Mark Stone wins re-election to the California State Assembly
In his two years in the state legislature, California State Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) has built a reputation for himself in Sacramento as a policymaker who is willing to work across party lines, and as someone who is, above all, trustworthy.
“At the end of the day, all that matters in Sacramento is whether you can be trusted, all the time, every time,” says Santa Cruz County Treasurer and former Assemblymember Fred Keeley. “There are only three words that matter in Sacramento, and they’re not interchangeable: yes, no, and maybe. People who operate thinking that these words are not interchangeable are trustworthy. The word around the capitol is that Mark Stone is a grown-up, and he is trustworthy.”
Being known as a policymaker who keeps his word is paramount at the capitol, Keeley says.
Although Stone didn’t make any drastic overhauls to state law during his first term, he was able to change some of the nitty-gritty details of existing policies that could potentially make a real difference in the lives of underprivileged Californians.
As chair of the Human Services Committee, for instance, Stone made changes to programs such as CalWORKS and CalFresh through the passage of AB 1614. The bill reduces or eliminates ATM fees associated with the EBT cards used by the recipients of the program. Not exactly flashy legislation, but the small change ensures that approximately $19 million goes to the programs’ beneficiaries and not to the banks.
“We’re not only getting money to the people that need it, but we’re making the system work better,” says Stone, who was re-elected for a second term on Nov. 4.
Looking back at his first term, Assemblymember Stone highlights the bipartisan relationships he established with fellow members of the Assembly’s freshman class, who were voted into the state legislature in 2012.
“The thing I am most happy with is more-process oriented, and it was a bit surprising,” says Stone. “This group that I came in with—and we have 12 years potentially if the voters keep sending us back—has changed the tone a lot, in the Assembly especially. We are doing a better job of working across the aisle.”
As chair of the Committee of Human Services, Stone made quick friends with his vice-chair, Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego).
“I think very highly of Mark. I have a lot of respect for him,” says Maienschein, of Stone. “I think that he and I have been a really good example of how Republicans and Democrats can come together to do good work that all political parties can support.”
Stone and Maienschein are part of the first group serving extended 12-year term limits, which voters approved in 2012. During their freshman terms, Stone and Maienschein worked jointly on several pieces of legislation, and recently jointly authored a bill to increase the fines for assisted living facilities that violate state law, which they presented together on the floor of the Assembly and the Senate.
“At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but looking back on it, it was a big step,” says Stone. “I am actually really proud of having done the right thing in spite of what the culture had been. I think making that culture shift in Sacramento is pretty significant.”
Stone also examined prison reform and recidivism issues through his role on the Public Safety Committee. With the overcrowding problems in jails and prisons across the state, Stone sought out practical ways the legislature could help former inmates reintegrate into society, and ultimately keep them from going back into the prison system.
Working with the DMV and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Stone was able to put a policy in place that will allow an inmate coming out of a state prison to acquire a California ID card, given that they meet certain requirements.
“I kept hearing again and again that inmates come out with very few resources, including the fact that they don’t have a valid ID card. It was a bill I couldn’t even believe I had to run,” says Stone.
Stone hopes that having a valid state ID will encourage former inmates to get access to the services they’re entitled to, find a place to live, and acquire gainful employment, which could in turn reduce recidivism rates in California.
“Nobody’s going to want to use their prison ID to get a job,” says Stone. “There was a hurdle that was put in front of these folks, which shouldn’t have been a hurdle.”
Stone would like to find more success in passing bills that promote environmental conservation, like the recent passage of the state’s single-use plastic bag ban, which he voted to approve.
Stone has pushed for similar environmental legislation to reduce plastic ocean pollution and eliminate cigarette filters, but those and some of his other proposed environmental initiatives were not passed into law. Recently appointed co-chair of the Legislative Environmental Caucus, Stone hopes that he and other caucus members can educate his fellow policymakers on the environmental issues facing California and its coastal waters.
There to help him in that mission is current Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency John Laird, a former California State Assemblymember. With Stone’s affinity for environmental issues, he and Laird have worked together in various capacities.
Laird has had a role in a few of Stone’s environmental bills, and has worked to bring the lawmaker up to speed with certain environmental issues from Gov. Jerry Brown’s perspective. Now that Stone has won re-election, Laird plans to continue to assist the policymaker during his sophomore term.
“I think that, over time, he is going to be one of the great legislators,” says Laird, “and so I feel that it’s important to invest in him.” PHOTO: In one term, Assemblymember Mark Stone has a built a reputation as a reliable lawmaker and an environmentalist.