U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley

Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, hosted a town hall on health care on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Camarillo Public Library. Topics included both the local and national health-care systems and featured a panel of experts from the industry.

Julia Bownley

In Washington, Brownley joined a coalition of House Democrats in introducing redistricting reform legislation with the intent of ending so-called “partisan gerrymandering.”

In partnership with U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Mateo; Congressman Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and John P. Sarbanes, D-Maryland, the Redistricting Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 1102), introduced by 47 House Democrats and supported by Common Cause, will require states to establish independent, multiparty citizen redistricting commissions to draw open and transparent statewide district maps after each decennial census.

“Now, more than ever before, we must restore the trust of the American people in our democracy and in the principle that every vote counts,” said Brownley. “Gerrymandering districts erodes the trust of the people and undermines democratic principles. Utilizing independent citizen redistricting commissions will result in a more transparent election process and more accountable representation.”

In some cases, districts are drawn by representatives appointed by parties with a majority of statewide seats. The Act would require that each state establish an independent, multiparty redistricting commission to draw congressional district maps and ensure that members of the commissions cannot have certain conflicts of interests (such as lobbyists, political donors or party operatives) and must reflect the diversity of the state while operating transparently.

The districts created, should the Act pass, would require equal population per the Constitution and compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1945, to name a few points.

Brownley also released a statement on the confirmation of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Betsy DeVos, saying that she is “deeply disappointed.”

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has been reappointed chair of the Joint Legislative

Hannah Beth Jackson

Committee on Emergency Management, a bicameral committee that provides oversight of state disaster planning, response and recovery.

“As California faces the Oroville Dam spillway emergency, the continuing threat of earthquakes, fires, floods, climate change, cyberattacks and other 21st-century threats, as well as a drought that continues in my community despite flooding elsewhere, it’s more important than ever that our emergency planning is ready for these challenges. I am looking forward to continuing this work on the important issues facing this state,” Jackson said.

Jackson also released a statement on Oxnard’s Puente Power Plant proposal whose construction on the coast she has proposed, saying that the decision should not be rushed before “serious environmental and environmental justice concerns raised by the community” can be addressed.

 Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin

Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, has once again set her eyes on cybersecurity, and has co-authored updated guidelines for state institutions to report how much they spend on information security. To coincide with legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, agencies must now report information security costs along with IT and telecommunications spending.

Representative Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), a former engineer, with girls from Blackstock Elementary School at the 2015 STEM/STEAM Hackathon.

Statewide legislation

Coming to a full stop on a bicycle can be a pain, and studies show it could also be dangerous, concluding that lost momentum increases time spent in intersections, elevating the risk of a collision. On Feb. 17, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia, introduced legislation to legalize cyclists’ penchant to yield and then proceed at stop signs without coming to a complete stop.

“This common-sense bicycle law will increase safety by minimizing the potential for collision between cars and bicycles,” said Obernolte. “This measure will not only make bicyclists safer, but it will also protect motorists by diverting cyclists away from busy roadways.”

Perhaps responding to the claim that 3 million illegal aliens voted in California during the 2016 President election, Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R- Huntington Beach, vice-chair of the Elections Committee, has introduced legislation dubbed the “Protect Our Votes” package, which he says will “improve our democracy for all Californians and ensure that our elections system is fair.”

The package consists of four bills: AB 774, will limit foreign nationals donating directly to campaigns; AB 775 will require bona fide delivery services to provide proof that completed ballots were given to them on or before Election Day; AB 776 will require school bond ballot descriptions to provide voters with the full costs of the bond; and AB 777 will increase the penalties against people who fraudulently procure and/or vote with a vote-by-mail ballot.

Voter fraud has been a subject of contention as of late, most notably with President Donald J. Trump claiming that 3 million voted illegally in only the states he lost. There were a few arrests for voter fraud during the November elections, however: Two Trump voters were arrested for attempting to vote twice, one in Iowa, and a Republican green-card holder was sentenced to eight years for illegally voting twice.