SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) co-authored two pieces of legislation last week to address two of Tulare County’s most pressing issues: clean water and homelessness.
On Jan. 24, Mathis introduced a bipartisan amendment to the California Constitution to dedicate 2 percent of the state’s general fund budget, or about $2.5 billion, to rebuilding and enhancing the state’s water infrastructure beginning with the 2021-22 fiscal year. The funding mechanism would be similar to the state’s set aside of money for public education in the annual budget. The proposal, which Mathis coauthored with Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) will provide a stable, ongoing source of funding for projects to improve California’s water quality, supply and delivery systems.
“I’m absolutely floored that California has billions to throw away on wasteful projects like High-Speed Rail, but people are still talking about a water tax,” said Mathis. “We don’t need new taxes. We need a commitment to invest in our infrastructure, and that’s exactly what this plan will do.”
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 is similar to a proposal introduced by Mathis and Garcia on Feb. 26, 2018 which died at the clerk’s desk in November. Under the current amendment, 5% of the funding would pay down debt from the $7.5 billion water bond passed by voters in 2014. The remainder of the money would be split between the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board to fund groundwater recharge, additional storage projects, drinking water improvement, and emergency water supplies. ACA 3 is currently waiting to be referred to a policy committee.
“It saddens me that California, one of the largest economies in the word, has worse water conditions than the war zones I was deployed too, said Mathis. To me, water is the most basic human need and it sickens me that California is willing to tax the already hurting working families for ‘Clean’ drinking water. My bipartisan plan, ACA 3, will provide more monies than any tax could ever generate and guarantee clean, safe, and affordable drinking water for generation of Californians to come,” said Mathis.
A day earlier, Mathis reintroduced a bill to address the severe shortage of emergency shelters and feeding programs for homeless Californians in disadvantaged communities. Assembly Bill 246 would authorize the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to lease certain properties to cities and counties at a cost of $1 per month (up to $500 per year per parcel) to build emergency shelters, food pantries and recreational parks.
“Homelessness is a growing problem in California, especially in the Central Valley,” said Mathis. “It can be found in many forms, like when you’re less than one paycheck away from losing your home or a veteran who’s suffering from PTSD. Everywhere, there are families in the street, and it’s becoming more frequent. This bill is a common sense, low cost way to provide immediate relief to Californians in need.”
Caltrans owns the ground and airspace beneath and above California’s expansive state highway system. Much of this property goes unused until there is interest in private development and many of the parcels are located in disadvantaged communities. These communities often lack the financial resources to provide homeless services, food assistance, and parks for their residents. AB 246 would ease the financial burden by allowing local governments to put vacant land to good use at a nominal cost.
This bill is a bipartisan measure co-authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), and Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson).
“I am excited to announce my co-authorship of Assembly Bill 246 with my colleague Assemblymember Devon Mathis. Last year I advanced a proposal with Senator Beall to help expand access to emergency homeless shelters and feeding programs by authorizing Caltrans to enter into leases with the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose for such programs. I am confident that this effort has helped ease the homelessness crisis in my community and now I look forward to collaborating on this measure to help bring these benefits statewide,” said Assemblymember Gipson.
“AB 246 will build on the progress made last year in Oakland and advance it to all of California. By using every tool in the toolbox, we can make an impact and address the state’s growing homelessness crisis,” said Assemblymember Bonta (D-Oakland). “Allowing local governments to lease surplus state property for $1 per month will help create much-needed temporary emergency housing. This model is an example of how we can work together to address our most urgent needs.”
Assemblymember Devon J. Mathis represents the 26th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Tulare, Inyo, and Kern Counties. Follow him on Facebook at Facebook.com/AssemblymanDevonMathis and on Twitter at @AD26Mathis