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Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Legislators Lead Effort to Tackle Extreme Heat

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO –Assemblywoman Luz Rivas(D-San Fernando Valley) held a press conference today with Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and her colleagues from all across the state, to advocate for a package of bills tackling California’s escalating extreme heat crisis. This comes after Europe experienced its third extreme heat wave this year that killed over 1,000 people in Spain and Portugal. Over the past two weeks, a series of heat waves across the nation, caused temperatures to soar, even in the Pacific Northwest – just a year after hundreds of people died in record heat waves in the same region.

“Our communities have been suffering for too long. Extreme heat kills, and we know it disproportionately affects lower income communities because those individuals do not have the ability to escape the heat. We need bold action now, and that’s why I am proud that my colleagues and I have proposed legislation that tackles key aspects of extreme heat public policy. These heat waves are occurring more frequently as a result of climate change, and we must act quickly to help protect all Californians,” asserted Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. “Last year, I secured two years of funding in the budget to combat extreme heat. However, our extreme heat events are not going to last for only two years. We need to take a longer term approach in advancing our policy and funding needs to protect those who live in our rural northern communities down to the southern border.”

Heat waves are a silent killer, particularly for our most vulnerable communities, and are responsible for more deaths than all other extreme weather events. This year, Assemblywoman Luz Rivas and Insurance Commissioner Lara partnered to create the first Advance Warning and Ranking System in the nation.

“We are in a global climate crisis and as it is getting hotter, we have to change our approach or more people are going to die,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “As Insurance Commissioner, I have made communicating the threat of extreme heat a top priority at the Department of Insurance. We have found there is a huge ‘protection gap’ for extreme heat between what insurance covers and what it doesn’t, especially for vulnerable communities. Ranking heat waves would make California the first state in the nation to take this action to protect the public, communicate the threat, and address the insurance gap.”

In 2020, Los Angeles County reached a temperature of 121 degrees, sending ten times the normal amount of people to the emergency room. Los Angeles communities like the ones Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), and Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles)represent suffer the most, with temperatures rising a few degrees more creating an urban island effect.

“Extreme heat makes the San Fernando Valley not just hot, but deadly, for the elderly, young children, expectant mothers, the unhoused, and the medically vulnerable,” said Senator Henry Stern. “That’s why I’m so proud to partner on the extreme heat package of legislative and budget actions, to improve our public health warning systems, and cool our neighborhoods, schools, homes and workplaces, with clean technology, more trees, street coatings, and a number of other cost effective solutions that have been denied to our overheated residents and workers for too long.”

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia echoed the importance of extreme heat mitigation legislation stating, “I’m proud to work with and support Assemblywoman Luz Rivas on this important package of Extreme Heat bills for our most vulnerable Californians. My district in South East Los Angeles is a dense concrete jungle zigzagged by six freeways and the concrete paved Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, all of which lack a tree canopy, creating a dangerous heat island for thousands of working class people of color. In addition, this region is one of the most environmentally burdened parts of the state, our air, water, and soil are all extremely contaminated, and extreme heat makes those toxins that much more lethal - cooling centers might give us a reprieve from the heat, but it won’t save us from the dangerous effects of this heated toxic stew. I remain committed to ensuring clean air, water, and a better environment for all of California's residents, which is why I have worked to secure budget funding for DTSC [Department of Toxic Substances Control], Clean Water, our tree canopy, and I am proud to stand behind this import package.”

Senator Bob Hertzberg also highlighted the work local organizations in the San Fernando Valley are doing to protect the region’s underserved population. These groups are working with local agencies to ensure resources are brought to these communities. Senator Hertzberg stated, “Allow me to echo Veronica Padilla-Campos, the Director of Pacoima Beautiful, in urging residents to contact the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commission for information on its Cool LA effort to help low-income communities withstand the dangerous effects of severe heat conditions. Exact allocation of resources to these communities will be discussed in a board meeting on August 9th. Their primary goal is likely going to be to create more awareness of the utility’s Air Conditioning Optimization Program, a rebate plan to increase the affordability of AC units for those who cannot afford them.”

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas has also joined forces with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) on legislation that protects outdoor workers in California. These essential workers are the least protected, especially during the state’s hottest months.

“Exposure to extreme heat is hitting hardest for our most vulnerable, especially in our rural communities. I represent the 31st Assembly District in Fresno County, which is the top agriculture producer in the nation. But extreme heat is taking its toll on our Central Valley farmworkers, the people we depend on to put food on our tables. They labor under the hot sun and suffer the consequences of bad air quality that’s compounded by smoke from wildfires. Extreme heat also is a threat to pregnant individuals and infants, which is why I’ve authored Assembly Bill 2420 to develop guidelines and best practices to address this issue. And, during extreme heat, low-income residents and seniors who can’t afford air conditioning must seek relief at cooling centers – if they can get to them. These are just a few examples of how exposure to extreme heat is inflicting sickness and harm. As an emergency room doctor, I can tell you that the impacts of extreme heat can lead to all kinds of ailments, including heat stroke and acute kidney injury. We must change course to address health disparities caused by extreme heat and ensure the safety and well-being of ALL people who call California home,” stated Dr. Arambula.

This bill package is the most aggressive extreme heat mitigation legislation ensuring that infrastructure and people are protected, and that local governments have the resources needed to communicate these hazardous weather occurrences. Passing these bills may make the difference between life and death.

“As this summer’s record-breaking temperatures rose so did the destructive and deadly consequences of extreme heat in communities like mine. Our entire globe has been engulfed by this climate change emergency and California is seizing this opportunity to lead with legislative action. Extreme heat is a matter of life and death. This first-in-the nation, lifesaving extreme heat ranking system will help us to better prepare and protect vulnerable California communities like those in my district,” declared Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.

Climate change will only continue to worsen the effects of extreme heat and put lives in serious danger. That is why this legislative session’s extreme heat package has received support from medical professionals and public health experts.

“It’s getting hotter. That’s a fact. Extreme heat is by far the most lethal natural event. We know it is coming so we can prepare. Warning systems, cool surfaces, shade trees, and resiliency hubs will save lives. We can protect our health by simply keeping cool. Let’s do it,” stated Dr. Marc Futernick, Emergency Doctor (California Hospital Medical Center).

“Extreme heat is unnecessarily claiming the lives of people in our communities. As a legislator, I was elected to tackle issues like this to help my constituents and improve their quality of life. We can no longer watch and wait. The time to act is now,” concluded Assemblywoman Luz Rivas.

Extreme heat legislation has until the August 31st legislative deadline to pass from either house.

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas proudly represents the 39th Assembly District, which includes the City of Los Angeles communities of Arleta, Lake View Terrace, Granada Hills, Mission Hills, North Hollywood, Pacoima, Sun Valley, Sunland-Tujunga, Sylmar, and the City of San Fernando.