South San Francisco, CA February 14, 2018 Submitted by Leslie Guevarra, Office of State Senator Jerry Hill
He Also Presses Forward with New Legislation to Reduce the Fine for Rolling ‘Right-on-Red’ Turns, Aid a Nonprofit Run by a Peninsula Nun to Provide Housing for Low-Income Families, and Extend a Pilot Program Allowing Nonviolent Young Adult Felons to Serve Their Time in Juvenile Hall Not Jail
SACRAMENTO – K-12 public school students with special needs or severe disabilities who rely on cannabis-based medicine may soon be able to take their medication at school under legislation introduced today by state Senator Jerry Hill.
Senate Bill 1127 would allow a parent or guardian to administer the medicine – typically in the form of oil, capsules, tinctures, liquids or topical creams – to the child on campus, provided that the school district or county board of education adopt such a policy. Though the bill does not require school districts and county boards to adopt such a policy, providing them the choice would make a world of difference for children who are currently prohibited by law from taking medical cannabis at school, advocates say. Because of the prohibition, children who rely on medical cannabis must be taken away from campus by their parent before taking their medicine.
“Children with significant health conditions often face challenges that interfere not only with their ability to attend school and to learn, but also to have normal childhood experiences like making friends and being part of a school community,” said Nancy Magee, associate superintendent of the San Mateo County Office of Education’s Student Services Division. “This bill provides more children the opportunity to experience these rites of passage and to grow and develop alongside their siblings, neighbors and friends. This bill improves the quality of life for students and families and enriches our school communities in the process.”
Magee suggested the legislation to Senator Hill after becoming aware of a Peninsula parent whose teenage son has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of severe epilepsy, and uses medical cannabis. “Cannabis is life for our family and thousands of others,” said the mother of the 17-year-old. “Without it my son wouldn’t be here.” Before taking medical cannabis, she said, her son would lie in bed every day, unable to get up, because he would have 50 seizures a day. After taking medical cannabis, he would have perhaps one seizure ever few months and was able to go to school, she said, adding, “Pharmaceuticals take lives, cannabis gives life.”
“This legislation is about giving students access to the medicine they need so they have a better chance for success in the classroom and in the community,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, who considered the idea from Magee along with many other bill ideas submitted during his annual “Ought Be A Law…Or Not Contest.
“This is a critical issue for some of our families and knowing that the bill is being introduced shows amazing progress towards acceptance of our students with special medical needs,” said Linda Cravalho-Young, principal for Special Education Services for K-12 the San Mateo County Office of Education.
Washington, Colorado, Florida, Maine and New Jersey have passed legislation allowing medical cannabis to be administered to students at school. SB 1127 expressly prohibits use of medicinal cannabis in smokeable or vapeable form at school. The medical marijuana also could not be stored at the campus and parents or guardians would be required to remove any remaining medical cannabis after administering it to their child. In addition, the bill does not require school personnel to administer medical cannabis.
Reducing Fines for Rolling Right-on-Red Turns
Senator Hill, with Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, as a joint author, also renewed efforts today to reduce the fine for rolling right turns through red lights to $35 from a current base of $100, which typically results in a cost of more than $500 because of surcharges, penalties and other assessments that are added to the base fine.
Under SB 1132, drivers cited for failing to fully stop at a red light before turning right would still face additional penalties if the law were changed, but a base fine of $35 would bring the equation into line with other similar moving violations, Senator Hill said.
“This is a matter of fairness,” said Senator Hill. “Make no mistake: Failure to fully stop at a red light is against the law. This bill does not change that, but it would make the penalty for rolling right turns through a red light fit the violation.”
The penalty for “California stops” has long been a sore point with many constituents, who say the price they must pay is often an alarming surprise to drivers on fixed or low incomes. Every year, right-on-red fines are the subject of many constituent phone calls and emails, and result in bill idea entries in the senator’s “Ought Be A Law…Or Not Contest.” SB 1132 marks Senator Hill’s fifth effort to introduce legislation in response to those concerns. His first bill, which he introduced as an assemblymember in 2010, was vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger. Bills in 2015, 2016 and 2017 did not survive the legislative process.
“The base fine for this offense should have never been so high and we owe it to Californians to work to correct this,” Senator Hill said.
If passed and signed into law SB 1132 would take effect on July 1, 2019, rather than the first of the year as with most bills, to give the DMV time to update its system.
Helping Small Nonprofits Make Big Steps Toward Providing Affordable Housing for Low-Income Families
Senator Hill also introduced a bill today to help very small nonprofits that provide affordable housing to low income and very low income families. His SB 1115 would aid nonprofits and religious organizations by eliminating the cap for property tax exemption on their affordable housing properties.
Under current law, nonprofits that do not receive tax subsidies or grants from the state or federal government, and that provide affordable housing to low income families, must pay property tax on affordable housing property with an assessed value of more than $10,000,000. The amount is easily reached in California, which is home to four of the five highest rental markets in the country, and swiftly exceeded in the pricey Bay Area.
The cap applies to about 26 small nonprofits in California that provide affordable housing in their communities and privately raise funds to do so. But only one, the Saint Francis Center of Redwood City, which plans to heed the call for more affordable housing by expanding its offerings, has exceeded the exemption limit, which Senator Hill raised with legislation in 2016 in response to an “Oughta Be A Law” contest entry from Sister Christina Heltsley, the center’s executive director.
This year as part of the annual “Oughta Be A Law” contest, Sister Christina asked Senator Hill to consider lifting the cap entirely to help small nonprofits take bigger steps to ease the affordable housing crisis.
“This elimination of the cap on property tax exemptions for smaller nonprofits is huge,” said Sister Christina. “If passed, it would allow us to move forward our agenda, our mission, of purchasing multi-family apartments, rehabbing them and renting them to families who qualify as extremely low, very low or low-income families. This change will allow us to serve more and serve better, families in desperate need of safe, affordable, and dignified homes. On behalf of the families burdened by California’s housing crisis, we want to thank Senator Hill for his foresight and compassion! Thank you for seeing with your heart and your head!”
The demand for affordable housing is unrelenting as property becomes more expensive and once accessible neighborhoods soar far beyond the reach of families of modest means.
“Our wait list is three to five years long and it is closed for now because it seems cruel to offer false hope,” Sister Christina said. Nevertheless, she said added, “we get between five to seven calls every week from families desperate for low income housing.”
SB 1115 is the third bill introduced by Senator Hill today stemming from his “Oughta Be A Law” contest for constituents. Earlier this year, he introduced SB 823 in response to the outrage expressed in the wake of the Equifax security breach. The bill would make credit freezes with the nation’s three largest credit reporting firms free for Californians who wish to protect their personal and financial data.
Extending the State’s Transitional Age Youth Pilot Program
Senator Hill also introduced SB 1106 to provide a two-year extension for a pilot program that allows nonviolent young adult felons to serve their time in juvenile hall instead of jail.
The legislation follows Senator Hill’s SB 1004, which Governor Brown signed in September 2016 to enable five counties – Alameda, Butte, Napa, Nevada and Santa Clara – to set up the pilot program for low-level, nonviolent felons, ages 18 to 21, who don’t have a history of crime. Individuals eligible to participate are limited to serving one year in a juvenile justice facility and their offense would be expunged from their record if they successfully complete the program. The law took effect January 1, 2017, and the pilot was set to run until January 1, 2020.
With implementation taking much of the first year, a two-year extension to January 1, 2022, would provide the counties more operational time for the actual program and provide more information for their study of the program’s effectiveness.
Advocates of the program note that while young offenders ages 18 to 21 are legally adults, they still are undergoing significant cognitive brain development and are better served by the juvenile justice systems with corresponding age-appropriate, intensive services.
“The research is clear – young adults’ brain development is ripe for the kind of intensive rehabilitative programming offered in the juvenile justice system,” said Chief Jim Salio, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California. “It only makes sense for California to give these young people every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and proactively engage in developmental appropriate programming. We thank Senator Hill for his leadership on this issue and working to move California forward and examine the viability of this research based approach to young adults in the justice system.”
“When circumstances merit, this chance can make all the difference to young adults who have their whole lives ahead of them,” said Senator Hill. “If they successfully complete the pilot program, they could restart their adult lives with a clean record.”