News from Sen. Blakespear - September 2023
Greetings, and welcome to September!
As we head into the fall fire season here in California, I want to share an update on fire insurance.
Every week my office receives phone calls or emails regarding insurance problems in California. Most of the outreach is related to homes, businesses or HOAs in higher-fire danger areas facing cancellations, hugely increased premium costs or non-renewal of policies. Real estate agents report sales falling out of escrow when buyers realize how much insurance will cost.
At the highest level, the insurance market is in crisis – three of the state’s five largest insurers are limiting or reducing coverage. This affects more than 40 percent of the homeowner’s market. Commercial coverage needed for HOAs, apartment buildings, agricultural businesses, recreational facilities and more have become virtually inaccessible in parts of the state.
At base, we manage all risks through insurance. In order to get a mortgage, you have to have home insurance. In order to drive a car, you need car insurance. People insure their trips and their lives.
Nearly everyone in Sacramento is aware of the profound and growing problem involving fire risk, including the Insurance Commissioner, the Legislature and the Governor. When policies are too expensive or non-existent, or when the insurer of last resort, known as the FAIR Plan, faces insolvency, we have a major problem on our hands.
We don’t want California to be Florida, where many insurance companies have left entirely. One major difference is that most of Florida is considered to be high risk whereas in California we have hot spots of high risk, but overall the amount of risk is considered variable. This is also why in some areas in California we have below-average insurance rates.
As we head into the final days of the legislative session, we’re focused on doing something about the insurance problem. Insurance is a private market regulated by government.
We need to bring insurers back to California by giving them new tools to accurately price risk looking forward, instead of backward. The state also needs to speed up its consideration of insurers’ requested rate increases and create incentives for them to write policies.. In addition, we want to make sure there are consumer safeguards in place and policy holders are rewarded for reducing their risk and making their homes more fire resistant.
In August, I held a wildfire insurance town hall with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to address these issues and answer questions from constituents. Turnout was very high – showing just how widespread this problem is and how many are affected. I know this is an urgent issue that requires us to act immediately.
Stay tuned for more details.
Here are some important tips and reminders, as we enter the heart of California’s wildfire season, which will last through September and October. First, visit the Cal Fire website devoted to providing information about wildfire preparation and response.
Second, don’t assume you are immune from danger. Wildfires erupt instantly, in the right conditions, and can spread very quickly. Please make an evacuation plan, in case the day comes that you need it.
And when it comes to fire insurance, here are some important tips from the California Department of Insurance.
- Top Ten Tips for Finding Residential Insurance, if you receive a non-renewal notice.
- Discounts for home hardening.
- 10 Steps to Make You Safer from Wildfires.
- The California FAIR Plan is the property insurer of last resort.
- How to find a California FAIR Plan Broker.
On the Senate floor, I recently honored the life of Brodee Braxton Champlain-Kingman, the 15-year-old who did not survive a collision with a van while he was riding his e-bike near his high school.
On June 22nd he was riding along El Camino Real in Encinitas, a street he knew well because he lived right nearby. His high school, San Dieguito Academy, is located a short bike ride to the west along Santa Fe Drive. The collision occurred near the intersection of Santa Fe Drive and El Camino Real.
Tears of grief for the premature loss of Brodee’s life have given rise to cries for action from his fellow students, his parents and the entire community to increase safety for e-bike riders, drivers and others who share our roads. In response, the City of Encinitas declared a biking state of emergency. The added attention is resulting in more law enforcement warnings to kids riding without buckled helmets and other unsafe practices on e-bikes. E-bike riders are also encouraged to take a safety course.
The Encinitas community has grieved the loss of this extraordinary boy who was enthusiastically spreading his wings academically and socially and expanding his horizons.
He was a member of the chess club and winner of the 2023 pi contest. He could recite 115 digits of pi from memory. He taught himself Japanese and delved into learning about Japanese culture. Impressively, he spoke both Japanese and Spanish at a college level. And, as only a freshman at the San Dieguito Academy, he was already preparing for the SAT.
In the Encinitas Union School District, he was recognized in 2020 as 'Student of the Year' at La Costa Heights Elementary School and was a Math 24 Tournament Champion. In 2019, he placed first in the Encinitas School District Guild Film Award for “Best Visual Effects" and was honored as “Most Outstanding Film Guild Member.”
Brodee was a naturally kind, generous and thoughtful humanitarian. He was a Buddhist, animal lover and talented vegetarian chef. More importantly, he was an enthusiastic booster who always turned compliments and praise around and ensured that his partners, teammates, parents, or teachers got the credit first. A quote you would hear him repeat regularly is “teamwork makes the dream work.”
He was always looking for ways to help others. Even now, he would be the first to take joy in knowing that not only is he being honored and remembered with much love, but that he has given new life to two young people because of his selfless donation of his strong, young heart, kidneys and liver.
Brodee was the beloved son of Troy Kingman and Clare Champlain, loving brother of Violet and grandson of Robert Champlain, Lauren Kingman, and Helen and Rune Jarnes.
We will all miss him and his wonderful and positive impact on the community and those around him.
A roadside memorial set up for Brodee Champlain-Kingman included this photo of him. Nearly every time I drive by this memorial my eyes fill with tears. My teenagers are both e-bike riders and I can’t imagine the anguish of losing a child to vehicle violence. Photo courtesy of Coast News.
This graph shows the average number of gun deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. and in California over the last 30 years.
On Aug. 23, in the Orange County part of my Senate district, sadly and tragically California experienced another mass shooting. This time at Cook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon.
My heart goes out to the victims of this terrible act of violence. This is a sad reminder that even in California, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, no one is safe from gun violence. We can do more to prevent gun violence from happening, and I encourage all concerned citizens to join together in our efforts to do that.
I have worked on legislation this year to educate more people about the dangers of owning guns (SB 417), require gun purchasers to carry liability insurance (SB 8) and identify the bullets that come from guns used in crimes (SB 452). I will continue pushing those bills and look for other ways to help make the public safer and prevent these horrendous and deadly mass shootings from ever occurring.
But make no mistake, California is way ahead of the rest of the country. Our gun safety laws work, as Gov. Gavin Newsom recently pointed out. The gun death rate in California is 43 percent lower than in the rest of the U.S., and that’s thanks to the gun safety laws we already have in place.
Bill Requiring Gun Stores to Post Warning Notices Goes to Governor
This past week my bill to require gun sellers to post warnings about the danger of having a firearm in a home was sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign.
SB 417 requires gun sellers to post the following notice: “WARNING: If you or a loved one is experiencing distress or depression or is contemplating suicide, please call 988 (The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline). Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, death, and injury during domestic violence disputes, and the unintentional death and traumatic injury to children, household members, and guests.”
Research counters the long-held belief that having a gun in your home makes you safer. In fact, the risk of death by suicide is 4 to 10 times higher in homes with guns, and people living with handgun owners die by homicide at twice the rate of their neighbors in gun-free homes, according to a report by Harvard Health Publishing.
I spoke at the Cards for Casa fundraiser, thanking all for their participation and contributions.
I was delighted to join Casa Romantica in San Clemente for its Cards for Casa fundraiser on Aug. 24. This event raised nearly $50,000 to help pay for the restoration of the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. Earlier this year, the hill on which Casa Romantica sits suffered a slide that created both damage to the site and also endangered the railroad tracks below it.
Casa Romantica provides programs for all ages in arts, music, history, horticulture and literature and is a premier Southern California cultural center.
On my way to the event, I took a look at the work done to protect the tracks and was impressed with what I saw.
A sturdy barrier has been built to protect the tracks in San Clemente from any debris that might fall for the hillside beneath Casa Romantica, which is above and not visible in this picture.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, NAMI says, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time to bring greater awareness to this issue, which is often not discussed and considered highly stigmatizing. Anyone in need of support or counseling should call or text 988, the suicide and crisis lifeline.
The mental health crisis hitting Americans shows no sign of abating, with provisional numbers for 2022 showing suicides rose by another 2.6 percent last year, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Overall, 49,449 Americans lost their lives to suicide last year, up from 48,183 deaths in 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It remains a leading cause of death in the United States.
I swore in Nadia Mahallati (above), who joined my staff on Aug. 28. I also said goodbye to summer intern Caroline Zdanowski (below).
I am always working to build my staff and make my team stronger, so I can be more effective serving you. I also appreciate the opportunity to hire interns onto my staff who can help us while gaining valuable experience.
I was sad to see my summer intern Caroline Zdanowski leave us, as she must return to Stanford University to continue with her studies. Caroline did a marvelous job, and I am excited to see where her career takes her.
At the same time, I am thrilled to add Nadia Mahallati to my legislative team in Sacramento. Nadia has extensive political and policy experience, including teaching college courses in political science and public administration, and advocating for legislation that improves the lives of women.
She describes herself as a “policy nerd” and has published research on women in government, organic food regulations and ranked-choice voting. She has presented additional research at national and international conferences.
Nadia received a law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento and is nearing completion of a PhD in political science from the University of Utah.
In her spare time, Nadia says she enjoys hanging out at home with her two dogs, Remedy (“Remy”) and Stare Decisis (“Starry”), and kitten, Vox Populi.
Nadia will work on a list of important legislative issues for me, including education, elections and constitutional amendments, human services, military and veterans affairs, transportation and business, professions and economic development. You can reach her at Nadia.Mahallati@sen.ca.gov.
Welcome aboard Nadia!
Team Blakespear joined in celebrating the grand opening of a zero-waste grocery store in North County last week.
I am a big believer in sustainable living and doing whatever we can to eliminate waste. I was glad my staff could participate in the ribbon cutting for Sunshine Market & Refillery, Oceanside’s first zero-waste grocery store.
Kathrine Hayden, Sunshine’s founder and CEO, is passionate about eliminating single-use plastics and created this concept to provide an eco-friendly alternative for North County residents. This woman-owned business is doing its part to help the community to reduce pollution and become more environmentally sustainable.
“At Sunshine Market & Refillery, we are doing our part to eliminate single-use plastics from our landfills,” Hayden says on the store’s website. “We not only provide amazing products, but a guilt-free alternative for your everyday essentials.”
Thank you Kathrine for making this a reality! I hope others will follow your lead.
Tea Time in South Orange County
Grant Writing Webinar in October
If you or your organization would like to learn about grant writing, and how to do it effectively, here’s your chance. I am hosting a free, one-hour webinar on how to write grant applications to state and local governments. This will be offered via Zoom. Please use the link below, if you would like to sign up.
There Ought To Be A Bill
Do you think there should be a law about something? I really appreciated the breadth of ideas that were emailed into my office after the previous newsletter. Please keep the ideas coming! I want to hear from you! Click on the button below and follow the directions to provide your suggestion.
To learn more about what I am doing, follow me on social media.
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