This month marks the beginning of my first full legislative session as the CALPIRG State Director, and CALPIRG’s 50th!
I’m excited to continue the half-century legacy as a scrappy and effective group working towards a bold vision with a pragmatic approach. From passing the nation’s first law to stop the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture and reducing our childrens’ exposure to lead and other toxic chemicals to moving our state beyond single-use plastics, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but I have a feeling our biggest accomplishments are yet to come.
The legislative session provides a unique opportunity to make progress on some of the most pressing issues in our state. We’ll weigh in on dozens of policy proposals in the next few months, but here are our top priorities:
Every day, people throw away tons of plastic “stuff” — cups, plates, bags, containers, forks, knives, straws, spoons and more. All of this waste not only clogs our landfills, trashes our parks, and litters our streets, but it also washes into our rivers and oceans, where it can harm wildlife. It’s time to move beyond single-use plastic, by getting rid of the most harmful waste, and stopping the use of things we truly don’t need.
- CALPIRG supports policies that eliminate single-use plastic packaging and foodware
- CALPIRG supports policies that hold producers responsible for the waste they create, which can incentivize a shift to a circular economy.
Right to Repair
When our stuff breaks, it means more cost to consumers, and also means more waste. Californians dispose of approximately 46,000 cell phones per day, and only 15 to 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled. The goal of our Right to Repair campaign is to give every consumer and small business access to the parts, tools and service information they need to repair products so we can keep things in use and reduce waste.
- California should adopt “right to repair” reforms, which would allow consumers and small businesses to fix their property and devices in order to reduce waste and save money.
100% Renewable Electricity and Clean Transportation
Climate change is exacerbating droughts and wildfires in California, and although our state has taken lots of strong steps, we are not doing enough to combat the worst effects of climate change. Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in California, and our reliance on fossil fuels in this sector puts our health, safety and environment at risk. Getting to school or commuting to work shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution, or increase the chances that people will get sick.
- CALPIRG supports policies that help us meet and accelerate our commitment to 100% clean, renewable electricity.
- CALPIRG supports robust funding for zero emission vehicles and infrastructure, including EV charging stations and funding to help schools transition to 100% electric school buses. The state should take advantage of and expand upon new federal funding for clean transportation.
Zero Out Toxics
No Californian should be exposed to known toxic chemicals in the food we eat, the water we drink or the products we routinely use. Yet when we get ready in the morning or when our kids drink from the water fountain at school, we are unknowingly dousing our bodies with dangerous chemicals. We must get lead out of drinking water and make consumer products toxic-free.
- Unfortunately, more than 1,300 school drinking water fountains tested positive for lead in California. California should require schools to prevent lead contamination, down to 1 part per billion, at every tap used for cooking or drinking and utilize new federal funding available to make sure our drinking water is truly lead-free. The state should also ensure that we replace all lead pipes in California, and do so safely to limit lead exposure
- California should ban the use of toxic PFAS chemicals in products we come into contact with every day, from cosmetics and personal care products to clothing.
Safe and Healthy Homes
Burning fossil fuels in our homes and businesses is responsible for at least 9 percent of all US emissions and can pollute the air we breathe inside and outside of our buildings. Despite the threat this poses to our planet and our health, three out of every four American homes still directly burn fossil fuels for heating, hot water or to run appliances.
- CALPIRG supports warning labels to inform consumers of the health and safety risks of gas appliances.
- CALPIRG supports ending subsidies for new gas hook-ups and instead investing in incentives for electrification to help the public move away from dangerous fossil fuels in our homes.
High Value Health Care
We live in a country with some of the best hospitals, doctors and medical technology in the world. But the simple truth is that Americans pay too much for health care, and don’t get enough value in return. We need to get control of healthcare costs by stopping practices that jack up costs.
- California should create an Office of Health Care Affordability to prioritize solutions to measurably lower overall health care prices.
- The federal No Surprises Act will go into effect on January 1st to protect patients from out-of-network bills from air ambulances, for emergency care, and for any care at in-network hospitals. California should ensure that these patient protections are enforced and expand the protections to ground ambulances.
Too many products, practices and technologies put consumers’ health, safety or well-being at risk. CALPIRG supports policies that protect consumers from unsafe products, unfair practices, or exploitative policies that leave us vulnerable in the marketplace.
- CALPIRG supports better regulation of financial technology companies to ensure consumers are protected from data breaches, scammers, and rip offs.
- From counterfeit toys to recalled cars, CALPIRG supports actions to get unsafe products off our shelves.
Advocating for reform is never easy, and doing so during a pandemic provides both opportunities and additional challenges to our work. But I know that when we combine strong research, passionate grassroots support, strategic advocacy, and smart policy and policymakers, we can win on these issues and more.