Legislative Interviews

Every year, the League of Women Voters of San Francisco interviews our state legislators. This is an opportunity for legislators to share their priorities with League members and to learn about League positions and priorities. League of Women Voters of San Francisco members can learn more about how some state legislative actions are going to affect their communities. 

image53

Senator Scott Wiener: March 2, 2018

Question 1: Eliminating Cash Bail

  • There has been a lot of lobbying by the bail and prison lobbyists.
  • Law enforcement people are against it.
  • San Francisco is actually ahead in fairer imposition of bail.
  • It has been challenging, but Senator Wiener has signed on as a co-author of SB 10.
  • He is reasonably confident that they will get support this year.
  • There is an argument against the efficacy about risk assessment.

Question 2: California Environmental Quality Act CEQA

  • Senator Wiener believes that it is worth another look, but he is taking a break after working on SB 35 last year.
  • As with any law, re-examination is always worth looking at.
  • We should look to streamline projects (ie SB 35)- there is more to be done.
  • The problem is not all CEQA. For example, it took 10 years for the environmental review of the Van Ness and Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans, which is unacceptable.

Question 3: Sea level rise

  • There is an enormous number of infrastructure projects and we need more infrastructure work in general.
  • SF passed a parcel tax around the Bay restoration- this project will absorb some of the sea level rise.
  • Some roads/infrastructure may already be lost, i.e. Highway 37 in North Bay.
  • Senator Wiener believes that this problem will need a “mega measure” around climate resilience and there is “too much at risk.”
  • For example, the wildfires in Southern CA -- are we just going to let people rebuild there? In other states where there have been hurricanes/flooding the federal rebuilding projects seem to have more limits.
  • In general, we have been better about flood risk and elevating buildings more.
  • There will be a bond in November to rebuild the seawall along the Embarcadero. It may be a $500 million bond. Senator Wiener hopes for more state support, but will also need regional and local support and money.

Question about Prop 13 reform

  • “We will see”. If the unions put money behind it, it will pass and if activists get a way to qualify it. But there will be a lot of money against it.
  • The split role is only one part of the reform.
  • Another piece is the incentive to favor commercial over residential—this causes the current housing crisis. Split role exacerbates this issue.
  • We need to address the issue of capped property taxes vs. commercial taxes.

Priorities

  • Housing- he has 3 housing bills
  • Clean energy bills
  • SB 700- Rebate incentive for energy storage systems
  • SB 1399- Incentives for buildings to max out on solar units on their rooftops and being able to sell to users/tenants
  • Anti-poverty bills
  • Easier for CalFresh recipients to buy fresh produce
  • Resources for homeless youth
  • Flexibility to place severely mentally ill and chronic homeless people into conservatorships
  • Net Neutrality in California

image54

Assemblymember Phil Ting: March 2, 2018

Question: Money Bail Reform

Currently, release pending trial is based on an arrestee’s capacity to post money bail. Do you support legislative changes to a risk-assessment based system, so that release is contingent on preventing violence in the community, rather the arrestee’s finances?


Answer:

I voted in favor of Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s legislation (AB 42 Pretrial Release) and would have voted for Senator Bob Hertzberg’s bill (SB 10 Pretrial Release). This is the first time that judges have dealt with the equity issue. Public safety is key, but currently, if you have money for bail, you can be let out. We should align our goals with public safety and not with the ability to pay.


Question: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Reform

What is your view regarding the use of CEQA to delay affordable housing projects? While recent legislative changes have streamlined the CEQA process for in-fill projects, do you think other legislative changes to CEQA are needed?


Answer:

It’s an urban myth that if we get rid of CEQA, we can build housing and not have a housing problem. It is neighborhood and city opposition that is the primary driver in curbing housing; not CEQA. CEQA does not testify at city councils. Streamlining is appropriate because we have significant neighborhood challenges. We should look at a policy and see if it is doing its job. Because of CEQA, we have a better environment. When entities sue for reasons not related to environment, then that is a problem. We should look at each situation case by case. You cannot legislate with a thousand “what ifs.” Take a look at a situation and adjust; try to find compromise. Housing is complicated as neighbors living there have a voice but not the neighbors who will move in.


Question: Sea Level Rise

We need a regional, coordinated effort of several state agencies. And since the threat is swift in terms of typical infrastructure projects, we need to coordinate now. What is the path forward to assure continuity of infrastructure as we approach 2050 and beyond? What can be done legislatively?


Answer:

We have to go back to the cause of sea level rise; have to attack the problem, which is climate change, as was done in AB and SB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. We need a regional body to address the problem. We have ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) and MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission). However, we need to spend the bulk of our time figuring out how to control greenhouse gases to reduce sea levels. San Francisco would have to spend billions of dollars to reinforce the Bay but the challenge is to work on a regional basis. Some legislators in areas like the Central Valley are not interested in sea level rise but they have their own pollution problems and they too are concerned about greenhouse gases and water.


In regards to waste management, we need to look at the Bay and see what is under water. It’s waste water and a variety of other things as well.


We do have legislation to make change. I have a bill to ban combustion engine cars in 2040 (AB 1745, Clean Cars 2040 Act).


The California Coastal Commission is in charge of the coast and we probably don’t want another bureaucratic agency involved. Wetlands restoration is one of the best ways to deal with sea level rise.


Question: Major Issues and Personal Priorities

What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2018? What are your personal priorities?


Assemblymember Ting referenced the following issues and priorities:

  • Electric vehicle legislation
  • Public safety, specifically the use of body cameras
  • Clean up the loopholes in Proposition 47, Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. This proposition decriminalized shoplifting, but now we have rings of emboldened shoplifters.
  • Housing
  • Homeless: I am working with 11 mayors to get more money.
  • Education: Higher education needs to be more affordable. Give universities more money. For early education, create a path so kids are prepared for kindergarten.
  • Criminal justice: There is an inequity in prison spending versus education spending. A large amount of money is spent on 120,000 prisoners and the results are dismal. The cost for corrections continues to rise. There should be more money for rehabilitation and mental health to get better results.
  • Gun safety: I am reintroducing a bill that would expand gun violence restraining orders to allow teachers, administrators, mental health workers, and other workplace personnel to obtain a restraining order to get guns out of dangerous peoples’ hands.
  • 2020 census: President Trump is planning on asking whether a person is a US citizen on the census form. This seems a harmless question but it is bound to keep people from participating in the census leading to an undercount. This is an area where organizations like the League of Women Voters can help educate people about the importance of participating in the census.


image55

Assemblymember David Chiu: March 8, 2018

Question 1:  Bail Reform       

Assemblymember Chiu supports bail reform. As a former prosecutor he never thought the system was fair. We could probably release more people with no harm to the community. He is co-author of the Hertzberg bill SB 10 and is now hopeful that it will pass. The Governor is on board with the concept. There is push back from many in the law enforcement community as well as the bail bond industry.


Question 2 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Reform

This is a very important environmental law. It is very complicated and there have been abuses. Challenges can drag on for years. Nonetheless we have to protect the intent of CEQA. There have been some bills trying to give it more accountability but it can be a difficult conversation to have because environmentalists are very protective. He considers himself to be an environmentalist. Time limits to challenges using CEQA would help. It has been used by NIMBY communities to avoid more housing. Cupertino and Brisbane are good examples of this. He introduced a bill that would require BART to rezone some of its parking lots to enable housing above the parking.


Question 3   Sea Level Rise

Assemblymember Chiu served on Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC) and is well aware of the problems with sea level rise. He has a bill rethinking how to finance infrastructure around the waterfront. He says we need state agencies to coordinate these efforts and set goals. We also need to work on the causes of sea level rise. Regional Measure AA was a good example of the importance of a regional approach and financing to this issue.


A San Francisco concern:  Bike safety. The SF Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last week urging San Francisco’s State Legislative Delegation (Senator Scott Weiner and Assembly Members David Chiu and Phil Ting) to sponsor state legislation to enable San Francisco to impose an Infrastructure Impact Fee on TNCs (Transportation Network Companies).


Assemblymember Chiu’s priorities:

  • Housing:  He is chair of the Housing Committee. He is concerned with issues around affordability, streamlining approval processes, middle class housing and holding cities accountable. A League of Women Voters member asked if he thought Redevelopment Agencies might be reconstituted. He said he is working to get them back. He said that in the past there was some misuse and redevelopment funds were misused for strip malls and golf courses. He said the funds should only be used for housing and infrastructure. We also need to be sure that people who are moved for new construction are assured of a place to stay during and after the work.
  • Immigration:  We need to protect our state from Donald Trump.
  • One of his legislative priorities is to root out harassment. He is very supportive of the Me Too movement. He is leading the fight to address the backlog of untested rape kits.
  • Assemblymember Chiu traveled to Washington DC to attend Supreme Court hearings on a bill he carried that requires every clinic to provide a woman with a statement saying every woman is entitled to access to family planning, pregnancy services and an abortion if she chooses.

image56

image57

image58