By Marie Waldron
On December 5th the Legislature met for a formal organizational session. The main purpose was to swear in members for the 2023-2024 session, which reconvenes on January 4th. Despite the day’s formalities, my Caucus introduced a package of bills to address many significant problems that are affecting all Californians.
The rising cost of living was addressed through legislation lowering income tax rates to help working families afford child care, expanding the renter’s tax credit, and lowering income tax rates for the middle class. Other legislation imposes a gasoline tax holiday, and suspends the annual gas tax increase.
Public safety legislation will increase penalties for the sale, possession and transportation of fentanyl. Pre-Prop 47 penalties involving serial theft crimes will be restored, victim restitution will be enhanced, penalties for gun violence will increase, and penalty enhancements for criminals using firearms while committing felonies will again be available to judges during the sentencing process.
New water projects will be expedited by requiring timely permitting decisions by state agencies, water storage goals to add 7.7 million acre feet of new storage by 2030 will be codified, and the judicial review process for new water projects will be streamlined. The legislation also includes a constitutional amendment requiring 3% of General Fund revenues to be allocated for water infrastructure and for wildfire prevention projects.
The growing homelessness problem is also addressed. The bill package includes legislation banning homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools, establishes funding for city and county regional authorities to provide shelter/services for the homeless, and encourages, rather than mandates, cities/counties to approve more housing and to speed up the permitting process.
Assemblymember Marie Waldron represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes Santee, portions of the city of San Diego, and most of rural eastern and northern San Diego County.