Making Democracy Work

Interview with Assemblymember Ash Kalra

2018 Interview

Legislative Interview Assemblymember Ash Kalra, District 27 February 9, 2018 by the League of Women Voters San Jose/Santa Clara. Interview attendees Pat Reardon, Paula Radzinski, Gloria Chun Hoo, Connie Hunter

Question 1: Money Bail Reform Currently, release pending trial is based on an arrestee's capacity to post money bail. Do you support legislative changes to a risk-assessment based system, so that release is contingent on preventing violence in the community, rather the arrestee's finances?

Ash voted for AB42 (Bonta), which was defeated by two votes. He feels better about the outlook for passage in the Assembly this year because of the intervention of the Governor, the participation of the CA Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and the report of the CA Chief Justice `Pretial Detention Reform Workgroup'.

Question 2: CEQA Reform To facilitate production of affordable housing, the legislature passed a number of bills last session designed to streamline local review processes, including bypassing some CEQA challenges. What is your view regarding the use of CEQA to delay affordable housing projects? While recent legislative changes have streamlined the CEQA process for in-fill projects, do you think other legislative changes to CEQA are needed?

Ash responded that CEQA is an old law and is sometimes misused, sometimes to the detriment of building affordable housing. He is in favor of building more high density housing. He recognizes the value of CEQA, especially for environmental protection, and would like to see CEQA modernized.

Question 3: Sea Level Rise Sea level rise, a major effect of climate change, will have profound impacts on infrastructure in some of our most populous areas + the Bay Area, LA Basin, San Diego. In the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, for example, just three feet of rise (which is probable in the next 30 years) would flood as far as Sacramento and Tracy. Rail lines, highways, and wastewater plants are all at risk, with economic impacts that stretch across the state.

We need a regional, coordinated effort of several state agencies. And since the threat is swift in terms of typical infrastructure projects, we need to coordinate now. What is the path forward to assure continuity of infrastructure as we approach 2050 and beyond? What can be done legislatively?

Ash commented that the passage of measure AA, which imposes a parcel tax on properties in the 9 counties surrounding the Bay to fund wetlands restoration and sea level rise mitigation, was a big win. Wetlands have several benefits, cushioning the effects of sea level rise, absorbing CO2 and protecting wildlife.

He mentioned that we need to be strategic in the use of `cap and trade' funds. Additional infrastructure funding is needed. Shoreline development must be carefully reviewed.

Green house gas emissions are also a known contributor. Ash supports SB100 (De Leon), the CA Clean Energy Act, which requires that 100% of CA's energy be clean, renewable energy by 2045. Ash co-authored AB1745 (Phil Ting), Clean Cars 2040, which requires that all new passenger vehicles sold in CA be zero emission by January 2040.

Question 5: What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2018? What are your personal priorities?

Ash is the Chair of the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee and immediately responded that he is proposing legislation (AB2233) to increase the number of assisted living waivers from 3700 to 10000 over the next 5 years. He is also concerned by the increasing numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer's. Ash authored and introduced AB 2400 to extend the Alzheimer's voluntary tax check off to 2025.

In preparation for a budget request, he is working with UCLA to expand their annual health assessment to include senior issues.

Ash is concerned about human trafficking and sex trafficking. VTA conducted a training re how to recognize when someone is being trafficked and what to do + and it is paying off. Ash supports legislation that would require every transportation agency in CA to conduct similar training. Ash authored and introduced AB 2034 requiring transit employees (bus, train, lightrail) to undergo human trafficking awareness training.

Ash authored and introduced - AB 2500: Safe Consumer Lending Act that would help curb predatory lending by increasing the loan amount to which the interest rate cap applies from $2500 to $10000.

2017 Interview

Legislative Interview Assemblymember Ash Kalra, District 27 March 17, 2017 by the League of Women Voters San Jose/Santa Clara. Interview attendees Martha Beattie, Anne Clark, Pat Reardon and Connie Hunter

Question 1: Funding of Elections What legislative measures would you support to ensure adequate and stable funding of election administration in California?

Ash supports a bill that the state will foot the bill for postage for mail-in ballots statewide. He also supports greater flexibility in where and when people can vote. If the state were to move to 100% vote-by-mail, he believes that an education program would need to be provided so that people who may have some reluctance to vote-by-mail would continue to vote. One of the advantages of vote-by-mail is its accessibility.

Question 2: Public Higher Education How can California meet the challenge of enrolling more students, including students with greater needs, at the UC and CSU? Is more state funding needed? Where does this issue rank in your legislative priorities?

More funding is clearly needed. The funding of public higher education is an Assembly priority this year. A budget package has been introduced by Senator McCarty that encompasses where the state would like to be in 5 years + able to ensure that young people from families making less than $150,000 annually can graduate from college debt free + not only tuition debt free but housing, books, fees and all other costs associated with college debt free. Getting to this end goal over the next 5 years will be an incremental process + beginning with free community college and continuing from there.

Question 3: Water Resources What kinds of legislative proposals would you support to ensure that enough water of adequate quality is available for municipal and industrial uses, agriculture, and the environment in the face of over-stretched surface water and groundwater resources and climate conditions different than those California experienced in the last century?

Water conservation is very important. Ash supports legislation that offers rebates to those who replace appliances with low-flow appliances. Recycling water for potable use must be expanded. Seismic upgrades to water storage facilities must be made so that reservoirs, e.g. Anderson, can utilize their full capacity. All of the above are more important than the tunnels proposed by Governor Brown. When asked about groundwater storage, Ash responded that the water bond has funds available for recharging ground water. The trend is currently away from desalination plants due to cost and environmental impact. It will be important to end fracking (requiring lots of water) and move to clean energy sources.

Question 4: Policy Priorities What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2017? What are your personal priorities?

Ash is out to `save the planet'. He is Chair of the Committee on Aging and Long-term Care. He is conducting research and hoping to find a long-term solution to long-term care. The current insurance model is not sustainable. Education, K + 12 and higher, are important and as noted earlier need increased funding. Ash would like to see funds taken from criminal justice funds and moved to education. CA is in need of more affordable housing. Assemblymember Chiu has introduced and Ash is a joint author of a bill (AB71) that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for a second home. Senator Toni Atkins has authored a bill that puts a recording fee on certain real-estate documents. The revenue resulting from both of these bills would be used to fund affordable housing. He mentioned other areas of concern, e.g. transportation, jobs training to upgrade a person's skills as they are displaced by automation, payday lending, AB 20 divesting pension funds from Dakota pipeline, restoring SSI funding, funding for home improvements made to help keep a person in their home, AB21 requiring community colleges, CSU's and certain independent institutions put in place policies and procedures to protect immigrant students from illegal deportation and ensuring they can complete their education.