CA State Assembly Approves Restrictions on Use of “Forever Chemicals” To Reduce Food & Environmental Contamination

The California State Assembly marked Earth Day with the approval of AB 1200 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), legislation prohibiting the use of “forever chemicals,” known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in food packaging. The bill aims to reduce food and environmental contamination.

“Federal regulations on PFAS allow companies to self-certify that a chemical used in their food packaging is safe,” said Ting. “That’s not good enough for me – not when our health and environment suffer the consequences. Manufacturers should use safer alternatives so that our families aren’t ingesting harmful chemicals.”

PFAS, a class of roughly 9,000 man-made chemicals, have been linked to health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, thyroid disease and vaccine interference. They are commonly added to food wrappers and containers to prevent grease and other liquids from leaking through. The term “forever chemicals” refers to their resistance to breaking down, making them persistent in the environment and human body. We’re eating PFAS with our meals when they come in food containers coated with these harmful substances. McDonalds, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are already phasing out PFAS-laced wrappers, boxes and the like, or have pledged to do so. 

CA State Assembly Approves Restrictions on Use of “Forever Chemicals” To Reduce Food & Environmental Contamination

“The California Assembly has swiftly voted to protect its residents from toxic PFAS,” said Susan Little of Environmental Working Group, a co-sponsor of AB 1200. “Because of a broken federal chemical regulatory system, states are stepping up to protect the health of its citizens from hazardous chemicals added to food packaging. This law will protect Californians by reducing their exposure to PFAS in food.”

In addition, when those containers are composted, the environmental impacts are far-reaching with PFAS entering the food chain when the compost is applied to agricultural soil used to grow crops. Those hazardous chemicals also end up in drinking water and in our air. New York, Washington and Maine have enacted a similar law prohibiting the use of PFAS in food packaging.

AB 1200 also requires cookware manufacturers to disclose the use of PFAS and other hazardous chemicals in their products. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

‘Some Of The Most Devastated Workers’: New California Bill Seeks To Get Laid-Off Hospitality Employees Back To Work

Publication: KCBS/KCAL - Los Angeles

Hotels in the Southland and across the state were among the hardest hit during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Now, state legislators say they are trying to help the throngs of laid-off workers in the hospitality industry by passing a new law that says larger hotels and resorts have to rehire their former staff first before hiring new employees.

“What we really want to do is make sure that as hotels are opening back up, that these workers who have been on unemployment, unable to work for almost a year now, have the first right of refusal to return to work if they were laid off during the pandemic,” San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting, who authored the bill, said.

Ting says legislators are only targeting larger organizations, such as hotel chains.

“This only affects large hotels,” he said. “So the mom and pop hotels, if you have a 10-room inn or a bed and breakfast or something that’s only a few rooms, you are not impacted. This is really geared toward the larger hotel chains.”

Lawmakers Push Reforms at State Unemployment Agency As The Jobless Face New Delays

Publication: Los Angeles Times

California legislators on Thursday pushed ahead with reforms targeting the state’s troubled unemployment agency as lawmakers condemned it for yet another significant error that has interrupted benefit payments to thousands of jobless residents.

Agency officials apologized for a new computer glitch that has prevented many people from filing new claims online, but lawmakers note it is just the latest in a string of technological problems that have plagued the state Employment Development Department since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

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Meanwhile, federal regulators have begun looking at how Bank of America, which contracts with the EDD to issue debit cards to deliver benefits, has handled a flood of fraudulent unemployment claims with actions that included freezing accounts, affecting some people who are legitimately in need of financial aid.

“Californians relying on unemployment benefits during the pandemic have been let down time and time again,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. “Whether they’re trying to resolve fraudulent charges, access their money or simply want to talk to a real person on the phone, significant delays in solving problems have caused needless suffering.”

California Is Looking at Closing More Prisons. Here Are Some That Might Be On the List

Publication: Sacramento Bee

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has plans to shut down two prisons, but more closures could soon be on the way because of the state’s rapidly shrinking inmate population.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state could close a total of five prisons by 2025, which in turn could save an estimated $1.5 billion in annual spending. The corrections department, which has a budget of $16 billion, oversees 34 prisons and more than 50,000 employees.

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Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, has been an outspoken supporter of cutting prison expenses, and he commended the state’s Tuesday decision to close the California Correctional Center in Susanville.

“We spend almost as much on our corrections system as we do for our higher education system, and most Californians would say that’s not the best use of taxpayer funds,” Ting said in an interview.

Ting called the closure announcement a good first step, but said that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation needs to do a better job of identifying potential prison closures, and also of working with communities to mitigate the impact of shutdowns.

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Gun Violence Researchers Need Data To Find Solutions

Publication: CalMatters Editorial by Assemblymember Phil Ting & State Senator Josh Becker

Gun violence is America’s other epidemic. While the deadly coronavirus has our full attention, gun violence still rages on, claiming nearly 40,000 American lives a year – nearly 3,000 here in California. 

Just as science and research are helping us fight COVID-19 with new vaccines and therapies, evidence-based approaches are essential to end widespread gun violence. Unfortunately, bureaucrats at the state Attorney General’s office are blocking access to key data that gun violence researchers need to do their important work. California needs the red tape removed, and we’ve introduced new legislation, Assembly Bill 1237, to accomplish that.

Editorial: Here's A Crime California Can Take Off The Books

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

Jaywalking is one of those criminal offenses that many of us don’t think twice about committing. We need to cross the street, any approaching cars are a safe distance away, so off we trot from one side to the next mid-block.

Simple and straightforward — unless you have black or brown skin, or are for some other reason more likely to be cited for breaking a broadly ignored law. Then you can be singled out by a police officer itching to write a ticket. And citations aren’t cheap: The base fine set by California is a hefty $197.

The selective enforcement of jaywalking is the focus of a recently introduced bill by Assembly Member Phil Ting — legislation that is long overdue.

The measure, AB1238, would delete a provision in current law that “pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk” on blocks with traffic signals. Instead, it would emphasize that “a pedestrian shall not be subject to a fine or criminal penalty for crossing or entering a roadway when no cars are present.”

Federal Regulators Probe Bank of America's Handling of California Jobless Aid

Publication: Politico

Federal regulators are investigating Bank of America's handling of fraudulent activity on debit cards used to manage payments to California unemployment recipients, multiple sources with knowledge of the inquiry confirmed to POLITICO.

The probes by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency come as Bank of America and California’s unemployment agency face intense criticism for their response to widespread unemployment fraud. The state paid out billions of dollars to fraudsters in the past year while it, along with the bank, froze or suspended the accounts of legitimate claimants in response.

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Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said in an interview Tuesday that lawmakers who have asked for more information continue to be stonewalled by Bank of America. He said the bank "didn't tell the truth" when it claimed that it was promptly resolving fraud concerns on legitimate accounts.

Constituents have reported inconsistent responses from Bank of America, Ting said. Some have been able to unfreeze their accounts, he said, but far more have received little communication about their situations.

“For folks who got their accounts frozen, we have a very difficult time getting them unfrozen,” he said.

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San Francisco Legislator Visits Chinatown to Condemn Hate Crimes

Publication: Spectrum TV News - Southern California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's Asian American communities are on edge after an uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes across the country, and state leaders are showing their support through statements of solidarity and a string of new legislation. 

Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, is working together with the Chinese community to condemn hate in San Francisco's Chinatown.

"The only way we can really stop it is to work as a community and stand up and say enough is enough. This is unacceptable," he said.

Ting said Chinatown is the heart of the city's Asian American community and a place where elders should be able to feel safe.

"We need to make sure that they can go about their daily lives and not feel like they can't take their morning walks, not feel like they can't shop for groceries, not feel like they can't go about their everyday errands without getting accosted or potentially getting killed," Ting added.

Their Guns Should Be Taken Away, But California Is Falling Behind On Tracking Them Down

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

The list of California gun owners banned from possessing their weapons grew last year to a record size, as the backlog of cases in a state program to seize the firearms surged by 17% during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Justice Department reported that it was actively trying to remove guns from 9,083 people at the beginning of 2021, an increase of 1,336 over the prior year — though fewer than in 2019, when Gov. Gavin Newsom significantly increased funding for the unique state confiscation program to help clear an enduring backlog.

The failure to get the backlog under control has frustrated both Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento for nearly a decade, and some are now pushing for changes to the program that could shift more of the work to the local level.

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“There’s a lot more efficient ways to do it,” said Assembly Member Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who chairs the budget committee. He has pushed to have the state continue to coordinate the database while moving more of the enforcement to local law enforcement agencies.

“Unfortunately, the attorney general’s office wasn’t really willing to partner with local law enforcement,” Ting said.