanks to association president Betty Jo Toccoli for helping to
arrange the meeting!
I meet with a lot of groups visiting Sacramento on their annual advocacy days. Here
I am with members of the California Apartment Association from our region.
I also had the chance to meet with students from the Cal State San
Bernardino Associated Students, Inc. to discuss their priorities for
higher education in California.
In 2011, the Governor and legislative Democrats 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.
That’s the reason I authored Senate Bill 198 to repeal it altogether. Unfortunately, Democrats on the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee killed it during a hearing this week. I’m disappointed by this setback, but will continue to fight for its full repeal. To read more, click here.
Speaking with veterans before the March 9 press conference in Sacramento.
Like many across our state and country, I was deeply troubled by the decision made earlier this month to remove the American flag from the lobby of the student government offices at UC Irvine. I commend the executive cabinet for vetoing this action, but the series of events is still disheartening. The flag represents generations of brave men and women who gave everything to secure the liberties and freedoms that form the foundation of our country. To ban its display dishonors their sacrifice.
That’s why I joined Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), veterans groups, and several of our legislative colleagues in introducing Senate Constitutional Amendment 2 to prohibit state-funded colleges and universities from banning the flag of the United States of America on school property to prevent something like this from happening again.
To read more about it, click here.
On Saturday, March 28, I’ll be hosting a community coffee at Brightwater Senior Living of Highland. 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: Saturday, March 28 • 8:00 - 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Brightwater Senior Living of Highland • 28807 Baseline in Highland
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the District Office at (909) 919-7731 or visit senatormikemorrell23.eventbrite.com
On Saturday, April 11, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) and I will be hosting a town hall to share news and updates about the fire tax being imposed on property owners across the state. We will discuss SB 198, which would repeal it altogether, and AB 203, which would extend the time property owners have to pay or dispute the bill from 30 days to 60 days. We will host another town hall on the topic in Big Bear in May. Stay tuned for more information!
WHEN: Saturday, April 11 • 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
WHERE: The Tudor House • 800 Arrowhead Villa Rd. in Lake Arrowhead
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the District Office at (909) 919-7731 or visit senatormikemorrell23.eventbrite.com
On Friday, May 15, 2015, I will be hosting the second annual Patriots of the Past, Present and Future Recognition Ceremony and Dinner at the Cable Airport in Upland from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. We will honor veterans, reservists, members of the National Guard, and the businesses and organizations that have supported them. This event will also be an opportunity to discuss public policy issues affecting veterans, including SB 418. For more information contact the district office at (909) 919-7731.
In 2014, our office hosted the inaugural Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future. I was honored to recognize so many individuals and groups that have demonstrated the highest level of commitment and service to our country.
One of those men was Colonel Paul Green of Highland who recently passed away in February. From humble beginnings in Ohio, Col. Green grew up to be one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen and eventually became commander of Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. He was a true American hero. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Angel and their loved ones during this time.
Col. Green was interviewed in a video our staff produced for the event, along with our other honorees. To watch it and listen to his and their reflections, you can click here.
Cal Poly Pomona student Melissa Peterson began interning for our office in Spring 2015. She has a self-described natural interest in politics, with a special focus on international affairs, which she attributes to her upbringing by diverse parents who fostered conversations about American and foreign cultures.
As a freshman, Melissa jumped right into student life on campus. Her most rewarding experience has been with the National Model United Nations team. She is now a student member of the United Nations Association of the USA, and occasionally participates in monthly meetings in Claremont.
During her second year, she added Cal Poly’s Associated Students Incorporated’s Lobby Corp to her list of activities, in which she served as Director of Research, which included reading through California legislation, calling local and national offices of Congressmen and Senators to set up lobby visits, and informing her team about local issues relevant to college students. She also had the opportunity to take a weekend visit to Sacramento to lobby on behalf of the Cal Poly students. It was great preparation for working in our office!
Currently, she plans academic and extra-curricular events as the Social Chair of the executive board for Cal Poly’s Political Science Club, volunteers for the Bloom Reintegration Academy, helps with data research for her professor’s thesis presentation on internet engagement’s relation to millennials’ views on politics, and attends student leader functions.
Melissa hopes to pursue a career in international relations. She wants to assist victims by means of human rights initiatives and secure the domestic and international protection of civilians worldwide.
It’s been great having Melissa on our team. We know that she will do great things in our world!
I recently came across a video clip of a 1979 interview with free market economist Milton Friedman that I found thought provoking. He was a guest on host Phil Donahue’s talk show. Over the course of their conversation, Donahue asks Friedman this question: “Did you every have a moment’s doubt about capitalism?” You can listen to his answer here.
Source: Cal Facts 2014, Legislative Analyst’s Office
Addressing the rising rate of poverty in our state has rightly become a major priority in Sacramento in recent years. We all agree we want to help the poor, but how to go about providing that help remains the topic of debate.
Is the answer to spend more on government programs? 50 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national “War on Poverty.” Since that time, we have spent $22 trillion on welfare and social programs. Yet, between then and now, the national poverty rate has stayed relatively flat.
In California, our supplemental poverty rate, according to the Census, is the highest in the country at 23.4 percent, as seen in the chart above. This rate is equivalent to about 9 million Californians being considered poor. Although California accounts for only 12 percent of the population, the state bears 34 percent of the nation’s welfare caseload.
While safety net programs can offer temporary relief to those struggling financially, these numbers show that they are not the way to create permanent paths out of poverty.
What it means for us in California is that the legislature needs to turn its focus to long-term fixes that lift our fellow citizens up and build the confidence of the private sector to create good-paying middle class jobs. That includes reducing regulations, preventing tax increases, and preparing a workforce to meet today’s challenges.
Financial security can only be a reality when individuals are able to seek out and make the most of opportunities that come about from a thriving economy.