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Gov. Newsom Sets Up Advisory Team on Aging As Golden State Population Grows Grayer

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After Carl Maryland retired in 2009, he started playing for a team in the Sacramento Golden Seniors Softball Club league.

“Mostly to stay active and fit,” the 78-year-old said, but he enjoyed hanging out and shooting the breeze with his teammates, too.

During his seven years playing in the league, Maryland’s team won 10 championship rings.

Then, two years ago, he fell ill. His doctor advised him to take some time off from playing. In April of this year, when the season started up, he wasn’t well enough to get back on the field.

Maryland has now moved into his son Robert’s home in Sacramento. Occasionally, they go out to the batting cage and play catch together.

The younger Maryland is a freelance photographer and father of two. He loves hanging out with his dad, he says. And although the senior Maryland is independent most of the time, caring for him while balancing all of his other obligations at home and work can be challenging.

“He doesn’t drive anymore,” Robert says. “It would be good if he could go out at anytime and hang out with his buddies. He misses that.”

In California, caring for aging parents can be difficult for middle-income families like the Marylands. There are few resources they can access for information or money to pay for medical bills, at-home care, or other needs.  The state provides assistance for home aides and transportation for low-income families. And most aging Californians who are wealthy can afford to move into plush nursing homes or senior communities – an unaffordable option for  average families – where there are people on staff to assist them.

Expecting California’s aging population to balloon by about 4 million to 8.6 million people by 2030, Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking steps to meet the needs of families like the Marylands.

In June, the governor issued an executive order, asking the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly to set up a cabinet-level “Workgroup for Aging” to advise the Secretary on “developing” a Master Plan on policy and programs.

Newsom expects the committee to complete and deliver the Master Plan by October 2020.

To support the workgroup, Ghaly announced the creation of an advisory committee comprised of Californians from various backgrounds who have some expertise on aging, including former Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino). Brown was chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long Term Care during her tenure in the Legislature.

Now, with her new appointment to the advisory committee, Brown says she’s ready the to join other Californians on the board to influence statewide policy on aging adults

“Our collective charge is to develop a roadmap that envisions a future where all Californians, regardless of race, economic status or level of support, can grow old safely, with dignity and independence,” wrote Marko Mijic, a Deputy Secretary at the HHS in an email to the new committee members.

Newsom, who has caregiver experience himself from taking care of his father before his death in 2018, announced the Master Plan committee in his State of the State speech in January. The governor’s father, William Newsom, was a former Appeals Court Judge who suffered from dementia.

The governor said the plan must be “person-centered” and address issues like isolation, transportation, the nursing shortage and the increasing demand for in-home supportive services.”

By 2030,  the Public Policy Institute of California estimates about 1 million aging adults in the state will need some assistance to take care of themselves. The population of seniors who will need nursing home care is expected to grow as well. California is also one of 14 states that has a poverty rate of more than 10% among the 65-and-older population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Community

Greenlining Institute and RePower LA Coalition Applaud Gov. Newsom’s Relief Plans

Unpaid Utility Bills Threatened Hundreds of Thousands with Shut-Offs


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Gov. Gavin Newsom/Wikimedia

With utility shut-offs for hundreds of thousands of California families struggling with COVID-19-related economic hardships, The Greenlining Institute praised Gov.  Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Monday. The California Comeback plan outlines the administration’s commitment to relieving families burdened by mounting water and energy bills.

“With millions of Californians either unemployed or with greatly reduced incomes due to the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of households face having their electricity, gas or water shut off June 30 without bold state action,” said Carmelita Miller, Greenlining’s senior director of Climate Equity. “This proposal, along with vitally needed help for renters, will help keep struggling families afloat as our economy revives. We’re glad the governor listened to LAANE, Greenlining and other advocates who pushed for this help, and it’s critical that the legislature move quickly to adopt these proposals in its final budget.”

The RePower LA Coalition, anchored by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and SCOPE, has been working with leaders on the ground in Los Angeles on issues of energy justice.    

Utility debt has long been a concern for low-income ratepayers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities. As of November 2020, residential customers of LADWP had over $469 million in arrearages for water, power, and sewage bills. 

This is impacting over 500,000 customers in Los Angeles, the majority of them being low-income ratepayers. Similar scenarios have been playing out up and down California with more than 800,000 households at risk of service disconnection statewide.

“LAANE and our coalition partners have been uplifting the issue of utility debt since the beginning of the pandemic. Low-income communities and communities of color are most impacted by utility debt,” said Agustin Cabrera, the director of RePower LA, “We heard from our partners on the ground that utility debt was a growing concern for many low-income Angelenos, and that’s why we started our campaign. We realize that there are limitations on publicly-owned utilities, like LADWP; additional resources are especially important. We are eager to work with the State Legislature and the governor to move this proposal quickly.”

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Activism

Democrats in Sacramento Take Steps to Make Voting Easier

Recently, in some states, most notoriously Georgia and Florida, lawmakers have taken steps to restrict voting access and rights for many Americans. But in California, policymakers and legislators are doing the opposite, making proposals to simplify the voting process and expand access to the polls. 

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The electoral process is foundational to the durability of America’s democratic structure.

And as the battle for fairer voting laws rages on, politicians and activists on the political Right claim they are responding to allegations of widespread voter and election fraud. Those on the Left say they are rallying to fight a coordinated political offensive to restrict access to the polls and increasing reports of voter suppression.

Recently, in some states, most notoriously Georgia and Florida, lawmakers have taken steps to restrict voting access and rights for many Americans. 

But in California, policymakers and legislators are doing the opposite, making proposals to simplify the voting process and expand access to the polls. 

Invoking the violent history of voter suppression in the South that her parents endured, which sometimes involved murders — California Secretary of State Shirley Weber says it is a priority of hers to “ensure the right to vote.” 

“I tell people all the time that no number is good unless it’s 100% in terms of voter participation,” Weber told the Public Policy Institute of California. “Why didn’t 5 million go to the polls? We need to figure out where they are and what stopped them from going.”

In the California Legislature, an amendment to Senate Bill (SB) 29, which passed earlier this year, was one bill in a broader legislative effort to secure the right to vote in vulnerable communities.

Before that amendment passed, California law dictated that a ballot would be mailed to all eligible voters for the November 3 statewide general election in 2020 as well as use a Secretary of State vote-by-mail tracking system to ensure votes are counted. 

SB 29, which the governor signed into law in February, extended those requirements to any election “proclaimed or conducted” prior to Jan. 1, 2022.

A record number of voters participated in California elections in 2020. Some political observers attribute that spike to the vote-by-mail system instituted last year.

“To maintain a healthy democracy in California, it is important to encourage eligible voters to vote and to ensure that residents of the state have the tools needed to participate in every election,” the bill reads.

Senate Bill (SB) 583, introduced by California State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), would require the Secretary of State to register or preregister eligible citizens to vote upon retrieving the necessary paperwork from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Citizens who do not wish to be registered can opt-out of the process altogether.

Newman stressed the importance of access and simplifying the voter registration process. 

“In our state there are an estimated 4.6 million U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote who have not yet registered,” Newman said. “Our obligation as the people’s elected representatives is to make the process simpler and more accessible for them.”

On April 27, the Senate Transportation Committee passed SB 583 with a 13 to 3 vote. The Appropriations Committee has set a hearing for May 10. 

Senate Bill (SB) 503, introduced by Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), proposes that if a signature shares enough characteristics with a previous signature from the same voter, then it would be recognized as official on voting paperwork.

Current law dictates that a signature has to match exactly for it to be considered valid.

Disability Rights California (DRC), a non-profit advocacy organization that advances and protects the rights of Californians living with disabilities, has come out in support of SB 503.

“Studies have shown that signature matches disproportionately impact voters with disabilities,” Eric Harris, director of public policy for the DRC wrote in a letter. 

“Voters with disabilities, including seniors, are more likely to vote by mail and would have to sign their name on their ballots,” Harris argued. “A voter’s signature changes over time and for people with disabilities, a signature can change nearly every other time one is written. Some people with disabilities might have conditions that make it difficult to sign your name the same way multiple times.”

For now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has tabled SB 503, placing the bill in what the Legislature calls a “suspense file,” where it awaits further action by lawmakers. 

At the federal level, lawmakers have introduced two bills in the U.S. Congress to expand voting rights, the For The People Act of 2021 and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The For The People Act, or H.R.1, proposes a three-pronged approach to expanding election access: Voting, campaign finance, and ethics.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for Advocacy and Policy, compared the current voting rights battle to that of the Civil Rights Movement in a press conference about H.R.1 and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“If you look at some of those 1960s shots of the C.T. Vivians of the world, of the Joe Lowerys and so many others that helped lead Americans to those registration sites, you’ll see them actually literally being beaten to the ground,” Shelton said, referring to well-known Civil Rights Movement activists. 

The John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, or S.4263, would amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to restore the powers it lost after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder.  In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws requiring states and local communities to first clear any changes to voting their local laws with the feds, was unlawful.  

“Well, we’ve become more sophisticated in our disenfranchisement,” Shelton continued. “We want to make sure that we stop that disenfranchisement all along the way and that’s why we’re convinced that a bill named for John Lewis and a bill that speaks for the people are bills that need to pass.”

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Community

Sen. Padilla on Reparations: “We Can Walk and Chew Gum”

For nearly two centuries now, Black American descendants of enslaved Africans have been making the case to an unyielding U.S. government for reparations. Advocates say payments would compensate for centuries of unpaid labor and an opportunity for the federal government to make good on its promise to provide 40 acres and a mule to each formerly enslaved Black person after the Civil War. 

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California’s newest and first Latino Democratic Senator, Alex Padilla, says he supports reparations for Black American descendants of enslaved African people. He made the statement during an online news briefing with members of California’s  organized by Ethnic Media Services.

“It’s the morally right thing to do,” said Padilla. “For me, it’s not a difficult conversation.

Padilla said reparations would go a long way to “address institutional injustices.”

For nearly two centuries now, Black American descendants of enslaved Africans have been making the case to an unyielding U.S. government for reparations. Advocates say payments would compensate for centuries of unpaid labor and an opportunity for the federal government to make good on its promise to provide 40 acres and a mule to each formerly enslaved Black person after the Civil War.

A shift in the national consciousness last year – which some attribute to organizing around Black economic and political empowerment led in part by the American Descendants of Slaves Movement and the national reckoning on race that began last summer after the killing of George Floyd — has ushered in a political environment in the United States where many legislators are much more open than they have been in the past to reparations.

“We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Padilla said. “We should be able to negotiate and advance an infrastructure package, and immigration reform and protect the rights of voters, and work on environmental protection, and address historical injustices like this.”

Earlier this month, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve forming a committee to study the idea of providing reparations to African Americans.

Padilla is a veteran politician who’s worked his way up the political ladder, previously serving as a Los Angeles city councilman, a state senator and as Secretary of State before he was nominated in January to replace outgoing Sen. Kamala Harris.

Padilla said that he has been senator for less than 100 days, but he’s packed a lot into that short period. During his first couple of months, he participated in former Pres. Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and voted to approve the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 intended to help Americans devastated economically by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the Senate, he is pushing and supporting a number of bills on a range of issues, including proposals focused on immigration reform (providing a pathway to citizenship for essential workers) and hate crimes against Asian Americans.   

The son of Mexican immigrants, Padilla grew up in the Pacoima, a Los Angeles neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. His father worked for 40 years as a short-order cook and his late mother cleaned houses. Both parents were local activists who fought against violence in their community. Padilla said they were the inspiration for his political career.

“Through their hard work, we had a modest upbringing to put it mildly,” said Padilla. “We grew up with the values of service to others, and hard work, but we also saw our parents get very involved in the community.” 

 

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