Op-Eds

This session, I am honored to be recognized as a “Mental Health Super Hero” by the Steinberg Institute, because of my work on mental health policy, advancing mental health parity to physical health and working to expand access to care.  In addition I supported 9 bi-partisan bills, which were all forwarded to the Governor for his signature.  I co-authored three of these bills, signed by the Governor on September 25th. Senate Bill 855 (Wiener) expands Californians’ ability to obtain treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders by requiring insurers to pay for medically necessary… read more
This year, devastation from California’s wildfires is at record levels of destruction - about 3.4 million acres already burned!  We have some of the toughest environmental standards in the nation, but our success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is wiped out by tons of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere by these fires.   The Legislature recently passed legislation to help prevent wildfires and deal with their aftermath. Two years ago, I supported a bi-partisan plan with then Governor Jerry Brown to increase vegetation clearance funding, and to empower CalFire and the California… read more
With the final adjournment of the Legislature on August 31, hundreds of bills were forwarded to the Governor, who now has until September 30 to decide their fate. There’s often lots of controversy in Sacramento, but contrary to what may be a common impression, many bills pass with overwhelming support from both parties. This session was no different. For example, we passed AB 1710 (Wood) to allow pharmacists to administer FDA-approved COVID-19 Vaccines. We also passed AB 1577 (Burke) conforming state law to federal law to exclude CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program loans from state… read more
The 2019-2020 legislative session ended on August 31. During this two-year period, 5,423 bills of all types were introduced. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had two unexpected shutdowns, and in the last weeks some members were absent and Senators were forced to vote remotely. At one point, there was an unsuccessful attempt to limit Senate debate to save time. In a normal year, the fate of much important legislation is often decided during the final few days, but this year was even more hectic. Even so, two of my bills passed right at the end. AB 1304 supports successful reentry for… read more
California has already reached historic levels in acres burned - 700 fires with over 1.3 million acres burned!  As always, California’s first responders are on the job, protecting our lives, our property, our families, everything we hold dear. We owe them our cooperation, our respect and our support. Last winter’s heavy rainfall generated a huge amount of fuel in our arid region. Now that summer is winding down, that fuel is dry and just waiting for a spark. With Santa Ana wind season approaching, each of us needs to be prepared, and to have a plan for fires or any disaster that’s likely to… read more
August marks a huge milestone. In 1920, women were granted the right to vote nationwide when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. The amendment reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Just to be clear, millions of women had already been voting.  Fifteen states had granted women full suffrage, and limited voting rights had been granted in another twelve. In some states like Colorado and Oklahoma, women’s suffrage passed by elections that were only open to male… read more
Schools are essential and the need to educate our children is not negotiable. The 2020-21 budget package maintained school funding based on 2019-20 attendance levels, which essentially placed a funding cap on all schools, even those experiencing high levels of growth. Prior to enactment of this year’s education trailer bill (SB 98), school districts were “held harmless” over declining year-to-year enrollment. If the district lost students, it would still be funded at last year’s level. If the school added students, it would receive more money. But under SB 98, a growing school does not… read more
A major side effect of the Coronavirus pandemic is the immense impact on California’s mental health and substance use. Over 22,000 overdoses and suicides are projected to result from forced isolation and rising unemployment.   Parity means substance abuse and mental illness needs to be treated equally as physical health.  90% of those with substance use disorders, and almost 60% of mentally ill adults go untreated. California’s 21-year old Mental Health Parity Act increased access to treatment by requiring insurers to cover medically necessary services. Though the Act was a big step forward… read more
The pandemic has thrown millions out of work and created massive problems at California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), the agency empowered to provide Unemployment Insurance (UI) to laid-off workers. Between March and May, EDD experienced a 3400% increase in claims compared to January/February. From March 8 to July 18, EDD processed 8.7 million claims, including 6.8 million standard UI claims and 1.4 million Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims. The agency has paid out a total of $49.7 billion in benefits, and reports that 94% of requests for assistance have been… read more
Several employees in the Capitol and 2 Assemblymembers tested positive for COVID last month which stopped our work in its tracks.  This week marks the start of a short, final month for the 2019 – 2020 session. Public safety is a priority, and I am very proud to join Assemblymembers Cooper, Bonta and Gonzalez to co-author AB 664. The March 4 state of emergency declaration requires all peace officers, firefighters and health-care workers to remain on the job -- for our protection. Since this places them at heightened risk, we must do all we can to protect them. AB 664 provides full hospital,… read more