June 2015 District Report

Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 00:00

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the June edition of the O'Donnell Capitol Connection. Students and teachers are relishing well-earned summer vacations, June Gloom is giving way to perfect beach weather and our office is bustling with activity in both the District and the Capitol.

Want news as it happens? Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to read the latest on district events, critical legislation and more.

One of the most exciting developments for the month of June was the passage of the 2015-2016 California State Budget. I've said it before and I will say it again: there is no better investment than the one we make in our children. This year's budget reflects the state's ongoing commitment to fiscal restraint while keeping California students as our highest priority.

By setting aside $4.6 billion in budget reserves and using $1.9 billion to pay down our debts, we've made our state far less vulnerable to the boom-and-bust volatility of past budget cycles while still preserving the flexibility to properly invest in California's future.

To help restore the state's reputation as a world leader in public education, more than $14 billion in additional funding over last year's budget will be dedicated to our schools and community colleges. Additionally, specified funds will go to accelerating the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula so these dollars are promptly put to work for students.

The budget also focuses on providing students with the best and brightest teachers by allotting a $500 million block grant for teacher effectiveness that will improve performance in the classroom. We can't fire our way to better schools, but we can foster the careers of good teachers through expanded and improved training.

A prosperous economy also depends upon a well-educated workforce untethered by the crippling debt of student loans. To help eliminate the financial barriers to higher education, we've increased funding for CSU, expanded the number of Competitive Cal Grants by almost 15%, and lowered tuition at CSU and UC by 20% for middle income families.

Overall, this year's spending plan makes a record investment in public education so generations to come have the necessary opportunities to lead healthy, successful and productive lives.

Budget negotiations weren't the only thing going on this month though. Below you'll find information on the many other newsworthy items and wonderful events we participated in during the month of June. I hope you'll enjoy reading about them as much as we enjoyed doing our part to make them happen!


Patrick O'Donnell

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Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell and Superintendent Tom Torlakson with honorees at the inaugural Teacher Appreciation Ceremony at the Long Beach Expo Arts Center.

Few professions contribute as greatly to our society, carry as much responsibility, or have the ability to shape entire lives than that of the classroom teacher. In recognition of local educators who have gone the extra mile for their students, my office hosted our inaugural Teacher Appreciation Ceremony. The event, which took place at the Long Beach Expo Arts Center, honored 14 classroom teachers from across the 70th Assembly District.

Hundreds of education advocates, former students and parents came to support the honorees who were nominated by members of their community. The festivities took place behind the backdrop of live music performed by the Hughes Middle School Jazz Band and included remarks from special guest, California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

It was a tremendous opportunity to join together in celebration of the men and women who dedicate their lives to educating our children. The event was a huge success thanks to everyone who came out to show their gratitude for all the marvelous teachers who were recognized.

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Did you know Long Beach was once considered to be the Waikiki of California and was home to the first National Surfing Championship? It's true. Since then, however, the white water has vanished from our shores. That is why earlier this month I was joined by fellow Assemblymember Ian Calderon at an event advocating for bringing back the waves to Long Beach. The Surfrider Foundation and others spoke to the benefits of reconfiguring the breakwater to create new tourism and recreational opportunities while protecting maritime industry. I was also pleased to present a Member Resolution declaring June 2015 as Breakwater Awareness Month.

Assemblymembers Patrick O'Donnell and Ian Calderon join forces to support reconfiguring the Long Beach Breakwater.

Bringing back the waves to Long Beach will bring back clean water to our shores and attract tourists to our beaches. A measured approach to modifying the breakwater will protect waterfront properties and maritime commerce, but also transform our beaches into family friendly spots for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Following the rally, surfers were invited to paddle out in memory of the waves, where we formed a circle on the water and meditated on the value of restoring natural wave patterns to the Long Beach coast.

Future progress on the project depends on the federal government conducting Phase II of the East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study, which will direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draft a feasibility assessment for various approaches to the project.

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Before the budget was passed, I wanted to get a sense from constituents on how they felt about California's revenues and where they should be invested. Together with the non-partisan budget group Next 10, our office hosted a spirited discussion on California's state budget process. Residents also had the opportunity to make their voices heard by voting on various spending proposals, which were then tallied in real-time and presented to the audience.

It was a great experience to hear people's thoughts on the potential merits and shortcomings of different approaches to collecting revenues, reviewing programs cut during the recession and deciding how California should move forward in an improving economic climate.

I want to thank Next 10's Program Director Sarah Henry, who helped moderate the forum and guided us through the voting process. If you were unable to attend the town hall, you can still voice your opinion on next year's budget by taking the Next 10 Budget Challenge to craft your own budget and make some of the often difficult choices put before the legislature.


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Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell presents Elaine Gehr with a resolution on the floor of the Assembly in recognition of her dedicated service to our country.

In Sacramento I had the great honor of acknowledging Elaine Gehr of Long Beach as our Veteran of the Year in the 70th Assembly District at the 6th Annual Veterans Recognition Luncheon. Elaine joined the U.S. Army in 1989 and served from the start of the Gulf War until 2002, during which she received the Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. Elaine served in Japan, Germany, Hawaii and Virginia as an Army Signal Officer. Following her successful military career, she went on to work as a Civil Contractor in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Elaine continues to dedicate her time to helping our men and women in uniform through her participation in the Wounded Warriors Project as well as fundraising for Paws for Purple Hearts in aid of her K9 comrades.

She currently works at the National Security Space Department as a Senior System Engineer/Program Manager at Johns Hopkins University. We extend our deepest gratitude for Elaine's service to this country and for all she does to improve the lives of veterans who have returned home.

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Assemblymember O'Donnell with Bagels Galore owner Beth Leger, whose San Pedro eatery was selected as the 70th Assembly District's Small Business

Bagels Galore is not only famous for their delicious bagels and spreads, but a reputation of giving back to the community. That is why I was proud to recognize the San Pedro-based eatery as the 70th District's California Small Business of the Year.

I invited owner Beth Leger and her family to Sacramento where they were presented with an award at the California Small Business Day ceremony hosted by the California Small Business Association. California Small Business Day takes places each year so small business owners can connect with government agencies, elected officials and businesses that may help them succeed and grow.

Since they began serving customers in 1994, Bagels Galore has served as a model of the small business community by donating bagels and gift cards for local school fundraisers, and supporting local non-profits, all in addition to serving a great breakfast to their patrons. The event was our way of expressing thanks to Beth and her family for taking every opportunity to contribute to the betterment of San Pedro.

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Finally, I am pleased to announce that several of my bills passed out of the Assembly this month, among them are:

  • AB 580 would provide schools with tools for addressing the mental health needs of their students by requiring the California Department of Education to develop a referral protocol for student mental health concerns.
  • AB 827 ensures that teachers and school staff serving students in 7-12 grades are aware of the school site and community resources available for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students.
  • AB 678 creates the Energy Efficient Ports Program to fund energy efficiency upgrades and investments at our public seaports that help reduce the emissions of pollutants, toxic air contaminants, and greenhouse gases.

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My District Office is seeking motivated high school and college students as well as recent graduates for our District Internship Program this summer! Interns will have the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the State Legislature and community outreach as well as expand their resume and professional network.

More information and application available on my website. Questions? Please contact Allison Gallagher in my office at 562-495-2915 or Allison.Gallagher@asm.ca.gov.

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