Building on recent successes of consecutive on-time and balanced budgets, the California State Senate finished its two-year legislative session well ahead of its August 31 Constitutional deadline, in the early hours of Saturday morning. It marks the first time since 2004 that the Legislature has completed its work before August 31. Senator Darrell Steinberg
The Senate Democratic Caucus, under the leadership of Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg in his final year as Senate Leader, delivered another ambitious agenda to create jobs, improve education, develop the state’s water infrastructure, tackle climate change, revise criminal justice policy, and protect California’s natural heritage.
California’s Legislature passed its fourth consecutive on-time and balanced budget in June, a budget that featured $10.4 billion in debt repayments and a $2.1 billion Rainy Day reserve fund. As California continues to outperform most of the nation in job creation, the Senate Democratic Caucus was instrumental in strategic investments to maintain and build upon the state’s robust entertainment, aerospace and clean energy industries.
In a multi-year strategy to bridge the achievement gap in schools, the Senate Democratic Caucus led the expansion of early-learning opportunities to all low-income children in California, securing $250 million for career-oriented education, $310 million to strengthen California Community Colleges, improving transitional housing for foster youth pursuing higher education, and enabling community colleges to offer four-year degrees for workforce needs.
The Democratic-led legislature assembled a bipartisan coalition to approve $7.12 billion in new bonds for water infrastructure as the state weathers relentless drought conditions, with sensible funding for water storage, water recycling, and clean water supplies. The Legislature complemented the water bond with historic legislation to introduce oversight on the use of groundwater for the first time in the state’s history.
Highlights from Senate Democratic-championed criminal justice reform policies include a $91 million commitment to reduce re-offending rates and crime among prisoners suffering from mental illness, bills to deter wrongful convictions, mandated rehabilitative treatment for certain juvenile offenders, and reforms to solitary confinement policy in prisons. The Senate Democratic Caucus continued its leadership in getting firearms out of the hands of dangerous people with a bill encouraging additional gun-background checks by law enforcement in the wake of the Isla Vista shootings.
Senate Democratic-authored bills required smart phones to be equipped with a kill-switch, Assisted Living Resident protections, expanded contraception rights, and consumer protections in commercial real estate transactions. Democratic State Senators also authored bills aimed at preventing sexual harassment of farmworkers, limits on assets seizures from Medi-Cal recipients, a limousine safety bill inspired by fatal fires, and more stringent guidelines on the use of toxic pesticides in schools.
An aggressive package of political reforms was championed by the Senate Democratic Caucus, including strengthening of the ballot initiative system, bans and significant reductions in the allowable gift limit for officials, whistleblower protections for Senate staff, financial disclosures for educational visits, a fundraising ban during the busiest month of voting, and legislation to reduce the number of disqualified vote-by-mail ballots.
The session closed with a Senate Democratic authored ban on single-use plastic bags – the first state in the nation to do so – and Democratic State Senators crowned a celebrated session for environmental policies with a signature long term strategy to cut carbon emissions, with permanent sources of funding for mass transit and sustainable communities.
An expansive catalogue the Senate Democratic Caucus accomplishments this session can be found at <http://democrats.senate.ca.gov/>