Work On Equity, Opportunity, & Climate Issues Highlight San Mateo Senator’s Second Year In Legislature
SACRAMENTO – The New Year brings with it new laws that will affect millions of Californians. A number of those measures – 14 in all – were authored by Senator Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) during the 2022 legislative session.
“I was fortunate to have all 14 of the bills I sent to the Governor’s desk signed into law, but batting average alone isn’t everything,” said Becker. “I’m really proud of what is in each of these measures and how they’ll make a difference in so many people’s lives.”
Highlighting some of the Becker-authored bills that will take effect on January 1, 2023:
SB 1008, the “Keep Families Connected Act,” makes phone calls to and from people in state prison and state & local juvenile facilities free of charge. Nationwide, providing prison telecommunication services is a $1.4 billion industry and the industry’s exploitive fees cost California families an estimate $68.2 million every year.
“The ability to call your partner, children or friends to instantly share your joys or sadness is something most of us take for granted,” said Becker. “It’s well-documented this contact makes everyone involved do better in life. However, for people in prison and their families, simple contact over a phone is tightly restricted, mainly due to the outrageous charges that come with making a call.”
SB 1346 updates a 2005 law allowing counties to collect unused and unopened prescription medications from licensed skilled nursing facilities, manufacturers and wholesalers to provide them to patients who cannot afford them. As a result, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties will soon be able to launch a regional free pharmacy to re-purpose the multi-million dollars’ worth of surplus medications discarded every year.
“The goal is to ensure unopened, unused and unexpired medications can be used to fill free prescriptions for people who can’t afford to buy their own medication instead of being thrown away,” said Becker. “Studies show nearly 1 in 4 Americans skip doses or don’t get prescriptions filled because they can’t afford to. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
SB 1117 allows the State Public Defender’s office to provide grants to counties who can use the money for a variety of purposes that go beyond helping to pay for attorneys to defend people who are charged with a crime but cannot afford representation. Under the bill, the grant funds can also be used to help defendants – and even those who may be arrested and then released without being charged with a crime – get access to public services such as CalFresh, MediCal, public transit passes, mental health assistance, and much more.
“Poor and indigent defendants and arrestees don’t just need lawyers, they also often need ‘wrap-around’ services to help them with day-to-day living,” noted Becker. “This will let a local public defender who receives a grant help people get signed up for CalFresh and MediCal, help them buy transits passes and get signed up for mental health programs or housing assistance, and much more.”
SB 1223 requires a court to divert a defendant into a mental health program if the defendant has been diagnosed with a mental disorder and the court finds the mental disorder was a significant factor in the person’s commission of the crime.
“So many of the people we see in prison really need access to mental health services they often can’t get behind bars,” said Becker. “Criminals certainly need to be punished, but sending people with mental health challenges to prison without treating them doesn’t do anything to heal, rehabilitate, or prevent them from possibly re-offending when they’re released from prison. Getting people who need help with mental health issues into treatment will work to stop the cycle of crime.”
SB 893 will allow all of the nearly 30,000 students in the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) to attend one of the district’s three campuses at a reduced or possibly no cost by letting the SMCCCD use local funds to reduce or eliminate the tuition and fees charged to students.
“Attending college is more expensive than ever and students, fresh out of high school, who have worked so hard throughout their academic careers are faced with an enormous financial decision,” said Becker. “Do they take out loans? Do they get another job? Should they live at home longer? Should they go to school at all? This law will let the SMCCCD remove a significant number of roadblocks for these students and make their decision to get a quality education a whole lot easier.”
SB 948 eliminates some bureaucratic rules related to affordable housing construction and uses the savings – an estimated $40 million – to build more affordable housing units in the state.
“We must do everything in our power to address the affordable housing crisis in our communities, including coming up with creative ways to free up money to build more affordable homes,” said Becker. “This eliminates duplicative financial reserve requirements placed on affordable housing developers, freeing up money to go to more pressing needs, like making the homes that are built more affordable, building more affordable homes, or hopefully both.”
SB 1203, better known as “California Zero,” requires the state to develop a plan for getting its buildings, vehicle fleet, and electricity usage to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
“Given there are 24,000 state-owned buildings and structures, California government can and should lead by example when it comes to transitioning to a clean energy future,” said Becker. “The challenge of getting California to net zero carbon emissions is tremendous and I want state agencies to be leading the way, not bringing up the rear.”
SB 1158 requires power companies like PG&E to disclose when the electricity grid is running on clean power.
“This is what I call ‘The Roadmap to 24/7 Clean Energy,’” noted Becker. “California requires the utilities to meet certain greenhouse gas targets, but we’re not measuring how well they’re doing. Once we know where the gaps are, then we can figure out how best to fill them.”
SB 887 requires the state's energy agencies to provide 15-year projections of energy resources and demands so California can ensure transmission facilities are being built to meet the state’s clean energy goals.
“Planning, planning, planning,” said Becker. “We know where we want to go in terms of creating a clean energy future, but we’re not exactly sure how we’re going to get there. Requiring more forward-looking projections of the state’s needs and where we’re going to get our power from will make it easier and smoother to achieve that goal.”
First elected in 2020, Senator Becker represents the 13th Senate District covering portions of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and includes the cities of Belmont, Half Moon Bay, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Mountain View, Pacifica, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco, and Woodside.
PRESS CONTACT: Evan Goldberg at Evan.Goldberg@sen.ca.gov.