West Sac News-Ledger

Dr. Richard Pan discusses controversy and current legislation

June 28, 2016
By Monica Stark He wanted to go where the people were and he did. Situating his office in South Sacramento across from Florin Road Bingo and the Rice Bowl restaurant, California State Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) wanted his office located where people frequented. From West Sacramento up to the Sacramento International Airport over to McClellan Air Force Base and southwest to the town of Sheldon down to Elk Grove, essentially all of Sacramento proper is included in Dr. Pan’s district but 2251 Florin Road, Suite 156 is where he settled. And people are coming off the streets to pop in and talk. “It’s a good place to be. I want to be sure we serve all our neighborhoods. I am proud of the work of all of our neighborhoods,” Pan said. Having worked for several nonprofits over the years from churches to food banks and nonprofit health clinics nearby, Florin Road is “one of the communities in my area that could use extra help,” he said. Proud to be a convener bringing people together, Pan has held health fairs, kids’ health classes, has worked with food banks and helped summer lunch programs. “We work with (Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services), Senior Gleaners to continue to get food to people who need help. We’ve done a variety of things on the ground to help out,” he said. First elected to the state Assembly in 2010, Pan has since authored legislation to bring more than $100 million in federal funds for fire departments, including $6 million for the Sacramento region. He partnered with law enforcement and local businesses to establish a statewide database to catch thieves attempting to sell stolen property to pawnshops, and he authored a law to allow campus police to use body cameras. Time magazine called Dr. Pan a “hero” when he authored landmark legislation to abolish non-medical exemptions to legally required vaccines for school students. Despite the recognition, activists attempted to recall Pan because of the vaccination law. In an article by Elk Grove Citizen’s Lance Armstrong, Katherine Duran, an Elk Grove mother, and a team of volunteers responded to that bill with an effort to have Pan recalled. According to the article, Duran stated that she felt that the bill represented a loss of “liberty or right to decide what doesn’t go into our bodies.” Apparently even after the effort to recall was unsuccessful, in a recent interview with this publication Pan relayed further backlash that attacked an event where he brought together members of the Muslim and Japanese communities to talk about exclusionary rhetoric. “Anti-vaxxers came to protest outside, but they played a trick on the reporter. They claimed that I allowed hate speech (on my Facebook page). They showed the reporter these posts. There were three examples and each was less than an hour a part from another. One post was an anti-vaccine person who faked posting – ‘kill the anti-vaxxers. See, they’re threatening us too.’ We proved that one of the posts was an anti-vaccine Facebook person who pretended they were pro vaccine… it was bad. “The reality is we have to keep our kids safe at school. We eliminated measles in 2000 and having all these cases pop up and being spread primarily around unvaccinated kids. Ten babies died of whooping cough and hundreds got sick.” 
 Now hiring: After recession, state government looking for workers During the recession, the state essentially had a hiring freeze, but now that recovery has been underway, they’re hiring again. The need for employees also stems from those retiring. Working with the state Department of Human Resources’ Civil Rights Commission, Pan reached out to minority groups to diversify the workplace and to fill the open positions. “A lot of people who live in less served communities don’t know the process,” he said. Offering workshops on how to get a state job with such nonprofits as La Familia, and Asian Resources, a lot work needs to be done to get the attendees to come to exam. “We’re still in the middle of this. We want to be sure more people have opportunities to apply for these jobs … We need to be getting them to the exam.” While there are companies that do this for a fee, reaching out to the underserved communities, Pan has been instrumental in making sure these workshops are free of charge. 
 Working with Elk Grove youth to create legislation affecting them In February, Pan joined the 8th grade class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School in Elk Grove in introducing Senate Bill 977, which would ban tobacco products within 250 feet from a youth sporting event. “Youth sports is all about developing good and healthy habits,” he said. “Everyone on the field, bleachers and sidelines should be encouraging our young athletes to pick up life-long habits that will keep them healthy and strong. I am proud of the 8th grade class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School for recognizing the importance of good health and working to make SB 977 state law.” SB 977 would prohibit cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products within 250 feet of any youth sports practice, game or other activity, where athletes under the age of 18 are present. 
 Data tracking system on violent deaths Pan also announced that his bill SB 877, which will require California to establish and maintain a data-tracking system on violent deaths in the state, including gun deaths, passed the state senate. “Researchers cannot fully confront the crisis and save lives because we lack research and tracking,” he explained. “Databases are really important to figure ways to reduce injury and death. It also tells when things don’t work,” he added at the time of the interview. He said California used to participate and stopped for budget issues about 10 years ago. “Being someone in public health, I need to understand and (know) if solutions are making a difference.” Prior to 2008, California participated in the National Violent Death Reporting System, a federal program to collect data on violent deaths. California was unable to obtain federal funding to continue the program because the state did not obtain law enforcement records required by NVDRS. SB 877 would require the California Department of Public Health to collect such data. In addition to providing the data to the NVDRS, the data could be used to assist state policymakers and communities as they determine appropriate prevention and education efforts. Researchers point to the difference in how guns and vehicle fatalities are tracked. In 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a national database called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. State, local and federal entities work together to update the database with detailed data sets for every car death in the nation. By contrast, a unified and complete database for gun deaths is virtually non-existent, explained Pan in a press release on the topic. Researchers and policymakers have used the information to create safety mechanisms that have drastically reduced vehicle fatalities through the years. Meanwhile, gun deaths persist and in 21 states and the District of Columbia, gun deaths now outnumber vehicle deaths, Pan continued. Also, in regard to Dr. Pan’s bill requiring California collect data on gun deaths, Pan reported that the following 32 states collect and participate in the National Violent Death Reporting System: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.