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A report on our progress

Posted: October 6th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Notes from Toni | No Comments

By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni

On Thursday night, Sept. 14, with little time to spare before the end of this year’s legislative session, the state Assembly provided the 54 votes needed to pass my highest-priority bill, SB 2. The next day, the Senate sent the bill to the governor for his signature and he signed it on Sept. 29.

Toni Atkins

SB 2 — the Building Homes and Jobs Act — has been a labor of love of mine for seven years; with the help of many of my colleagues and countless housing, business, labor and environmental advocates, as well as my tenacious staff, we got it across the finish line.

SB 2 will create a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, generating an estimated $250 million each year.

In the first year, half of the revenue will fund programs throughout the state that reduce homelessness, and half will go directly to local governments to fund updates of community plans, which will help neighborhoods improve quality of life and spur new housing growth where it makes the most sense.

After the first year, 70 percent of the money will go straight to communities to help create new affordable housing for struggling families and people who are homeless; the remaining 30 percent will expand funding for existing state housing programs.

SB 2 is part of a landmark package of Senate bills aimed at increasing accountability, affordability and accessibility of housing throughout California. SB 3 by Sen. Jim Beall asks voters to approve a $4-billion bond to fund affordable housing. SB 35 by Sen. Scott Wiener speeds up housing approvals in cities that aren’t meeting their housing goals. SB 540 by Sen. Richard Roth expands opportunities for housing construction. SB 166 and SB 167 by Sen. Nancy Skinner reduce obstacles to building new housing.

Additional bills that came out of the Assembly further attack the housing crisis. It was a true team effort to create new housing for our lowest-income earners up through the middle class.

This package of bills won’t solve the crisis overnight — state leaders, local governments and community representatives up and down California have a lot more work to do — but this package is the most comprehensive effort the state has ever accomplished, and it’s a good start.

Meanwhile, my other priority bill, SB 179 — the Gender Recognition Act — is also on the governor’s desk. It’s the next step in a long line of legislative achievements in advancing civil rights for California’s LGBTQ community.

If signed by the governor, SB 179 will create a third gender marker on state-issued identity documents for nonbinary and intersex residents who identify as neither strictly female nor male. It will also make the process a little easier for transgender, nonbinary and intersex Californians who wish to obtain new identification documents that accurately reflect their gender.

People who are transgender, nonbinary or intersex often have a difficult time when they show their ID and it doesn’t match their gender presentation. It produces unnecessary anxiety and can lead to harassment and a delay or refusal in completing a transaction. It doesn’t need to be this way.

This issue has become personal for me. I’ve heard from many people across the state who are eagerly looking forward to this opportunity. I also have friends in San Diego with children who will benefit, and I am forever changed by the emotion with which they’ve spoken about the good that SB 179 will do.

In addition to these two bills, 10 other pieces of legislation were sent to the governor, and as of this writing, several of them have been signed. Meanwhile, the legislature as a whole moved California forward with major policy or budget achievements in transportation, climate change, health care, poverty reduction, local and regional parks, childcare, education, immigrant rights and more.

I am extremely proud of what we accomplished and already looking forward to seeing what we can do for San Diego and all of California next year.

—Toni G. Atkins represents District 39 in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter, @SenToniAtkins.

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