January 2018 District Report
I hope your New Year is off to a great start. This month I introduced new bills to prevent wildfires and help disaster victims, expand preschool to all 4-year olds, and expand media literacy education. Governor Brown recently released his draft budget and gave his annual State of the State Address. I will be working to build our rainy day fund while investing in public services that are vital for the future of our state, like education and roads. We need to defend the progress we’ve made in recent years and continue moving in the right direction.
In this Issue:
- Insurance Reform & Consumer Protection
- Cash for College - Grants Available
- In the News - Universal Pre-K, Insurance Reforms & Wildfire Recovery
- Overview of Governor's Proposed Budget
As always, my office is available to help you with a state agency or answer any questions you might have. You can contact me by visiting my website.
Senator, 3rd District
This month I introduced new insurance reform legislation aimed at helping victims of wildfires and other major disasters. The legislation comes following the spate of devastating wildfires up and down the state, including the Tubbs, Atlas and Nuns fires in our district.
I’ve heard from so many people reeling after losing everything they own, and I feel the state has a moral imperative to act. Families pay insurance premiums year in and year out, and when major disasters strike, we need insurance companies to have our back. That’s why I introduced a bill to reform insurance coverage and improve consumer protections. It’s about helping victims and communities recover quicker and more completely after a disaster strikes.
The bill, SB 894, would require insurers to renew policies for disaster victims for a minimum of two years following the loss of a home and it requires companies to report to the Insurance Commissioner if they subsequently non-renew or pull out of a market. The bill would also allow disaster victims to recover living expenses from their insurance company over 36 months, helping families make ends meet while they work to rebuild and recover. Lastly, it would require an insurer to allow disaster victims to combine their policy limits for primary dwelling, other structures, contents, and additional living expenses, to pay for any of the covered purposes.
Knowing that fires, floods, and other natural disasters will happen again, we need to take steps now to improve fairness, flexibility and transparency in insurance coverage. Simply put, we need to do everything we can to help victims of natural disasters recover. Recovering from disasters takes a team effort, and I’ll continue pushing the state to do its part. To that end, I have co-authored a number of other bills designed to protect insurance policyholders and families.
The application period for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is required to access most financial aid, is now open. Paying for college can be difficult, but California has always been a leader in providing eligible students with an affordable college education.
The Cal Grant is a need-based state financial aid program that has been a big part of making college affordable for many California families. Qualified students can receive up to $12,630 in funding to attend almost any college in California – awards vary depending on economic need, grades and the college you attend.
Don't delay! The deadline to apply is March 2. For more information or to file your application, visit the California Student Aid Commission.
Undocumented students meeting certain criteria can apply for student aid through the California Dream Act program.
Additionally, we passed AB 19 last year, creating the California Community College Promise Program to provide tuition-free education at a Community College for one academic year for all first-time, full-time students. Learn more.
While California has made meaningful progress in a number of areas over the last year, there is still much work to be done. We need to support wildfire recovery and take steps to prevent future fires and harms. At the same time, we need to maintain and expands our progress towards affordable healthcare coverage for all, environmental stewardship, and educational opportunity.
Here is some of the latest news coverage that may be of interest to you. As always, please contact my office if you have any questions about state policy or want to express your position or ideas for legislation.
- Sen. Dodd calls on Congress to extend Children’s Health Insurance
- Bill Dodd floats universal pre-school bill
- Dodd bill buffers disaster victims’ insurance protection
- Dodd floats disaster insurance reform bill
- California lawmakers meet in Santa Rosa to press utilities on wildfire prevention
- About 500 attend open house in Vallejo for California representatives
- Bill seeks to reduce risk from downed power lines
- Governor proposes $131.7B state budget with huge surplus
- Bill would change emergency alert protocols
- PD Editorial: Filling the gaps in fire insurance policies
- How California lawmakers are preparing for more natural disasters
- Debris removal begins in Sonoma Valley
- Dodd bill aims to combat fake news with media literacy
- Dodd co-introduces bill to prevent utility from recouping fines by raising rates
Supporting wildfire recovery and reducing fire risk must be top priorities in the budget. I believe Governor Brown’s budget reflects a thoughtful starting point for this year’s budget negotiations. I will be working with the Administration and my colleagues in the Legislature to expand our efforts on disaster recovery and preparedness. This will be Governor Brown’s final budget, and he has continued his record of proposing thoughtful spending. It’s absolutely critical that the state pay down debts and build our rainy day fund, while investing in critical services. Education is one of those critical services. We know that expanding preschool access will improve student success and lifetime incomes, and I will be pushing for real progress towards the goal of universal preschool.
The Governor’s proposed budget can be viewed here. Significant details of the Governor’s proposed 2018-19 State Budget include:
Filling the Rainy Day Fund
Proposition 2, approved by California voters in 2014, established a constitutional goal of reserving 10 percent of tax revenues in a Rainy Day Fund. By the end of the current (2017-18) fiscal year, the state’s Rainy Day Fund will have a total balance of $8.4 billion, or 65 percent of the constitutional target. The budget proposes a $3.5 billion supplemental payment in addition to the constitutionally required transfer to the Rainy Day Fund for 2018-19. The two payments would bring the total Rainy Day Fund to $13.5 billion.
More Funds – and More Equitable Funding – for Education
In 2013, the state enacted the K-12 Local Control Funding Formula to increase support for the state’s neediest students and restore local district flexibility over how money is spent in schools. With $3 billion in new proposed funding for the formula in 2018-19, the budget will achieve full implementation of the formula two years ahead of schedule. To improve student achievement and transparency, the budget proposes requiring school districts to create a link between their local accountability plans and their budgets to show how this increased funding is being spent.
The minimum guarantee of funding for K-14 schools in 2007-08 was $56.6 billion and dropped to $47.3 billion in 2011-12 at the peak of the state budget crisis. From this recent low, funding has grown substantially, and is projected to grow to $78.3 billion in 2018-19 – an increase of $31 billion (66 percent) in seven years. For K-12 schools, 2018-19 funding levels will increase by about $4,600 per student above 2011-12 levels.
Increased Higher Education Spending
The budget proposes the creation of the first wholly online community college in California. The online college would provide a new affordable pathway to higher wages through credentials for those who don’t currently access the California community college system.
The budget proposes a total increase of $570 million (4 percent) for community colleges, including a new funding formula that encourages colleges to enroll underrepresented students and rewards colleges for improving students’ success in obtaining degrees and certificates. As the new formula is implemented, no district will receive less funding than currently provided. Included in the community colleges budget increase is $46 million for the first year of implementation for Assembly Bill 19, which allows colleges to waive tuition for first-time, full-time students.
The budget again increases state support for the University of California and the California State University by 3 percent. Since the end of the Great Recession, the University of California has received $1.2 billion in new funding and the California State University (CSU) has received $1.6 billion. Over the same time period, funding for state financial aid that primarily supports low-income and first-generation students has increased by $623 million to a total of $2.3 billion. Given these funding increases, the budget reflects flat tuition and expects the universities and community colleges to continue to improve their students’ success. With no tuition increases this year, university tuition, adjusted for inflation, will be below 2011-12 levels.
Continuing Health Care Expansion
Amidst growing uncertainty at the federal level, the budget again provides funding to increase health care coverage to low-income Californians under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). California continues to be the national leader among states in implementing the optional expansion of ACA with nearly 3.9 million Californians covered in 2018-19.
Strengthening Transportation Infrastructure
The budget reflects the first full year of funding under the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (Senate Bill 1), which provides stable, long-term funding for both state and local transportation infrastructure. This act provides $55 billion in new funding over the next decade, split evenly between state and local projects. For 2018-19, the budget includes $4.6 billion in new transportation funding, which includes:
- A focus on “fix-it-first” investments to repair neighborhood roads, state highways and bridges ($2.8 billion).
- Making key investments in trade and commute corridors to support continued economic growth and implement a sustainable freight strategy ($556 million).
- Matching locally generated funds for high-priority transportation projects ($200 million).
- Investing in local passenger rail and public transit modernization and improvement ($721 million).
Paying Down Debts and Liabilities
In May 2011, Governor Brown identified a $35 billion Wall of Debt – an unprecedented level of debts, deferrals and budgetary obligations accumulated over the prior decade. That debt has been substantially reduced, and now stands at less than $6 billion.
Combating Climate Change
California continues to work towards a state goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. In July, Governor Brown signed legislation to extend California’s landmark cap-and-trade program through 2030. Since then, auction proceeds have stabilized and revenues have increased, resulting in $1.25 billion in cap-and-trade funds available for appropriation in 2018-19. The plan for these funds will be announced in conjunction with the Governor’s State of the State Address.