Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Virtual Meeting via ZOOM
Present: Ruthy Argumedo, Patti Arlt, Deborah Barmack, Carole Beswick, Mike Burrows, Rachelle Bussell, Jennifer Cusack, Michelle Decker, Kevin Dyerly, Louis Goodwin, Otis Greer, Milford Harrison, Fran Inman, Mark Kaenel, Carol Kim, Lowell King, Pam Langford, Mike Layne, Bill Lemann, John Magness, Darcy McNaboe, John Mirau, Dan Murphy, Bansree Parikh, Steve PonTell, Catherine Pritchett, Thomas Rice, Michael Rivera, Dan Roberts, Elizabeth Romero, Dan Schenkel, Kristine Scott, Paul Shimoff, Phil Southard, Sol Teh, Jose Torres, Eric Ustation, Pete Van Helden, Ray Wolfe, Marisa Yeager, and Frank Zabaleta.
Guests: Megan Barajas, Greg Bradbard, Kathy Eiler, Jolyn Murphy, Maria Sessions, Chandler Smith, Derieth Sutton, Todd Warden and Reggie Webb.
Announcements: 1) Members were reminded that committee issue papers are due to staff today. 2) The Legislative Committee will convene immediately following today’s meeting.
Lowell King, Chair, presiding.
Motion by R. Wolfe/ Second by L. Goodwin/Passed: Minutes from February 9, 2021.
John Magness introduced U.S. Congressman Ken Calvert who represents California’s 42nd District. Congressman Calvert serves on the House Appropriations Committee where he is the Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds approximately one-half of the discretionary budget. Congressman Calvert also serves on the Energy and Water Subcommittee.
Congressman Calvert expressed that the past year has been a very difficult time in many respects. It is an uneasy time in Washington, D.C. with many security/safety features added. They now have a protective fence around the Capitol and 10,000 National Guards acting as Capitol Security at a cost of $5M per day coming from the defense budget.
The partisan turmoil is the worst he has ever seen but legislators know, as difficult as it may be, they need to get things done. He hopes that the much-needed critical defense/military budget will remain non-partisan.
COVID-19 has caused extreme pressure on small businesses with restaurants hardest hit and personal services (hair care, nail salons, gyms, etc.) industry a close second. In California, approximately 1/3 of our restaurants have closed and those that work in these industries are some of our lowest wage earners. The COVID vaccine distribution and innoculation has been a challenge but improving. He is hopeful that the projected “herd immunity” could happen as soon as this summer. Once we reach that point, experts have expressed there is no reason we cannot open up the economy. Currently, from a federal standpoint, schools should now be able to re-open which would benefit students, teachers, and parents. States are all doing what they can to make this happen based on their individual guidelines.
The new economic rescue legislation carries a $1.9 trillion price tag. The U.S. has already spent $3 trillion and the kind of debt we are incurring will impact future generations who will have to carry this burden which guarantees inflation.
He expects a new $1 trillion transportation bill will be introduced. He sees the importance and benefit of getting people back to work in these high paying construction jobs. He believes funding will likely happen quickly and strongly suggests getting shovel ready projects lined up. The Congressman may reintroduce his REBUILD Act which addresses redundancy in federal and state environmental review.
He is disappointed that after a great amount of work the “Twin Tunnels” water delivery system has now been reduced to one tunnel called the “Water Fix” which will require much of the work to be re-done. However, this project needs to move forward as it is critical for the region and the entire State.
One half of the national budget is spent on defense, of which California receives more money than any other state. Cyber security is one of our biggest challenges with China attempting to hack hundreds of times per day and Russia continues to threaten although acting in a more sophisticated/subtle way. All branches of the military and defense contractors are aware and there is a great deal of intellectual property estimated at $1trillion that has already been stolen.
Warehouses in our area are prevalent but he sees a good deal of new warehouse construction in neighboring states. Our tax base is eroding as Arizona, for example, has a business-friendly environment where taxes are substantially lower, as are regulatory restrictions, which is driving business out of California. Public education is vital to fight tax increases and reduce regulations in our state.
California and New York already have significantly higher minimum wages than the federal rate and he does not believe raising the federal minimum wage will fix poverty and jobs will be lost. The Congressman indicated that if approved, low margin business such as restaurants, will be hurt as will less prosperous states. It’s a debate he believes is worth having.
Effective advocacy during these times will vary among the legislators. His preferred in-person meetings continue but are substantially reduced and he conducts a great deal of his meetings virtually. He suggested contacting legislators on an individual basis to ask how they would prefer to connect.
A Q & A period followed.
Meeting adjourned at 8:57 a.m.