On March 15th, representatives of the Leagues of Piedmont, Oakland, and Alameda met with Senator Nancy Skinner in her Oakland offices to ask questions about her priorities, our local league priorities, and LWV CA priorities. We discussed state and local redistricting legislation, housing reform, criminal justice reform, reforms to the state proposition process, a tax proposal to increase money for education and to reduce the ratio in compensation between CEOs and their workforce, and legislation to legalize corporate sponsorships of college athletes.
Questions and responses are below:
Question 1. LWV-CA question on state and local redistricting: Would you support a bill to require local governments that have district representation to establish independent redistricting commissions, that would use a transparent process, and fair criteria similar to the State, including safeguards against discriminating against any political party?
Answer 1. Senator Skinner was supportive of this idea, but would need to see details of any bill before making a commitment. She has mixed feelings about whether local government representation should be elected by district or at large. She notes that some cities, such as Oakland, are large enough to support districts. Others, perhaps including Berkeley, where district elections did not produce diversity, are not.
Question 2. LWV-CA general question: What other major issues do you think the Legislature must address in 2019? What are your priorities?
Answer 2. Senator Skinner’s priorities include “putting justice back into criminal justice”, including removing the prohibition on jury members with prior felony convictions. She believes that being on parole should not disqualify a person from voting. She said that she probably would support legislation that would allow prisoners to vote if otherwise eligible.
Senator Skinner told us that she was planning to introduce a tax bill that would increase taxes on about 1,000 large corporations that are the most profitable and which provide 70% of the $10 billion in corporate taxes) to 10.8 %. This bill would raise an estimated $2B. In addition, the bill would include an additional progressive tax based on the ratio between CEO and average employee pay. The highest rate would be pinned to the maximum individual tax rate. (In my memory this was ~14%). This would give corporations a strong incentive to either reduce CEO pay or to increase average worker pay. These additional funds would not be earmarked, but would be meant to focus on education.
Despite opposition from CA colleges and universities, Senator Skinner is still working to pass legislation to allow college athletes to accept corporate sponsorships. She hopes that other states would follow the lead of CA. News release: https://sd09.senate.ca.gov/news/20190205-senator-nancy-skinner-announces... Op-ed for the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/26/how-pay-ncaa-athletes....
Finally, in the wake of the college admissions scandals, Senator Skinner is looking for practical or symbolic legislation that would help to give high school students hope and confidence that admissions are not entirely rigged, that hard work will pay off, and that CA is still working toward guaranteeing admission to all high school graduates who meet certain minimum coursework and grade requirements.
Additional discussion. Our leagues discussed the housing crisis with Senator Skinner, and she explained the justifications behind her proposed SB 330, which would require more prompt processing of permit requests, to forbid jurisdictions from changing criteria for accepting a permit after the application is submitted, and to suspend (for 10 years) any minimum off street parking requirements for new permits. Press release: https://sd09.senate.ca.gov/news/20190221-senator-nancy-skinner-announces.... She observed that federal Section 8 and construction support have been decreasing since the 80s and argued that emergency rental assistance is needed now. Senator Skinner provocatively raised, in passing, the possibility of converting Piedmont homes to duplexes and triplexes.
Our leagues also discussed SB 47 and AB 1451. She was supportive of the idea behind SB 47, but would need to review the details before making a commitment. She was sympathetic of the motivations behind AB 1451, which removes the skew in propositions toward those who can pay by making it illegal to pay signature collectors. She agrees that reform is desirable, but suggested that AB1451 by itself would not be sufficient. She noted that forbidding payment to signature gatherers would likely result in fewer initiatives.
Finally, Senator Skinner agreed that CA must work hard to make sure that every resident is counted during the 2020 census.
In attendance: Senator Nancy Skinner; Sherry McCoy, Director of Constituent Services for Nancy Skinner; Nancy Beninati, President LWV Piedmont; Louise Rothman-Riemer, President LWV Oakland; Deborah Shefler, VP Voter Service LWV Oakland; Chris Krenn, Action Chair LWV Piedmont; Anna Crane, Member LWV Alameda.
A report of this meeting was sent to the LWV CA.