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Assemblymember Bill Monning

bill_MonningLast week the legislature began voting on the governor’s 2011-12 Budget but was unable to secure the votes necessary to pass the entire package.  What is the status of budget negotiations and what are the next steps?

As this column goes to press, the governor is still working diligently to obtain the votes necessary to enact his proposed 2011-12 State Budget.  The governor’s proposal seeks to balance a budget facing an estimated $26 billion deficit. The solutions include spending reductions in almost every area of the state budget and the realignment of local government services.

During the first round of budget bill votes, legislators passed a series of measures that, when combined, will reduce state spending by more than $7 billion. The governor’s ultimate target is to reduce state spending by more than $12 billion and to acquire $12.5 billion in part through the continuation of revenue increases initially enacted in 2009.

While the California Constitution requires the legislature to pass the annual budget by June 15, the governor has asked the legislature to engage in an accelerated budget process. In doing so, a majority of the measures in the governor’s proposal require a two-third vote of each house, including the bill to place a revenue extension initiative on a June 2011 special election ballot. If the legislature does not place this ballot initiative before California voters, Gov. Brown has stated that all the currently proposed cuts will be doubled.

Over the past few months, I have received countless visits and communications from constituents concerned about the governor’s proposed budget cuts. A majority of those I have communicated with strongly support placement of the Governor’s revenue extension initiative on the June 2011 ballot. I, too, strongly favor this option, as it is critical to the future of all Californians. To this end, I look forward to working with all interested parties to see that Californians have an opportunity to have a voice in the direction of the state.

You recently introduced legislation regarding Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly. What is the intent of this bill?

In response to a problem highlighted last year when residents of the Chanticleer Home in Santa Cruz and their families were only given a 14-day notice that the facility might be closed, I introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 313. The measure would require a licensed residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) to provide written notification to all residents, their designated emergency contacts, and the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman when its license is in jeopardy and may be revoked. The facilities would be required to conspicuously post these notices for at least 30 days or until serious deficiencies are resolved.

RCFEs throughout the state provide living assistance to more than 170,000 of our most vulnerable seniors. The State Department of Social Services monitors RCFEs and any notice issued by the state to an RCFE that it may be closed only occurs after a long period of review. While reviews of RCFE can span several years, residents in RCFEs are given very little advance notice about the potential of their RCFE being closed.

AB 313 insures that RCFE residents and their loved ones will have enough time to make alternative care arrangements and avoid dangerous last-minute evictions.

You also introduced legislation to extend the sea otter research and protection fund. How will this legislation help to protect sea otters?

The California sea otter is one of the most emblematic creatures on the Central Coast, yet its numbers are dwindling. Today, fewer than 3,000 sea otters exist along the state’s coastline—one fifth of the historic population—and scientists do not yet know why the population is recovering so slowly.

The California Sea Otter Fund was initially established in state law in 2006 as a voluntary tax check-off on the California state income tax form and supports researchers and managers in their efforts to study and protect the threatened population of sea otters in California. Assembly Bill (AB) 971 would extend the Fund for an additional five years, from 2012 to 2016.

The California Sea Otter Fund is a primary source of funding for sea otter field research. On-going support of the Fund will advance a long-term study identifying the challenges facing sea otter population recovery and developing public policy approaches that will protect the sea otter and their habitat.

California taxpayers have elected to contribute over $1 million to the Fund through their tax return forms for the years 2006 to 2009, and the Fund has met the minimum annual contribution requirement of $250,000 to remain on the state income tax return. AB 971 enables Californians to continue to support this critical tool to protect sea otters and California’s coastal ecosystems.

I encourage readers to voluntarily contribute to this important fund on their 2010 state income tax returns.

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