California Senate contender Melissa Melendez hosted a town hall meeting Friday, Jan. 31, at the Anza Community Hall. The event was well-attended by many inquisitive residents.
Introduced by her husband Nico, Melendez wasted no time getting right to the issues. She offered a print out of a list of bills passed by the state Legislature and opened the floor to discussion.
Melendez is currently serving in the California State Assembly. She is a Republican representing the 67th district, encompassing parts of western Riverside County. Before being elected to the state assembly, she represented the city of Lake Elsinore as a city council member.
Melendez announced Nov. 5, 2019, that she would be running for the state Senate seat for District 28, which encompasses all of Riverside County, in a 2020 special election. The incumbent Sen. Jeff Stone resigned the position to work in the U.S. Department of Labor. The special election is scheduled for March 3, and a runoff, if necessary, will be held May 12.
Melendez answered questions, displaying her knowledge of politics.
She said she began her political career as a true public service. As a veteran and mother, she said she felt she needed to do something.
“I wanted to make sure voices like ours were heard,” she said.
Melendez said she is fond of town hall meetings, getting directly to the people in her district and discovering their real concerns.
“These meetings have always been very respectful,” Melendez said.
She said that the state Assembly passed about 1,000 bills in 2019, and discussion began with Assembly Bill 79, More State Funding for Mental Health Programs.
According to Melendez, California is No. 1 in poverty in the nation, even as it is the fifth largest economy in the world. Voters list homelessness as a top issue at this time.
“It’s getting worse and worse and worse,” she said.
Churches and nonprofits service the homeless, but they need resources, she said. AB 79 provides these funds, and she approved of the bill, she said.
Melendez also shared loopholes in some existing laws that are related to AB 79, such as the lack of permitting sober living homes that house six or less residents and the importing of homeless people into the state to take advantage of services, only to be “curbed” when no longer eligible.
Resident Jeff Walls asked about checks and balances for AB 79.
Melendez replied that the state gives funds to the county and the county disperses those funds. Accountability lies with the county. If they receive funds and it is discovered that there are more homeless in the following year, the state should audit the county, but that action is not built into the law.
Los Angeles spent $619 million on homelessness in 2019, yet the county has seen a rise in homeless numbers.
No one is keeping the state Legislature in check, she said.
Melendez also said that California has a $20 billion surplus currently.
“If we have a $20 billion surplus,” she said, “Why do we have a single homeless veteran?”
Discussion continued regarding self-injection sites proposed by legislators. Melendez does not approve of pilot programs involving these sites.
“Why would the state enable people to kill themselves?” she asked.
The homeless issue is compounded by the cost of living in California, she said.
“Everything has gone up. No wonder people are in poverty,” Melendez said.
Over 1 million California residents have fled the state in the last decade.
Assembly Bill 5, the bill restricting independent contracting in California, was discussed. Lobbyists from the real estate sector, for instance, arranged for exemptions from the restrictive law, while other businesses are now having to sue the state for modifications.
Philip Canaday asked about the California Air Resources Board’s restrictions on diesel engines, telling her the state told him that his dependable old bucket truck was now illegal and the DMV refused to renew his registration. Melendez said that while she did not represent him in her current Assembly district, if he would email her the details and she would do what she could to help.
The governor is suggesting that the state take over the electric utility, Pacific Gas and Electric.
“Think about how the DMV is run,” she said, shrugging.
She said, “I voted against the budget this year,” because of wasteful spending.
When asked about the Proposition 13 slated for a vote this year, she said that the title was badly written, the No. 13 should be retired in reference to any new proposition because it confuses voters.
“All the better to fool you, my dear,” she said.
The attorney general makes the decisions to title propositions offered to voters. A bill to require a third party to title propositions was killed in committee.
Melendez said that conservatives in the legislature are silenced and their bills killed off in committee more often than not.
When asked about revamping Proposition 64, the legalization of recreational marijuana, she agreed that more needs to be done in dealing with the illegal black market for the drug, as that is causing issues for people that wish to be compliant.
She said she understands the issues the Anza Valley has with illegal marijuana cultivation and praised county Sheriff Chad Bianco for his diligence in eradicating these grows.
The event went well, and her campaign manager Samantha Stilwell handed out yard signs and door hangers.
Melendez is endorsed by Bianco, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Republican Party and more.
To learn more about Melissa Melendez, visit her website at www.melendezforca.com.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.