By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni
The Legislature returned to the Capitol on Jan. 3 to start a new session. In addition to the normal business, the Senate is scheduled to hold a vote to elect a new leader, the president pro tem.
In December, current President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who will be termed out of his Senate seat in 2018 and is currently running for U.S. Senate, announced that the Senate’s Democratic caucus had reached a consensus on choosing me to succeed him as leader.
I am truly humbled by the trust my colleagues have placed in me, and I will work hard every day to earn that trust. Pro Tem de León did a wonderful job of ensuring that California is a place of opportunity for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or background.
I will honor his hard work by continuing along that path and taking every opportunity to improve quality of life for all residents.
At some point after the vote, there will be a transition of leadership, and I will work closely with the outgoing pro tem to make sure that it runs smoothly and seamlessly.
I am fortunate to have had the experience of leading the Assembly from 2014 to 2016. That gives me a unique perspective as I take up the reins in early 2018 to lead the Senate.
As speaker, I enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown and Pro Tem de León. Together, we framed and implemented an ambitious agenda, and accomplished what I believe were great things for the people of California:
We crafted a wide-ranging, $7.5 billion water bond and sent it to the ballot, where it became Proposition 1 and passed with more than 67 percent of the vote.
We created California’s first-ever Earned Income Tax Credit to put more money in the hands of our state’s struggling working families and individuals.
After 20 years of chaos surrounding the issue of medicinal marijuana, we created a framework for regulating cannabis in California.
We passed SB 350, major climate-change legislation requiring California to generate half of its electricity from renewable energy sources and double energy efficiency in all buildings.
In the final moments of my tenure as speaker, we passed a package of six bills to more tightly regulate tobacco in California.
We passed the landmark End of Life Options Act, allowing Californians suffering from painful terminal illnesses to end their lives on their own terms.
We increased funding by $337 million to care for Californians with developmental disabilities.
Ahead of our big housing package in 2017, we allocated $100 million for affordable housing in the 2014-15 budget — $50 million each for multifamily rental housing and permanent supportive housing. And we created the CalWORKS Housing Program, which allocated $20 million in the 2014-15 budget for rapid re-housing of families in our state’s safety net program who become homeless. That program was expanded to $35 million in the 2015-16 budget.
In addition to setting the stage for major housing legislation, we began the conversation that led to this year’s SB 1 — $5.4 billion annually to rebuild our transportation infrastructure.
Meanwhile, I was in a great position to enhance San Diego’s influence by increasing the number of local residents appointed to important statewide policy boards and commissions.
I look forward to the opportunity to work with my colleagues in the Senate, Speaker Rendon and my former colleagues in the Assembly, as well as Gov. Brown, to improve life for everyone in San Diego and all of California.
— Toni G. Atkins represents District 39 in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter, @SenToniAtkins.