Political Watch: May 18, 2023

• U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, and 12 other California members of Congress urged the U.S. Department of Commerce to prioritize completing the designation process for the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the Central Coast, according to a May 10 statement from Carbajal’s office. The Department of Commerce formally moved the proposed sanctuary into the designation phase in November 2021, and the public scoping process was completed more than a year ago. In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the California lawmakers emphasized the potential benefits of the 7,670-square-mile sanctuary, including ecological and biological protections for California marine life, the values of recognizing the Native American stewardship of the coastal waters, and the $1.7 trillion coastal economy that supports a wide range of industries in California. “It is crucial that this momentum toward designation continue[s] without delay,” the lawmakers wrote, according to a statement from Carbajal’s office. “You have an opportunity to address multiple administration priorities at once. The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will establish protections for a biologically diverse and ecologically productive region. … Designating this area as a marine sanctuary would ensure we continue to be good stewards of these natural resources, while maintaining sustainable access for commercial and recreational fishing.”

• U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and several other senators reintroduced legislation to expand protections against election interference during the ballot counting and certification processes, according to a May 10 statement from Padilla’s office. Election administrators have often been the subject of threats and abusive behavior. The Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act would expand protections for election administrators by extending existing prohibitions on intimidating or threatening voters to include election officials engaged in ballot counting, canvassing, and certifying election results; strengthening protections for federal election records and election infrastructure to stop election officials or others from endangering the preservation and security of cast ballots; and providing judicial review for election records by allowing the Justice Department to ensure compliance with election record requirements. Padilla said that while protections exist for voters, additional protections are needed for workers and volunteers responsible for counting and certifying ballots. He added that stronger measures are also needed to protect against efforts to undermine legitimate election results. “As Republican-led state legislatures continue to promote the Big Lie, we have a duty to protect election workers and administrators against the persistent attacks that undermine the secure and nonpartisan administration of our elections,” Padilla said in the statement. “We must take action to protect our democracy and the integrity of the voting process from start to finish. Congress must provide increased protections for our election workers and the preservation of election records.”

• Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his revised budget proposal will include $492 million in funding to help protect Californians from ongoing flooding impacts in the Central Valley and throughout the state, according to a May 11 statement from the governor’s office. The one-time funding will support at-risk communities, including those in the Tulare Basin, respond to the impacts of this year’s winter storms and better withstand future flooding. Newsom’s May budget revision invests $290 million in new flood proposals—which is on top of his January proposal of $202 million in flood investments to protect urban areas, improve levees in the Delta region, and support projects in the Central Valley, bringing total investments to nearly $500 million. “California is facing unprecedented weather whiplash—we just experienced the driest three years on record, and now we’re dealing with historic flooding. Our investments must match this reality of climate-driven extremes,” Newsom said in the statement. “We’re committing even more resources to support communities up and down the state as they continue responding to the impacts of this year’s storms.” 

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