Morrell Monthly: September 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Dear Friend,

With the close of summer has come a busy month both here in the 23rd Senate District and in Sacramento.

As you know, our region was impacted by the fast-moving Blue Cut Fire that began in the Cajon Pass. I want to thank our firefighters and first responders for doing their best to make sure our community is as safe as possible. While it was ultimately contained over the course of a few days, it left in its path devastation, including the loss of many homes.

In Sacramento, the 2015-16 legislative session came to a close. A number of bills, good and bad, made their way through the process. A few are highlighted in this newsletter. Of note, while a special session on transportation was called over a year ago, Assembly and Senate Republicans successfully resisted legislative Democrats’ efforts to increase gas and diesel taxes. Republicans continue to maintain that there are other, more responsible, ways to fund our roads without having to ask drivers to pay higher taxes. Read more about our transportation plan here.

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


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Blue Cut Fire

For those residents affected by the recent Blue Cut Fire and are in need of assistance, San Bernardino County has set up a hotline at 2-1-1 or 877-410-8829.

The county has also created a page on its website with resources on debris removal, trash service, wells, potential scams and other information.

Please click here.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is also making low-interest loans available to residents and businesses affected by the fire. For more information, including hours of the SBA outreach center in Hesperia, please click here.

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Blue Cut Fire base camp
Blue Cut Fire. Legislators from our region were invited to the Blue Cut Fire base camp in Glen Helen Regional Park to be briefed on efforts to control the fire and assess the situation in its aftermath.

Blue Cut Fire base camp
San Bernardino Coffee. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with many of you about my priorities in Sacramento and answer questions at our community coffee at D.J Café in San Bernardino. Thanks for stopping by!

Shirley Babashoff being honored
Olympic Swimmer Shirley Babashoff. Towards the end of the legislative session, Senators John Moorlach and Janet Nguyen of Orange County presented Olympic medalist Shirley Babshoff with a resolution to highlight her community involvement and to extend her special honors for her many accomplishments at the Olympics and beyond. During the 1976 Olympics, Ms. Babashoff led her team, and was vilified for exposing the East Germans’ steroid use, which would be confirmed years later in documents from East German secret police. Read more about her here.

Lake Arrowhead Chamber Brewfest
Lake Arrowhead Chamber Brewfest. Congratulations to the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce on a successful Brewfest! Pictured here is board chair Nolan Calkins (left) and actor Andrew Divoff (right), professional actor who sold his own beer at the Brewfest to donate proceeds to a scholarship fund for Rim of the World High School students who aspire to be actors.

Life Saver
Life-Saver. Congratulations to Ronald Prickett of Calimesa for reaching the 100-gallon milestone at the Lifestream Blood Donaton Center in San Bernardino! Thank you for your dedication to helping others in our community. Pictured here, district representative Josh Monzon presents Ronald with a certificate of recognition.

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SB 1155 - Jumpstarting Veterans’ Civilian Careers

Earlier this year, I introduced SB 1155 to waive initial application fees for veterans seeking occupational licenses in California. In this op-ed I wrote for the Daily Bulletin, I explain how in doing so, we would follow the lead of several other states who have enacted similar policies. It is a net benefit not only to veterans and their families, but also to our state, as it would be one more way to attract these highly skilled individuals to call California their home.

While I am disappointed the bill was not given a full vote by Democratic leadership on the Assembly Appropriations Committee, despite prior unanimous bipartisan support, I am hopeful that it has drawn attention to this potential roadblock for people making their way in our state.

To read the full op-ed, you can click here.

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SB 1136 - Assembly Committee Rejects Fire Tax Transparency

Since the fire prevention fee was first pushed through by legislative Democrats in 2011, I have committed myself to seeing it overturned or repealed. I believe it is an illegal tax that did not meet the two-thirds requirement necessary for the legislature to approve a tax increase. Fire safety is also a prime responsibility of government and should be prioritized in the state budget.

Over the past year, while legal challenges continue to work through the courts, I have worked to ensure that property owners at least know where and how their money is being spent. I introduced SB 1136 to require additional reporting as well as extend the requirement from 2017 to 2021.

The bill enjoyed bipartisan, unanimous support all through the process, but was not allowed a full vote in a hearing by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, a final hurdle before heading to the full Assembly for consideration.

It is a frustrating outcome and one that suggests the legislature, despite its overtures about wanting transparency, continues to avoid it whenever it can. Despite this setback, I remain committed as ever to holding Sacramento accountable for the fire tax.

To read the Alpenhorn News coverage of SB 1136, click here.

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Senate Honors Purple Heart Veterans

Purple Heart Day

In August, the State Senate unanimously passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 159 officially recognizing August 7, 2016 as Purple Heart Day in California.

SCR 159 encourages Californians to pause and remember those who have been injured or lost their lives while serving our country, and have subsequently been awarded the Purple Heart. Approximately two million Purple Heart Medals have been awarded to date.

I’m grateful to all Purple Heart veterans for your sacrifice and dedication to our country. To all who serve and continue to serve, thank you.

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23rd District Olympians Compete in Rio

Images from Women of Distinction AwardsRunners Boris Berian and Brenda Martinez, and shooter Kim Rhode, all of the Big Bear Valley, represented the United States at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

On August 12, Kim Rhode became the first female athlete and the first Summer Olympic athlete to medal in six consecutive Olympic Games, earning bronze during the women’s skeet shooting final at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She has now won an Olympic medal on five continents.

Track and Field teammates Boris Berian and Brenda Martinez, both made our community proud in their efforts in the men’s 800-meter and women’s 1,500-meter events, respectively.

It is always exciting to watch Team USA compete at the Olympics and even more so when you’re cheering on local athletes. My congratulations to Team USA and all of our local Olympians.

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Legislative Update

The legislative session ended most of its work for the year on August 31. Here are some of the highlights.

My legislation signed into law:

SB 1209 - Currently, the Contractors State License Board is required to publicly disclose citations against licensed contractors for a period of five years. However, the law limits disclosure of a citation only to the license subject to the complaint. SB 1209 provides that a citation against a licensed contractor shall continue to be disclosed if that contractor applies for a new license or joins another existing license within the aforementioned five-year window, protecting consumers and upholding the integrity of the industry.

SB 1305 - This measure is a good government bill that makes modifications to the organizational roles and responsibilities for the San Bernardino Associated Governments or SANBAG. The bill provides statutory clarity, streamlines important transportation functions, and improves transparency by consolidating transportation-related entities under the new San Bernardino County Transportation Authority.

A measure that should be signed:

SB 1458 (Bates, R-Laguna Niguel) - This legislation would make California law consistent with federal law so that any veteran receiving service-connected disability benefits at 100 percent will be eligible to receive the state’s disabled veterans’ property tax exemption on their home. SB 1458 is sponsored by Board of Equalization Member George Runner and is part of the Senate Republican “Make California Affordable” bill package.

Measures that should be vetoed:

SB 1146 (Lara, D-Bell Gardens) - This bill was significantly amended to reduce its negative impact on our state’s religious colleges, but I do fear that this bill is still a first step in eroding the First Amendment rights of these schools. As passed, it would require these schools to report to the California Student Aid Commission on any suspensions or expulsions that occur at their school. It would also require disclosure if the school claims an exemption from federal Title IX regulations.

AB 2466 (Weber, D-Lemon Grove) - This bill would allow convicted felons serving their sentences in county jail to vote while incarcerated. While as a society, we want to rehabilitate criminals and others as they re-enter our communities, they should not have the right to vote restored until their entire sentences are complete.

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Community Town Hall - September 28th in Phelan

On September 28th, I’ll be hosting a community town hall with my colleagues Assemblymen Tom Lackey and Jay Obernolte. You’ll have an opportunity meet with us, learn about our district and legislative priorities, and ask questions regarding state issues.


Senator Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga
Assemblymember Tom Lackey, R-Lancaster
Assemblymember Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake


Wednesday, September 28, 2016
6:00 - 7:00 p.m.


Phelan Community Center
4128 Warbler Road
Phelan, CA 92371


(909) 919-7731

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2016 Women of Distinction - October 7

Images from Women of Distinction AwardsEach year, we host the annual Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony & Dinner to recognize extraordinary women from around the 23rd Senate District who have positively impacted their community.

The 12th Annual Women of Distinction event will be held at the Goldy S. Lewis Community Center located in Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga on Friday, October 7.

The nomination window for this year’s event is now closed and honorees will be announced at this fall’s event.

For questions, please contact Melissa Boyd at (909) 919-7731.

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PATRIOT SPOTLIGHT: Estefan M. Encarnacion

Image of Estefan M. EncarnacionAt this past April’s Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future held at the March Field Air Museum, Estefan M. Encarnacion of Rancho Cucamonga was recognized as a Patriot of the Present in the Business Category. Estefan served as a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After his military service, Estefan pursued higher education despite being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He now operates his own law firm, The Law Office of Estefan M. Encarnacion, which offers discounted and free legal services to veterans and others dealing with life and the law after military service. Many of his efforts have focused on helping veterans transition into civilian life.

Estefan volunteers many hours at various non-profit organizations such as the Inland Counties Legal Services, and the Reaching New Heights Foundation. When the local VFW Post 8680 was a victim of theft, Estefan donated tools and building materials.

Thank you, Estefan for your service to our nation and community!

Photo credit: Images by J.Dixx Photography (

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Image of Estefan M. EncarnacionThis past year, our Capitol office was privileged to have Matthew Macedo on our staff, a participant in the 2015-16 California Senate Fellows program.

Matthew is a native of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended California State University, Sacramento finishing with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and a Minor in Criminal Justice.

Working in our office, Matthew piloted legislation through the lawmaking process, addressing issues in veterans and tax policy. In addition, he advised me on matters before the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee as well as legislation pending for vote in the entire Senate. His analytical and research skills have been an important asset to our whole team.

Following the conclusion of the fellowship, Matthew will be joining the California Department of Finance where he will guide various state departments and the legislature on labor policy within the state budget.

In his off hours, Matthew enjoys skiing, archery, and boating.

We’re going to miss having Matthew on our team, but know he will do well in his future endeavors. Thank you for your hard work and service to the 23rd Senate District!

For information on the Capital Fellows Program, please click here. Applications for the 2017-18 class will be accepted beginning in October 2016.

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How far does $100 go in California?

Image of Relative Value of 100 dollars
Source: Tax Foundation

The map above shows the purchasing power of $100 in each state. The prices of everyday items can vary widely from state to state, based on regulatory costs and taxes. They are often cheaper in states in the middle part of the country, while higher in places like New York or California. The data is based on measures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

To read the Tax Foundation’s full explanation of the map, click here.

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EVERYDAY HEROES: Daily Bulletin - Rancho Cucamonga Firefighters

Over the summer, we came across a social media post highlighting three Rancho Cucamonga firefighter/paramedics who went above and beyond in service to their neighbors and our community. The story shows them helping wash the windows of an elderly couple in the area.

They played down their act’s significance, saying they were simply living out the department’s community service ethic, but their dedication and selflessness was evident.

You can read the full story here.

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