Each year Leagues across California conduct interviews of their local state Assemblymember and Senator.   These Local League legislative interviews are an opportunity for us to connect with our district representatives, expand our League’s presence, and heighten our collective impact. They are also an excellent chance to cultivate new leaders and build new relationships.

Our interview with Senator Josh Becker addressed land use and climate change; housing, homelessness, zoning, and affordability; and an equitable recovery from COVID-19.

Question 1: Climate change and land use 

What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach net drawdown from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities? 

Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
Climate change is a big priority for Sen Becker and he has put forward several bills focused on clean energy. SB 67 would accelerate the state’s goal of having 100% of electricity provided by renewables or other zero-carbon sources 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Another bill is designed to speed the transition to electric powered buildings. He is in favor of the “30 by 30” initiative which Assembly Member Kalra proposed last session and which Governor Newsom took executive action on last October. Sen. Becker supports efforts in regenerative agriculture though he is not as familiar with California’s Healthy Soils initiative and invites the League to share information and resources with him. 

Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and Affordability 

What can be done to reform exclusionary single-family zoning in California? What reforms do you support to legalize and incentivize more affordable housing (both naturally occurring and deed restricted) in high opportunity neighborhoods? 

Summary of Sen. Becker reply: 

Housing: The housing crisis has worsened during the pandemic and California needs a housing strategy. Sen. Becker will work to address strategy and to streamline affordable housing approval processes. He plans to address the crisis with bills this session to support additional rental housing, assist first-time home buyers and allow duplexes. While the state does this work, the local governments have to take the lead with the state supporting through funding, such as bonuses to cities that increase density. 

Homelessness: The state is working to prevent evictions during the pandemic and provide more affordable housing. Mental health issues are important and we must look deeply at how to help with more supportive services for mentally ill people. 

Question 3: COVID-19 recovery 

As we look toward recovery, what can be done to move California to be a more equitable place for all of us? 

Summary of Sen. Becker reply: 

The pandemic has exacerbated the inequality in California, and it has exceptionally affected people of color and low income people. We must look deeply at how to make the state more equitable, especially for the vulnerable. A pathway to economic mobility is early childhood education and child care, and we have to help those workers, who are mostly minority, with vaccination priority and economic support. Early childhood education needs more funding. California’s education system is decimated by the crisis. There is learning loss, and problems with digital equity and inclusion. Education must prepare children for the jobs in this economy and mentor networks are necessary to help build skills too. This year it will be hard to make these issues a priority but there is a budget surplus and we are working on it. 

Question 4: Personal Priorities of Legislator 

What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal within 2021? What are your personal priorities? 

Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
The first priority is COVID recovery, including eviction protection, helping small businesses, and supporting family child care providers. Next is economic opportunity, including education and equality of education, especially early childhood education, including expanding access to higher education and criminal justice reform. Also climate and the environment, including pushing S.B. 67 and the potential for 24×7 clean energy. 

Question 5: Trust in Government 

These days there is a lack of trust in government. Democracy requires trust in facts and in government. How do you think we should combat misinformation while balancing freedom of speech? How do we build unity and engagement across the political spectrum? 

Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
Misinformation: Sen. Becker says this is in his priorities document, and he looks at the European social media policies as useful examples for his staff to analyze. In our area we have Facebook and Google and YouTube so we have a responsibility to look at radicalization and misinformation.

Bipartisanship: Sen. Becker was surprised when joining the California Legislature that there are so many friendships in Sacramento and in Congress between Democrats and Republicans as well as bipartisan bills.  There needs to be more publicizing that legislators do work together.