Morrell Monthly: March 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017


Dear Friend,

With spring now here, the legislative season is beginning to pick up as committees meet to consider bill proposals, deciding whether or not to pass them on to the next stage. In this newsletter, you’ll find information about bills I’m authoring and co-sponsoring this year, as well as updates on key pending legislation.

It’s also been busy around the 23rd Senate District. Constituents have made their way to Sacramento on visits and I’ve had the opportunity to attend various events across the region. I hope you’ll find this edition of our newsletter informative!

As always, it is a privilege to represent you in the State Legislature.


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Patriots of the Past, Present, & Future

Images from Patriots of the Past, Present & Future event Images from Patriots of the Past, Present & Future event

On Friday, March 10, I had the privilege of hosting the fourth annual Patriots of the Past, Present and Future Recognition Ceremony at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside. The event is an opportunity to reflect on the service of our nation’s veterans and how we as a community can support them and promote the virtues they have defended in the hearts and minds of younger generations.

Over 350 members of the community attended this year’s Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future, honoring veterans, active duty service men and women, reservists, members of the National Guard, and businesses and organizations that have supported them. It was also an opportunity to discuss public policy issues affecting veterans, including Senate Bill 27, which will help veterans transition into the civilian workforce.

To learn more about the individuals from around the 23rd Senate District who were recognized that evening, you can click here.

To read more about the event in the City News Group, you can click here.

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Patriot of the Year - Leonard Tavernetti

Picture from Patriot of the Year ceremony

The 2017 Patriot of the Year was Beaumont resident Leonard Tavernetti, a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War (pictured above with his wife Ruth and me).

Mr. Tavernetti is tirelessly committed to preserving the memories of fallen service members, as well as honoring the sacrifice of those who have returned home wounded. As a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 2929, each month, Mr. Tavernetti participates in the Unclaimed Veteran Services at Riverside National Cemetery and has taken upon himself the duty of maintaining and decorating 26 grave markers for WWII MIA/POWS. These decorations include: flags, flowers, and personal memorabilia as to remember their service and sacrifice to our country. His current project is to have plaques donated and installed on Purple Heart recipient’s graves at the Riverside National Cemetery.

Monthly, he also volunteers his time by donating gift bags to patients at Loma Linda VA Hospital. When Mr. Tavernetti is not at the Cemetery or VA Hospital, he continues his service in the community working to bring attention to Wounded Veterans and the Purple Heart Trail.

For his dedication to his fellow veterans and their families here in the Inland Empire, we are deeply grateful.

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Bills to Improve Jobs Outlook

California should have everything going for it. With our diverse geography, desirable climate, and world-class colleges and universities, our state holds incredible promise. Yet the unfortunate reality is that the state continues to have a reputation for high taxes and burdensome regulations.

Two bills I’m authoring this year look to improve the prospect of job creation and economic prosperity here in California.

SB 248 would provide a startup incentive to new small businesses by cutting the minimum franchise tax in half from $800 to $400 for the five years of operation following the first taxable year.

SB 555 would hold state agencies to greater accountability for decisions impacting jobs and the economy by requiring an automatic review of regulations five years after their adoption and implementation.

I am also signing onto AB 150, which would grant a temporary grace period for businesses making a good faith effort to correct their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Read more by clicking here.

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Co-Authored Legislation

Senate Bill 601 (Author) - Accuracy in Pension Liability Reporting. This measure would require the state’s public pension systems to disclose return on investment estimates similar to those required of the private sector. Specifically, it would require the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and request the University of California Retirement Plan to include in their annual reports an additional analysis of their respective pension liabilities using a discount rate tied to the risk-free 10-year U.S. Treasury note, which, as of March 26, 2017, had a yield of approximately 2.4 percent. In contrast, for the 2015-16 fiscal year, CalPERS averaged a 0.6 percent return on investment, far below the expected 7.5 percent assumed rate of return. CalSTRS recorded a 1.4 percent return for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Assembly Bill 53 - Homeownership Savings Accounts - AB 53 would allow potential new homeowners to plan and save money without taxation to achieve their dream of homeownership. California is in the midst of a housing crisis, with a significant lack of new home construction. This measure would allow Californians to deposit funds tax-free into a savings account that could be put toward expenses, including a down payment or closing costs.

Assembly Bill 777 (signing onto) - Protecting the Vote. This measure would increase penalties against people who fraudulently procure and/or vote with a vote-by-mail ballot, taking a step toward ensuring the integrity of our elections systems.

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NO to More Gas Taxes

This week, my colleagues in the majority party announced a plan to significantly and permanently increase gas taxes and vehicle registration fees in California.

Among the tax and fee increases to be included in Senate Bill 1 (Beall, D-San Jose):

  • Gasoline excise tax: 12 cents per gallon
  • Diesel excise tax: 20 cents per gallon
  • Diesel sales tax: 5.75% per gallon
  • Annual Transportation Improvement Fee based on a car’s value
  • Zero Emission Vehicle Fee: $100 per year

In 2002, Californians clearly told politicians through Proposition 42 that they wanted gas taxes to be used for transportation purposes only. Over the years, through legislative maneuver after legislative maneuver, these funds were stolen and diverted elsewhere, and now Democrat leaders are asking drivers for more of our money.

California drivers are among the highest taxed in the nation and yet we still have some of the worst roads. Californians already pay enough for the services and programs they expect. Drivers have every right to be skeptical that simply throwing more taxes at the problem will improve our highways.

During the 2015/16 First Extraordinary Legislative Session, Senate Republicans proposed a plan that would have made critical reforms and used existing funds to pay for roads and highways. Read more here.

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Image of Rancho Cucamonga High School Academic Decathlon team

Rancho Cucamonga High School Academic Decathlon. Rancho Cucamonga High School’s Academic Decathlon team made it to the state finals in Sacramento in March, qualifying as a representative from San Bernardino County. Accompanying the teams was their principal Cary Willborn and coach John Nath. Congratulations!

Image of award presentation

Legislator of the Year. During All Veterans Day at the Capitol in Sacramento, I was humbled to be recognized by the Military Officers Association of America’s California Council of Chapters (Cal-MOAA) as its Legislator of the Year. From left to right: Veterans Advocate Pete Conaty (LTC US Army Ret.), MOAA member Tom Splitberger (CAPT US Navy Ret.), Senator Mike Morrell, MOAA Legislative Committee Chair Lorna Greiss (COL US Army Ret.), MOAA member Craig Ebright (LTC USAF Ret.), MOAA member Robert Ostenberg (MG US Army Ret.)

Image from Unforgettable Hearts Awards

Image 2 from Unforgettable Hearts Awards

Unforgettable Hearts Awards. Over the last couple of months, Tim Evans, founder of The Unforgettables Foundation, and many others from throughout our region gathered together to recognize some of the “Biggest Hearts” in the Inland Empire at the Unforgettable Hearts Awards, held in three cities around the region. These photos are from the Redlands event. Thanks to each of the honorees for their dedication to serving in our communities.

Image of Whittier Union High School District at the Capitol

Image 2 of Whittier Union High School District at the Capitol

Whittier Union High School District. Earlier this month, I welcomed Superintendent Martin Plourde and the Student Advisory Council from Whittier Union High School District to the State Senate during their trip to Sacramento. They are not from the 23rd Senate District, but wanted to add a Republican legislator to their schedule for the day. Great discussion and questions!

Image of Joseph Russo and Senator Morrell at the Capitol

Menifee Teacher Visits Capitol. Joseph Russo of Menifee stopped by my office in Sacramento during his visit this month. Joseph teaches manufacturing and logistics at Orange Vista High School in Perris. He shared about the projects he and his classes are working on this year including the construction of tiny houses. Thanks for all you do for your students, Joseph!

Photo from the Third Annual Women's Healthcare Symposium

Photo 2 from the Third Annual Women's Healthcare Symposium

Third Annual Women’s Healthcare Symposium. I had the opportunity to speak at the Riverside Woman’s Club’s recent healthcare symposium. In the top photo, I’m pictured with Kathy McAdara (left), who was honored for her work as Executive Director of Operation Safe House, and Dr. Clara Wooten-Thomas (right), who was honored for her over 40 years of teaching in the inner city.

In the following photo, I’m pictured with Dr. Desiree K. Reedus MD (left), Reatha Reedus (right), and Leila Magistrado (center), a UC Riverside medical student who will be part of the inaugural class.

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Worth Reading: Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Image of The Ordinance of 1787Sometimes overlooked in the study of our nation’s founding documents is the Northwest Ordinance. However, its importance in history cannot be overstated.

The ordinance set the standards by which new states would enter the Union and is regarded by some scholars as the predecessor to the Bill of Rights. It guaranteed religious freedom as well as the rights of habeas corpus, trial by jury, due process and marked the national government’s first stand against the spread of slavery.

The ordinance also laid out the Founders’ vision for public education. If you have never read the document, I encourage you to take a look at it by clicking here.

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Gas Taxes State by State

Image showing Map of gas taxes by state

Currently, California’s state gas taxes are the 7th highest in the nation. However, if the proposed 12-cents-per-gallon increase is adopted under SB 1, California will jump to number two, just behind Pennsylvania.

The rising cost of gas has a major impact throughout the economy, not only making it more expensive for commuters to get to work and families to their weekend activities, but also driving up the prices of goods that are shipped and delivered across the state.

Sacramento should be considering every option to reform and repurpose the money it already has to maintain and build our roads, not asking Californians to pay more at the pump.

To learn more, click here.

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