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State lawmakers react to Brown’s inaugural speech

From state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose:

Jim Beall“This may have been Gov. Brown’s best State of the State address. He laid out a long-term vision for California’s future. As chairman of the Senate transportation committee, I agree with his mission to maintain our roads, highways, and bridges. By investing in infrastructure maintenance and effective mass transit projects we can cut pollution and create new jobs. The BART extension to San Jose is projected to generate 19,000 jobs (one job for one year). We have to keep the state moving and I’ve introduced SB 9 to allow multi-year funding under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I also agree with the Governor that we can no longer make students the ‘default financiers’ of our colleges. SB 15 would freeze tuition rates and that’s why I co-authored it. I believe there has to be a more public investment in education rather than have the students pick up higher and higher percentages of the cost. The Governor was right to point out that California cannot afford to pour more money into the prison system. This costs higher education dearly because it is money that could be spent on our universities.’’

From Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin:

Catharine Baker“As we prioritize our budget, we must focus on what is needed for a strong and prosperous state. Education, transportation, and an environment that promotes job growth must be our focus in the coming years.

“I was pleased to hear the Governor’s commitment to some shared priorities we have. Ensuring our schools receive the necessary funding to provide all of California’s children the education they deserve should remain a top priority. We need to ensure that funding for education is going directly to the classroom to benefit our students and teachers, and not to a bloated administrative bureaucracy. And we cannot continue to defend the status quo and the policies addressed in the Vergara decision. Those policies are denying students the opportunity to get a good education. Finally, in the true spirit of local control, we must eliminate the cap on savings reserves that was implemented last year. It endangers the financial health of every school district in our community.

“Republicans and Democrats worked together last year and supported the rainy day fund, and the state needed that reform. Our school districts need a rainy day fund, too, and state law now prohibits them from having the savings they need to protect against cuts. Ensuring we have reserves to continue necessary programs in the midst of a fiscal crisis is the right thing to do. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the cap on reserves is eliminated.

“As Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Committee, I will work to fight tuition increases that hinder our students’ ability to attend college, and I hope the Governor will join me in this pledge. Under the UC proposed tuition hike, students and their families will pay 25 percent more for their degrees in 2020 than they are paying today. Lawmakers and the UC must work together on long-term planning to keep higher education affordable, and I will fight for that.

“The Governor and I agree that it is time Republicans and Democrats come together to address California’s transportation needs. We have a crumbling infrastructure that was built for a population a fraction of the size it is now. But directing public funds to High Speed Rail as it starts breaking ground this week is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. We should be breaking ground on BART to Livermore, expanding parking at BART, and improving our road capacity instead of funding the bullet train project. This is money that should be spent easing congestion and increasing mass transit in the most high traffic regions of the state.

“I applaud the Governor and my predecessors that have worked to turn our economy around over the past few years. There is a still a great deal of work to be done, and our economy is fragile. Unemployment is dropping, but there are still too many Californians out of work and too many businesses leaving our state. We have to make it easier for employers to do business here. I would like to have heard the Governor address this, but I look forward to working with him on improving California’s business economy.”

More from the Bay Area’s lawmakers, after the jump…
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Assembly committee chairmanships assigned

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her committee-chair choices Wednesday for the upcoming 2015-16 session, with Bay Area members taking some key slots. From the Bay Area:

    Freshman Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), will chair the Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services.
    Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, keeps her chair at the Business and Professions Committee.
    Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, keeps his chair at the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee while also picking up the Health Committee’s chairmanship.
    Freshman Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, will chair the Human Services Committee.
    Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, who formerly chaired the Human Services Committee, instead picks up the gavel at the Judiciary Committee.
    Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will chair the Public Safety Committee.
    Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, will chair the Revenue and Taxation Committee.
    Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, will continue chairing the Rules Committee.
    Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who used to chair the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, will now instead chair the Transportation Committee.
    Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, will chair the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

Full committee rosters will be assigned before the year’s end.

See a full list of committee chairs, after the jump…
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Lawmakers urge Jerry Brown to halt all fracking

Nine state lawmakers, including a few from the Bay Area, have signed a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and gas, the process commonly called “fracking.”

Marc Levine“The risks are simply too great to allow fracking to continue,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, who authored the letter, told reporters on a conference call this morning.

The technique demonstrably hurts air and water quality, might influence seismic activity, and furthers a dependence on fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, said Levine, D-San Rafael, and so it must be suspended “until we have all the data to address the immediate and long-term dangers.”

Signing Levine’s letter were Assemblymembers Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara; Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica; Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys; Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, as well as state Senators Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville; and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.

Levine, who announced the letter in November, teamed up with CREDO, an activist group which had thousands of members sign petitions and make phone calls urging their lawmakers to sign the letter. Levine and CREDO delivered the letter and held their news conference during this final week of a public comment period on Brown’s proposed fracking regulations, which they say would allow a massive expansion of fracking in California.

CREDO campaign manager Zack Malitz called fracking “one of the greatest environmental struggles to face Califonians in a generation,” and said Brown has proposed “dangerously weak regulations that would only encourage more fracking” despite “massive public opposition.”

“His legacy as an environmental leader is on the line,” Malitz said. “Californians will hold him responsible for putting oil-industry profits ahead of our health and the climate.”

Several bills proposing a moratorium on fracking failed to get enough votes to advance in the Legislature last year. The Legislature did pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabassas, which Brown signed into law in September; that bill requires oil companies to go through a permit process, disclose chemical uses, do groundwater tests and send notices to neighboring landowners about their intent to drill.

Brown generally has pursued energy policy that supports increased oil production while expanding California’s goal of producing at least a third of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind or solar energy) by 2020.

UPDATE @ 12:32 P.M.: This just in from Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman: “After extensive debate, the Legislature – including the authors of this letter – voted to enact SB 4, which became effective just days ago. Pursuant to this bill, the regulatory process has begun and we encourage these legislators and other interested citizens to actively participate.”