Among the highlights of yesterday's return of the Legislature were an extended series of adjourn-in-memories for Nelson Mandela, who passed away last month during the legislative recess, and some interpersonal intrigue over new seating arrangements in the Senate.
But policy priorities for legislators continue to emerge. Today state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg plans to announce a new bill for universal transitional kindergarten in California.
The proposal builds on the Sacramento Democrat's 2010 legislation moving up the cutoff date for entering kindergartners so that all students are at least five years old. That law also created new "transitional kindergarten" classes for the older four-year-olds who were no longer eligible to start school, providing adapted instruction to continue their development. Steinberg's bill would extend that opportunity to all four-year-olds in the year before they enter kindergarten.
Steinberg will be at Harkness Elementary School in Sacramento at 10 a.m. for the announcement. He will be joined by California's Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and several Democratic senators who are co-sponsoring the legislation: Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge, Marty Block of San Diego, Jerry Hill of San Mateo, Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Lois Wolk of San Francisco.
VIDEO: The start of a new legislative session is like the first day of school, Dan Walters says.
THREE-PEAT: California is experiencing one of the driest starts to winter it has ever recorded: A snow survey in the Sierra last week confirmed that snowpack is currently at 20 percent of its average for this time of year. With the state now preparing to enter its third straight drought year, the State Board of Food and Agriculture holds a hearing on how the agricultural community can prepare, 10 a.m. at the Dept. of Food and Agriculture building on N Street.
LOW ACHIEVER: Oakland-based advocacy group Children Now has released its annual Children's Report Card evaluating the state's performance in education, health and child welfare issues. The report is fairly critical, awarding no grades of A and 13 D's in its 27 categories. You can read the report in its entirety here.
HEALTH SCARE: Last summer's Rim fire was the third-largest forest fire in state history, and California could be facing more troubles ahead should the extremely dry conditions continue. One unforeseen consequence of such disasters is long-term adverse effects on the immune systems of children exposed to high levels of air pollution during their infancy. UC Davis researcher Lisa Miller discusses more in a seminar at the Cal EPA Headquarters on I Street at 10 a.m.
PHOTO: Kindergarten teacher Katherine Hoffmore, 48, left, works on a bead project with McKayla Parker, 6, right, where they learn to repeat patterns at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013.