Morrell Monthly: April/May 2017

Friday, May 5, 2017

We’re here to help

Our office is here to serve you. If you’re having difficulties with a state agency, need a question answered about pending legislation, or want to know more about upcoming events, please give us a call at (909) 919-7731. You can also email me at Senator.Morrell@sen.ca.gov.

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Mobile Office Hours

Members of my staff hold regular monthly office hours across the 23rd Senate District. If you have an issue or concern that you would like to share in person but can’t make it to our main office, please plan to stop by. You can view the entire schedule here.

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Message

Dear Friend,

A lot has happened this spring, both in the 23rd Senate District and at the Capitol.

Just a few weeks ago, our community was shaken by the shooting that occurred at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino. I want to thank law enforcement and first responders for their efforts. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of those whose lives were lost and the student who was injured, as well as with everyone impacted.

In Sacramento, the legislative year continued, as committees met over the last several weeks and significant votes were taken. You can read more below for highlights and updates. Information about all pending measures is available at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

As always, it is a privilege to represent you in the State Legislature.

Mike

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Sacramento Democrats Push Through Gas Tax

Stock photo of man filling gas tankThis month, Democratic leaders pushed through new and permanent car and gas tax increases.

In total, Californians will pay $5.2 billion per year in new taxes on every aspect of driving from gas and diesel to an enhanced vehicle license fee based on the value of your car.

To calculate how the gas tax could affect you, click here.

While the increases will be felt across the board, the added tax on diesel will perhaps cause the greatest financial hardship. Consider that 78 percent of California communities rely solely on trucking to have their goods delivered. If fuel costs rise, trucking companies will have no choice but to increase the cost of moving freight. If shipping costs increase, so will the price of the products shipped. Already operating on thin margins, wholesalers and storeowners will have no choice but to pass on the additional costs.

In the end, those most hurt by tax increases on driving will be the working poor, those on fixed incomes, and the middle class. It will especially hit those who have few options but to drive long distances every day just to get to work or take their kids to school.

Democrat leaders have promised that the annual $5.2 billion in taxes will be used to pay for roads and highways. However, it is another instance in which the big print giveth, while the little print taketh away. Despite claims otherwise, $80 million will be spent on parks. Another $100 million will be used to fund the Active Transportation Program, likely for bike paths and walkways - not roads.

To read more about gas tax claims versus facts, click here.

To read my recent op-ed on the gas tax as published in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Sun, click here.

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Veterans Legislation Clears Senate Committees

Stock photo of waving flagTwo key policy committees in the California State Senate unanimously passed my measure, Senate Bill 27, which aims to ease the transition of veterans into civilian careers.

SB 27 would accomplish this goal by waiving the application and initial license fees paid to the state in order to receive an occupational license in fields that currently require state licensing.

This policy shift will help veterans as they apply for jobs that require licensing. Similar legislation has been enacted in Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, and Florida.

You can read more about the bill here.

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Senate Committee Blocks Pension Reporting Bill

In an attempt to keep CalPERS honest and transparent as well as protect retirees, I presented SB 601 to the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. The bill sought to require that the state’s public pension systems disclose return on investment estimates similar to those required of the private sector, the very least we should do. I was disappointed that my Democratic colleagues voted the bill down.

Like all workers, public employees should be able to make informed decisions about their retirement. To plan ahead, however, requires complete information about possible financial outlooks. California’s public pension systems should have no issue ensuring their members, as well as taxpayers, are aware of the various scenarios that could play out regarding the state’s debt.

You can read more about SB 601 here.

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Bill Extending Lobbying Ban Moves Ahead

Stock photo of guy with thumbs upYou’ll like this - making it harder for politicians to leave elected office and go into lobbying. Currently, legislators are prohibited from lobbying the legislature for one year following their exit from office. SB 679 would extend this ban on legislators lobbying to two years, specifically for members who resign from office. It passed the Senate Elections Committee with bipartisan support.

The current 12-month limitation has helped to address the revolving door of legislators leaving office to become lobbyists, but unfortunately, it does not go quite far enough. Since the legislature works within a two-year legislative cycle, policy negotiations can go well beyond a year. Resignations also impose significant costs on local governments for special elections.

While I originally tried to extend the ban on lobbying to five years, SB 679 is still a positive step toward addressing these situations.

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Women of Distinction 2017 - Nominations Open

Photo of the 2016 honorees from BeaumontEach year, we host the annual Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony & Dinner to recognize extraordinary women from around the 23rd Senate District who have positively impacted their community.

The 13th Annual Women of Distinction event will be held at the Goldy S. Lewis Community Center located in Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga on Friday, November 3.

The nomination window for this year’s event is now open through August 1, 2017.

For more information, you can visit the website here.

An online nomination form is available here.

For questions, please contact Melissa Boyd at (909) 919-7731.

Pictured are the 2016 honorees from Beaumont: From left to right: Deborah St. Martin; a representative from the National Latina Business Women Association - Inland Empire; Debra J. Williams; Senator Mike Morrell; and Gabriela Perez.

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Photos

Image of staff and students from adult schools

Adult Education - Ontario & San Bernardino. Staff and students from adult schools in our area made a visit to share their education stories. Included in this photo are Chaffey Adult School Principal Todd Haag (back row, center) and Inland Career Education Center Principal Karen Bautista (front row, second from right).

Image of students and teachers

Adult Education - Redlands. Students Sara Bass (left) and Roberta Peavie (center) and teacher Angela Padron (right) with the Redlands Adult School shared their stories about the impact of adult education. Congratulations to both students, who are well on their way to graduation!

Image of Representatives from the Family Assistance Program in San Bernardino County

California Coalition for Youth. Representatives from the Family Assistance Program in San Bernardino County came to Sacramento as part of the California Coalition for Youth. From left to right: Nicholas Andrade, Rashanae Covington, Sen. Morrell, Desiree Gomez, and Levi Deatherage.

Image of Advacotes and staff from the inland Regional Center

Inland Regional Center. Advocates and staff from the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino came to discuss the importance of services for the developmentally disabled community. We appreciate their dedication and work.

Image of Whittier Union High School District at the Capitol

California Partnership. Representatives from various groups in the Inland Empire made the trip to Sacramento. From left to right: Jennifer Xicara (United Nations of Consciousness), George Aguilar (LULAC), James W. Sweeeney (Black American Political Association of CA), La’Nae Norwood (United Nations of Consciousness), Gabriel Sanchez (Training Occupational Development Educating Communities), and Ipyani Lockert (CA Partnership).

Image of constituents representing local businesses

Local Businesses. Constituents representing local businesses throughout the Inland Empire visited the Capitol as part of the annual legislative conference put on by the California State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management (CalSHRM).

Image of Kevin and Rachel Champan of Menfee with Senator Morrell

Multiple Sclerosis Society. Kevin & Rachel Chapman of Menifee came to Sacramento representing the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Photo of Officials with the City of Rancho Cucamonga

City of Rancho Cucamonga. Officials with the City of Rancho Cucamonga participated in a conference held by the League of California Cities.

Photo of San Bernardino Medical Society

San Bernardino Medical Society. Doctors and medical students with the San Bernardino Medical Society met with our office during their Sacramento conference held by the California Medical Association. Represented here are Loma Linda University, Kaiser Fontana, as well as private practice.

Photo of Teacher of Excellence Awards

Teacher of Excellence Awards. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Yucaipa California Stake, recently recognized teachers Laurie Pertile (Beaumont HS), Amanda Heath (Yucaipa HS), Doug Tyree (Beaumont HS), and Rick Piercy (Yucaipa HS). These instructors were nominated by students for their ability to encourage a strong work ethic, teach respect, and inspire students to be enthusiastic learners. Representing our office is Aryn Bourland (second from left).

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Veterans Choice Program Extended

Our office often receives calls regarding veteran services and VA health care in general. While specific questions need to be referred to our federal counterparts in Congress and the U.S. Senate, we’re glad to provide resources when able.

One newsworthy event from the past month is that President Trump signed into law an extension of the VA Veterans Choice Program, allowing veterans enrolled in VA health care to access private health care.

To learn more about this program, click here.

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Ready for Wildfire App - Thanks, CAL FIRE!

Image of CalFire logoCAL FIRE has developed a new mobile app to help the public prepare and stay informed as California faces a high-risk wildfire season.

Users can set the app to alert them of a wildfire within 30 miles of the device. The app is free and available in the App Store or Google Play for mobile devices.

The app includes step-by-step checklists for defensible space, how to harden homes against flying embers, and how to prepare for an evacuation. It also features a statewide fire map with alerts for wildfires that are 10 acres or more.

Now through May 21, 2017, users can enter the Ready for Wildfire Sweepstakes for a chance to win up to $10,000 when they download or update the app! The grand prize winner will be able to purchase home hardening materials to prepare their home against wildfire and flying embers that can travel up to a mile ahead of a wildfire. This sweepstakes promotion is sponsored and funded by iHeartMedia in partnership with the Ready for Wildfire campaign. No state funds are used for prizes.

For more information visit: ReadyforWildfire.org

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Intern Spotlight: Megan Rohn

Image of Megan RohnMegan Rohn is a junior at Pomona College in Claremont majoring in International Relations and minoring in Politics. A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, last year, she volunteered for the local Property Assessor campaign in her hometown and spent the fall studying the politics of the European Union in Germany. In her spare time, she enjoys tutoring for calculus classes and is an amateur stand-up comedian. Megan is a news junkie and policy nerd, spending a couple hours every day reading and listening to stories from all the major networks. She grew up watching the Nightly News every evening with her dad, who is also her best friend.

This spring, she interned in our District Office in Rancho Cucamonga. Megan says she enjoyed every moment that she got to help out in the office, especially because her supervisors were all so friendly and patient. She wrote her own draft Senate Bill about fighting homelessness in California, presenting it to our staff and me.

Megan says that the most important things she learned in the office were how to summarize Senate Bills, and how to foster confidence and positive attitudes in the workplace. While she was slightly nervous to answer phones and ask questions her first couple of days, she quickly adapted to what she describes as the formal-yet-friendly attitude of her colleagues and gained confidence in her professional abilities.

While she says she is grateful for this experience, we are equally as grateful for her service and dedication this past spring. We look forward to visits from her in the future!

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Tax Freedom Day 2017

Image showing Map of Tax Freedom Day 2017

Tax day, which fell on April 18 this year, is a day most of us dread. Millions of Americans e-file or mail in their tax returns - along with their hard-earned money - thinking their tax bill is paid. But they are wrong.

Americans actually have to work five more days this year to reach Tax Freedom Day - the day when all taxes assessed by government are paid and we can keep the money we earn.

On Tax Freedom Day, Americans collectively have earned enough money to pay the nation’s total tax bill for the year. In 2017, that date for most Americans will occur by April 23. Here in California, however, our Tax Freedom Day is not until May 1, due to higher state and local taxes.

Nationwide, Americans’ federal tax burden is $3.5 trillion and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of almost $5.1 trillion. Despite this burden, majority party leaders still passed the largest gas tax increase in state history, taking even more money from our pockets and adding to the number of days that we work for the government instead of ourselves.

Read more about Tax Freedom Day here.

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Winston Churchill - “Never give in.”

Image of Winston ChurchillA leader to whom I often turn for inspiration and counsel is the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He led his nation through some of its darkest hours, keeping in mind the cause of freedom that he and his people were defending.

In 1941, he delivered a speech to Harrow School where he laid out the journey ahead for his country as World War II continued. It is often regarded as one of the best commencement addresses ever delivered.

The speech is perhaps best remembered for this line: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I encourage you to check out the rest of his remarks.

To listen, click here. | To read the speech, click here.

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