Health care, veteran’s services, education, oil, the environment and natural disaster recovery are at the top of the legislative agenda for tri-county representatives.
With the California legislature headed to summer recess on July 12 and Congress apparently headed for a break in August, relatively few bills have been signed into law. But many are still moving through the legislative process.
“This year, the House has taken on big money in politics, voted to lower prescription drug prices, advocated for small businesses, enhanced funding for crucial programs at schools like UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, and we continue to work hard for progress,” said Congressman Salud Carbajal (District 24) in an email to the Business Times. “I’ve introduced legislation to protect our environment, stop offshore oil drilling, support service members, fix our broken immigration system and more.”
Two of Carbajal’s bills were signed into law, HR 299 and HR 276. They instate awards for Vietnam War era veterans who were disabled because of a disease contracted during their service and school employees who work with kids in specialty occupational roles.
Topping the list of concerns for the region’s state and national legislators are environmental concerns and workforce issues — and, for a region still recovering from the recent Thomas, Hill and Woolsey fires, natural disaster relief measures.
Moving through the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands is a bill by Carbajal to protect 244,909 acres of wilderness, create two scenic areas and designate 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, HR 2199, is co-sponsored by Sen. Kamala Harris.
DISASTER RECOVERY AND RESPONSE
The House passed a bill (HR 3055) on June 25 which included an amendment by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (District 26) to increase federal funding for wildfire science research by $1 million.
Brownley, along with Congresswoman Katie Hill (District 25), also co-authored The Natural Resources Management Act (SB 47), which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 12. It includes a bill to establish a memorial and national monument for the Saint Francis Dam disaster. The dam, which was located in Los Angeles County, failed in 1928, killing 400 people with impacts in East Ventura County.
Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) sponsored AB 885, a bill which would provide tax relief to Ventura County property owners who lost a home or business in a natural disaster. It’s currently sitting with a senate committee.
Brownley introduced similar legislation in the House, which would restore tax deductions for homeowners after property and casualty losses.
Another of Irwin’s bills, AB 17, would name a portion of Highway 101 in Ventura County after Sergeant Ronald Helus, who was killed last fall during the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks. The bill recently passed the Senate Transportation Committee, and is slated to go to the Senate floor in mid-July.
Santa Barbara’s legislators, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Monique Limón, sponsored SB 169 and AB 255, which advocated for oil pipeline safety requirements and funding for oil spill equipment cleanup, respectively.
Also on the wildfire mitigation front, Jackson’s SB 182 aims to strengthen local planning requirements in high fire hazard areas and encourage local fire-resistant strategies.
HEALTH CARE AND VETERANS
In the health care sector, legislators remain busy.
Brownley, who leads the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, was appointed to chair the Women Veterans Task Force that was formed in May.
Her pending legislation tackles issues like gender-specific health services for women veterans and the expansion of counseling programs for veteran women. It also explores integrative medicine options to reduce dependence on opioids for veterans.
State Sen. Bill Monning, who represents portions of San Luis Obispo County, has two bills pending. SB 407 involves the standardization of Medigap benefit plans to cover out-of-pocket Medicare costs; and SB 347 requires sugar-sweetened beverages to be labeled with information about the health risks to consumers.
A $5 million grant allocation Assemblywoman Limón fought to put in the state’s 2019-20 budget is pending Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. It would be used to build statewide public health infrastructure to support early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
In an effort to prevent deadly falls, Sen. Jackson’s SB 280 would assist elderly and disabled adults with home modifications with the goal of allowing them to live independently as long as possible.
OIL AND GAS DRILLING
In Congress, Carbajal secured a provision in amendment HR 452 to prevent further oil and gas drilling activities off the West Coast for the year 2020.
That piece of legislation passed the House on June 20 and is headed to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.
“As these bills move through the House, I will continue doing all I can to promote our Central Coast priorities and ensure our voices are heard,” he said in an email to the Business Times. “I’m proud of what we’ve done already
and I know there are more wins ahead.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Jackson’s SB 552 puts a spotlight on oil and gas production, a hot topic on the Central Coast. The bill would direct the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to develop a process for determining the cost of decommissioning and cleaning up oil and gas infrastructure and facilities.
Several bills supported funding for educational programs.
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) stressed access to career technical education. His bill, AB 48, aims to help schools fund modernization projects and career technical education facilities by putting school bonds on the state ballot in 2020 and 2022.
Carbajal also advocated for millions of dollars in funding for educational partnerships between universities, such as UCSB and Cal Poly, and military tech innovators.
• Contact Annabelle Blair at [email protected]