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Together, San Diego’s delegation to the state Capitol has written hundreds of bills that address everything from obscure rules for trusts and estates to diapers to human trafficking. Though each one tends to write bills addressing all kinds of issues, it’s not hard to see some patterns emerge for each lawmaker.
Now that the latest legislative session has ended, I decided to look back at each San Diego legislator’s body of bills to see what issues rise to the top for each one. These are the priorities that came up the most.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez
His Thing: Veterans
It’s no big surprise that a guy who still prefers the title “Colonel” over “Assemblyman” writes a lot of bills aimed at helping veterans.
Over the years, he’s written a long list of bills directed at current and former service members – including measures this session requiring elected officials convicted under the Stolen Valor Act to forfeit their office, and one that helps some service members’ families access in-state college tuition.
Apart from veterans, Chavez has also written multiple bills aimed at education reform.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria
His Thing: Housing
Before he even got to the Assembly, housing issues were on Todd Gloria’s mind.
“Few issues in my experience draw as much sympathy, frustration and passion as homelessness. … I am confident that the way we end homelessness is through the housing first model, which prioritizes getting homeless people housed quickly rather than focusing on temporary shelter or interventions,” Gloria wrote in a VOSD op-ed during his Assembly campaign.
Once elected, Gloria took on housing statewide. He wrote and supported bills to address a wide range of housing initiatives, including measures to boost funding for homeless youth, and to give housing authorities like the San Diego Housing Commission, where he used to be a board member, the ability to help provide more middle-class housing.
He was also named chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Housing Affordability for the Middle and Working Class, which will study and develop future policy priorities.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher
Her Thing: Workers and Women
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher began pursuing controversial, high-profile legislation the moment she arrived in the Capitol – most of it aimed at improving the lives of workers and women (and working women).
Some of her biggest wins to date have included mandatory paid sick leave for nearly all California employees, expanded overtime pay for farmworkers and a major overhaul of the San Diego Association of Governments that includes a leg up for labor unions.
Though her bills often get national attention, they don’t always become law.
Gonzalez talked about some of her failed measures with VOSD earlier this month. “There’s a view that I get a lot of bills vetoed, I’ve heard people say that,” she said. “I don’t think I have a higher average, I just don’t try to hide it when it happens, and I bring them back. I think it’s more of an approach that’s different from other people.”
Assemblyman Brian Maienschein
His Thing: Pets
During his time in the Assembly, Maienschein has written several bills addressing a constituency that can’t actually vote for him: pets. A bill Maienschein wrote this session that passed the Legislature, for example, would have banned misleading statements by those advertising pets for sale – but it was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. He’s also written bills that address dog fighting and animal shelters.
I asked Maienschein about his many pet-centered bill on a recent episode of the VOSD Podcast.
“I’m very passionate about animal rights issues. And so I have I’ve done a lot of I’ve done a lot of bills that that impact pets and animals. I care about it. And interestingly there’s not really a lot of attention to that,” he said.
Maienschein has also written numerous bills tweaking regulations to corporate law and trusts and estates – most of which are sponsored by the State Bar.
Assemblywoman Marie Waldron
Her Thing: Patient Care
Assemblywoman Marie Waldron has written a number of bills aimed at expanding access to and information on health services.
A bill passed by Waldron this year provides patients with information relating to breast cancer susceptibility gene mutations.
Last year, Waldron passed a bill that would have allowed Medi-Cal patients to receive allergy tests from their primary care doctors, instead of having to be referred to a specialist – but it was vetoed by the governor.
Waldron has also introduced measures to expand the rights of Medi-Cal patients with epilepsy and to require Medi-Cal managed care plans to cover certain drugs a patient’s doctor deems medically necessary.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber
Her Things: Education and Criminal Justice
Weber’s pursuit of reforms within the educational and criminal justice systems mean she often goes head to head with two of the most powerful interest groups in the state: teachers and law enforcement.
She’s scored some big wins, like a 2015 law requiring law enforcement agencies to collect data on who they stop in order to identify and guard against racial profiling, and a law signed this month to reform the state gang database.
But she’s been dealt losses, too: The state ultimately went with an accountability system for schools preferred by teachers over Weber’s plan, which would have allowed families to more easily compare schools. And her efforts to reform the teacher tenure system have stalled over multiple legislative sessions.
Assemblyman Randy Voepel
His Thing: Veterans
In his first legislative session since being elected to the Assembly in 2016, Voepel, a Navy vet, wrote at least three bills aimed at veterans and the military.
One would have allowed private employers to enact hiring policies giving preference to veterans. Voepel told me back in September he was disappointed by the bill’s failure: “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,” he said.
Another Voepel bill would have stated “the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation relating to the building of veterans memorials, buildings and cemeteries.”
Sen. Joel Anderson
His Thing: Digital Privacy
During his stints in the Assembly and state Senate, Anderson has written or joined with other lawmakers on several bills that address privacy rights in the digital age. This session, for example, he wrote a bill that would have allowed people to legally cover their license plates while parked and set a limit on how long the California Highway Patrol could retain license plate reader data.
Anderson co-wrote 2015’s California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which requires police to obtain a warrant to access information on a person’s smart phone, and he’s worked on bills limiting state collaboration with the federal government to collect citizens’ electronic information.
Sen. Toni Atkins
Her Things: Affordable Housing, LGBT Rights
Sen. Toni Atkins’ biggest wins this year highlight the two priorities that have been mainstays during her legislative career. SB 2 creates a new funding stream for affordable housing, and SB 179 makes California the first state to recognize a nonbinary gender on official state documents like driver’s licenses.
Those are in keeping with a number of other measures Atkins has proposed over the years aimed at generating more affordable housing and protecting and expanding gay and transgender rights.
In 2013, Brown signed Atkins’ bill allowing a transgender person to amend his or her name and gender on a birth certificate without first obtaining a court order. The same year, Brown also signed an Atkins bill establishing a low-income housing tax program.
Like any lawmaker, Atkins’ personal story has influenced her priorities in the Legislature: She’s been celebrated as a pioneer for becoming California’s first openly gay female Assembly speaker, but she’s also faced occasional criticism for her bills to boost affordable housing development, as her wife is a developer of affordable housing.
Sen. Ben Hueso
His Things: Energy and Cross-Border Issues
Sen. Ben Hueso has long represented the communities along the U.S.-Mexico border. So it makes sense that he’s written several bills to protect undocumented immigrants and to address cross-border commerce and infrastructure.
Hueso proposed a high-profile bill at the beginning of the year to fund legal services for immigrants facing deportation. The bill ultimately failed, but some money for legal services did make it into the state budget. Hueso did pass a bill this year that allows money to be set aside for land purchases to be used to study fixes for the Tijuana River Valley, and has more hearings scheduled to discuss solutions for the area.
Hueso is also heavily involved in energy issues and chairs the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.
Over the last two sessions alone, he has introduced bills to encourage setting a special rate for electric service for public schools, to create a committee exploring clean energy jobs, to change certain rules for natural gas vehicles and to shield vulnerable populations from gas and electricity shutoffs.
Sen. Pat Bates
Her Thing: Limited and Transparent Government
Sen. Pat Bates, who represents portions of Orange County and San Diego’s North County, is someone who’s long worked in government and wants to limit the role of government.
Bates has written multiple measures aimed at reforming the Brown Act, which governs how public meetings are conducted, including one signed by Brown that requires local agencies to orally report certain information on salaries and compensation during open meetings.
Another bill written by Bates that died this session would have modified the powers of elected auditor-controllers.
In her legislative bio, Bates writes: “Government has an important role in protecting public safety and health, but it must act within the limits placed upon it by the people. After all, government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.”
She has also served on the Little Hoover Commission, which investigates state government operations.
Legislative Leaders Announce Harassment Hearings, Investigations
The sexual harassment scandal in the Capitol isn’t dying down any time soon. On Friday, the first story dropped naming a sitting Assembly member: “Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra was disciplined after a human resources investigation eight years ago, when a female Capitol staffer accused him of ‘inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact,’” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Senate leader Kevin de Leon announced earlier this week he’s taking steps to investigate sexual harassment in the Capitol, but as CALMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall pointed out, so far none of the measures include reviving a measure to protect those who speak out.
But, surprise surprise, no mention of whistleblower protection bill Senate has killed for last 4 years
— Laurel Rosenhall (@LaurelRosenhall) October 23, 2017
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon also announced he’ll hold hearings on sexual harassment.
The letter signed by more than 140 California women last week has also had a domino effect – Legislatures across the country are beginning to talk openly about problems women are facing.
California Assemblywoman Christina Garcia discussed some of her experiences with The Hill, which also notes incidents in South Dakota, Iowa and other states.
Also this week, Oregon’s Senate president sent a scathing letter to a fellow senator accused of groping women, announcing he’d be removing the doors from the senator’s office. Women told the Boston Globe that there’s “a climate of harassment and sexual misconduct” in the Massachusetts Capitol.
Back in 2015, the Kansas City Star published a bombshell report detailing rampant sexual harassment in the Missouri state Capitol.
Golden State News
• Here’s a fun exchange on the gas tax between Assemblyman Randy Voepel and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.
• Lots of California Republicans have moved to Northern Idaho, where they’re shaking up the political scene. (Buzzfeed)
• A columnist argues that California’s new drug pricing law won’t change much. (Stat)
• California’s chief justice released a list of recommendations for reforming the bail system.
• Nineteenth century Californians weren’t into Rams or Giants or Kings – they were into watching grizzly bears fight bulls. (Atlas Obscura)
• Every chairwoman of the state Legislative Women’s Caucus gets a bell at the end of her tenure, and this badass lady is the reason why. (KQED)
• The candidates for governor are trying to stake out unique positions on health care reform. (San Francisco Chronicle)
• A former state tax official says he was fired for whistle-blowing. (Los Angeles Times)
Maya Srirkishnan contributed to this report.