- Urge adoption of a long-term, 8-to-10-year infrastructure bill, along with an increase in the cap on Private Activity Bonds and a reset of the 2023 mandate for reductions of pollutants contained in the Clean Air Act.
- Support appointment of qualified candidates to fill existing judicial vacancies in the Central District of California, especially in the Eastern Division of that court, serving the Inland area.
- Support Funding for Continued Management of the Salton Sea.
- Support permanent expansion of access to telehealth services.
- Urge bi-partisan support for the Affordable Housing Resident Services Act of 2021.
- Support action to double the maximum Pell Grant Award to help more Inland Empire students complete college and earn degrees faster.
- Support continued protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, as well as establishing a pathway to citizenship.
- Support legislation that expands apprenticeship programs.
- Support legislation that expands and funds Master of Science in Physician Assistant programs.
- Support for funding for continued management of the Salton Sea.
- Support increased funding for water supply, water quality, and water storage projects.
- Support funding to develop habitat conservation plans and cooperative management approaches.
- Support permanent expansion of access to telehealth services.
- Support COVID Relief Package with emphasis on health care systems and coverage.
- Support appointment of qualified candidates to fill existing judicial vacancies in the Central District of California, especially in the Eastern Division of that Court, serving the Inland area.
- Support physical space upgrades necessary in the Eastern Division in order to deliver adequate justice to the Inland Empire.
- Support new judgeships urgently needed in the Central District, beyond filling the existing vacancies, and bring the Court back to its full authorized strength.
- Urge adoption of a long-term, 8-to-10-year Infrastructure Bill, along with an increase in the cap on Private Activity Bonds and a reset of the 2023 mandate for certain reductions of pollutants contained in the Clean Air Act.
Economic Development Issue
Urge bi-partisan support for the Affordable Housing Resident Services Act of 2021. In the 1990’s, Congress launched the Housing First initiative with respect to federal homeless policy. Housing First is an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides connections to the community-based support people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness. However, this approach has not been utilized by over 2 million federally assisted affordable housing units funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), project-based Section 8 program, Rural Rental Housing (RHS) Section 515 program, and other programs, due to the fact that there are essentially no federal mechanisms or funding to provide supportive services for such residents.
What is needed is an approach that crosses Congressional committees and executive agencies, breaking down artificial silos in order the improve residents’ lives through supportive services.
Inland Action supports the creation of a new $100 million line item in FY 2022 appropriations bills (e.g., half from T-HUD and half from the Labor/HHS/Education Subcommittees) to fund supportive services in affordable housing projects (Section 8/RHS Section 515/LIHTC). Applicants will be owners of affordable projects, both for-profit and non-profit. The selection criteria will give priority to applicants with experience in services that:
- Facilitate good health outcomes, including partnerships with health care entities,
- Provide self-sufficiency, economic empowerment, and homeownership services,
- Enhance educational opportunities and provide after-school services, and
- Assist seniors through a range of services that help them age in place.
Selection criteria will include: (1) innovative proposed use of funds for services, (2) experience in development/management of affordable rental housing, (3) extent of partnerships and relationships with localities and non-profits that provide supportive services, and (4) supportive services economies of scale (projects close together that can share services).
Regarding economic empowerment, programs aimed at developing family economic mobility and self-sufficiency have a proven track record of effectiveness in helping families improve their skills, find and keep a job, and build funds for a down payment to buy a home. Family self-sufficiency programs also accelerate the rate at which families no longer need affordable housing, thus freeing up scarce affordable rental units to other families in need. Metrics for measuring success include, increased employment income, decreased debt, improved credit score, increased savings, and increased homeownership.
Regarding health care, studies show the importance of stable housing to an individual’s health, i.e., reducing stress, freeing up resources for food and health care, and reducing exposure to environmental risks. Studies also show that stable affordable housing can reduce healthcare costs, particularly for homeless persons who tend to use hospitals as their primary care. However, with the exception of a few innovative partnerships between non-profit housing developers, health care entities, and a limited number of Medicaid waivers for homeless servicers, little is being done in this area. Metrics for measuring success include, increased physical and mental health status, improved behaviors including physical exercise and nutritional dietary choices, an increased connection to a primary care physician or home health, decreased use of emergency room services, improved management of chronic conditions and an increased ability for individuals to remain in their own home and out of the hospital.
Regarding Seniors, through Section 1915 waivers, Medicaid has long allowed program funds to pay for housing and services for certain seniors. Supportive services for seniors include a wide range of activities to improve the lives of seniors and keep them active, including exercise classes, nutrition workshops, social activities, and individualized resource coordination to address the unique needs faced by seniors. Metrics for measuring success include increased ability to age in place, improved behaviors including physical exercise and nutritional eating choices, improved measures of mental and physical health.
Regarding After-School Programs and Educational Opportunities, these programs help teenagers avoid risky behaviors by teaching them needed life skills and providing activities that enrich their lives. Such programs can be complemented by helping residents access educational opportunities, including preparing students for college and enrolling them in vocational programs. Metrics for success include, increased school engagement and homework completion, improved school grades and age-appropriate progress in school, decreased occurrence of risky behaviors, increased rates of high school graduation, increased rates of college and career readiness.
In summary, there are significant benefits to linking supportive services with affordable housing developments. Currently, programs addressing this need are severely underfunded. There are limited funding sources to pay for supportive services for the millions of families living in affordable rental housing developments constructed through project-based Section, 8 RHS Section 515, or low-income housing tax credits. Accordingly, Inland Action urges bi-partisan support for the proposed Affordable Housing Resident Services Act of 2021.
Inland Action urges support for legislation and programs that increase equitable access to higher education and help produce more skilled college graduates to meet workforce needs.
Support action to double the maximum Pell Grant Award to help more Inland Empire students complete college and earn degrees faster. The Pell Grant is the foundation of federal student aid, helping millions of low- to moderate-income students in their pursuit of college degrees and upward mobility. Students in every state and in all corners of the country – including in the Inland Empire, which struggles with one of the nation’s lowest baccalaureate degree attainment rates – rely on the Pell Grant to earn their degrees.
Nearly 50,000 students attending Inland Empire public colleges and universities alone receive Pell Grants, helping to boost college enrollment, reduce drop-out rates, reduce student borrowing, and improve outcomes. However, Pell Grants now cover a smaller and continuously shrinking share of college costs for students. Forty years ago, the Pell Grant covered more than 75 percent of a student’s total costs of attending a public four-year university. Over time, the purchasing power of the Pell Grant has declined to the point that it now only covers 28 percent of those costs.
To drive economic recovery, help address racial and economic inequities in college completion rates and increase overall educational attainment, especially in the Inland Empire, Inland Action urges Congress to double the maximum Pell Grant from $6,495 to $12,990, as well as permanently index the grant to inflation to ensure its value doesn’t diminish over time.
Support continued protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, as well as establishing a pathway to citizenship. Inland Action supports bipartisan legislative efforts that would provide permanent relief and a pathway to citizenship for current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as Dreamers. Brought to this country by their parents, DACA recipients across the country continue to live in uncertainty.
Since 2012, more than 825,000 people who came to the country at a young age have been able to take advantage of DACA and the protection from deportation and work permits that the initiative brings. In the more than eight years since DACA began, recipients have been able to go back to school, get better paying jobs, purchase homes and start businesses, creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
DACA-eligible individuals contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. California’s nearly 254,000 DACA-eligible residents pay $1.5 billion in local, state, and federal taxes annually, own nearly 11,000 businesses, and they and their households have a combined $5.1 billion in spending power to put back into their communities. (Source: New American Economy)
There are thousands of Dreamers attending Inland Empire colleges and universities. At CSU San Bernardino and UC Riverside, for example, 800 and 650 students, respectively, identify as undocumented. Because undocumented students are ineligible for any form of federal financial aid, they face unique challenges in covering college expenses. If given the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship, Dreamers would be eligible for federal financial aid, boosting their chances of graduating from college and moving into well-paying jobs.
Inland Action urges Congress to pass legislation that removes barriers to higher education for undocumented students who were raised and educated in the United States and that offers a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Support legislation that expands apprenticeship programs. In California there are 75,000 apprenticeships today. The State’s goal, as stated in the 2016-2026 California State Workforce Plan, is to double the number of apprenticeships by 2026, from 64,000 to 128,000, to help meet industry demand for skilled workers and lift Californians into well-paying jobs.
A registered apprenticeship is an effective “earn and learn” model with a long history of providing career ladders and pathways to the middle class, while meeting the needs of business for a highly-skilled workforce. Quality pre-apprenticeship programs can play a valuable role in preparing qualified entry-level workers for apprenticeship careers in in-demand industry sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, global trade and logistics, cybersecurity, health, and advanced transportation. These programs are developed in consultation with employers to ensure students gain the skills and competencies necessary to meet future employment demand.
Funding and resources are needed to support college-based workforce development, including regional apprenticeship systems that integrate with the community college system and that allow for early capacity building projects that create sustainable and scalable apprenticeship programs embedded into the K-14 system. This includes funding for adult worker/learner apprenticeship programs, youth apprenticeship and scaled pre-apprenticeship programs.
California’s community colleges enjoy established partnerships with local Workforce Development Boards and are well positioned to serve as intermediaries in the apprenticeship system to connect career-builders with apprenticeship opportunities and to aggregate the workforce needs of local economies.
Inland Action urges Congress to support legislation that substantially increases funding for expansion of apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship programs.
Support legislation that expands and funds Master of Science in Physician Assistant programs. The State’s supply of primary care physicians is significantly below what is considered sufficient to meet patient needs. According to the Healthforce Center at University of California, San Francisco, the Inland Empire has the lowest physician to resident ratio in the State. The two-county region has fewer than 30 primary care physicians for every 100,000 residents, far below the recommended 70 per 100,000 people.
California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) seeks to establish a Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program to manage the growing demand for primary care physicians in the Inland Empire by quickly expanding the size and scope of primary care teams. CSUSB would be the first public university in the Inland Southern California region to offer the MSPA.
Graduate-level physician assistants, working together with physicians, is a proven model for delivering high-quality, cost-efficient patient care. Licensed physician assistants are authorized to practice in virtually all areas of medicine and surgery, and training physician assistants takes fewer years (three) and is less expensive than preparing physicians for practice, which can take up to eight or more years.
The California Health Care Foundation reports that the greatest indicator of where physicians and healthcare workers practice is where these individuals complete their training. Studies show that people who grow up in underserved areas are more likely to practice there if they are trained in that region to become physicians and other healthcare professionals. With this in mind, CSUSB will offer preferred admission to Inland Empire residents who apply to and meet the MSPA qualifications, with the purpose of retaining these skilled health professionals in the region.
Support funding for continued management of the Salton Sea. Salton Sea is located in Riverside County and few projects in our region come anywhere near the Salton Sea in terms of the potential for calamity or, conversely, enormous gain. The Salton Sea is impacted by rising salinity of the Sea, as well as changes in runoff from irrigated agriculture (supplied by Colorado River water). Reduced water flows to the Sea could result in the exposure of nearly 100 square miles of dry lakebed, resulting in diminished habitat, significant air quality problems, and a damaged economy.
A key issue at the Salton Sea is exposure of previously submerged lakebed, known as playa, as the lake surface shrinks. This playa exposure is subject to wind erosion and can be a source of fine airborne dust smaller than 10 micrometers, known as particulate matter 10, or PM10; as well as a source of PM 2.5. The dust is a significant health hazard and can contribute to respiratory illness in humans. It can also damage agricultural crops and wildlife and harm the region’s tourism industry. Areas downwind from the Sea are already suffering from severe non-attainment for PM 10 under the Clean Air Act. These areas suffer the highest rates of childhood asthma in California, with emergency room admissions for children under four years of age roughly twice the state average. In the near future, tens of millions of citizens downwind from the Sea could be impacted by dust blown from the playa into densely urbanized areas throughout Southern California.
In recent years, local, state, tribal, and federal governments have achieved significant progress in addressing the long-term management of the Salton Sea. These efforts have resulted in the development of the Salton Sea Funding and Feasibility Action Plan, a living document and framework for the future management of the Salton Sea, and Phase I of the Salton Sea Management Program 10-Year Plan, which guides investments at the Salton Sea in line with an MOU between the United States Department of the Interior and the California Natural Resources Agency. Current efforts are designed to address playa exposure by developing habitat or dust suppression projects on exposed playa.
With a plan in place and funding generally available to the projects through the 2018 Farm Bill at the federal level and through the passage of Proposition 68 at the State level, it is critical that funding be delivered to these projects in a timely and efficient manner. At the federal level, the following steps are suggested:
- Support for H.R. 8775 (Ruiz, D-CA): Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act, which creates a Salton Sea Management Council to assist with streamlining federal, state, and local agency processes and commissions a public health study.
- Support for Agency Action Consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding Implementing One Federal Decision under EO 13807. Generally, Inland Action supports actions that expedite action at the Salton Sea benefitting all parties concerned. Specifically, Inland Action supports the following:
- Department of Agriculture: (a) Support efforts to secure a greater portion of the USDA’s $6 billion annual mandatory conservation funding; and (b) Support the Feinstein USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program Air Quality Initiative, which was reauthorized under the Farm Bill, to set aside $37.5 million in funding to address air quality concerns relating to agricultural operations.
- Army Corps of Engineers: (a) Support appropriation of $30 million in federal funds authorized for Salton Sea revitalization in 2007 and again in December 2016 through the Water Resource Development Act; and (b) Support the Tribal Partnership Program to ensure tribes holding property around the Sea receive funds for feasibility planning.
- Bureau of Reclamation: (a) Support strong cooperation between the Department of Interior, and particularly Bureau of Reclamation as a major landowner, and the state and local partners; and (b) Support the Department’s commitment to providing $30 million federal share toward air quality management and habitat restoration projects.
- Environmental Protection Agency: (a) Support receipt by Salton Sea Authority and other partners of WIFIA funding to accelerate investment in the area by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for projects at the Sea that address significant EPA national priorities.
Support increased funding for water supply, water quality, and water storage projects. Support for Delta Conveyance Project. Water reliability is a vital issue for inland Southern California, including for major local State water contractors such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and Mojave Water Agency. Inland Action supports upgrading the State’s infrastructure to improve conveyance in the Delta and ensure more reliable long-term water deliveries for the State Water Project, which provides 30 percent of Southern California’s water. Inland Action also supports continued federal funding for scientific research and habitation restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to advance ecosystem improvements in support of California’s coequal goals of water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem restoration.
Enhance Reliability of Long-Term Supplies, Storage and Drought Resiliency for California.
Diverse sources of water supplies, increased water storage capacity and enhanced resilience to drought are high priorities to maintain and grow California’s economy. Inland Action supports actions to implement measures that improve California’s water reliability and drought preparedness, including support for the successors to the following bills:
- R. 1162 (Napolitano, D-CA): Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act, which would provide increased funding that could accelerate regional water projects.
- R.1429 (Waters, D-CA): Drinking Water Infrastructure for Job Creation Act, which would increase and stabilize both the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water State Revolving Fund providing low-cost financial assistance to water agencies.
- R. 1435 (Garamendi, D-CA): Sites Reservoir Project Act, if amended to specify and require continued coordination between the Central Valley Project and State Water Project if Sites is built.
- 1932 (Gardener, R-CO): Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act, which would enhance federal funding for surface and groundwater storage projects and establishes the “Reclamation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act,” a new source of low-cost financing that could benefit recycled water projects in Southern California.
Support Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity. Water conservation rebates provided by public utilities or governments are not currently exempt from federal taxes. This delegation supports a federal tax exemption for water conservation rebates to encourage additional water savings. In particular, Inland Action supports H.R. 2313 (Huffman, D-CA), the Water Conservation Rebate Tax Parity Act, which would extend the tax exemption that currently exists for energy conservation devices to include water conservation and stormwater management devices or any successors to it.
Federal Support for Water Purveyor Consolidation Efforts. In recent years, the State of California has looked for mechanisms to address significant infrastructure and water quality issues associated with small, typically private, water systems. This is a significant problem in rural areas, particularly the Central Valley. Most stakeholders agree that consolidation of these water systems is one mechanism to address this. Unfortunately, State efforts to address the issues have thus far focused on the prospect of a universal water tax, paid by all customers on a per unit or per person basis. Instead, Inland Action supports federal cooperation with and funding to the State to incentivize consolidation of water systems, ideally into public bodies with local accountability and decision-making. Incentivizing consolidation requires significant funds to address infrastructure needs and address water quality problems.
PFAS – Secure Funding for Monitoring and Remediation. Ensuring safe drinking water is a fundamental requirement for healthy communities and economies. With growing concerns about the presence in some water supplies of a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS), water agencies are working to ensure inland Southern California has a safe and reliable drinking water supply. Inland Action supports administrative and legislative actions to secure funding to help public water agencies defray the cost of monitoring and/or remediation of constituents (including PFAS) in drinking water supplies, including full cost-recovery by drinking water and wastewater providers. In particular, we support the following bills which would provide resources for treatment and mitigation measures to address PFAS and other substances:
- R. 2533 (Pallone, D-NJ), Providing Financial Assistance for Safe Drinking Water Act;
- R.2570 (Rouda, D-CA), the PFAS User Fee Act of 2019;
- R. 5539 (Pappas, D-NH), Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act of 2020;
- R. 55500 (Levin, D-MI), PFAS Safe Disposal Act; and
- R. 7392 (Slotkin, D-MI), Military PFAS Testing Disclosure Act.
Inland Action supports legislation that accomplishes the above goals while protecting public water and wastewater agencies (and, therefore, their ratepayers) from third-party liability associated with new standards.
Support funding to develop habitat conservation plans and cooperative management approaches. Inland Action has a history of supporting federal efforts that reflect a balance between the health of our natural environments and development interests necessary for a healthy economy. For example, Inland Action advocated the adoption of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S.47), which became law in 2019. Inland Action commends the bipartisan support for that law and encourages further efforts in this area.
Inland Action supports additional funding to enable local agencies to develop habitat conservation plans and other cooperative management approaches to habitat conservation. Inland Action supports additional funding in this area necessary to set the stage for decades of efficient economic development. Specifically, Inland Action supports additional funding for the following programs:
- HCP Planning Grants – Increasing these funds will increase the number of public agencies beginning the necessary planning work to establish a habitat conservation plan.
- HCP Land Acquisition Grants – Increasing these funds will enable public agencies to acquire the necessary land for mitigation in order to enable sustainable development necessary for a healthy economy.
Conservation Grants – Increasing these funds will enable public agencies to carry out mitigation projects in order to enable sustainable development necessary for a healthy economy. The mitigation work itself will also have a positive effect on local economies.
Health Care Issues
Support permanent expansion of access to telehealth services. Under the COVID public health emergency, waivers that lifted the restrictions to providing telehealth services have been in place, enabling providers to extend access to care during the pandemic. These waivers also ensured reimbursement for those services were at the same level of payment as in-person care, making the provisions of services sustainable for providers. As communities gain experience and better understand the role telehealth services play in providing comprehensive care to individuals, work is under way to make permanent the waivers that enabled providers to build telehealth programs to address the needs of their communities.
Acknowledged as a priority, leaders in Congress are working to advance legislation that makes telehealth coverage available beyond the pandemic. One of those measures would allow health care professionals (providers) to provide in-person care or telehealth visits from any state throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in future national emergencies. The Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act was introduced in both the House and Senate in early February and addresses a core roadblock to developing a national telehealth strategy. Currently, various state laws restrict the ability of clinicians to practice across state lines. Inland Action supports the TREAT Act and is eager to work with policy makers to advance licensure portability to expand access to care, especially for specialty services.
Work is already under way to make telehealth permanent in some cases. Section 123 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, passed late last year, makes permanent the ability of patients to seek mental health services through telemedicine, but requires an in-person visit every six months. While we welcome the change; we are concerned the in-person requirement adds an unnecessary barrier for individuals, especially considering the impact the pandemic has had on mental health and the well-documented shortage of mental health practitioners nationwide particularly in rural areas. Inland Action supports eliminating the in-person requirement and urges law makers to support consistent requirements across health care services to improve access to telehealth services.
Support COVID Relief Package with emphasis on health care systems and coverage.
Congressional activity is focused on advancing a massive $1.9 trillion FY 2021 budget that includes a number of COVID relief provisions. The package includes funding for a number of programs, including important unemployment benefits. For health systems, the package addresses a number of financial concerns through increased funding for the Provider Relief Fund, a moratorium of the Medicare sequestration cuts until the end of the public health emergency and changes to the Medicare Accelerated Payments loan repayment. Additionally, Congress should include provisions to expand access to affordable health care coverage and funding to support vulnerable families and communities, including increased funding for Medicaid and social determinants of health, including housing/homelessness assistance, access to food, and bridging the digital divide.
Support appointment of qualified candidates to fill existing judicial vacancies in the Central District of California, especially in the Eastern Division of that Court, serving the Inland area. The Central District of California is the most-populous district in the country, serving
approximately 19.6 million people. For several years now there has been a crisis in the number of judicial vacancies. The appointment of four District Judges in late 2020 only lessened slightly that crisis. Six of the Court’s 28 authorized Article III judgeships remain vacant, and all six have been deemed judicial emergencies by the Judicial Conference. The longest of these vacancies’ dates to October 2015. As of February 24, 2021, there are no nominations pending before the Senate.
The lack of judicial resources has caused extreme strain not only on the judges serving under greatly increased caseloads, but also on the litigants and attorneys whose cases are delayed because there are not enough judges to hear them. The weighted caseload (which factors in the relative time to dispose of different types of cases to provide a more accurate picture of a judge’s caseload) per judge in the Central District (factoring in the 6 current vacancies) now stands at a staggering 893.5. Filling the existing vacancies with qualified judges as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance.
The issue is especially acute in the Eastern Division of the Court. The Eastern Division serves the Inland area (Riverside and San Bernardino counties), now home to over 4.6 million people and covering 27,408 square miles. The Eastern Division is comparable in population to the State of Kentucky, and in land area to the State of West Virginia. Kentucky and West Virginia each have two federal districts, with nine and eight authorized judgeships, respectively. By comparison, with confirmation of Hon. John W. Holcomb late last year, there are now only two District Judges sitting in the Eastern Division. For several years prior to that point, there was only one.
The number of cases arising in the Eastern Division far exceeds the capacity of one, or even two, District Judges to preside over. The Court reassigns cases among its three divisions (Eastern in Riverside, Southern in Santa Ana, and Western in Los Angeles) to help get the Eastern Division cases heard and to keep the number of cases per judge roughly equal. Prior to Judge Holcomb’s appointment, roughly 2/3 of the civil cases and nearly half of the criminal cases filed in the Eastern Division were reassigned to a judge in either Los Angeles or Santa Ana due to the lack of District Judges in the Eastern Division available to hear them. Judge Holcomb’s September 2020 appointment helped the situation but solved only half of the problem. From October 1 through December 31, 2020, 27% of the civil cases filed in the Eastern Division still had to be reassigned to another division.
This represents a substantial burden on the parties, their attorneys, witnesses, and family members, who must travel long distances to Los Angeles or Santa Ana for hearings and trials and incur significant additional time and expense in resolving their cases. Moreover, because juries are drawn from the local communities, these parties also face trial by a jury drawn not from their own community, but the communities of the presiding court to which their case is reassigned.
The addition of one District Judge to the Eastern Division, while very helpful, clearly has not adequately addressed the Federal justice needs of the Inland Empire. Appointing a third District Judge who is committed to sit in the Eastern Division remains critical. Because District Court appointments are made to a given district, not to a specific division within that district, District Judges are generally free to choose which division to sit in. Accordingly, a nominee from Los Angeles is likely to choose to sit in Los Angeles, not Riverside. Inland Action urges the President to nominate for at least one of the six existing Central District vacancies a well-qualified candidate committed to sit in the Eastern Division, and similarly urge the Senate promptly to consider and confirm the nominee.
Support physical space upgrades necessary in the Eastern Division in order to deliver adequate justice to the Inland Empire. The Eastern Division of the Court presently serves the Inland Empire community from the George E. Brown, Jr. Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in Riverside. Designed and constructed in the early years of the Eastern Division, the courthouse no longer has sufficient physical space to house the judicial resources needed to serve the community adequately. It has only four courtrooms, which are shared by five federal judges (two District Judges and three Magistrate Judges). The interior space has already been remodeled to make room for the third Magistrate Judge, resulting in courtroom sharing among the Magistrate Judges. This remodel also eliminated one of the jury-deliberation rooms, meaning only three of the courtrooms can now be used for jury trials.
As noted above, the population, area, and caseload of the Eastern Division warrant the appointment of a third District Judge to sit here, but there must also be adequate physical space for him or her to do so. The Ninth Circuit and national space-and-facilities committees are already working on plans to address the needs of the Eastern Division. Inland Action urges the Congress and the Executive to support those efforts.
Support new judgeships urgently needed in the Central District, beyond filling the existing vacancies, and bring the Court back to its full authorized strength. Beyond the immediate needs of filling the existing vacancies in the Central District and addressing the physical-space needs in the Eastern Division, in the longer term new judgeships must be created and promptly filled for the Central District in order to provide adequate judicial resources to the people of the Central District of California. New judgeships can only be authorized by Congress. Congress last created a new permanent judgeship in the Central District of California in 1990, which was also the last time Congress enacted comprehensive judgeship legislation.
Recent studies from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking body of the federal courts, show the need for additional judgeships in the Central District of California, beyond the current 28 positions. The Judicial Conference makes biennial recommendations to Congress for which districts and circuits around the country are in need of new judgeships. The 2021 recommendation is for Congress to authorize 15 additional judgeships for the District, in addition to making the one currently-temporary judgeship in the District permanent. Congress should address that pronounced need for additional judgeships as soon as possible. The first priority, however, must be to vet, nominate, and confirm qualified candidates for the six existing vacancies, including at least one in the Eastern Division to serve the Inland Empire.
Urge adoption of a long-term, 8-to-10-year transportation bill, along with an increase in the cap on Private Activity Bonds and a reset of the 2023 mandate for reductions of pollutants contained in the Clean Air Act. The national transportation system has not been afforded a multi-year authorization from the Federal Government since the FAST Act of 2015, now operating on a one-year extension of these authorities. For those working-the-work in transportation sectors, a fully funded, multi-year transportation authorization is vital to the continued delivery of quality projects for our communities and our national safety. Project programming and delivery takes
years of planning, preparation, and transparent discussion with supplemental financing at the State and local levels throughout the design, entitlement, and construction processes. At the heart of this, the Inland Empire region is comprised of self-help counties also working to bridge the funding gap. Our nation needs a long-term infrastructure bill (8-10 years) with appropriate augmentations for Inland Empire impacts, putting talented people to work when we need it the most. These should include at a minimum:
- Funding Alignment: Incorporate Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and funding impacts of alternatively fueled options in transportation, as well as private activity bond and public-private partnership options and thresholds.
- Multi-modalism: Dedicated freight-friendly pilot programs, as well as new and emerging technologies and applications needed in our State and region.
- Advanced education in transportation: IEGO Sustainable Transportation Center of Excellence. The Inland Empire Economic Partnership and their partners are seeking $20M in funding in the potential new legislation.
- Funding for Bridge Construction and Repair Projects – Highway Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement (HBRR) – Section 130 increased funding. The program was a direct benefit to the Mt. Vernon Viaduct (now under construction) and is necessary for the First Avenue bridges in Barstow. This section continues to impact many modes of transportation. Aging infrastructure needs an infusion of funds to avoid more catastrophic failures and stimulates continued movement across the supply chain.
In addition to a new, long-term transportation act, an increase in the cap on Private Activity Bonds is critical. Private Activity Bonds support a variety of transportation projects, affordable housing, and other important improvements. SAFETEA-LU (2015) created a new type of tax-exempt private activity bond for surface transportation projects. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation allocates the bond authority on a project-by-project basis. To date, all $15 Billion of prior authorization has been issued or allocated to projects.
There is general support from the financial community, and the demand continues to increase. To achieve a fully funded transportation system, additional funding sources are needed. As a heavily impacted goods movement nexus and nerve center, the Inland Empire needs to have the current cap raised. This will help in many ways to offset other alternatives such as gas tax increases and other measures, so we can achieve a viable and sustainable National Highway Trust Fund complementing certified green energy applications and related benefits.
Perhaps most important is the need for action to address the 2023 air quality mandate in the Clean Air Act. The horizon mandate for certain reductions of pollutants is still 2023 and is quickly approaching. Federal highway funds will be withheld if California and others cannot show conformity with the ozone threshold through the current State Implementation Plan (SIP). There is a two-year grace period, so 2025 is the problem year.
Inland Action urges a reset of the current trajectory so that all can comply. Technologies in the Inland Empire of Southern California are innovating and adapting every day, but industry certifications lag behind production and commercialization of the products. Solutions abound, but more time is essential to supporting our needed transportation sectors. As a reference, please look at San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s new Arrow Project in the commuter rail and transit industries at https://www.gosbcta.com/zero-emission-train-slated-for-arrow-service-recognized-by-scag/.
 There were no criminal cases reassigned in the fourth quarter 2020 because of a nearly 50% drop in criminal filings over the same period due to COVID-19 when grand jury proceedings were suspended from December 9 through the end of the year.