By Toni G. Atkins
The 2017 legislative session is well underway, and I am pursuing several of my top priorities while at the same time joining my colleagues in making sure that California remains a national leader in environmental protection and access to quality health care, and serves as a beacon of compassion and inclusiveness when it comes to human rights.
Housing affordability remains my top issue, and SB 2 — the Building Homes and Jobs Act — was the first bill I introduced. SB 2 is an important piece of the Senate Democrats’ overall infrastructure bill package as well as a smaller package of priority housing bills.
Through a modest document-recording fee on certain real-estate transactions, SB 2 will create a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, generating hundreds of millions of dollars to help thousands of low-income families every year.
I am grateful to the California Realtors Association and many other business organizations throughout the state for their support for this bill. These groups understand that not only will SB 2 help create stable housing for struggling families; it also creates jobs — an estimated 29,000 for every $500 million spent on affordable housing.
Human trafficking is a serious problem in San Diego and across the state, and I have introduced three new bills to crack down on traffickers and help their victims.
SB 270 requires all hotels and motels in California to train their employees to recognize the signs when sex trafficking is happening in their midst and victims are hiding in plain sight, and I sincerely appreciate the support of the California Hotel and Lodging Association for this important bill.
While SB 270 helps law enforcement apprehend traffickers, SB 230 helps district attorneys convict them, by allowing a prosecutor, with a judge’s permission, to introduce evidence of a defendant’s past sex-trafficking crimes during trial. This is already allowed in trials involving other types of sex crimes.
The third bill, SB 767, helps child victims of sex trafficking after they’ve been rescued from their traffickers. SB 767 provides safe housing and mental health care that’s specifically tailored to the unique type of trauma suffered by children who’ve been used essentially as sex slaves.
Meanwhile, with national officials threatening to repeal the Affordable Care Act, California must take ambitious steps to ensure that all of our residents have access to quality health care. That’s why I am partnering with my colleague Sen. Ricardo Lara on SB 562 — the Healthy California Act — that will create a universal, single-payer health care system.
In the coming months, Sen. Lara and I will be working with all interested parties to craft the details of this plan. Let me tell you, this won’t be easy. The idea is simple — one plan to cover everyone who lives in our state — but health care policy is anything but simple. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.
In addition to protecting Californians from what I consider a national path in the wrong direction on health care, I am also committed to expanding the rights of transgender residents while our president is attempting to roll back transgender rights.
My bill SB 179 will make it easier for transgender Californians to obtain state-issued identification documents that match their gender identity. With SB 179, our state will be the first to create a nonbinary gender marker for those who don’t identify as either male or female.
Another one of my bills, SB 310, will make it easier for transgender people incarcerated in our prisons and jails to obtain a gender or name change — which will bring them a greater sense of dignity while incarcerated and help ease their transition back into society after their release.
These are examples of how California is moving forward and solving difficult problems. In many ways, the current leadership in Washington, D.C., is trying to roll back the progress that we’ve made.
But California won’t go back. We’ve come too far in areas like climate change, access to health care and civil rights for previously marginalized communities, and I am committed to maintaining that progress, as well as working hard to address our state’s most difficult matters.
I look forward to keeping you updated throughout the year on these bills and all of the important issues facing California, and I encourage you to contact my district office at 619-645-3133 and let me know what you think.
—Toni G. Atkins represents the 39th District in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.