As we in the Valley are painfully aware, local roads and state highways have been neglected for years and are in extreme disrepair.
Facing a fast-approaching gridlock crisis, the governor finally called a special session of the Legislature to address the state’s transportation and infrastructure issues. This gave me the opportunity to introduce Senate Bill 3x, a bipartisan measure that would allow California voters to decide whether they want to continue to fund High-Speed Rail (HSR) or instead redirect HSR bond money to build and repair our local roads and state highways.
SB 3x–co-authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield)–would allow Californians to vote again on whether they want to continue funding the HSR project–estimated to cost at least $100 billion to complete–and would immediately freeze any further spending on the project until a vote on June 7, 2016. If voters say no to funding HSR, any unspent HSR dollars would be redirected to repair and/or construct new state highways and local roads.
The High-Speed Rail Authority has failed to obtain private investment as promised to the voters and is now relying on California’s controversial cap-and-trade program to help fund the project.
There is $500 million earmarked for High-Speed Rail (HSR) in the 2015-2016 State Budget. In addition, there is a questionable $400 million “slush fund” of cap-and-trade money that is set aside for the HSR Authority to use whenever it is needed.
The High-Speed Rail of today is not what the voters approved in 2008. Californians deserve the right to re-vote on this massive transportation project that could end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars if it is ever completed.
The Washington Examiner recently came out in favor of SB 3x, saying, in part that “official cost estimates have only doubled since voters originally approved the train in 2008, but more realistic voices…believe it will cost taxpayers as much as ten times the original estimate of $33 billion to complete.”
One of those “more realistic voices” belongs to former chairman of State Senate Transportation Committee, Democrat Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who said this massive transportation project could really cost taxpayers as much as $350 billion to complete.
Quentin Kopp, a past High-Speed Rail Authority chairman, now opposes the project and has said that the HSR Authority is committing “the great train robbery…if they can get away with it.”
It’s time to use voter-approved funds to fix our crumbling roads and highways, not waste billions of dollars on the boondoggle that is high-speed rail.
Pray for Rain. Stop the Train!
BY DAN WALTERS / SACRAMENTO BEE
A few years ago, when it was first proposed that state “cap-and-trade” fees on carbon emissions be used for the state’s bullet train project, the Legislature’s budget analyst questioned its legality.
Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor’s office noted that state law requires fees to be spent on projects and programs to help the state meet 2020 emission goals.
The bullet train would not be in operation by then, the analysis said, and construction activities would actually increase emissions.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who sees the bullet train as a legacy, pushed hard for the cap-and-trade funds because otherwise the project had no major financing sources for anything beyond a few miles of San Joaquin Valley track.
The Legislature ignored Taylor’s red flag, decreeing that the bullet train would automatically receive 25 percent of cap-and-trade funds. Implicitly, it accepted Brown’s assurances that the electrified bullet train would have a big effect on carbon emissions, particularly by reducing automotive travel.
The question arose again last week, when Jeff Morales, who runs the California High-Speed Rail Authority, appeared before a state Senate committee.
In alignment with Andy’s priority to ensure that existing transportation dollars are used for transportation projects, Andy introduce Senate Bill 13x, which would create a Transportation Inspector General to examine Caltrans and the High-Speed Rail Authority for fraud and waste, efficiency opportunities, best practices and opportunities to improve data used to project resource allocations.
Under SB 13x, the Transportation Inspector General would be responsible for investigating and reporting back to the Legislature any instances of fraud, waste and abuse.
“This would give the Legislature the tools it needs to hold Caltrans and the High-Speed Rail Authority accountable and ensure that every transportation dollar is spent efficiently and appropriately,” said Andy.
SB 13x was introduced in the Special Session on Transportation Infrastructure as part of a Senate Republican package of measures that would require transportation taxes be spent on transportation projects. Other measures introduced as part of the package are:
- SB 9, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) starts to change the culture at Caltrans by making sure California doesn’t use temporary funding such as bond funds or loan repayments to support permanent, ongoing state positions that continue with full salary and benefits long after all the work is done. This bill would also utilize more private contracts to get transportation construction projects completed in a timely fashion.
- SB 10, Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) brings more local control to the process by converting the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) into a grant program. This transition would give local agencies the flexibility to use funds like a block grant and prioritize the projects that are important to them and would streamline project approval to get high priority projects completed as quickly as possible.
- SB 11, Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) exempts vital road repair and maintenance projects on the existing right of way from the needless delays associated with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review while still protecting the environment.
- SB 12, Sen. Sharon Runner (R-Antelope Valley) brings more accountability and transparency to the process by making California Transportation Commission independent and giving it the power to approve individual repair and maintenance projects. The measure is intended to ensure that Caltrans is actually putting its resources into the top priority projects and achieving its efficiency goals.
- SB 14, Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) would eliminate the sunset provision in legislation passed in 2009 that allowed regional transportation agencies and Caltrans to enter into an unlimited number of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and eliminated the number and type of projects that may be undertaken.
“If you want to write for the people pour kindness inside every word.”
-- Juan Felipe Herrera, United States Poet Laureate
Juan Felipe Herrera, the son of a farmworker, born in Fowler, is the 2015 Poet Laureate of the United States, at the appointment of the Dr. James Billington, the head of the Library of Congress.
“I see in Herrera’s poems the work of an American original—work that takes the sublimity and largesse of ‘Leaves of Grass’ and expands upon it,” Billington said. “His poems engage in a serious sense of play—in language and in image—that I feel gives them enduring power. I see how they champion voices and traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective, which is a vital part of our larger American identity.”
Juan Felipe has 29 books published in poetry, spoken work, novels for young adults and collections for children.
His recent awards for poetry include the Guggenheim Fellowship, National Book Critics Circle Award, Latino International Award, PEN USA award and Josephine Miles Pen/Oakland Award. His non-fiction book, Portrait of Hispanic American Heroes, was awarded the Pura Belpré Honors Award.
Juan Felipe is a member of the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poetry and recently completed his appointment by the governor as the California Poet Laureate (2012-2015).
He served as the chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department at California State University Fresno and is a professor emeritus of creating writing at UC Riverside. He lives in Fresno with his partner, Margarita Robles, who is also a poet.
Juan Felipe is the 21st Poet Laureate, and will begin his duties in September by opening Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library of Congress with a reading of his work.
Click on the photos to read more about what Team Vidak is doing in our communities and at the Capitol.
|Celebrating Philippine Independence
||Bliss Spa honored at Lemoore’s Rockin’ the Arbor
|Selma gets Smart Komm
||Valley State Boys
||Selma Rotary’s Bob Allen
|City of Farmersville
||Fresno’s La Herencia
||Barry Goldwater, Jr.
|Selma gets State Food
||Welcome Andi Welch
This month’s featured tweet is a photo from Andy’s Capitol visit with Valley representatives from Building Healthy Communities.
Andy and the other members of the Central Valley Legislative Caucus recently sent a letter to California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy P. White urging him to commit a higher rate of investment into San Joaquin Valley CSU campuses, including CSU Bakersfield and CSU Fresno.
One of Andy’s top priorities is ensuring our students have access to higher education, so he was pleased that this year’s budget allocated an additional $97 million, after nearly a decade of economic instability that left tens of thousands of California students unable to access the state’s college system.
The Valley has some of the lowest educational attainment levels in the state, which inhibits economic growth and industry diversification. The result has been some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the nation.
Providing additional revenue to Valley CSU campuses would allow these schools to dedicate resources towards increasing enrollment and provide the type of innovative programs that will attract businesses to the Valley that provide high-paying jobs.
“I was Proud to support Senator Fuller’s Senate Concurrent Resolution 15, declaring July 2, 2015 as National Day of the Cowboy,” said Andy.
Claudia Salinas has been hired as district scheduler/representative in Vidak’s Hanford office.
Claudia most recently worked as a communications dispatcher for the State Center Community College Police Department in Fresno. Her duties included dispatching officers, documenting crimes, assisting the general public, monitoring alarms and ensuring officer safety.
Active in the community, Claudia is a program advisor for the ROP Criminal Justice and Crime Scene Investigations at Central High School in Fresno. She also served for the past two years as a “Ready to Learn” instructor for Valley PBS, where she taught parenting workshops to Spanish-speaking families and facilitated activities for children and adults.
“I’m excited to join the team and be able to use my background and experience in criminology to serve the people of Senate District 14,” said Claudia.
Claudia earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology-Law Enforcement from CSU, Fresno and the following honors: Dean’s List; President’s List; Magna Cum Laude; and Department of Criminology Honor Student.
“Claudia’s clear dedication to community service and public safety will further strengthen Team Vidak’s commitment to help the people we serve in the Valley,” said Andy.
On the Governor’s Desk
Senate Bill 244 – Mobile Home Safe Communities
Mobile home residents are entitled to quiet enjoyment of their property and common areas, while park owners are obligated to preserve that quiet enjoyment. This measure would allow mobile home park owners to continue using an injunction order to enforce the rules of a mobile home park.
Senate Bill 497 – Pupil Transportation Data
This measure would require the California Department of Education (CDE) to collect and post online pupil transportation data to help the state and policy makers understand how it is severely underfunding school bus transportation in rural communities. State underfunding of school transportation takes money out of the classroom.
In the Assembly Appropriations Committee
Senate Bill 736 – Escrow Protection Act
In the past, there have been cases of fraud which have resulted in the failure of escrow companies, putting the assets of individuals who had money in these escrow companies at risk. This measure would protect an individual’s assets held in escrow accounts if an escrow company goes out of business.
Following are upcoming legislative deadlines in the months of August and September.
Legislature reconvenes from Summer Recess
Last day for fiscal committees to meet and report bill to the Floor
August 31 – September 11
Floor Session only. No committees may meet for any purpose, other than conference committees and Rules Committee.