San Diego’s delegation to Sacramento got two new faces this session in the form of Assemlymen Randy Voepel and Todd Gloria.
Both come from local government – Voepel is a Republican former mayor and city councilman for Santee; Gloria is a Democratic former San Diego city councilman. Both said there were aspects of making the transition from local policymaking to state policymaking that took some adjusting to.
Now that they each have a full legislative session under their belts, I asked them to reflect on how it went and what experiences stuck out.
What surprised you the most about your first session in Sacramento?
Voepel: On a policy front, I was very surprised that by Veterans Preference bill (AB 353) didn’t become law. It’s an idea that on paper seems like a slam dunk, and had bipartisan and unanimous support in the Assembly, but died in the Senate.
In terms of the way the building works, what I was most surprised by was the amount of time we spend waiting for things to happen, and how often meetings or session started late. When I served in local government, we tried to run a tight ship, because people wanted to take care of business and get home to their families. Sacramento is just a different creature in that regard.
Gloria: Many of the problems we face in the San Diego region are also problems in other areas of California. For example, homelessness is not just a top concern for San Diegans. My colleagues in all corners of the state have shared with me that homelessness is a growing problem in their communities as well. Because of this common ground, we’re able to work together to pass legislation like the affordable housing package, which will increase funding substantially to help house California’s homeless.
What was the most frustrating thing you encountered?
Gloria: It is easier and quicker to make an impact on the local level than at the state level. When I was at City Hall, I could fill a pothole in just a few days. The state does not move as fast, and the legislative process is far more complex. As someone who is addicted to delivering results, this has been frustrating. The silver lining is that whatever positive changes I can make in Sacramento have the potential of impacting many more people.
Voepel: As you can imagine, being a Republican serving in the minority can get entirely frustrating. When the Democrats run the show, not only is it hard to get legislation passed, but it’s also hard to even have bills heard, which obviously limits the discussion and debate about ideas. You also have a much smaller staff, so your ability to craft broad and sweeping policies that could truly change the state is also limited. You have to move your own goalpost in terms of how you define success, especially if you came from local government like I did.
What are you most proud of from the first session?
Voepel: As I mentioned, while AB 353 ultimately didn’t become law, I was proud of the bipartisan consensus we were able to build, not only in terms of who voted for it, but also the bi-partisan co-authors, including Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher who was a principal co-author. Ultimately, despite all the coverage of partisan battles, it showed that there’s still room for bipartisan consensus on certain issues – in this case, greater job opportunities for veterans.
Gloria: I decided to go to the state Assembly because I wanted to use my experience to make progress on issues like transportation, housing and climate change. This year, we tackled and made progress on all three. We boosted funding to repair our crumbling transportation infrastructure with SB 1; we extended our proven and signature state program to combat climate change in cap-and-trade; and we passed a comprehensive package of bills to address our housing crisis. This is specific and tangible progress for everyday Californians and I’m proud to have been part of the Assembly leadership team that got these priorities accomplished.
Signed, Sealed, Law
Gov. Jerry Brown has been churning through the bills on his desk. Here are the measures from San Diego lawmakers that he signed into law this week, and one he vetoed.
AB 658 by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron suspends the clinical laboratory license renewal fee for two years, and adjusts licensing fees after that.
AB 940 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber adds an extra safety layer before a patient is discharged from a long-term health facility.
AB 1518 by Weber delays the implementation of an earlier law requiring police to collect data on traffic stops, and makes other clarifying changes.
SB 2 by Sen. Toni Atkins imposes a $75 fee on certain real estate documents in order to fund affordable housing efforts.
SB 214 by Atkins expands the San Diego River Conservancy board and codifies certain powers, like the ability to award grants to special districts.
SB 367 by Sen. Pat Bates extends Orange County’s lease terms at Dana Point Harbor to 66 years from 50 years.
SB 587 by Atkins allows probation officers to display blue warning lights on their emergency vehicles.
SB 598 by Sen. Ben Hueso requires the California Public Utilities Commission to adopt policies aimed at reducing gas and electric shutoffs for customers with certain medical conditions.
Brown vetoed AB 532 by Waldron, which would let a court collaborate with outside groups to create treatment programs for women charged with certain offenses. In his veto message, Brown says the judicial branch already has the authority to create such programs.
Golden State News
• A Sacramento judge rewrote the ballot initiative seeking to overturn California’s new gas tax, after he found the summary written by Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be misleading. (Associated Press)
• Assemblyman Phil Ting says he’s working on a bill to phase out gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. (Sacramento Bee)
• Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill moving up California’s presidential primary to March. It may shock you to learn that some politicos think this is good, while other, well, they think it’s not good. (NPR, Capitol Weekly, CALmatters)
• This piece examines the state of the Republican Party in California. (CNN)
• Sen. Toni Atkins talks about the maneuvering that went into getting SB 2 passed, San Diego’s hepatitis A crisis and more. (Capitol Public Radio)
• California Secretary of State Alex Padilla says the Department of Homeland Security is wrong about Russian attempts to hack California election systems.
• San Francisco’s system for determining whether someone should be let out of custody on bail might be worth replicating. (KQED)