This is a difficult note to write. While the holiday season is here, recent tragedies throughout the country continue to take a toll. The deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub, anti-Semitic hatred running rampant, a shooting at a Virginia Walmart that left six workers dead. So much hate, at a time when we should be able to focus on love and understanding and feel safe in our communities.
I’m also still reeling from the loss of my longtime friend and colleague, Deanna Spehn. Deanna had been part of my legislative team for 10 years, during my time in both the Assembly and the Senate. She advised me on a host of issues including agriculture, environmental quality, water, energy, transportation, parks and natural resources, historical preservation, and coastal protection. Before joining my team, she worked for a decade as a policy advisor to Christine Kehoe, my predecessor in both houses.
Since her passing on November 12, it has been so comforting for Deanna’s beloved family and her countless friends and colleagues to hear the kind words and many stories that have been shared about Deanna—her brilliance, her love for her family and her work, and how much she gave to our community.
One of the saddest parts of Deanna’s passing for me is how much progress we are making in San Diego and Sacramento on the issues she cared so deeply about and worked so hard to solve. Later this week, the opportunity to make even more progress will begin again and Deanna would have been in right there in the thick of it!
On December 5, re-elected Senators and just-elected Senators will come to Sacramento to begin the legislative session that will last until 2024. It will be an honor to join my colleagues old and new, especially my new Senate District neighbors, Senators Catherine Blakespear (D-38) and Steve Padilla (D-18)! Congratulations to everyone who was on the ballot last month, and especially to our Secretary of State Shirley Weber, not only for being elected to keep serving as Secretary of State, but for overseeing such a well-run election process.
When we come back to the Capitol this January, we will continue working to increase housing, especially affordable housing, and to bring down homelessness—the decades-old challenge that seems to break our hearts particularly strongly this time of year. We will continue to build on the historic advances we made on climate change, helping protect Californians from wildfires at a time when a single lightning strike could destroy an entire community. And we’ll be furthering our efforts to help coastal communities like ours fight the dangers of sea level rise, building on my 2021 bill SB 1 — a bill, that, of course, Deanna Spehn was involved in from the concept stage to it being signed into law. As we return to the Capitol, we are re-energized to address our ongoing challenges and find solutions that take California into the future. One of the things I am most proud of my colleagues for is the shared commitment the Senate has that real people with serious problems aren’t looking for performance art, they’re looking for political courage. And that is what we need to keep providing in 2023 and beyond.
Finally, I would just say Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is what December is really all about, and whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, the Solstice or all of the above in a wild month-long celebration, I hope all of us will find many opportunities this month to share and spread Joy wherever we can.
Thanks for reading.
California State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins
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