Political Watch: May 16, 2024

• U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal joined several of his colleagues in introducing the Combat Veterans Pre-Enrollment Act, a bipartisan bill to allow service members to opt in to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) patient enrollment, according to a May 9 statement from Carbajal’s office. Currently, members of the armed forces cannot apply for VA health care after they are discharged from the military until they receive their official separation documents. “We should be making the transition from service member to civilian as smooth as possible for our veterans, and part of that is ensuring they get access to the high quality health care their service has earned them as soon as they separate,” Carbajal said in the statement. “Reducing this limbo period and eliminating any lapse in medical coverage will prevent veterans with service injuries from falling through the cracks.” Specifically, the bill would create a three-year pilot program allowing eligible members to opt in to VA health care during the 180-day period before their date of separation and require the VA to report to Congress annually on the program and pre-enrolled members. 

• U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and several colleagues called on President Joe Biden to protect long-term undocumented immigrants in the United States, according to a May 8 statement from Padilla’s office. The members and advocates urged the Biden administration to take urgent action, reportedly under consideration, to provide protections and relief for long-term undocumented individuals, including people who have been in the United States for decades, contributing in countless ways to their communities. Specifically, they called on Biden to expand Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and to streamline pathways to lawful status for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, family caregivers, and other long-term residents. Padilla previously worked with his Senate colleagues on providing recommendations to the administration for executive actions to streamline immigration relief for the undocumented population and DACA recipients in the United States. “As the Biden Administration considers executive actions on immigration, we must not return to failed Trump-era policies aimed at banning asylum and moving us backwards,” Padilla said. “I urge President Biden to embrace our values as a nation of immigrants and use this opportunity to instead provide relief for the long-term immigrants of this nation.”

• As California continues to support the legal and regulated cannabis market, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that state law enforcement operations seized more than $61 million in illegal cannabis in the first four months of this calendar year, including 62,135 unlicensed cannabis plants and 36,619 pounds of unlicensed cannabis products. “While we watch California’s legal cannabis market grow to become the largest worldwide, we are taking down those who operate outside the law,” Newsom said in a statement. “Putting a stop to illegal cannabis operations also means stopping organized crime, human trafficking, and the spread of illegal products that harm the health of Californians and our environment.” Since its inception in 2022, the Governor’s Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce—which includes the Department of Cannabis Control, Department of Fish and Wildlife, California National Guard, Department of Tax and Fee Administration, and State Water Resources Control Board, Water Rights division—has seized $406 million in unlicensed cannabis through 256 search warrants, eradicated 406,656 plants, and seized 139 firearms.

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