Senator Monique Limon: 2021 Legislative Wrap-Up and A Look Ahead at 2022

Senator Monique Limon: 2021 Legislative Wrap-Up and A Look Ahead at 2022

December 1, 2021 (via zoom)
Interviewers: Sabrina Ashjian, Dr. Rachel Aarons

Mentoring and Staff Diversity:
Sen. Limon shared that her former boss and one of her mentors was former SBWPC President Beth Schneider, who modeled what mentoring someone in your workplace looked like. As a result of that experience, she has gone on to mentor in her office and has multiple staff members who now serve in local elected office.

The Senator also mentioned that she encourages her staff to get involved in non-profit service as a pathway to public service in elected and appointed office. Every year one of her staff members participates in the “Leading from Within” program in Santa Barbara. She also holds appointment trainings geared toward women and underrepresented groups to explain the process of state and local board and commission service.

SB50-Early Learning and Care Bill:
The Senator wants us to stay tuned because she does plan to introduce another version of this bill and explained the complexities surrounding this issue that led to the bill veto. She shared that the pandemic changed the conversation from a small group saying this is an issue to economists expressing that childcare was a necessary part of the recovery efforts. “It changed the narrative,” she explained. As a result, the federal government began to focus on the issue and she wants to ensure what we do in California supplants, rather than duplicates, federal efforts. This was the reason for the veto, but the issue continues.

One of the pieces she is committed to is making the process easier rather than the mountain of duplicative paperwork individuals currently have to fill out. Streamlining the process and making it more accessible is something she has always considered important, “but now with a 13-month-old I feel this in my blood.”

She also pointed out the larger issue at play here which is that there are not enough workers and not enough childcare spots. “We need to increase the opportunities, so we think innovatively about what childcare is,” she shared, in order to really make change in this space.

SB467-End Fracking and Harmful Drilling Bill:
In discussing this bill getting stuck in committee, Sen. Limon shared that, “there are times where your legislative bill may not be successful, but your legislative priority is still advancing.” While the bill did not advance, just a few weeks after its stall the Governor announced a new setback rule for oil and gas operations. The Senator pointed out that the Governor had executive authority to create this setback rule because of a bill she authored which allowed his administration to do so. She was proud to stand by his side when this decision was announced.

The Senator conveyed that environmental policy change has been difficult in Sacramento over the past couple of years and that many of the larger climate bills have not moved. This is an area where SBWPC can assist, because legislators can use a lot of support to advance these conversations. She expressed the need for bringing labor and environmental groups together as well as the necessity of more cities and counties formally voicing support for these climate change goals.

There is also hope on this issue as the California Senate just established a Climate Working Group. She was asked to serve as a member of this select group because of her background and experience.

Inequities, Bias and/or Violence Affecting Women:
Sen. Limon shared the work the legislature is doing surrounding issues of the gender pay gap, noting that California women lost about $46 billion to this gap. Women of color make less, with Latinas earning the least amount. As a result of this finding, the “Unseen Latinas Initiative” was launched to identify the issue and discuss what to do about this problem. They are looking at legislation, having conversations, and pursuing ideas to combat this crisis.

She also discussed the increase in domestic violence as a result of the pandemic and the work that the legislature is doing around this issue.

Race and Ethnicity Issues:
While there is a lot of work in the legislature being done on these issues, Sen. Limon highlighted two. The first is broadband for all. She described the image we all recall seeing during the stay-at-home orders of the two Latino children sitting outside a fast-food restaurant attempting to do homework. Since “an image is worth a thousand words” she knew that was a catalyst for the conversation that ensued about broadband for all. This is an especially important issue for rural communities of California but is one that is affecting everyone. She highlighted the inequities because the students who were already underserved were falling even further behind as a result of not having internet.

The second issue in this space that the Senator focused on was maternal and infant mortality for women of color, and particularly of Black women. The Senate Health Committee, where she serves, has spent this year looking at number of ways to address this inequity.

Immigrants/Immigration Issues:
Again, much work is being done in the legislature on these issues and Sen. Limon spotlighted two accomplishments. The first was the successful passage of a bill by Assemblymember Luz Rivas to end the term “alien” in California. The second was the expansion of Medicare eligibility for anyone over 65, including undocumented individuals, which had been years in the making by the Latino Caucus.

Criminal Justice Reform:
The biggest action in the criminal justice reform space was the passage of SB2, Senator Bradford’s bill to create a police decertification process. Other highlights include raising the minimum age for officers and eliminations of some criminal sentencing enhancements.

Housing Shortage Issues:
Sen. Limon stressed that housing shortage issues have been a very big issue for our district. She spoke of the UCSB immediate housing shortage for 3,500 students and the work being done to remedy this. She also illustrated the particular challenges in the region, that “our district continues to struggle with how to build more housing in a community where you have on one side the 101 freeway and the sea level rising and on the other side what we consider high fire zones,” all of which create an inability to create new structures. “We are willing to do our part in creating housing and we want to be part of the solution, but we also have to think about all of the communities with climate-related concerns.” This raises many challenges that the legislature will continue to grapple with in 2022.

Reasonable Gun Laws:
Sen. Limon was the author of a bill to eliminate gun shows at fairgrounds, which was aimed at the entire state, but became amended to cover Orange County. In 2022 she is planning to co-author a bill with Assemblymember Bennett to close loopholes and restrict gun sales at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Climate Change and Environmental Issues:
Following upon our earlier conversation about the difficulty in passing large-scale climate change legislation, the Senator explained that “what we’re going to see in the climate space is incremental change, but that are meaningful to get to an end goal.”

She highlighted her successful legislation in this space, SB47. The bill allows the state to collect money from the oil industry to put into a fund for abandoned and deserted wells. To illustrate the sheer size of this she shared that there are hundreds of these wells in our district alone and thousands across the state. These wells could cost taxpayers $5 billion if we do not figure out a way to pay for them. This bill calls upon industry to pay for the negative impacts that have come as a consequence for how much drilling has been done in the state.

Patterns, Trends, Challenges and Bill Highlights:
The biggest opportunity was the budget surplus and the anticipated surplus for 2022. Difficult conversations about how best to maximize the financial resources in the most impactful ways are taking place. “Good budget years don’t mean you say yes to everything. Good budget years mean that you prioritize where you can make really deep impacts, not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.”

One of the challenges has been COVID-19, and the acknowledgement that there is not going to be an end date where things go back to normal. Because of new variants COVID-19 will continue to be with us and this has impacts on every policy area the legislature handles.

The Senator was proud to author SB48, the Alzheimer’s Dignified Diagnosis Act, which replicates a health program and assessment tool for young children to be used for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. This bill was years in the making, is an issue she has devoted much time to, and is near to her heart.

Closing and Next Steps with SBWPC:
Sen. Limon expressed gratitude for the partnership with SBWPC. She appreciates our letters of support on bills, calls of public comment, and sharing of our positions with her and her team. She noted that her positions are very aligned with those of SBWPC and enjoys hearing from us on all issues. She is thankful for our involvement and illustrated a few ways we can provide help going forward on the “big-lift” difficult positions, including encouraging city council and county board votes to formalize positions as well as activating statewide coalitions. She looks forward to future conversations and collaboration. We closed by thanking the Senator for being a champion on our SBWPC priority issues and for all of the incredible work she is doing to represent our communities and our state.