The Morning Report
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I’m not kidding you, Brian Jones is leaving the Legislature.
When I first started writing the Sacramento Report, I did a whirlwind cram session on San Diego’s state legislators and eventually came across Jones’ “Are You Kidding Me?” video series, in which he expresses outrage on everything from realignment to drought policies. They’re like a wonkier (and far more conservative) version of SNL’s “REALLY?!?” series.
Now Jones, a Republican who previously served on the Santee City Council, is termed out. I talked with him this week about his time in the Assembly.
What’s next for you? A Jones for Senate 2018 campaign committee has more than $200,000 in it – is that the plan?
Yes. In 2018, Joel Anderson is termed out of the Senate, so I’ll be running to replace him.
Obviously being a Republican in the California Legislature means not getting your way a lot of the time. Back in June after the state budget passed, you criticized Democrats for not collaborating enough. Are there moments you can point to where you were able to find common ground on an issue?
Well I think the important thing for people in California to understand regarding the partisanship in Sacramento is that a lot of things happen in Sacramento that are bipartisan. Anytime a Republican bill passes and gets signed by the governor, that’s a bipartisan bill because we have to convince enough Democrats to vote for our stuff to get it to the governor’s desk, and then convince the governor to sign it. So any Republican legislation is always bipartisan.
A lot of the legislation that even the Democrats pass has Republican support. It’s really kind of just the extreme stuff that they’re passing that passes without Republican support. And some of that extreme stuff is the budgeting. I think specifically on the budget, Republicans feel like especially on transportation – a lot of the transportation funding could be done out of the general fund, without increasing transportation taxes.
Were there any times that you thought that something would be a bipartisan effort and it didn’t end up that way?
It’s pretty easy to predict what’s going to be bipartisan and what isn’t. Personally, the one thing I was disappointed in, is I carried a bill this year to exempt Olympic athletes from personal income tax. And it passed out of the Assembly, I think unanimously. It had bipartisan support in the policy hearing, in the first committee in the Senate. And then the Senate Approps Committee killed it in the committee there.
I felt like that was a bill that should have gotten signed. It should have been allowed to go to the governor. The Republicans and Democrats in Washington D.C. and President Obama all worked together to pass a similar bill, and it was a bipartisan effort in Washington – and I thought that it should have been in Sacramento as well.
I’ve told you before that I am a big fan of your “Are You Kidding Me?” videos – I think everyone can relate to venting outrage about something. How did those videos start?
It started in my first year. I was completely unfamiliar with Sacramento when I got elected. … I came from a very collegial city council where everybody worked together. There really wasn’t any main special interest that controlled the city council. And I got to Sacramento and it was a completely different situation. So there were often times I would come back from committee or from the floor or a meeting, and I would come into my office and just blurt out, “I can’t believe this!” or “Are you kidding me?” … Just express some frustration with a situation up there. And my staff finally said, “You know what? We need to record these.” …
The first one was just free-flow, I just went off on something. And then we refined it after that and started videotaping them and producing them and getting them sent out.
Have you gotten any interesting reactions to them?
Oh yeah. I have a couple rules in making those. No. 1 is, if I’m going to present a problem, I always want to present a solution. … The second thing is, as best I could, I always wanted to criticize a policy, not a person. So I endeavored to never make them personal or call out a legislator by name. That kind of helped protect my relationships with the people I’m working with, while at the same time criticizing the policies that they’re promoting.
There’s been a couple of members who took them more personal than I meant for them to take them. So I had to iron out those situations. But for the most part people reacted similar to how you reacted. Obviously the people in my district love them and appreciate that I’m communicating what’s really happening up there.
If you’re successful in your Senate bid, what do you see as your priorities and do you think you’ll approach things differently having been in the Legislature?
Well I certainly know what to expect this time, and I can hit the ground running a little bit better. Obviously two years is a long time in politics. One of the things I would work on is at least in the Senate, to protect the one-third. If I’m able to help them regain the one-third in the Assembly. I think that’s important for the state, to have balance in the Legislature.
Statewide Spotlight on Dumanis, Faulconer
They weren’t on the ballot last week, but two San Diegans’ names are swirling for statewide office.
The San Francisco Chronicle includes District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis among its list of prospective replacements for Attorney General Kamala Harris, who won her election to the U.S. Senate.
And many folks assume Mayor Kevin Faulconer will run for governor in 2018. He’s sure bolstering that assumption by suddenly speaking out about statewide issues:
Justice reform is important. But 57 was the wrong way. I hope Sac provides cities funding to deal w/ early release of violent criminals.
— Kevin Faulconer (@Kevin_Faulconer) November 17, 2016
Mayor @Kevin_Faulconer at @latimes said we need to stop the bullet train fantasy & invest those billions into real infrastructure projects.
— Stephen Puetz (@stephenpuetz) November 18, 2016
• Another candidate for governor, state Treasurer John Chiang, is highlighted in this New Yorker piece for his decision to take a stand against then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to drastically cut pay for state workers.
One Staffer Makes the Leap to Elected Office, Others Fall Short
At least three staffers to local state lawmakers made their own bids for elected office this year.
Chris Ward, who’s chief of staff to outgoing state Sen. Marty Block, was elected to the San Diego City Council in June.
But two other staffers came up short in their efforts last week. Both of them were seeking positions that their bosses have once held.
Mason Herron, a staffer to Assemblyman Brian Jones, lost his bid for the Santee City Council. He told me this week that the experience hasn’t necessarily dissuaded him from a run in the future.
“I got into politics/government initially because I always had a passion for public policy and addressing issues, so serving elected officials has been the best and most effective way to do that, in my opinion. So my preference has been and will continue to be staying in that arena,” Herron wrote in an email. “As for running again, I’m not ruling it out by any means. I am taking some time to decompress and figure out if that’s still something I want to pursue in the future.”
And LaShae Collins, district director to Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, lost her race for the San Diego Unified school board. Collins finished first in the June primary, but fell short last week to Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, who was appointed to the board in February to fill the spot of former trustee Marne Foster, who resigned.
Collins couldn’t be reached for comment.
Golden State News
• Assemblyman Rocky Chavez discusses the California National Guard bonus fiasco, directing his anger toward military and Defense Department leaders. California members of Congress, meanwhile, have written a bill that would let guard members keep the enlistment bonuses they were improperly paid. (Local Edition, L.A. Times)
• Hector Tobar wrote a beautiful essay on the value of learning to speak both English and Spanish – especially for Latino students – in the wake of Proposition 58’s success. (New York Times)
• California is the top destination for international students, with UCSD ranking No. 3 in the state in international student population. (LA Weekly)
• Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes, the Assembly minority leader, calls for civility in the next session and argues California Republicans are different from national Republicans. (Desert Sun)
• California Democrats have reclaimed their supermajority in the Assembly. (Sac Bee)