By Miriam Raftery
Hear audio from our radio show on KNSJ (updated with status on bills signed into law)
Updated October 7, 2021 with status of bills signed or vetoed
October 3, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Last week, East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery
Interviews State Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) via Zoom. The Senator discussed his legislative accomplishments in getting several bills passed by the Legislature and onto the Governor’s desk.
Several have been signed into law, including a measure to help homeless students get resources, a bill to protect foster children from human trafficking, and another to require that conservancy hearings remain private unless a judge finds a compelling reason to make them public.
Others remain pending, including a bill require personal protective gear for social workers during a pandemic, and more.
The Senator also spoke out on concerns over what he views as not enough clearing of forest lands to prevent devastating wildfires, even though funds for the clearing have long been allocated. In addition, he raised criticisms over the state’s homelessness policies and concerns about crime.
Here are Jones' bills passed the the legislature. All have been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, except SB 549, which was vetoed. Read veto message.
- Senate Bill 400: Implements a recommendation from the State Auditor that the California Department of Education work with local schools to more effectively identify homeless students and then link them up with local community organizations to ensure they get meals, housing and counseling. Most of these services are federally funded so we should better utilize it.
- Senate Bill 414: (signed in July): Technical measure sponsored by Land Surveyors and supported by engineers and the state board that regulates them.
- Senate Bill 534: Code clean-up measure co-sponsored by the CA Dental Hygienists Association and the state board that regulates them.
- Senate Bill 549: Makes sure that in future pandemics when social workers are declared “essential workers” they are prioritized to actually receive PPE (personal protective equipment, ie., masks, gloves, etc.).
- Senate Bill 578: Implements a State Auditor’s recommendation to clarify that most conservatorship hearings should be held in a closed hearing unless the court specifically finds that there is a public interest that overrides the privacy of the family members involved.
- Senate Bill 584: Adds “child labor trafficking” to the list of subjects foster families are required to receive training and information about.
On wildfires, Jones cited a June 2021 Cap Radio report which critized Governor Newsom and revealed that only a small fraction of funds allocated for clearing forest lands to prevent fires has actually been spent and many key projects have not been completed. "The most fire-prone area in our region is my district," he noted.
Jones wants to see tree clearing done and would support hiring private contractors to work under Cal Fire Supervision if need be. He blames enviornmental regulations for the delays. Cal Fire spokesman Thom Porter has blamed delays in part on environmental approvals not coming through as yet but also on the COVID-19 pandemic that sidelined many firefighters as well as this year's extreme fire conditions that have led to an all-hands-on-deck approach to combat fires in the worst wildfire season on record.
In addition, he called on the U.S. Forest Service to do more clearing. "There's areas of the Sierras where 20% of the trees are dead...and it's a tinderbox. When fire hits that, it's going to explode," he said. The Biden administration recently did approve a policy change to allow more clearing on federal lands.
The Senator also discussed his ideas on homelessness. He opposes the housing first approach and instead wants a "carrot and stick" approach that would provide help for those who need it (such as his bill signed into law to connect homeless students with resources). But he wants a tougher approach to those with addiction or mental illness problems who refuse help. He noted a rise in homeless camps near his district office in El Cajon and indicated that due to decriminalizing some petty crimes, police have lost tools for holding those who steal accountable.
The Senator indicates he is willing to work across the aisle with Democratic colleages who control the Legislature, where possible, to put through measures to benefit people in his district and others across California.
Senator Jones encourages any constituents who need help with a state agency to contact his staff for help. You can find contact information for his offices at https://jones.cssrc.us/my-offices.