Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you had a safe and joyous time ringing in 2017. This is going to be an exciting year and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that await us.
Entering the New Year, I will continue working on a bi-partisan level to make California the best place to live, work and raise our families. As always, I will keep you updated on important developments and the latest news taking place here at the Capitol.
Hundreds of new laws will go into effect in California this year. I wanted to share with you an interesting mix of some of the laws for 2017:
Minimum Wage: Senate Bill 3 increases California’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees. This is a massive employment tax that will crush small businesses and cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder for young and lower skilled workers.
Distracted Driving: Assembly Bill 1785 limits drivers to simple actions – either a tap or a swipe – on mounted cell phones. You can still use voice control on your phone, so long as it’s not in your hand. We all need to be safe on the road but this bill is heavy handed and won’t do anything to keep us safer on our streets.
Voting Felons: Assembly Bill 2466 allows convicted felons serving their sentence in county jail to vote while incarcerated, rewarding lawbreakers and predators by giving them one of our most cherished rights.
Overheated Pets: Assembly Bill 797 allows people to free animals locked in hot cars that are showing signs of distress, if they can’t find the owner. This bill will save animal lives and raise awareness about the dangers of leaving animals unattended in hot vehicles.
Assault Weapons: Assembly Bill 1135 and Senate Bill 880 reclassify hundreds of thousands of legally owned semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons.” Another in California’s never ending list of gun laws intended to strip away our Second Amendment rights and take guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens.
Sexual Assault: Assembly Bill 2888 requires prison time for anyone who sexually assaults an unconscious person and removes the 10-year statute of limitations on rape cases. Deals out strong sentence for disgusting crime.
Last month, I introduced legislation that will help California National Guard veterans caught in the bonus repayment fiasco get financial justice from the government.
Senate Bill 14 will refund taxes paid by these veterans during the confusion of the veterans’ bonus repayment scandal. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that more than 10,000 Guard members have been ordered to repay enlistment bonuses they received as a condition for enlisting or reenlisting in the Guard during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the nation was desperate for combat soldiers to carry out its missions.
I’m not going to sit back and see these veterans victimized. The state needs to step up and make sure they get every benefit they ever earned and the respect they deserve for fighting for our freedom. These soldiers deployed in combat roles and risked their lives in service to our country and their fellow Americans. Now, due to incompetence and mismanagement in the enlistment bonus program, the Department of Defense (DoD) is demanding repayment from these soldiers a decade after the fact.
Although the DoD has temporarily put a halt to recovery efforts while the issue is being more fully investigated, some service members have already paid back some or all of their bonuses. Many paid taxes on the bonuses years ago and now, because of a three-year time limit on refiling state taxes, they are unable to get back the taxes they paid on the money they ultimately did not receive.
I’ll smash every bit of bureaucracy that stands in the way of justice. I want these soldiers to get the money they deserve, and I won’t see them pay taxes on phantom income that is being taken away from them through no fault of their own.
Recognizing Geri Hyder
Senator Gaines presents certificate to Geri Hyder for her outstanding community service.
It was an honor to present a Senate Certificate of Recognition to Geri Hyder, co-owner of Indian Rock Tree Farm in Camino, during the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce’s installation dinner last month. Geri was also the recipient of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award for all the work she and her husband Larry have done over the past 40 years to brighten the holidays for servicemen and women who can’t be with their families with their “Trees for Troops” program.
Hopes For 2017 State Of The State Address
Later this month, Governor Jerry Brown will deliver his 2017 State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature and the people of California. Here are a few issues I’m hoping he discusses:
Job Creation – We must continue doing whatever it takes to boost the economy and create jobs for our citizens. Providing jobs in this economy is still not easy, but it is crucial to the health of our state on so many levels and should be a priority for all of us.
Responsible Budget – With the legislative session ahead of us, I’m concerned that the Governor and my Democrat colleagues will take the rosier budget outlook as license to charge ahead with increased spending. It is critical that we rein in spending and remain in the “black” so that California never falls back into the fiscal pit we’ve dug ourselves into in the past.
Pension Liability – It is critical – for the state, for the taxpayers and for the workers – that California uses conservative, honest and transparent accounting for pensions and for all state taxing and spending. Without spending control, no amount of tax dollars will ever be enough. It’s not more revenues Sacramento needs, it’s more self-control.
2017-18 Committee Assignments
I recently received my committee assignments for the 2017-18 legislative session. I will remain in my post as vice chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee. I am also a member of the Senate Committees on Governmental Organization; Energy, Utilities and Communications; Transportation and Housing; and Legislative Ethics.
I am honored to have been given these committee assignments that cover such far ranging, critical areas that affect the lives of all Californians. I will work hard to achieve bipartisan solutions to the important issues facing our state and defend the interests of hard-working taxpayers.
Capital Fellows Program Accepting Applications
Applications for the 2017-18 California Senate Fellows Program and Assembly Fellowship Program are now available for interested college graduates. The programs provide college graduates an opportunity to become full-time Senate or Assembly staff members at the State Capitol in Sacramento for 11 months beginning in the fall of 2017.
Fellows are assigned to the personal or committee staff of a Senator or Assembly member, and also participate in academic seminars with legislators, senior staff, journalists, lobbyists and state government officials. The fellowship programs are administered by the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), in partnership with the State Senate and State Assembly. The programs are geared toward both Republicans and Democrats.
Being a Fellow provides an excellent opportunity to gain direct knowledge of the legislative process. Whether your career goals are in the public or private sector, the Senate and Assembly Fellows programs provide valuable training that can be applied to all walks of life. Former Fellows include current members of Congress and the California Legislature, judges and numerous other elected officials and community leaders.
Fellows are paid a monthly stipend plus health, vision and dental benefits. They enroll as graduate students at Sacramento State and receive graduate units from the Sacramento State Government Department or Public Policy and Administration Program. The enrollment fees are paid by the programs.
Anyone who will be at least 20 years of age and a graduate of a four-year college or university by the beginning of the program can apply. There is no preferred major. Individuals with advanced degrees and those in mid-career are also encouraged to apply.
For detailed information about the fellowships and applications, please visit: www.csus.edu/calst/programs.
The application deadline is: February 13, 2017.