2019 Year-in-Review Newsletter

 

California State Capitol

Welcome

What a year 2019 has been, both personally and professionally. This year I got married, moved to Menlo Park (shout out to all of my new neighbors!), and my team and I took on important issues with a broad package of bills. Though some of our efforts did not become law, such as providing homeless community college students with a safe place to sleep at night, we had some big wins, and we will keep up the fight to eliminate barriers like hunger and housing that make obtaining an education, employment, and economic security all the more difficult. It has been a busy year, with many events throughout the 24th Assembly District. If you were unable to attend any events this year, look for details about upcoming events on my website and social media. I hope you enjoy the updates below. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year! 

Sincerely,


Marc Berman
Assemblymember, 24th District

 

In this newsletter:

 


Legislative Recap

 

Sixteen of my bills were signed into law by Governor Newsom during the 2019 legislative session – the most of any assemblymember. Below is a quick summary of those bills:

Gun Violence Prevention

California has been a leader in gun safety reform, but we must get more creative in reducing the gun violence in our communities. Assembly Bill 521 equips our medical and mental health professionals with the skills they need to reduce gun violence before it happens by tasking the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center with establishing the nation’s first firearm-violence prevention education and training programs for health care providers. In addition, I also secured $3.85 million in the state budget for the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center to create, deploy, and evaluate the effectiveness of the training.

Deepfakes

Deepfake technology, which uses artificial intelligence to take an existing image or video of a person and replace them with someone else's likeness, has the potential to cause significant harm on an individual and national scale. I authored two bills to address damaging uses of deepfakes.

Deepfake technology gives strangers the tools to take a photo of your face and put it on someone else's body, creating very realistic videos that make it look like you participated in an activity you never did. Women are disproportionately harassed and humiliated online by being depicted in sexually explicit photos and videos without their participation or consent. Assembly Bill 602 protects Californians, from private individuals to movie stars, from this type of abuse by requiring consent to be obtained prior to depicting a person in sexually explicit material both online and in mainstream movies.

Bad actors can use technology, including deepfakes, to misinform voters by manipulating video and audio to make it seem like a candidate said or did something that they never said or did. Assembly Bill 730 prohibits a person, within 60 days of an election, from knowingly or recklessly distributing deceptive audio or visual media (i.e. a deepfake) of a candidate with the intent to injure the candidate’s reputation or deceive a voter into voting for or against the candidate.

Sexual Assault Survivors

It is critical for sexual assault survivors to receive immediate care to treat injuries and collect evidence that can be used to bring their attacker to justice. Unfortunately, access to qualified health care professionals is limited with only 49 sexual assault forensic exam teams serving all 58 counties in California. Assembly Bill 538 improves the availability, efficiency, and quality of medical evidentiary examinations (rape kits) for sexual assault survivors by allowing qualified nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform exams.

Elections

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, I focus much of my efforts on strengthening the security of our elections, increasing access to the ballot, and protecting the integrity of our elections.

Assembly Bill 504 allows voters to keep their voter registrations active by logging in to the Secretary of State’s “My Voter Status” website, and streamlines and clarifies the process for keeping the state’s voter registration database up-to-date.

It can often take weeks for all of the ballots in an election to be counted and a candidate certified as the winner. Assembly Bill 566 increases transparency by requiring elections officials to regularly update the Secretary of State on the remaining number of unprocessed ballots during an official canvass period.

Ballots can often be long and confusing. Assembly Bills 623 enhances the voting experience by providing elections administrators more flexibility to design ballot layouts that are user friendly and compatible with new voting systems. 

To improve voter confidence and reduce voter wait times, Assembly Bill 693 allows voters to register to vote and cast a regular (non-conditional) ballot on Election Day, if eligible.

Many of us research candidates and propositions before an election and keep notes on our phones, but current law prohibits the use of a phone in a polling place. Assembly Bill 1707 provides that a person can use an electronic device, including a smartphone, tablet, or other handheld device, at a polling place provided that the use of the device does not violate other provisions of existing law.

Education

90 percent of school districts in California report having a shortage of special education teachers, with low-income and minority communities most heavily impacted. Assembly Bill 988 helps address the special education teacher shortage by streamlining the credentialing process for qualified out-of-state teachers to teach special education in California.

Poverty and Homelessness

Millions of Californians face food insecurity every day, struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their family. Assembly Bill 494 maximizes food benefits for low-income families by simplifying how they verify their housing costs to qualify for CalFresh, California’s food stamp program.

Energy and the Environment

Too often, unnecessary barriers can make it more difficult and expensive for public agencies to acquire and preserve open space and natural habitats. Assembly Bill 782 provides a statutory exemption from review under the California Environmental Quality Act for the simple acquisition of land, or funding for the acquisition, by a public agency in order to preserve open space, habitat, or historical resources, provided that future changes to the land remain subject to environmental review.

Platooning technology can make our highways safer and increase the fuel efficiency of freight trucks. Assembly Bill 1671 allows for the California Department of Transportation to continue on-road testing of Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control technologies by extending the current sunset to January 1, 2024.

Consumer Protection/Business

Assembly Bill 1065 indefinitely extends the ability of insurers to offer consumers the option of electronic transactions for their insurance needs, which provides enhanced consumer choice, faster delivery, a paperless environmentally friendly option, portability, and, in the wake of disasters, accessibility.

Assembly Bill 1146 ensures that nothing in California’s landmark consumer privacy law would prevent the sharing of vehicle information for the purpose of enabling repairs covered by a warranty or a manufacturer’s recall. 

Assembly Bill 1564 requires a business that operates exclusively online and has a direct relationship with a consumer whom it collects personal information from to provide an email address for consumers to exercise their rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act. 

 

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Wildfire Town Hall

 

 

The 2019 fire season had just begun when over 200 constituents joined me for a Wildfire Town Hall & Pancake Breakfast in Portola Valley. Wildfires pose a constant threat for many of the communities in the 24th Assembly District. Although we have been fortunate not to have experienced the loss of life and property that other districts have, five cities in the district are designated by CalFIRE as in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. Even more communities are in, or bordering, Wildland Urban Interface Fire Areas, and I have heard concerns about wildfires from every city in my district.

The Wildfire Town Hall, generously hosted by the City of Portola Valley, brought together an expert panel that included the Woodside Fire Protection District, the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council, San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services, San Mateo County Fire Department, CAL FIRE’s San Mateo - Santa Cruz Unit, CalOES, PG&E, and the town manager of Portola Valley. These experts shared information about state-level wildfire resiliency efforts, local wildfire response, and concrete actions residents can take to prevent and to be better prepared in a wildfire emergency.

I also learned some great tips for making my new home safer for my family and my neighbors—including removing flammable plants near windows! More information about home hardening is available online at www.firesafesanmateo.org/resources/defensible-space.

 

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Early Childhood Education Update

 

 

The Mountain View Senior Center was filled with long time early childhood education advocates and newly interested constituents alike during my second annual Education Update on December 14th, where we heard from two of California’s leading early childhood education experts about the status of early childhood education in California.

Early childhood education is an issue that the 24th Assembly District cares about deeply – and for good reason. 90 percent of a child’s brain develops by age five. Children who attend high-quality preschools are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, achieve higher earnings, and have better health. They are less likely to end up in the criminal justice system, and have lower incidences of drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, childcare is prohibitively expensive and studies have found that 39.6% of children in California ages 3-5 years are not enrolled in preschool or kindergarten.

My friend Assemblymember McCarty, who chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, discussed California’s newly energized efforts to expand access and improve the quality of preschool and childcare across the state. Dr. Deborah Stipek joined us to discuss why high-quality early education is so foundational, how it is the key to closing the achievement gaps in our schools, and the policy levers we can use as lawmakers to improve quality. Dr. Stipek is the Judy Koch Professor of Education in the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and the lead author of the Early Childhood Education segment of the Getting Down to Facts II project.

I anticipate that the next two years will be a significant turning point for children in California and I am committed to working with Assemblymember McCarty, Dr. Stipek, and local ECE advocates to make this a reality.

 

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Crunch Time: Preparing for the 2020 Census

 

 

Once a decade, the United States Census Bureau counts every person in the country and uses that data to appropriate federal funding for dozens of critical services including education, health care, and transportation funding, as well as to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives.

California, with our big and beautifully diverse population, has historically been the hardest to count state in the country. The anxiety in many of our communities that has been created by the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration have made it that much more difficult to obtain an accurate and complete count. Nevertheless, it is critical that we succeed in counting every Californian.

Continuing in my role as the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Census, I have convened four joint hearings with the Senate Select Committee on the 2020 United State Census to update members of the Legislature and the public on the state’s preparation efforts thus far and to discuss next steps.

At a forum hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year, I joined state and local officials, community leaders, philanthropists, researchers, members of the business community, and other stakeholders to discuss how we can work together to ensure California’s preparedness for the next census.

It will take all of us to succeed in this critically important effort, so I’m enlisting you in the effort to ensure that every Californian is counted in the 2020 Census. Together, we can ensure that each of our fellow community members not only knows about the census, but feels confident participating. I need you to tell every family member, friend, and neighbor about the importance of a complete and accurate count. Help dispel fears about the use of census data, and volunteer with a local non-profit that is conducting census outreach.

In addition, the United States Census Bureau is hiring! Apply now for flexible, part-time positions to help ensure a complete and accurate count.

For more information about the 2020 Census, please visit my website or www.census.ca.gov.

 

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Woman of the Year: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

 

It was my honor to recognize Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the 24th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year.

Dr. Ford is a biostatistician and research psychologist. Since 1998, she has worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford School of Medicine. She is also a Professor of Psychology in the Stanford-PGSP Consortium for Clinical Psychology, a collaborative program between Palo Alto University and Stanford University.

In the fall of 2018, Dr. Ford came forward publicly to tell the United States Senate Judiciary Committee that she had been sexually assaulted by then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In a remarkable act of courage, Dr. Ford put the country ahead of her own well-being, speaking out in the most public way imaginable about her sexual assault.

Dr. Ford exhibited strength and dignity under the most extraordinary conditions, and in telling her truth, she paved the way for countless other survivors to tell their own. Under immense scrutiny and pressure, Dr. Ford inspired legions of sexual assault survivors to speak up and to know that they will be believed, no matter whom their attacker was or how long ago the attack occurred. Dr. Ford has been embraced by a generation of young women as a role model for her refusal to be intimidated.

Dr. Ford’s testimony was a pivotal moment in the history of this nation. Her bravery came at an incalculable price – threats to her safety and security, efforts to undermine her credibility, and loss of her anonymity – but it forever changed the nation’s conscience. 

 

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Non-Profit of the Year: Community Legal Services

 

This year, I had the honor of recognizing Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto as the 24th Assembly District’s ”Nonprofit of the Year.” It was a pleasure to welcome Executive Director Phil Hwang to the Capitol to receive the award and hear more firsthand about the outstanding contribution Community Legal Services is making by providing critically important legal assistance related to housing, worker’s rights, record relief, and consumer protection. In 2017, countless volunteers and the dedicated staff at Community Legal Services assisted over 6,000 community members. Their work continues, and I’m forever grateful for the positive impact that they have made in the lives of so many constituents and our community as a whole.

 

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Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Month

 

I was proud to introduce Assembly Concurrent Resolution 70, designating May 2019 as Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Month in California. Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer or other blood disorder. 70 percent of all patients who need a bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell, or cord blood transplant do not have a matched donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated donor or cord blood unit.

Be The Match operates the world’s largest and most diverse registry of potential bone marrow donors, including more than 20 million potential donors and 295,000 cord blood units. Since 1987, Be The Match has facilitated more than 92,000 marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants.

Unlike blood donation, patients seeking a bone marrow donor are more likely to match with someone who shares their ethnic background. Given the current composition of the Be The Match Registry, the likelihood of finding a match for a patient in need of a transplant ranges from 23 to 77 percent, depending on the patient’s ethnic background. In order to ensure that all patients have an equal and likely chance of finding a match regardless of ethnic background, Be The Match has a specific need to increase awareness among African Americans, Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Native Americans, and other underrepresented ethnic groups.

ACR 70 was inspired by five-year-old Norah Gratz-Lazarus, who was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia —a gene disorder that is so rare that only an estimated 30 children in the United States are diagnosed with it each year. Without a matching bone marrow donor, Norah has more than a 90 percent risk of developing leukemia or other serious bone marrow diseases. Unfortunately, Norah’s family is hardly unique. California ranks first nationwide for patients searching for a match. Between 2013 and 2018, 6,335 California residents were in need of a life-saving donor.

The bone marrow donor registration process only takes a few minutes and requires a simple cheek swab. I joined the registry, and I hope you will join me in taking this essential step to save lives. Join the  Be The Match Registry today.

 

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Back to School Health Fair

 

Families and children from across the 24th Assembly District came to Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto on October 26th for our 2019 Back to School Health Fair. Over 40 exhibitors provided flu shots, health screenings, and information from a wide range of community organizations. I received my annual flu shot, marveled at Caltrain’s model train, learned about earthquakes from the U.S. Geological Survey, and spoke with countless community advocates about the great work they are doing in our communities. Thank you to all of our community partners for making the Health Fair a success!

 

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Youth Town Hall

 

 

What happens you mix boba with a group of highly engaged youth from across the 24th Assembly District? The answer: some of the toughest questions I was asked all year.

Young people are more engaged than ever, and I had the opportunity to hear directly from students during my Youth Town Hall at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale on October 29th. We gave out over 225 boba drinks and I had my very first boba tea – a surprisingly pleasant treat!

Students asked great questions about Proposition 13 reform, utility companies, environmental policy, housing affordability, and much more. They expressed concerns about the homelessness crisis in their community and shared creative solutions for addressing climate change. I left the event more inspired by and proud of the youth in the 24th Assembly District than ever. I hope to make this an annual event to make sure that youth have a voice in their state government.

Special thanks to the teachers who encouraged students to attend, the Fremont High School staff who helped us in the cafeteria, and the AVID students who volunteered. 

 

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3rd Annual District Office Open House

 

 

I was excited to welcome the residents of the 24th Assembly District to my district office for our 3rd annual Open House in March. It was a packed house with well over 150 people who braved the cold to join me for banh mi sandwiches and to hear about my newly introduced bill package. I spoke about my priorities for 2019, including student mental health, protections for survivors of sexual assault, expanding access to computer science education, and supporting community college students experiencing homelessness. I also shared updates on some of my ongoing projects including preparing for the 2020 Census and election security. I was also proud to announce my nomination of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the 24th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year.

I hold this event every year in part to make sure that my constituents feel comfortable coming to my district office. Please come by the district office if you ever need assistance with state agencies, or if you just would like to chat with my district staff about your views and ideas. And if you didn’t make it last year, hopefully you can make it to my Open House in 2020—dinner is on me!

 

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Keeping the Coastside Connected

 

In response to several disruptive power outages along the coast, my office partnered with the offices of Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblymember Kevin Mullin in April to host a Coastside Forum to discuss ways to improve power and communication resiliency in emergency situations. Held at Half Moon Bay High School, we brought together representatives from Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and Office of Emergency Services, AT&T, Comcast and PG&E. Since then, we have followed up to discuss the progress each agency or company has made to keep the Coastside connected during emergencies. Progress was made as a result of these meetings, but there is still much work to be done, and we’re committed to continuing the effort to improve connection and resiliency for Coastside constituents.

 

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Senior Scam Stopper

 

A group of constituents gathered at the Oshman Jewish Community Center on May 10th for our 3rd Annual Senior Scam Stopper Seminar. Hosted by my office in conjunction with the California State Contractors License Board, attendees learned about the latest scams and how to protect themselves from being taken advantage of. A special thanks to various state and local agencies, including the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for attending and sharing a wealth of information with the residents of the 24th Assembly District.

 

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More Coffee, Anyone?

 

Thanks to all who joined me at one of our community coffees this year in Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Menlo Park, Half Moon Bay, Palo Alto, Redwood City, and Cupertino.

We bring the coffee and constituents bring their questions, comments, and ideas. The coffees are a great opportunity for me to connect with constituents from across the 24th Assembly District. I never know what to expect and am always pleasantly surprised by the number of constituents who come to these events and the topics they want to discuss. In this way, the coffees are a great refection of the uniqueness of all of the communities in my district.

I hope to see you at a community coffee in 2020!

 

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Local Electeds Roundtable

 

We kicked the year off meeting with the 24th Assembly District’s city councilmembers and closed the year with the school board members. These dedicated local elected officials joined me for coffee at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to discuss issues affecting our shared constituents. These were two of the most productive events of the year as the councilmembers, city managers, superintendents, and trustees shared their priorities for legislation in Sacramento and shared ideas for how the state can support these local governments.

There are nineteen school districts and thirteen cities in the 24th Assembly District—many of which are similarly affected by the unique challenges of living in Silicon Valley. The feedback from these elected community leaders is critically important to me to bring back to Sacramento as I vote on legislation.

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