Below is a summary of some subcommittee activity from the past week:
Subcommittee #1 (Education)
Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), & Leyva (D-Chino)
Better Options to Make College More Affordable. The ability to afford a college education is a key part of giving California students the opportunity to launch successful careers. Financial aid is one part of that puzzle, and the subcommittee discussed Governor Newsom’s proposals to increase Cal Grants, the state’s primary program for providing assistance to students. The proposal to increase competitive Cal Grants is a positive step, but other proposals would artificially prohibit expanded grants from going to students at private universities or fail to ensure that aid goes to students with the greatest needs, while making the financial aid system needlessly more complex. Better options to promote college affordability would be to allow students at all universities to access expanded grants and to target grants more closely to students with the greater financial needs.
Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy, and Transportation)
Wieckowski (D-Fremont) Chair, Jones (R-Santee), McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Monning (D-Santa Cruz), & Stern (D-Canoga Park)
Promoting Efficiency and Avoiding Waste. The subcommittee discussed a variety of spending adjustments for state Resources programs. While the items were not the sort of high-profile issues that typically make the news, Senate Republicans believe it is important for the Legislature to promote accountability and efficiency throughout government operations. For example, the Governor’s budget sought funds for some building projects with unexpected multimillion dollar cost increases. The projects are worthwhile, but the subcommittee delayed voting in some cases so further analysis could be done regarding costs.
Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)
Pan (D-Sacramento) Chair, Stone (R-Riverside County), & Hurtado (D-Sanger)
Senate Republicans Support Improvements for the Developmentally Disabled. Yesterday’s subcommittee hearing discussed the intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) system in California. Senate Republicans submitted a budget letter requesting several critical improvements: the reinvestment of any funds generated from the closure of developmental institutions, an 8 percent across-the-board increase for service providers, and restoration of services cut in the recession, such as social recreation and camp services. Senate Republicans know that we can do better than the status quo for our I/DD neighbors and family members. Community service providers and those with I/DD should not have to settle for underpaid staff because the state does not compensate people fairly to care for high-needs consumers. The I/DD community deserves to have their pre-recession services restored, especially when the state has a $21 billion surplus. Senate Republicans will continue fighting to improve the community services system and protect the rights and promises guaranteed by the Lanterman Act.
Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)
Durazo (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Nielsen (R-Tehama), & Umberg (D-Santa Ana)
Democrats Reject Expedited Process for Building Supportive Housing for Homeless. The budget subcommittee rejected the Governor’s proposal to allow a quicker review process for building emergency shelters, navigation centers (a service-enriched shelter), and supportive housing. These facilities are necessary components to addressing the underlying problems that are often exacerbated by living on the streets. Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) voted against the rejection. California has too many requirements that constrict a local government’s ability to build housing, a significant factor in the homelessness crisis. Stringent environmental regulations like the much-abused California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have led to anonymous litigation that can quickly stop projects at any point. Sacramento Democrats made it clear that while a streamlined CEQA process may be fine for major sports arenas, as seen in recent years, they will not allow reform for supportive housing for the state’s homeless population.
Subcommittee #5 (Corrections, Public Safety, and the Judiciary)
Skinner (D-Berkeley) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), & Beall (D-San Jose)
More Realistic Plan Needed to Eliminate Backlog of Criminals with Guns. The subcommittee discussed for a second time, but still did not vote on, a request from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for more positions and funding to disarm individuals who are prohibited by the courts from owning guns due to criminal activity or mental illness. The DOJ first identified a backlog of more than 20,000 of these armed, prohibited individuals in 2013. No matter how many resources the legislature provides the DOJ, they are still unable to eliminate the backlog, citing an inability to fill vacant positions due to hiring competition from local law enforcement agencies. At this week’s hearing, subcommittee members echoed concerns raised earlier by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), specifically that it makes no sense to authorize additional resources or hire more people if DOJ is unable to fill them. Unfortunately, DOJ staff offered little assurance that Attorney General Xavier Becerra has a realistic plan to address the hiring problem or eliminate the backlog. In fact, DOJ staff testified that a goal of reducing the backlog to 4,000 or so would be more appropriate. The Attorney General recently argued that states should have the right to enforce common sense gun control laws. Nothing could be more common sense than disarming felons who are prohibited by law from owning firearms, yet he still has not presented a real plan to getting it done.
You can view the agendas for the following week’s budget subcommittee hearings here.