Political Watch: August 31, 2023

• U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and several Senate and House colleagues applauded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s release of the draft designation for the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the Central Coast, according to an Aug. 23 statement from Carbajal’s office. In 2020, Carbajal, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and then Sen. Kamala Harris successfully secured an extension of the proposed sanctuary from the Trump administration, keeping the process alive long enough for the Biden-Harris administration to move forward with the designation process in 2021 without needing to review a new proposal. The Commerce Department moved the proposed sanctuary into the designation phase in November 2021. The public scoping process was completed more than a year ago. In May, Carbajal and several other California lawmakers urged the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize completing the designation phase. In their letter, the lawmakers emphasized the potential benefits of the proposed sanctuary, including ecological and biological protections for California marine life, the values of recognizing Native American stewardship of the coastal waters, and the $1.7 trillion coastal economy that supports a wide range of industries in California. “The Central Coast has pursued this sanctuary designation for decades, and as our oceans and our communities are facing unprecedented challenges from a changing marine environment, this draft comes at a critical time for our region. I am glad that we finally have a draft that puts this sanctuary’s final approval within reach,” Carbajal said in the statement.

• U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and several U.S. Senate and House members wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to swiftly act on his promise to deliver student debt forgiveness to working-class families by early 2024, according to an Aug. 24 statement from Padilla’s office. “We are extremely disappointed and concerned that the Supreme Court substituted politics for the rule of law to deny as many as 43 million hard-working Americans life-changing relief from crushing student loan debt. In the wake of this outrageous decision, we appreciate your announcement initiating a rule-making under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to deliver on debt relief and write to urge you to swiftly carry out your commitment to working- and middle-class families, and cancel student debt by early 2024,” wrote the lawmakers. Biden announced a student debt relief plan to cancel up to $20,000 to borrowers earning less than $75,000 a year—which accounts for an estimated 90 percent of relief dollars. An estimated 20 million people would have seen their student debt balances eliminated entirely and Black and Latino communities are particularly impacted. Black families are more likely to borrow to go to school, take on higher levels of debt, and disproportionately struggle with repayment compared to their white peers. Black and Latino borrowers are also more likely than their white peers to default on their loans. If enacted, almost half of Latino borrowers and 1 in 4 Black borrowers would have had their entire debt balance forgiven under President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan. The Supreme Court blocked the plan in June 2023.

• In the wake of the Aug. 23 Trabuco Canyon shooting in Orange County, which left at least three victims dead and six individuals wounded, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement regarding the incident and urged all Californians to use the state’s “red flag” laws, according to an Aug. 24 statement from Newsom’s office. Red flag laws allow victims of domestic violence, family members, co-workers, and others to seek protective orders to prohibit potentially dangerous individuals and abusers from possessing guns. “Once again, a siege of bullets has shaken a community and torn families apart,” Newsom said in the statement. “California mourns for the victims of last night’s horrific shooting at Cook’s Corner. As we continue to learn more details about this act of violence, there are early reports that this horror was related to a domestic dispute.” Two-thirds of mass shooters in America have a history of domestic violence, Newsom continued. Earlier this summer, Gov. Newsom announced the launch of gunsafety.ca.gov, a new website that provides critical information and multilingual, culturally competent materials on how Californians can use red flag laws—including gun violence restraining orders—to help protect their loved ones when someone poses a threat to themself or others. The website is part of an $11 million statewide campaign, launched by the governor and administered by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, to raise awareness, educate the public, and explain the steps required to obtain a gun violence restraining order.

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