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The Coast News asked four North County lawmakers about their priorities and planned bills over the next two years. File photo
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North County’s state legislators share priorities for new session

REGION — Since California’s legislature reconvened Monday, North County’s lawmakers say they’ll look toward COVID-19 recovery, climate change, balancing housing affordability against local control and healthcare issues, among other things.

Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner-Horvath (D-Encinitas) represent Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista and Camp Pendleton. Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) and Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) represent San Marcos and Escondido.

Voters reelected Boerner-Horvath and Waldron in November. All four legislators’ terms expire in 2022.

Sen. Pat Bates

Alongside other North County Republicans, Bates coauthored the Keep California Working Act, SB-74, which would appropriate $2.6 billion to aid small businesses and nonprofits hard hit by COVID. The bill defines small businesses as those employing fewer than 100 people. It would award grants of unspecified amounts on a first-come-first-served basis.

Bates also coauthored SB-58, which would prohibit the Employment Development Department, or EDD, from sending mail containing certain personal identifying information, and SB-75, which would create a task force to improve Southern California’s response to fentanyl abuse.

“She also plans on introducing … a new version of a prior bill [SB 1090] to address coastal erosion in North San Diego County and beyond,” said Ronald Ongtoaboc, Waldron’s communication director.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout:  Bates “agrees with Gov. Newsom that the current pace of distributing the COVID vaccine in California is too slow,” Ongtoaboc said. “She also wants to ensure that the vaccine’s side effects are minimal.”

Affordable Housing: Bates “believes that increasing supply is essential to addressing the state’s housing crisis, but not at the cost of eliminating local control, Ongtoaboc said, referring readers to a 2018 op-ed she published in this newspaper.

Bates voted last year in favor of SB 1120, a controversial housing bill that narrowly died. It would’ve required only ministerial approval — that is, no discretionary review by municipal governments — to subdivide parcels and build duplexes in single-family zones. Together with recent legislation streamlining accessory dwelling units, Livable California, an advocacy group, reckons SB 1120 could’ve enabled up to eight units on parcels currently zoned for one.

The bill’s sponsors — including Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), representing Del Mar and Solana Beach — have already introduced a successor, SB-9.

Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner-Horvath

 In addition to “a path to recovery” from COVID-19, Boerner-Horvath said she’ll focus especially on the “existential threat” of rising sea levels due to climate change.

“I introduced AB-50, my bill to establish a Climate Adaptation Center that provides technical assistance to smaller coastal cities,” she said. AB-66 would “fund research into bluff failures with the goal of developing an early warning notification system.” AB-111 would allocate “$5 million to SANDAG for the LOSSAN corridor realignment study so we can make sure these collapses do not permanently sever this corridor and disrupt the critical movement of goods.”

Other bills in the works would “continue to build on my existing legislative priorities,” Boerner-Horvath said. “I am also still taking applications for my ‘There Ought to Be A Law’ contest, where your idea could end up becoming a new law here in California. We continue to look at ways to make telework a continued viable option for employers and employees alike, both to strengthen economic opportunity and reduce greenhouse gases.”

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: “We have heard of problems and confusion from constituents …, and we are actively talking to the Administration and staff from the Governor’s office about concerns and how they can best be addressed.”

Affordable Housing: “I voted ‘No’ last year on SB-1120, and it is not unreasonable to expect that there will be a number of new bills on the issue of housing this year. I will be looking at each to assess how they impact my district … and ensure we are not imposing one-size-fits-all solutions.”

Sen. Brian Jones

Among other things, Jones said he’s “focused on holding government accountable” during the pandemic.

He co-authored a raft of legislation — including AB-54, AB-69, AB-76 and SB-74 — which aims to “protect business owners by prohibiting state agencies from revoking a business license for non-compliance with shutdown orders without proof that the business was a cause of widespread COVID transmission; preserve our liberty by ensuring that a State of Emergency declaration issued by the Governor expires after 60 days rather than going on indefinitely; require equity in education by ensuring every California child has the right to in-person instruction; and provide grants of funding to struggling small businesses.”

Jones co-authored AB-74, which would provide the option to receive unemployment benefits faster and more securely through direct deposit.

Jones also plans to “remain focused on constituent proposals, public safety and access to public lands,” he said.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: “The vaccine ought to be available as soon as possible to those that choose to take it, with the priority being those who are most susceptible to COVID ….  Some of the delays in distribution in California and other states stems from governors trying to politicize it along the lines of so-called ‘racial equity,’ which I think is the wrong way to go and only adds to delays in distribution.”

Affordable Housing: “I am open to legislation to make it easier for developers to build housing, however, this must remain balanced with local control. Communities need to make it possible for developers to make projects pencil out, but locals still know what is best for their own community.”

Jones voted last year in favor of SB-1120.

Assemblywoman Marie Waldron

Waldron emphasized healthcare issues and her priorities include “ensuring access to physical and behavioral health care, particularly in underserved rural areas, which includes the expansion of telehealth, increasing providers and streamlining the healthcare system.”

Waldron will work on “substance use treatment expansion and recognition of the interconnectedness of healthcare and [substance use disorders].” Additionally, she plans to “introduce legislation addressing the underlying behavioral health issues that lead to homelessness and incarceration.”

Other priorities include “ensuring a swift, equitable and efficient reopening of schools and businesses when it is safe to do so,” as well as “combatting wildfires with adequate state funding and rational prevention policies,” Waldron said.

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: “I understand the challenges … but am disappointed with the results so far. California is woefully behind where it needs to be in terms of administering the vaccine, which the governor has made a precursor to reopening. I support allowing more providers to distribute the vaccine, including pharmacists, dentists and nurse practitioners who are trained as necessary.”

Affordable Housing: “I believe there are opportunities for policies that will grow California’s housing stock, drive down the cost of living, and maintain a balance between state and local authority. Our state imposes too many regulations on housing development that add to costs, delays and lawsuits. We need to look at reducing these burdens.”

Waldron said SB 1120, which she voted against, “had some problems … due to it creating a statewide one-size-fits-all mandate that took away local control.”

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