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Sacramento Report: Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows

Sen. Toni Atkins's bill would allow survivors of domestic violence to spend state money on pets, Gov. Jerry Brown quickly signs protections for whistleblowers and more in our weekly roundup of news from Sacramento.

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego wants to ensure California receives federal money to help mothers dealing with postpartum depression.

Those federal funds will become available to states through the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act, passed in 2016 by Congress. The money can be used for screening, assessing and treating maternal mental health disorders, but the state Department of Public Health needs to apply. AB 1893 would require them to do so.

“I have been an advocate for mental health care during my entire tenure at the Capitol, and I am very familiar with California’s shortcomings when it comes to providing appropriate treatment options,” Maienschein, a Republican, said in a statement. “Maternal mental health is no different, and we have been neglecting our state’s mothers for far too long.”

Additionally, Maienschein is working on drafting proposed legislation that would require doctors to screen pregnant women and new mothers for maternal mental health disorders.

About one in nine women nationwide experience symptoms of postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The California Task Force on the Status of Maternal Mental Health Care estimates maternal mental health disorders like postpartum depression affect one in five women statewide.

No Animal Left Behind

Survivors of domestic violence and other violent crimes may soon be allowed to use state relocation money to take their pets with them.

State Sen. Toni Atkins this week introduced legislation that would ensure survivors who want to keep their pets can use state funding for pet deposits and pet rent.

SB 1005 would ensure that part of the funds that survivors receive as compensation can help house pets.

“I cannot imagine the anguish of possibly being separated from a beloved pet on top of the trauma associated with physical abuse,” Atkins said in a statement. “Pets are members of the family, and the love and comfort they provide can help heal emotional wounds. SB 1005 will allow survivors and their animal companions to stay together in a safe home during a difficult time.”

Tunnels Could Be Built in Phases

A multibillion-dollar project designed to ensure water can continue to be shipped from Northern California to Southern California is again uncertain.

The project involves building two 35-mile-long underground tunnels to carry water beneath sensitive habitats and to avoid the encroachment of rising seas.

Several water agencies who would help pay for the tunnels backed out last fall, notably the Fresno-based Westlands Water District. The district worried that the cost of building the tunnels would raise the price of water beyond what the farmers there could afford to pay. That helped throw the whole project into disarray.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Water Resources said it would look to build the project in phases — one tunnel now and maybe a second tunnel later — if folks like Westlands changed their minds, but that idea has not appeased critics.

The two-tunnel project was estimated to cost $16.3 billion. Building one tunnel will cost $10.7 billion, the state said.

San Diego’s largest water agency, the San Diego County Water Authority, was skeptical of the twin tunnels, citing unanswered questions, although it once asked the state to study the idea of building one tunnel.

— Ry Rivard

Whistleblower Bill Becomes Law

Gov. Jerry Brown wasted no time this week in signing AB 403, hours after it was unanimously approved by the Assembly. The bill extends whistleblower protections to legislative employees who want to report harassment and other illegal activity, and passed the Senate — also unanimously — last week.

The protections aim to prevent retaliation against staffers who report misconduct and ensure they do not lose their jobs for doing so.

Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore first introduced an earlier form of the bill, but it stalled before being revived after a series of harassment allegations began roiling the Capitol late last year.

Golden State News

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Los Angeles, an ally of the #MeToo movement whose advocacy attracted national attention, is herself the subject of a state legislative sexual harassment investigation. (Politico)

How will state Sen. Toni Atkins address harassment at the Capitol as she prepares to become the first woman to helm the California Senate? The Sacramento Bee interviewed her on the task ahead.

• The gubernatorial race is tightening between Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while sitting Sen. Dianne Feinstein is way ahead of state Sen. Kevin de Leόn for the U.S. Senate race, according to polls. (Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle)

 Meanwhile, the top three Republicans for governor took the debate stage and, as the San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee note, spent much of the time assailing each other and the top two Democratic contenders. Newsom, the gubernatorial front-runner, has been getting a lot of the attention because of an affair that occurred more than a decade ago while he was mayor of San Francisco. He told Politico that he’s learned a lot from his past sexual transgressions.

Many observers expect higher voter turnout in California’s June primary, with a potentially strong Democratic and Latino surge. (Capitol Weekly)

A younger, more liberal generation of California Democrats is emerging in Sacramento. (Washington Post)

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