News from Sen. Blakespear – Come Glean with Us!
I’m excited to invite you to our first volunteering event of 2024 ... gleaning!
“Gleaning” for those who might not know is the practice of collecting leftover crops after the main harvest and providing the salvaged food to those in need. I love this volunteering activity because it pairs the joy of picking fresh fruit from local trees with the societal benefit of providing healthy nourishment to those who might not access it otherwise. Gleaning saves food from going to waste, gives volunteers a good reason to be outside in nature, helps us get the most out of our agricultural land, and provides nutrient-rich, locally grown food to local residents.
More than 330,000 people face hunger throughout San Diego County. Since 2012, ProduceGood has provided almost 300,000 pounds of fresh citrus and avocados to Feeding San Diego, in addition to diverting over 800 tons of perfectly edible produce from the landfill.
Last July I joined together with 40 volunteers for a 2-hour gleaning event, where we collected more than 1,600 pounds of oranges.
ProduceGood organizes gleaning events nearly every week across San Diego County to pick surplus fruit from orchards and donate it to nonprofits that serve food insecure residents.
- When: Feb. 3, 2024 (9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.)
- Who: Senator Catherine Blakespear and volunteers helping local hunger-relief non-profits Feeding San Diego and ProduceGood
- What: Lemon gleaning
- Where: Private orchard in Rancho Santa Fe. Exact location will be emailed to those who sign up.
- Sign Up: Go here to sign up. People of all ages are welcome. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. If you have questions, contact Matt Rubel on my staff at Matt.Rubel@sen.ca.gov
My staff member Nadia Mahallati submitted SB 949 to the Senate desk last week.
This is the time of year – January and February – when we introduce the bills we want to pass this year. We also decide if the bills we couldn’t pass out of our own house last year can be changed and moved forward.
I have two such bills: SB 7, and SB 689.
SB 7, as amended, would require cities and counties to report the number of housing units they permit that are targeted at the lowest income Californians. This would provide valuable data for policymakers to accurately track our cities’ progress in meeting the housing needs of the most vulnerable Californians.
SB 689, as amended, would improve bike safety and access in coastal areas by making it easier for bike lanes to be constructed. Often, cities face long and costly delays in the coastal areas to secure the necessary permits to build a bicycle lane due to process and bureaucratic paperwork with the Coastal Commission. This bill streamlines that process so cities can go through their local plans without the state overburdening the timeline. A goal of mine has always been to make sure our roadway network is safe for all users – especially our bicyclists – and in one instance, a cyclist was seriously injured because process held up the implementation of a safe bike lane in San Diego. It’s my goal that unnecessary process never gets in the way of safety.
I have also introduced a new bill based on a constituent suggestion - SB 949. This legislation ensures that anyone who is in court and needs to pump breast milk will be given a break to do it. Accommodating the needs of mothers and ensuring they can breastfeed or express milk when they need to is essential for the health and well-being of both mothers and their babies. This legislation makes it clear that courts must fully accommodate all people who must be at court, not just court employees. It also means that a woman doesn’t need to announce in open court why she needs a break and she will be given a private place to pump breastmilk.
This bill is an example of why it is so important to have diverse leadership, and for us to strive for gender equity across society and in leadership positions. Without it, issues like this might not get addressed.
I got a firsthand look in 2023, along with USDOT Federal Rail Administration Administrator Amit Bose (to my left), Del Mar Mayor Tracy Martinez (to my right) and U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, at some of the rail line’s most vulnerable sections.
This week we saw yet again just how vulnerable the rail line is through San Diego and Orange counties, when a new landslide in San Clemente shut down passenger rail service indefinitely.
I’m continuing to champion improving the rail line that runs from San Diego through six Southern California counties to San Luis Obispo. I have tried to bring greater attention to this rail line – its importance, its potential and its needs – as Chair of the Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency.
After holding three hearings last year, it became clear to the subcommittee that we need greater state leadership to manage the line and make sure all the transportation agencies involved with it are working toward a shared vision.
We sent a letter earlier this month to the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) asking for it to consider filling that void.
Our hearings in 2023 showed the many challenges are threatening the nation’s second-busiest intercity rail service and there is a need for greater leadership to plan for the future.
Hosting 8.3 million passengers at its peak in 2019, the 351-mile line is now carrying fewer than 4 million passengers a year. The LOSSAN line, which stands for Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo, has been hurt by lack of coordinated support and track closures.
“It is clear that a formalized partnership, with required deliverables, between the State, CalSTA, LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, track owners, and operators is needed for the corridor to achieve its goals,” the letter said. “We respectfully request that all existing authorities available to CalSTA be utilized to begin that effort immediately. Additionally, we ask that CalSTA identify where future legislative action may be necessary for CalSTA to effectively manage the rail corridor and ensure all stakeholders are working together toward a shared vision.”
The letter requests that the state transportation agency prepare a plan with formalized partnerships and required deliverables between all the partners to achieve shared performance and ridership goals.
I appreciate Governor Newsom and Secretary Omishakin’s continued engagement with the Legislature in supporting the coastal rail corridor. If we’re serious about fighting climate change and improving public transportation options, we need to invest time and resources into this existing rail corridor.
The LOSSAN corridor has potential to offer substantially more train service to more people. Declining ridership from infrequent or inconvenient train times, and lack of reliability due to track closures, is a major problem that deserves our urgent attention.
The letter is signed by the members of the subcommittee and Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. (See below.)
“The LOSSAN rail corridor,” Atkins said, “is a critical rail lifeline for freight goods, as well as for commuters and visitors looking to enjoy climate-friendly ways to travel the coast between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. We urgently need to develop a unified vision that will allow the rail corridor – which is critical to our regional economy and national security – to better serve the communities it connects and protect it from the impacts of sea level rise.”
The subcommittee will continue holding hearings and working on this issue in 2024.
Our first meeting of the Our California Book Club was a great success! I was thrilled to have such a dynamic discussion on Jan. 13, exploring the book Solito: A Memoir, by Javier Zamora.
Together, we’re reading books that impact and reflect on the California experience – past, present and future – and how it informs the work of the state Legislature. Thank you to those who joined us!
Our next book will be Mecca, by Susan Straight. It was the clear winner in the spot poll we conducted at the end of our meeting to select our next book from among the suggestions submitted by you. Check it out at your local library.
- What: Zoom Our California Book Club meeting to discuss Mecca, by Susan Straight
- When: 11 a.m., Saturday, April 6.
- Details: Sign up here to get the Zoom link and additional book club details
Aubrey Rodriguez serves as my Legislative Director, a critical role within the office!
The primary job of a legislator is to – of course – legislate. That’s not as easy as it may sound.
It takes a lot of work to identify solutions to our state’s issues, write them properly and then navigate them through the complexities of the legislative process…not to mention to convince my fellow legislators to pass them. Making new laws is detail-oriented, complicated and time consuming. Especially if you want to be thoughtful and effective, as I aim to be.
I could not do it without my capable Legislative Director Aubrey Rodriguez, who oversees all of my legislative work. We’ve worked hard in recent months to identify pressing problems in my district and how to address them. The result is my legislative package of bills for 2024, which I am introducing throughout the next several weeks. (The deadline for introducing new bills this year is Feb. 16.)
Aubrey has led the way as we have developed this package. I thank Aubrey for his intelligence and dedication – and his passion for policymaking. Aubrey is a native Southern Californian who grew up in Anaheim and attended San Francisco State University and Cal State University, Dominguez Hills. He has honed his skills working for several state legislators, including Assemblymembers Tom Daly from Anaheim, Cottie Petrie-Norris from Irvine, and Alex Lee from Milpitas.
I am glad to have him on my team. If you have a bill idea or a question about legislation I am working on, you should feel free to contact Aubrey by emailing him at Aubrey.Rodriguez@sen.ca.gov.
I’ve participated as a volunteer in the point-in-time count several times. Here I’m with my husband Jeremy near a beach stairway during one of the counts.
Thank you to everyone who volunteered to participate in the point-in-time count this week across the state. My staff members took part in San Diego and Orange counties.
This is a crucial undertaking to collect data on the needs of people experiencing homelessness in our region, and the information gathered plays a vital role in our region’s efforts to understand and reduce homelessness.
And it’s not easy work. It entails going out early in the morning or late at night to do the survey.
We must continue to work to understand this growing problem and what we can do to fix it. I look forward to seeing the results of this year’s count and what we can learn from them.
California State health insurance applications are accepted once a year at open enrollment. The current open enrollment period started on Nov. 1, 2023, and ends on Jan. 31. During this time frame, you may apply for a new plan or switch Covered California plans. If you miss enrolling during this period, you will not be able to apply for Obamacare coverage until the next open enrollment, so don’t delay to sign up!
If you need more information, go here.
The Covered California Health Exchange is the government agency offering subsidized Obamacare plans for California.
Protecting Women's Reproductive Rights
Email me at Senator.Blakespear@senate.ca.gov.
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Email me at Senator.Blakespear@Senate.ca.gov
Call my Encinitas district office at (760) 642-0809
Call my Laguna Hills district office at (949) 598-5850
Call my Capitol office in Sacramento at (916) 651-4038