A lot of folks were excited to learn that the president of the United States was coming to visit our Central Valley, and I wrote him a letter urging him to take time out from his staged meetings to meet the folks here that are truly suffering the catastrophic effects of the drought. (To read the letter, click here.)
Although I was hopeful when I heard he was coming to Fresno, I’m disappointed. He only spent three hours in the Valley and used his visit as a staged photo op to tout his climate change agenda. The so-called drought response he announced on his stop to Southern California is merely a Band-Aid on a severed artery.
I’m also disappointed that the president made this a partisan event by excluding the Republican members of Congress from the visit. That’s a shame. Solving the water crisis is going to take a bi-partisan effort, because commonsense has no party-lines.
But in an unusual show of bipartisanship, the California Legislature did pass a $687 million drought relief package, which I supported. Among other things, it provides millions of dollars for communities that don’t have clean drinking water, food or housing, particularly for areas where farmworkers can’t work because fields have been left fallow due to the drought.
“Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water,” the governor said that in a prepared statement when he signed the drought relief package, I say the governor and the Legislature must continue to take every action possible to STORE water. We wouldn’t be in this level of crisis if Sacramento hadn’t stalled for years on building water storage. The rain we’ve been blessed with recently won’t do us any good if it’s flushed out to sea.
On the bright side, there is some encouraging news on our fight to stop High-Speed Rail.
Recently, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom voiced his opposition to High-Speed Rail. Even the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee stated that High-Speed Rail might end up costing Californians $350 billion dollars, not the $67 billion that the High-Speed Rail Authority is claiming. The dominoes are falling. Let’s keep the pressure on.
Pray for Rain. Stop the Train!
The tragic loss of two CHP officers from our Valley saddened thousands up and down the state.
Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) and Andy asked that the Senate Adjourn in Memory of California Highway Patrol Officers, Brian Law of Clovis and Juan Gonzalez of Fresno. The officers were involved in a fatal accident recently when responding to a call for assistance at a crash scene in Kingsburg.
“Our hearts go out to the families, friends and colleagues of Officer Gonzalez and Officer Law,” said Andy.
The officers, who graduated from the CHP academy together, died on Feb. 17 when their patrol flipped while they were responding to a crash on state Route 99 in Kingsburg. Officers Gonzalez and Law were the first Fresno CHP officers to die in the line of duty in five decades.
The Senate observed a moment of silence to honor the officers.
Pictured — Kern County Veteran Services Director Dick Taylor (left) and Team Vidak representative Janie Sustaita (right).
Dick Taylor, the director of Kern County Veteran Services was honored for his extraordinary work with veterans at the 4th Annual Military Ball in Bakersfield. Military Order of the Purple Heart, Local Chapter 604 is the sponsor of the annual fundraiser.
“Dick Taylor is truly a man of honor for his dedication to helping the brave men and women who have served our country in the military,” said Andy.
Andy and Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) have partnered with law enforcement officials in Fresno and Kings counties to introduce Senate Bill 957-a bill would send criminals sentenced to serve ten years or more to state prison instead of county jail.
Unfortunately, under realignment (AB 109), certain prisoners serving long-term sentences are sent to severely overcrowded county jails instead of state prison. Law enforcement officials agree this is contributing to the revolving door at our local county jails and putting criminals back on the streets well before their time has been served, because the county jails are not designed to handle multi-year sentences.
“I am glad the Assembly Member and Senator are focusing on Public Safety Realignment,” Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan said. “There are many things that need to change if this law (AB 109) is going to remain in effect. With the current overcrowding in the local jails including our own, we must ensure that justice is served. This bill is a step towards achieving that goal.”
Kings County District Attorney Gregory Strickland cited a recent example that occurred in his jurisdiction:
“The Kings County case of Randall Murray involved the largest drug bust in Kings County history: approximately 200 lbs of cocaine worth $2.3 million,” said Strickland. “Murray’s sentence was 28 years in the county jail as a result of realignment, but because of a concern about space in the jail, the sentence was reduced and Murray will only serve 30 months in jail. Under SB 957 Murray would have been incarcerated in State Prison and served his entire sentence. I want to thank Senator Andy Vidak and Assemblyman Jim Patterson for their support of law enforcement and public safety by their strong support for SB 957.”
“It’s not right that a drug dealer sentenced to 28 years in prison for possessing massive amounts of cocaine should only serve 30 months in a county jail because of realignment,” said Andy.
Vidak District Rep. Francesca Dove
Francesca Dove has joined Team Vidak as a district representative working out of our Hanford office.
“Francesca is another great addition to some of the hardest working folks in the state,” said Vidak.
Dove hails from nearby Madera County and brings with her experience as a Maddy Institute Fellow in Assemblyman Bigelow’s Office. She graduated from Madera High School and attended Fresno City College, UC Santa Barbara and Fresno State, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Senate Resolution 29 that Andy joint-authored with Senators Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley) and Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) calling for a vote to expel Senator Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) was effectively killed on a mostly party line vote.
“Folks in the Central Valley keep asking me how the Senate can place itself above the law,” said Vidak. “If being convicted by a jury of eight felonies doesn’t disqualify someone from serving in public office, what does?”
Pictured from left to right: Olivia C. Warren, Dennis D. Reed, Leonard Peoples Jr, Ivory D. Parker, Pamela Elise Davis (keynote speaker from the Los Angeles Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.), Tamie Triplett (president of the Bakersfield Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.), Nnagozie Odeluga, Araiye L. Medlock, Janaye A. Green, Phoebe Contreras Jones, Kimberly Brothers
Bakersfield Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s annual “Love Luncheon” honors high school seniors throughout Bakersfield for their outstanding academic achievement and community involvement. The 2014 Love Luncheon honorees are:
Olivia C. Warren, Centennial High School
Dennis D. Reed, Independence High School
Leonard Peoples Jr, Stockdale High School
Ivory D. Parker, South High School
Nnagozie Odeluga, Stockdale High School
Araiye L. Medlock, Golden Valley High School
Janaye A. Green, Liberty High School
Phoebe Contreras Jones, Bakersfield High School
Kimberly Brothers, Stockdale High School
Eric Vance, Foothill High School (not pictured)
“Uncompromising Commitment to Communities: Service, Leadership, Empowerment,” was the theme of this year’s luncheon, which was held at the Stockdale Country Club in Bakersfield.
“Thanks to Team Vidak representative Tomeka Powell for presenting the honorees with Senate Certificates of Recognition,” said Andy.
Andy recently introduced Senate Bill 990, which would help small economically disadvantaged communities in California compete for transportation project funding.
“Congestion and traffic issues stunt the ability of small, struggling communities to grow and expand,” said Vidak. “SB 990 is needed to help economically disadvantaged towns compete for much-needed transportation project funding.”
State and regional governments have a strong role in allocating and providing the funding for local transportation projects. Currently, the state provides transportation funding to regional government entities, typically regional or county councils of government. The regional agency is then responsible for allocating the funding to various local transportation projects located within the region.
Because there may be more projects requested then funding available, it can take years between when an application for funding is submitted and funding is awarded. This time lag hurts small communities that may have to wait a long time for a project that is desperately needed for congestion relief or traffic safety.
Senate Bill 990 would require that local council of governments (COG’s) reserve five percent of the state funding that they receive for transportation projects to benefit small, economically disadvantaged communities.
Only communities with a population of 25,000 or less and a median household income of less than 80 percent of the statewide average would be eligible to compete for this funding. Prioritization of the funding would be provided to projects that can show that they will alleviate congestion and provide increased safety.
A hearty welcome to Team Vidak’s intern Peter Thomas who joined us on Valentine’s Day. Peter will be supporting our Hanford office with constituent services, town halls, district representation and other district projects. He is a political science major at Fresno State and lives in Visalia and has interned at the Fresno Rescue Mission and the nonprofit Hands on the Community.
“Peter understands the spirit of serving our community,” said Andy. “We are lucky to have Peter as part of our team.”
Andy introduced Senate Bill 1166 to fully reimburse school districts for home-to-school transportation.
Currently, California school districts are facing financial hardships when it comes to providing home-to-school transportation for students since the state covers less than 50 percent of the cost in many cases.
“All students, including those from rural communities, should have the same access to their school as students who live in other parts of the state,” said Vidak.
School districts in rural communities, in particular, have high home-to-school transportation costs since they often have to transport children who live a long distance from their schools and outside city limits.
For example, Lemoore Union Elementary School District in Kings County only received 11.53 percent in funding from the state for home-to-school transportation and Lindsay Unified School District in Tulare County only received 28.4, according to The Department of Education’s pupil transportation funding report for the 2012-2013 school year.
ANDY VIDAK: What’s really fishy here: vilifying valley’s farmers
Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton unloaded a whopper of a fish story last week (“ Water war boils down to farmers vs. fishermen,” LA Times. Feb. 19).
Mr. Skelton wants us to believe that California’s agriculture industry is at the root of California’s water woes. Skelton writes for a newspaper based in a city that was built in a desert – a city that wouldn’t exist today without massive transfers of water from the Central Valley.
And he is trying to make the case that agriculture, one of the last big industries left in California – an industry that supports millions of people and feeds hundreds of millions more – is the culprit for our current water shortage. That’s one heck of a fish story.
First, it’s pointless to go around looking for villains when faced with a crisis. But if Skelton really wants to tell a story about villains and water wars, he might want to start with Los Angeles’ own battleground for a water war: the Owens Valley.
Skelton seems to forget that the Owens Valley was sacrificed so Los Angeles could grow. Before that water war, Los Angeles was basically a desert, which, ironically, is exactly the way Skelton describes the Central Valley.
It’s not clear exactly what Skelton hopes to accomplish by name-calling. Calling growers “hogs” because they use “lots of water” is exactly the kind of talk radical environmentalists have used for decades to prevent the construction of new dams in California. While it’s true that California agriculture uses “lots of water,” that’s about as useful a statement as pointing out that automobiles use most of the state’s gasoline. Is it really so hard to understand that you need water to grow crops?
Congrats to 2014 Chamber Chairperson Blodgie Rodriquez!
Left to right: Andy’s District Director Paula Vinzant, Andy and Kern County Hispanic Chamber Chairperson Blodgie Rodriquez.
Blodgie Rodriquez was installed as the 2014 Kern County Chamber of Commerce Chairperson at the 29th Annual Installation Banquet and Business Awards in Bakersfield.
“Congratulations Blodgie,” said Andy. “The Chamber is lucky to have you as its leader.”
Water Crisis Hearing in Fresno
Andy is pictured (far left) with a bipartisan group of legislators at an Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee hearing in Fresno listening to concerns from folks about the water crisis in the Valley.
“Thanks to Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) for bringing this important hearing to Fresno so that the voices of the Valley could be heard,” said Andy. “ I think the message was loud and clear that we need a water bond with water storage.”
World Ag Expo
Andy on the left with Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway at the podium
Andy attended World Ag Expo with folks from over 70 countries at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. “Connie Conway is a huge ag supporter and is always inspiring,” said Andy.
Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce
Andy attended the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce Legislative Awards Reception where the Assemblyman Jim Patterson (center) received the Elected Official of the Year-Urban award from President and CEO Tate Hill (right).
“Jim deserves a big pat on the back for earning this prestigious recognition,“ said Andy. “Tate Hill’s leadership and the Fresno Metro Black Chamber members are helping businesses in our community to grow and prosper.“
Hanford Foster Youth Leaders Visit the Capitol
Ski Walker (left) and Lori Lejander (right) — both from Hanford — are Foster Youth Leaders with California Youth Connection (CYC). They were in Sacramento for CYC’s annual “Day at the Capitol.” CYC is “a youth led organization that develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative and policy change.”
“Heartfelt thanks to Ski and Lori for the courage to share their personal stories with me,” said Andy
Orange Cove Fire Protection District Benefit
Andy chats with Orange Cove Police Department Detective Santiago Jurado before a fundraising event to benefit the Orange Cove Fire Protection District of Fresno & Tulare Counties
“It doesn’t get any better than this,“ said Andy. “I got to read ‘Smelly Socks’ with Mrs. V. Morgan’s 1st grade class at Pioneer Elementary School in Hanford to celebrate Read Across America.” The annual reading motivation and awareness program calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss.
3/1 Chinese New Year Parade - Fresno China Town
3/3 Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
3/4 Governmental Organization Committee Hearing - State Capitol
Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related Disorders Informational Hearing - State Capitol
3/6 Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
Red Simpson Resolution presentation - Bakersfield
3/7 Tulare Leadership Class special guest - World Ag Expo, Tulare
3/10 Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
3/11 Judiciary Committee Hearing - State Capitol
3/13 Leadership California Breakfast (moving women from Success to Significance) - Sacramento
Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
3/14 Grimmway Academy Charter School tour - Arvin
Baker Hughes Tour - Shafter
3/17 Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
3/18 Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments Hearing - State Capitol
3/19 Governance and Finance Committee Hearing - State Capitol
California Ag Day - State Capitol
3/20 Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
3/24 Senate Floor Session - State Capitol
3/25 Governmental Organization Committee Hearing - State Capitol
Judiciary Committee Hearing - State Capitol
3/25 Insurance Committee Informational Hearing - State Capitol
3/28 Town Hall Meeting on ID Theft/Online Predator Prevention - Fresno
3/31 Cesar Chavez Day
Follow Andy’s Senate page on Facebook to see photos and to get updates of Andy’s activities.
For the latest news, visit Andy’s Senate Website at senate.ca.gov/vidak.