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Editor’s Note: Sacramento Snapshot is a weekly in-session series detailing what Orange County representatives in the Assembly and Senate are up to, from committee work to passing bills and more.
With the June 15 deadline for the 2023-24 budget fast approaching, a group of lawmakers is pushing to add more funding for public transportation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s projected budget, introduced as the state faces a deficit that could reach $31 billion, did not include any bailouts for the state’s struggling public transportation systems, but could “trigger cuts” to various transportation programs. in case California revenues fall further. .
For Metrolink, which most Southern California riders use as a way to get to work, Newsom’s version of the budget means a plan to fully restore service to 100% of pre-pandemic levels must be scrapped. for the next fiscal year. Instead, the new goal is to hit 85% pre-pandemic ridership, using about three dozen fewer trains per day, said Scott Johnson, Metrolink’s director of communications.
“Support from the state is needed to rebuild ridership and help California achieve sustainable economic growth, along with reductions in transportation emissions and vehicle miles traveled,” Johnson said.
With less than two weeks to go until the budget deadline, a group of Democratic lawmakers, including state senators Catherine Blakespear and Josh Newman and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, implored Newsom to reinstate $2 billion he planned to cut from the program. Railroad capital of California. and provide funding for transit operations still suffering as ridership declined during the pandemic.
Lawmakers are warning of a fatal loop in transportation, with cuts this year that will result in fewer ridership which, in turn, will lead to further service cuts in the future.
“Allowing the state’s transit systems to unravel, as they continue to recover and stabilize operations from the pandemic’s decreased ridership, would have devastating, possibly irreversible, long-term impacts on California’s transportation system and climate goals,” they said in the letter. “The resulting service cuts would lead to fewer mobility options for Californians, especially low-income commuters who rely on public transportation, and would increase driving, congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions.”
As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Daniel Villaseñor, Newsom’s deputy press secretary, said: “These budget issues are very difficult. However, the governor has signaled his willingness to work with the legislature to address this critical traffic issue.”
In other transit news, the Senate unanimously approved a bill to survey transit riders who have experienced so-called ‘street harassment.’ The results of the study, conducted in multiple languages, could help lawmakers and the governor decide how to allocate transit-related money.
“Street harassment has become a significant problem at public transportation agencies, not just here in California, but across the country,” said Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, who sponsored the bill. “It comes as no surprise that we are seeing passenger levels decline even as we recover from the pandemic.”
In other news:
• One of the many bills that passed before Friday’s home-of-origin deadline was one by Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach, that adds protections for people with expired vehicle registrations. The bill is intended to ease the financial burden on people who cannot pay vehicle registration fees by reducing enforcement measures so they can still use their cars for transportation.
• A bill that failed: an effort to restrict the use of police canines. From Assemblyman Corey Jackson, D-Perris, the bill would have prevented law enforcement from using police dogs for crowd control or arrest in most cases. While Jackson has said the bill was meant to end a practice that “inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on African-Americans and communities of color,” Republicans announced the bill’s failure.
“K9 officers are a vital law enforcement tool, and I am pleased that they can continue to protect our California communities,” said Assemblyman Tri Ta, R-Westminster.
• The Senate passed legislation from Newman, D-Fullerton, requiring all K-12 schools to provide gender-neutral restrooms for students to use while school is in session. Schools must already allow students to use the bathroom according to their gender, but this bill would expand the responsibility to provide gender-neutral facilities, an effort to “ensure the well-being of our LGBTQ+ and non-binary students and ensure safer school communities. for everyone,” Newman said.