Ben’s Priorities

Protecting Our Environment

During his first two terms in the Senate, fighting the climate crisis and protecting our state’s precious natural resources have been among Ben’s top priorities. He was recently recognized by CalMatters as one of the Legislature’s top leaders in the field of environmental protection.  He authored SB 54, groundbreaking legislation to address plastic pollution, which was signed into law this year by Governor Newsom to international acclaim.The New York Times called SB 54 “the most sweeping restrictions on plastics in the nation” and “another route for curbing carbon emissions and trying to sidestep the worst consequences of global warming” after the Supreme Court gutted the federal government’s power to regulate carbon emissions. He’s pursuing ambitious policies to bolster our climate resiliency, and he’s secured millions in state funding to support state parks in the Santa Monica Mountains and open space preservation on the Palos Verdes peninsula and in Redondo Beach. As Chair of the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee, Ben has overseen the passage of legislation to help coastal communities deal with sea level rise, foster carbon sequestration projects to help meet our existing greenhouse gas reduction goals, protect sand dunes, and clean up oil and gas wells.

The Homelessness Crisis

There are too many of our fellow Californians suffering and dying on our streets and the public is rightly demanding action. Ben and his colleagues in the Legislature have allocated a record $11.5 billion for critically needed homelessness programs and affordable housing projects; these massive new resources will be critical in helping our local governments find compassionate and effective alternatives to the status quo; we need to both help but hold them accountable to the ambitious goals laid out in the budget legislation. Ben is also a co-author of SB 1383, which creates CARE Courts – bringing together local case managers, social service agencies, local police, public defenders and prosecutors — to divert homeless individuals with severe mental illness away from the criminal justice system and into treatment and long-term housing with wrap-around services. 

Investing in Public Education

A former UC Board of Regents voting member, former President of the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board and former lecturer on education law and policy at UCLA, Ben is passionate about public education and believes our students, schools, and teachers need more support in Sacramento.  As Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Ben oversaw the passage of legislation to increase funding for public schools and strengthen educational opportunities for California students.  He’s also recently introduced legislation that will hold school districts harmless for enrollment losses that have come as a result of the pandemic so they can keep their operations going and teachers in classrooms.  He is strongly supportive of efforts to raise base funding so that all school districts can access the resources they need to keep programs strong.  With these resources, our schools must focus efforts on excellence for all of our young people.  Part of that includes programs to recruit the next generation of best and brightest into teaching, and giving them the tools and incentives to thrive, excel, and stay in the profession.  

Strengthening Our Democracy

The past several years have too often reminded us that we cannot take our democracy for granted. But while voting rights and political transparency have faced unprecedented attacks nationwide, California has stood out as a national leader, and Ben is proud to have taken a personal leadership role in this fight. He authored the landmark Voter’s Choice Act of 2016 to implement more flexibility in how and where to vote, creating the vote center model used in recent elections that has resulted in significantly increased voter turnout, making it much easier for people to vote while maintaining strong election integrity protocols. Ben was also a leader in passing the Disclose Act and Petition Disclose Act, which have dramatically improved public disclosure of donors to political causes. Ben has routinely been ranked as California’s top legislator by the California Clean Money Campaign for these and other efforts.

Improving Community Safety

Ben knows that protecting the public is a sacred responsibility of government; the focus should be on crime reduction through better policing and better public policy.  Police need the support and resources–including training and support from mental health service providers–to address crime in its many different forms in a just and effective way.  Communities also need the resources and opportunities that steer young people away from crime and toward hope and productivity.  Ben rejects the false choice between safer communities and a restorative justice system.  He believes that we must continue to invest in proven alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses, such as drug courts, social services, and mental health care, and has authored legislation to reduce mass-incarceration by repealing certain automatic sentencing enhancements that took away flexibility from judges and didn’t add to public safety.  Ben has also been a leader in addressing our nation’s gun violence epidemic, authoring legislation to create competitive grants for local violence intervention programs and supporting every common-sense gun reform measure that he has had the opportunity to vote on during his time in the legislature.  

Bolstering Our Economic Recovery

While the worst of the pandemic may be behind us, most Californians are still feeling its economic impacts. During this time of need, Ben and his staff have helped thousands of his constituents access critically needed funds through unemployment insurance, rental and mortgage assistance, and small business grant programs. In response to the recent spike in gas prices, Ben has introduced legislation that would combat price gouging by requiring that oil companies disclose their profits to the public. He has also been a leader in job creation, including through recent new legislation establishing training and employment programs for young people looking to enter the creative sector. A strong advocate for fiscal responsibility, Ben urged the Governor and his legislative colleagues to set aside more of our surplus for state reserves during this year’s budget negotiations.  It is only a matter of time that state revenues slip and having served on the School Board during the ‘08 recession, Ben saw first hand the chaos a reduced state budget created for school districts and other local governments.  

Defending Reproductive Freedom

Ben is firmly opposed to the Supreme Court’s recent precedent-busting decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and is committed to enshrining reproductive rights and womens’ rights into law.  He has received a 100% rating on every Planned Parenthood legislative scorecard that has been released since he took office.