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Santa Monica Senator’s Environmental Literacy Bill Passes Key Committee  
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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

April 21, 2017 -- Legislation introduced by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) that would connect public schools with “community resources” to promote “high quality environmental literacy” in California passed the Senate’s Education Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 424 was moved forward along party lines, with the committee’s five Democrats (including Allen, who is the chair) voting in favor and the two Republicans voting against.

The legislation calls for $4.5 million to be designated to the education effort, which would be called the California Regional Environmental Education Community Network.

In promoting the legislation to his fellow committee members, Allen said there are a number of State-funded environmental programs and institutions in California, but in many instances schools are not accessing them.

“This bill sets up a very modest program of a small amount of money that’s going to go a long way toward making sure that many more of our kids are able to access these extraordinary outside-the-classroom resources that we are investing in,” Allen said.

The legislation has a large number of groups backing it and so far has no organized opposition, according to the Senate’s website.

Among those supporting the bill is a person who plays a politician on TV, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who through social media last week encouraged people to sign a petition to support it.

“The bill would help ensure that the next generation of Californians can pursue careers in science and green technology and work to solve pressing environmental challenges like the fight to slow climate change,” the petition states.

SB 424 combines two items that are big on the agenda for Allen—environmental issues and education. Before becoming a senator, Allen sat on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board.

Earlier this week Allen became involved in a major nationwide topic with the introduction of a bill aimed at easing student loan debt.

Senate Bill 674 is sponsored by State Treasurer John Chiang, who is an announced candidate for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

It would create a $25 million State fund that is supposed to encourage lenders to offer lower interest rates through refinancing because Sacramento would repay them up to 10 percent if the person defaults on the loan.

“[SB 674] will help college graduates refinance private loans at more favorable rates,” Allen said in an online statement. “It’s a smart investment for the State and will be a win for our economy.”

The program would only apply to people who have already graduated with an associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate degree and are currently employed. So it would not do anything to affect the loan rates of students who are entering college.

Other legislation has been introduced in Sacramento that also attempts to ease student debt burdens, an issue that many people see as a growing problem.

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