Now that the 2009 Legislative Session has wrapped up, what are your reflections on your first session in the Assembly? What is working for California, and what isn’t?
In my first comments in December, I stated there had been very little down time since the election and, as of today, that still applies. The speed at which the Legislature moves is rapid, and when you add the two massive budget shortfalls, prison overcrowding, the state’s water shortage and boosting the amount of renewable energy the state produces, the pace is indeed fast and furious. However, despite the monumental learning curve, the large work load and the long hours, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with other Legislators and staffers who are truly dedicated to making state government work for all Californians.
I do believe that fundamental reforms are critical if California is to regain its leadership in education, transportation, infrastructure, and to establish a stable and predictable budget process. I remain committed to working on institutional reform while continuing to work to advance the interests of all who live in the 27th Assembly District.
Additionally, I want to take a moment to thank my family for their understanding and patience over the past 10 months. Being a public official can make it difficult to have any private time, but my family has been accepting and supportive of sharing me with the constituents of the 27th Assembly District.
What bills did you get through, or wish to have gotten through this year?
This year I personally authored 19 measures and carried five committee bills. While I have several measures awaiting Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature or veto, I want to highlight three bills.
The first measure is Assembly Bill (AB) 1, which would provide teachers with the option to enroll in negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution courses as part of their professional growth programs. These programs might include developing negotiation strategies, communication skills, mediation and peer mediation training, as well as the study of theory and practice of nonviolence and peace-building. Because of my background in mediation and conflict resolution and seeing how universally these skills can be applied, teachers will be better equipped for handling situations in the classroom, as well as imparting to students essential skills for overcoming challenges they face now and in later years.
A second bill I want to highlight is AB 1217, which directs the Ocean Protection Council to develop and implement a voluntary sustainable seafood promotion program that would consist of a statewide labeling protocol to guide entities selling sustainable seafood. This measure will protect consumers from being misled by inaccurate labeling of seafood products and provide support to fishermen, restaurants, and retailers who will gain a competitive business advantage by adopting these standards.
Finally, AB 1069 requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to establish a toll-free hotline for the public when a determination has been made that an urban aerial or ground application pest eradication effort will occur. The hotline for reporting adverse health complaints from the pesticide applied would be made available to the public in the effected region and CDFA would be required to include the number on notices sent to the public before an eradication begins.
The governor has until Oct. 11, 2009 to act on all three pieces of legislation.
What happens now that the water package did not pass?
Because the current Legislative Session came to a close on Sept. 11, 2009 without a vote being taken on a water package, I am expecting the governor to call the legislature into an extraordinary session sometime this fall in order to address the unresolved issue.
The water package currently being discussed seeks to reform the policy and governance of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A two-house Legislative Conference Committee was created to bring interested groups together to craft legislation that will help the ecosystem in the Delta and provide more reliability in the state’s water conveyance system. One of the most divisive hurdles to overcome is passing legislation that will place a water bond on the ballot to fund the policy reform and governance items.
Unfortunately, time ran out before an agreement was reached on a comprehensive water package, but it is crucial that the various stakeholder groups continue their discussions for the Legislature to address the water crisis effectively and responsibly. Preventing the crash of the ecosystem in the Delta affects the entire state and it is important for the legislature to act promptly.