One of the Most Productive Legislative Sessions in Recent Memory
We just finished the first year of our legislative session in Sacramento, and I am extremely proud of our accomplishments.
Earlier this year, we passed an on-time, balanced and responsible budget that included visionary reforms in how we fund education. We passed legislation that allowed California to continue to be a leader in implementing the Affordable Care Act. We followed up those accomplishments with one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent memory. While our work continues as we emerge from years of budget challenges and a worldwide economic downtown, it's clear we have turned the corner on the gridlock and partisan obstructionism of the past.
These end-of-session accomplishments offer many reasons to cheer:
Boosting the minimum wage: I joined my Democratic colleagues in the Legislature in supporting Assembly Bill 10, which would raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour next year and $10 an hour in 2016. Recent studies show that the purchasing power of today's minimum wage is far below what it was in 1968. AB 10 puts working families on a stronger financial footing and increases their spending power, which benefits the economy for all of us.
Ensuring safety and savings through prison reform: We all have a stake in a functional prison system that ensures our public safety and the appropriate allocation of limited resources. Senate leaders, working closely with Governor Brown, crafted an agreement to meet a court-ordered cap on the prison population while also incentivizing programs that reduce the revolving-door of prison returnees. More effective use of this money could free up additional funding for our schools, universities, and other public needs.
Fracking: Recent revelations have underscored how little we know about the environmental impacts of the oil and gas extraction process known as fracking. This issue has struck close to home with the news that wells are being stimulated for production with acid and fracking has been taking place off of Santa Barbara County's coastline. As the year progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that a temporary moratorium on fracking was needed. Political realities and the oil industry made this impossible; I voted for Senate Bill 4, California's first set of fracking regulations, recognizing it as an important first step for our state, but only a first step. Among other things, this bill requires a scientific study, to be completed by January 2015, on the environmental , public health and safety impacts of fracking. More to come on this issue.
Driving safety and dignity for immigrants: Bringing us in line with many other states, I joined my colleagues in the Legislature in supporting Assembly Bill 60, which will allow the undocumented to obtain a driver's license. I agree with many in law enforcement that we are all safer when those who are on the road know and are tested on the rules of the road. Like many of you, I am eager for comprehensive, federal immigration reform.
This year, we have shown what we can do when a Legislature and Governor work together for the common good. I will soon follow-up with information about my legislation, which is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. As always, I appreciate hearing from you. What should our priorities be in the year ahead? Stay in touch by email or follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson
State Senator, 19th Senate District