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East County News Service

August 4, 2015 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club will host the Speaker of the California State Assembly Toni Atkins at a special August 5 meeting. The Speaker will cover a wide range of topics including a legislative update and how San Diegans can and will be affected by the new state budget. Speaker Atkins will also discuss a new state law that she sponsored,  mandating that Residential Care Facilities carry liability insurance. 

 The Wednesday night meeting will start with social time at 6:30 p.m.and program at 7 p.m. at the La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive (just north of University Avenue).

Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego)- has served in the California State Assembly since 2010 and was elevated to the top leadership post in 2014, when her colleagues unanimously elected her 69th Speaker of the California Assembly.  Her district includes coastal San Diego, from Imperial Beach, north to Solana Beach, and most of central San Diego. She previously served eight years on the San Diego City Council, stepping in as Acting Mayor after the resignation of a former mayor.

 Speaker Atkins is a coalition-builder who says she believes government policies can improve people's lives. She is a leading voice for affordable housing and a powerful advocate for women, veterans and homeless people.  Prior to her election as Speaker, she held the position of Majority Leader. She chaired the Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness, and served on committees on Agriculture, Housing and Community Development, Health, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs, Select Committee on Ports, Select Committee on Biotechnology as well as the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

 Her life of public service began in San Diego in the mid-1980s as director of clinic services at Womancare Health Center. She became a staff representative of then-City Councilmember Christine Kehoe, later winning her mentor's council seat after Kehoe's election to the Assembly. She represented the City of San Diego in the local chapter of the League of California Cities; on the board of the Metropolitan Transit System; on the San Diego Association of Governments; the Regional Housing Working Group; and the San Diego River Conservancy.

“ This meeting will be unique not just because we’ll have the first Assembly Speaker ever from San Diego, but we’ll also get a civics lesson in politics and policy at work,” says Linda Armacost with the LMFDC. 

Not long after the publication of a series of disclosures about elder abuses in residential care facilities (also called assisted living homes), it was revealed that over 85% of these homes lacked basic liability insurance despite caring for frail, dependent seniors.  Therefore, in the case of neglect, abuse, injury or death, there was little judicial recourse for residents or their families.  Speaker Atkins took up the cause and put forward Assembly Bill 1523.  It was passed in a non partisan vote and signed into law by Governor Brown.  It went into effect on July 1st of this year.  Now all RCFEs (Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly)  will be required to carry liability insurance in California. 

 The driving force behind this legislation was a small advocacy group named CARR, Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform.  The founders of this Award Winning organization are Chris Murphy and Christina Selder.  Ms. Selder will be sharing their story with our members in a follow up to Speaker Atkins address.  How exactly do two women with investigative and research experience convince the Speaker of the Assembly to carry a bill to protect seniors from unscrupulous care providers? “It’s a great story and a lesson in good timing and a just cause,” Armacost says.

Selder holds a Master of Science degree in Gerontology from San Diego State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics/International Trade and Finance from Louisiana State University.  She has previously held an RCFE Administrator’s Certificate, earned an SDSU Grant Writing Certification and completed components of UCSD's Paralegal Training to be of further benefit to CARR's mission and work.  Her scholarship and credentials are augmented by her hands-on employment experiences inside several RCFEs. 

CARR recently won a $50,000 contract  with the County of San Diego, Aging & Independence Services for a pilot project to create a rating system for the County's assisted living facilities, and to develop a consumer-friendly website to display the ratings and facility information.  CARR was also the recipient of the First Amendment Coalition’s Free Speech and Open Government Award for their work, making CARR the first non-profit to receive this honor.

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