It has been a lively and busy 2016 legislative session. So far, I've voted on more than 700 bills plus the state budget. I've held six community meetings, where I met and listened to the concerns of hundreds of residents. I've worked to raise awareness about the terrible tragedy of Veterans' suicides and have been heartened by the outpouring of support on this important issue. It has been and continues to be an honor to serve you, and I look forward to seeing you at future events.
RAISING AWARENESS OF VETERANS' SUICIDES
On June 23, I embarked on a 22-day mission to heighten people's understanding of a tragedy that is quietly occurring in our country: suicides among our Veterans. On average, 22 Veterans take their lives every day.
So, every day since June 23, I have done 22 pushups, and have been joined by Veterans and community leaders in the Capitol and all around the Bay Area. It's been an eye-opening and uplifting journey as I've learned about the challenging issues facing our veterans and the extraordinary efforts being taken by so many people who want to give back to our heroes.
I kicked off the 22 pushup challenge on the floor of the Senate, joined by 10 other senators, and have gone on to do my pushups at numerous local Veterans' memorials and halls, parades, offices, school campuses and other sites. Wherever I could get willing partners - and that was everywhere I looked - I was determined to bring the story about Veterans to the public.
Please click here to go to my website, where you can see a video of each of the 22 days of 22 pushups. If you are a Veteran and you need help, please call 1-800-273-8255, and press 1. Help is available. You are not alone.
Governor Signs Bullet Button Ban
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law my bill to ban military-style weapons with a quick release ammunition clip. This so-called bullet button, was a key part of a historic gun reform package approved by the Legislature.
A bullet button assault-style rifle was used by the shooters who killed 14 people and wounded 21 in the San Bernardino terrorist attack last year.
Gun makers have exploited a loophole in the law that expressly prohibits assault weapons in California with easy to remove ammunition magazines.
We've seen the horror of these weapons with mass murders. We should not allow weapons that are designed specifically for modern warfare to proliferate on our streets.
In Governor Brown's signing message, he noted that the bullet button bill and certain others in the package "enhance public safety by tightening our existing laws in a responsible and focused manner, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners."
Port Chicago Exoneration
Another of my bills, Senate Resolution 69, also approved by both houses, urges the President of the United States to exonerate the U.S. Navy Seamen convicted of mutiny following the Port Chicago disaster during World War II. Fact finding by historians has made it clear that these soldiers were unfairly convicted. Although all of them have since died, we owe it to their families to fully exonerate them.
Ban on Confederate Names
My Senate Joint Resolution 15, approved by both houses, calls on Congress to prohibit public schools, buildings, parks, roadways and other federal-owned property from using names of Confederate military and political leaders. The actions of these Confederate leaders belong in our history books, not in places of honor on public facilities.
These resolutions express the opinion of the Legislature and were approved and forwarded to the President and Congress.
Bills Awaiting Action
Here are some of my other bills awaiting action:
- SB 412 - The California Promise, which would provide an optional contract between the California State University and students in order to increase 4-year graduation rates.
- SB 799 - School District Reserve Cap, which would raise the existing cap on school reserves to ensure districts' ability to save for rainy days.
- SB 1128 - Bay Area Commuters Benefits Program, which would continue a program that gives employers and employees options on their commuter benefits.
- SB 1311 - License Plate Confidentiality, which requires the names of those convicted of felonies to be taken off confidentiality lists to enhance the safety of law enforcement officers.
- SB 1389 - Custodial Interrogation, which would expand existing videotaping requirements for custodial interrogation of minors to any homicide suspect.
- Two of my priority bills encountered stiff resistance and I will have to try again next year. Based on current opposition, I declined to have a hearing on my proposal to ban BART strikes. My bill to expand the use of DNA in solving crimes was narrowly defeated by the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Bipartisan Town Halls
In a series of bipartisan town halls, I shared my legislative priorities with residents throughout the district in six separate events held with Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.
We had town halls in Concord, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek. It was an opportunity to show that, especially in these times of partisan conflict, there can be civil discourse.
Constituents came away refreshed by the idea that legislators of the two opposing parties can cooperate. It was a privilege to meet with hundreds of constituents at these town halls, and I look forward to meeting many more of you at future events!
Expanding My Role in Sacramento
I was pleased to be appointed to serve in two new assignments in the Senate: Chairman of the Banking & Financial Institutions Committee and as a member on the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.
I also serve on the Public Safety, Insurance, and Governmental Organization committees. "I'm pleased to have someone with Steve's knowledge shepherd the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and join the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee," said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said. "His experience will be critical to the committees as it takes on issues of great importance to all Californians that create economic opportunity and financial security."
I am grateful to the President pro Tem for selecting me as Chairman of the important Banking and Finance Committee. One of the most important tasks of a legislator is to be a good steward of the state's finances, so I'm pleased to have a seat at the budget table.
I had the privilege of attending a joint session of the Legislature to listen to the Dalai Lama, who came to the Capitol with a message of peace and community. Though what he had to say about the world's conflicts was sobering and important, the Dalai Lama had a light, playful touch that reminded us all to find happiness and humor in our lives.
Approximately 1,000 high school students from across the state attended the weeklong American Legion California Boys State Conference in Sacramento. On the final day, they all came to the Capitol to hold elections for the new Boys State Legislature, and to meet with their home legislators. I met with 26 very impressive young men from the 7th District.
I was happy to introduce Lorraine Plass, legislative chairperson for the Team AmVets Legislative Committee, on the Senate floor with a resolution honoring her for her work in raising awareness about the Port Chicago disaster. I also was honored to offer a resolution to Latonia Dixon, a commissioner on the Veterans Affairs Commission in San Francisco, for her work on the Port Chicago issue.