Political Watch: June 6, 2024

• U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and the Biden administration announced new funding for two Central Coast school districts to support their purchase of 35 zero- and low-emission school buses for students, according to a May 29 statement from Carbajal’s office. Ventura Unified School District and Santa Barbara Unified School District are receiving $7 million total—with $5 million to Santa Barbara Unified and $2 million to Ventura Unified—in rebates through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, which was created and funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is helping cut carbon pollution through support for zero-emission and low-emission alternatives across our society—from transportation to schools,” Carbajal said in the statement. “I’m proud to see the landmark law I helped write and pass delivering investments to the Central Coast that will help replace school buses in our districts and ensure we are continuing to take a holistic approach to combating the climate crisis.” The rebates will help California accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles and replace older, diesel-fueled buses—which have been linked to asthma and other conditions that harm the health of students and surrounding communities. To date, the office of Rep. Carbajal has tracked more than $800 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support transit and highway improvements, rail and water infrastructure upgrades, and expansion of high-speed internet connectivity. 

• U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) and several of his colleagues joined the Bureau of Reclamation to announce $159 million in transformational investments for three large-scale water recycling projects in Southern California, according to a May 28 statement from Padilla’s office. Leadership from the three recipients of this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding—Metropolitan Water District, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), and the city of Ventura—joined the lawmakers and administration officials for the announcement. The funding was delivered by a new federal program Padilla secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help invest in large-scale water recycling programs and innovative water reuse projects that strengthen drought resilience across the West. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Bureau of Reclamation is investing a total of $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including rural water, water storage, conservation and conveyance, nature-based solutions, dam safety, water purification and reuse, and desalination. “We know that it’s only a matter of time until the next devastating drought, which is why we need every tool at our disposal to protect our region’s precious water supplies,” Padilla said in the statement. “Today’s announcement, made possible by Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments in large-scale water recycling projects, will help us build a more reliable, more resilient water supply in Southern California.”

• Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders representing technology, government, academia, and labor, along with civic organizations, recently gathered at the Joint California Summit on Generative AI to collaborate on and examine the technology, according to a May 29 statement from Newsom’s office. The summit was developed and hosted by the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development; the California Government Operations Agency; the UC Berkeley College of Computing, Data Science, and Society; and the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Newsom directed his agencies to pursue a partnership with the higher education institutions as part of his executive order on GenAI last year. The state is home to 35 of the world’s 50 leading AI companies, high-impact research and education institutions, and a quarter of the technology’s patents and conference papers, according to the governor’s office. “California is the globe’s artificial intelligence leader, and today’s summit continues to showcase the state’s commitment to innovation,” Newsom said in the statement. “GenAI is here and developing quickly—our innovation hubs and state leaders are quickly evolving to use it equitably and responsibly so it benefits all Californians.”

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