By Toni G. Atkins | Speaker of the Assembly
Every other January marks an interesting time in the Capitol. As you might know, the state Legislature works in two-year sessions. The current session began last January and concludes on Aug. 31, 2016. Since we’re right in the middle, it’s a good time to reflect on the first year’s work and look forward to the coming year.
I’m very proud of the things we achieved for the people of California in 2015. As the state budget continued to rebound from the Great Recession, we were able to beef up our rainy-day reserves and pay down debt, and we pumped more money into public schools, higher education, and childcare support.
We created a new system for the regulation of medicinal marijuana, solving a problem that has dogged the state for 20 years. We’ve made much progress in our efforts to conserve water amid a prolonged drought.
We passed a crucially important climate-change law that pushes us more toward renewable energy and increases energy efficiency in our buildings. A few of my colleagues and I traveled to Paris last month to demonstrate to world leaders how California is leading the way in the fight against climate change.
And we created California’s first state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to supplement the federal EITC and put more money into the pockets of the workers who need it most, benefitting roughly two million people.
Still, not all of the important work was finished. Our system of highways, roads, and bridges is in serious decay and we haven’t settled how to pay for the needed repairs. Likewise, we must fill a billion-dollar shortfall in our Medi-Cal system, and more funding is needed to provide services for residents with developmental disabilities.
Nor have we decided on a permanent funding source for affordable housing. Housing affordability is a growing crisis in California, one that’s threatening to further erode the middle class and make it difficult for many working-poor families to escape poverty.
The issues are complex and difficult, but we need to address them.
I’ll soon be assisting Assembly Speaker-designee Anthony Rendon’s transition into the Speaker’s office. The Assembly Democratic Caucus selected Mr. Rendon as the next Speaker. He will be formally elected on Jan. 11 and officially sworn in on March 7, allowing for a two-month transition period. After that, during what will be my final nine months in the Assembly, I’ll continue advocating for veterans, homeless people, the LGBT community, the working poor, and all San Diegans and Californians in my role as Speaker Emeritus.
Indeed, 2016 will be an interesting transitional year for me, and I am looking forward to it. I have high hopes for what can be accomplished for San Diego and California. I wish you all a productive and joyous year.
Around the district: You’ll soon be hearing more about the EITC, as we launch the effort locally to make sure San Diegans take advantage of this tax credit and the related federal tax credit. For more information, including tools, calculators and charts, please see caleitc4me.org. You may also call 2-1-1 San Diego for appointments for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) … Having an issue with a state agency can be challenging. If you find you need help getting answers, please call my local district office at 619-645-3090. My staff would be happy to assist you … Many new laws took effect in California on Jan. 1, including AB 1116, which stops manufacturers of smart TVs from capturing private conversations, and AB 774, which will allow craft beer tastings at farmers markets. For a more extensive list, please see my January e-newsletter at tinyurl.com/nq4pvxo.
—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. For more information, please visit her website, asmdc.org/speaker where you can sign up for her e-newsletter or get the latest news on legislation and other activities. You also may follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.