Local Government

Senator Josh Newman’s Capitol Update: November 2023

The week leading up to Thanksgiving is “American Education Week,” during which we celebrate California’s public educational systems and honor those who work so hard to make education work — from bus drivers to classroom teachers to administrative staff — all of whom play an essential role in some facet of the education of California’s students.

For elected officials like myself, American Education Week is a timely reminder to reflect on what must be done to improve our state’s education systems. As chair of the Senate Education Committee, I focus on improving education in California and ensuring that every student, regardless of background, zip code, or income level, is set up for success. I’m very proud that I contributed to this important effort this year by working on legislation that the Governor has since signed.

SB 291 will require California elementary schools to provide students with an outdoor daily recess period of at least 30 minutes. This new law also prohibits a student from being denied recess as a form of discipline or punishment. Students are still recovering from COVID-related educational disruptions and cannot afford to lose any more time in their social and emotional development. Recess is a critical outlet and break for students to reset their minds and bodies.

SB 444 codifies the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) model into California’s education code, providing the stability and ongoing evaluation necessary to best serve students across the state. This new law ensures that existing funding for this program is efficiently utilized to operate and administer MESA programs, services, and its students.

SB 494 will bring greater transparency and accountability to school district governing board proceedings and ensure stability and transparency in school district governance by requiring school district governing boards to use the regular meeting process rather than holding a special or emergency meeting when taking action to terminate a district superintendent without cause.

Here are some other legislative successes my office achieved this year. The Governor has signed the following bills: 

The Legislature unanimously approved part of the Governor’s 2023 Infrastructure Package, SB 145, and includes two fixes that will allow Caltrans to implement long-term environmental mitigation and conservation measures faster and more cost-effectively. One fix includes streamlining the construction of three new wildlife crossings over Interstate 15 as part of Brightline West’s high-speed railway project between Southern California and Las Vegas. By reducing time-intensive, bureaucratic red tape, SB 145 maximizes our state’s competitiveness for federal funding and makes clear California remains committed to the highest standards of ecological protection. SB 145 was enacted immediately in July following its unanimous approval.

SB 386 changes the elections code to further secure, modernize, and streamline California Election procedures. The bill will update the current statute by:

  1. Extending the signature verification periods within which election officials must complete their determination of the number of qualified signatures on various state and local petitions.
  2. Requiring city election officials to publish a public notice with specified city election information no later than three days before the deadline for nomination papers.
  3. Removing antiquated instructions as it relates to presidential elections that appear on the ballot.

To combat the environmental damage and health hazards caused when electronic waste (also known as “e-waste”) is shipped overseas for disposal, SB 568 will require that e-waste exporters look first for in-state recycling capacity before deciding to export. Not only will this legislation work to address the environmental problems that e-waste causes abroad, it will also bolster in-state e-waste recycling as the industry continues to advance new technologies and processes to safely and responsibly extract scarce and valuable raw materials such as gold, platinum, cobalt, and other rare earth elements from e-waste.

As California begins to receive upwards of $41 billion in federal funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, SB 617 authorizes local transportation agencies to utilize a more efficient and flexible contractor method called progressive design-build in building essential transportation projects, like new rapid transit lines and other major road improvements. Progressive design-build has successfully reduced risk, costs, and construction times and places the burden of cost overruns on the contractor rather than the taxpayer.

Federal Funding for ARCHES Hydrogen Hub Application

Earlier this month, California achieved an exciting milestone in its work on transitioning toward clean energy when the U.S. Department of Energy announced the approval of California’s application to host one of the nation’s new Hydrogen Hubs. California’s application, submitted by a coalition called ARCHES (which stands for “Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems”), was named to receive up to $1.2 billion to develop a clean hydrogen economy. This historic award is one of the single largest federal grants California has ever received and will fund dozens of projects across the state for the production, storage, and usage of clean hydrogen energy to replace climate-damaging fossil fuels eventually. Ramping up the usage of hydrogen in transportation, grid energy storage, and heavy industry is a core pillar of California’s strategy to combat climate change and reach carbon neutrality by 2045. These funds will prove vital in transitioning these industries while creating 220,000 new jobs and unlocking billions more in private investment along the way.

For my fellow hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle drivers, the investment being made through the ARCHES grant represents an important step toward improving the resiliency of the hydrogen supply chain and getting us back on track to reaching price parity with gasoline. Congratulations to the many partners who made California’s ambitious proposal possible. I look forward to continuing to support smart partnerships like ARCHES in creating new clean energy jobs and cleaner air for our communities.

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