Approximately 300 bills are currently pending on the state’s legislative floor. Bauer-Kahan has taken a strong position on many, including her own bill, AB 2626, aimed at closing the digital divide.
“One in five California students, which is approximately 1.2 million kids, lack broadband or a computer to access distance learning,” said Bauer-Kahan. “We must do everything in our power to end the unjust inequity of the digital divide and ensure we support all of our students.”
Bauer-Kahan’s bill will create the “Bridging the Digital Divide Grant Program.”
Dr. Kelly Bowers, superintendent of the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD), said she fully supports a plan to bring computers and wifi access to students.
“As a district, when we moved to remote learning, we were able to loan 3,023 Chromebooks to our students in greatest need,” Bowers said. “Even with these efforts, we know of many families who are still struggling with internet access, and sit in cars and parking lots near schools, Starbucks or libraries in order to log on and access curriculum and essential learning opportunities.”
Bauer-Kahan also authored AB 2559, which creates oversight for non-bank, online lenders to protect consumers. She said due to economic pressure, families dealing with unemployment often seek new lines of credit to stay afloat. This bill will provide quick access to restitution for losses.
“What’s alarming is that currently, there are few to no protections for consumers harmed by non-bank online lenders,” Bauer-Kahan noted. “My AB 2559 authorizes the Department of Business Oversight to recover money for consumers harmed by these non-bank lenders. It is imperative, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, that we are protecting consumers from bad acting lenders.”
This year’s ballot will contain 12 initiatives for which Californians can vote. Bauer-Kahan took an early position on several, including Proposition 18, which would allow 17-year-old U.S. citizens to vote in a primary and special election if they will turn 18 by the subsequent general election.
“This is an important mechanism to engage our youth in the electoral process, and this ballot initiative would bring California in line with 18 other states who already allow these individuals to participate meaningfully in our democracy,” Bauer-Kahan said.
Although some agree, Anthony Flores of Livermore feels differently.
“Why blur the lines with something like this?” Flores asked. “So they miss the primary – pay attention and use that knowledge in the general election like the rest of us did…turning 18 makes you a legal adult. That is when your civic rights and responsibilities change.”
Bauer-Kahan also supports Proposition 17, restoring the right to vote to convicted felons on parole.
“Prop. 17 would allow for these parolees to re-engage with society and participate in our elections,” she said. “Studies conducted on the topic of recidivism consistently finds that the harsher the voting restrictions, the higher the rates of recidivism are in that state.”
Bauer-Kahan’s constituents can comment on these and other pending legislative matters during the virtual office hours she holds every other week. Her office began hosting the hours in March.
Chief of staff Jordan Curley said hundreds of people have utilized them, asking questions and seeking help on a variety of topics.
“People come in for all different reasons,” Curley said. “(They include) a lot of EDD (Employment Development Department) cases or those who need help with resources as a result of COVID-19, people who would like to share their thoughts on pending legislation, issues with the DMV, etc. On average, we’re seeing roughly 30 or so folks now per session.”
Bauer-Kahan said she realizes the importance of staying connected with residents. Her office is doing everything in its power to remain accessible.
To attend the virtual office hours, interested parties can RSVP and will receive instructions detailing how and when to enter the Zoom chat. Once in, they are connected with a member of Bauer-Kahan’s staff, who discerns the issue they wish to discuss and directs them to the appropriate person for help. The idea is to be able to help those in need in real time. Curley said constituents come in with issues both inside and outside her office’s sphere; the staff does its best to help everyone.
“We want to make sure we are figuring out the most effective way possible to continue to provide these services to constituents,” Curley said. “We came up with this, and we are very happy with how they are going.”
Since mid-March, Kahan’s office has also hosted webinars and online chats with experts from around the state on a variety of topics, including parenting during COVID-19, updates on the county’s health orders, and prevention of senior scams. Many of these are available on her website.