Our local league conducted an annual “legislative interview” with Assemblyman Richard Gordon, 24th District, on March 13, 2014.
QUESTION 1: Money in Politics
Californians are increasingly dismayed by the flow of money into campaigns at all levels of politics. They are even more alarmed about the fact that for many large donations there is no way to identify the original contributors. Innocuous committee names no longer fool them.
In particular, the League strongly supports SB 27 (Correa) to prevent nonprofits from contributing large sums in California elections without disclosure. We are cosponsors of SB 2 (Lieu), which will improve slate mailer disclosure, require “Stand by Your Ad” in state elections, and strengthen enforcement.
Bills to require disclosure of the sources of all contributions in California campaigns and to make campaign disclosure more transparent and user-friendly in general will come before the Assembly
and Senate early in 2014. Will you help see that effective measures are passed in the Assembly/Senate to help voters know who’s funding campaigns?
Assemblyman Gordon absolutely supports SB 27. His bill, AB 800, passed the Assembly on March 10th. AB 800 helps strengthen the Fair Political Practices Commission in investigating and auditing organizations making large campaign donations. These two bills would have helped us avoid the “dark money” from an NPO in Arizona during the 2012 election. Gordon co-authored and was the floor jockey for SB 27. These bills will provide greater transparency to the electoral process. Gordon expects there are enough votes to pass SB 27 in the Senate on March 17th. The Governor would like to sign both SB 27 and AB 800 at the same time. [GM1]
QUESTION 2: Education
The LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) is rolling out over the next few years. Implementation strategies are being drafted and there will inevitably be some adjustments. What do you see as the ongoing role of the legislature? Are there programs you feel should remain categorical? Are there areas you deem as off limits for spending supplemental and concentration funds?
Assemblyman Gordon is a strong supporter of the local control funding formula. It assures local school boards the ability to set priorities for their own funding. It sets the path for additional funding, specifically targeting the achievement gap. Gordon believes that for too long we have underfunded education. Gordon would like to be able to provide education with more funding. The LCFF also eliminates the previously complex funding of most categorical areas, except for a few “sacred cows.” What more should the Legislature do? Not much. Leave it to the districts and school boards for now.
When asked about Transitional Kindergarten, Gordon feels it should be funded moving forward. However, he does have some concerns with the current proposals. Overall the current state education budget does not provide enough funds for K-12 education, in addition to expanding the TK program. The move to universal TK has several challenges, such as insufficient facilities in many districts and an insufficient number of properly credentialed teachers. Also there are many home-based child care programs that provide families with needed income but these caregivers may not be properly credentialed for TK and this will produce an economic hardship. Then there is the question of how districts would contract out TK programs and services. Gordon doesn’t foresee any legislation on the expansion of TK to be enacted this year.
QUESTION #3. California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Do you think specific projects should be exempted from parts or all of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, or have special rules set for them? If so, how would you determine which projects should receive such treatment?
Gordon believes that land use projects should be subject to CEQA reviews. The issue with the current CEQA is that it opens the door too easily for groups to file law suits to block or delay a development project, claiming an environmental issue that may or may not be valid while attempting to leverage a non-environmental consession.
QUESTION # 4 – Other issues
What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2014? What are your personal priorities?
Gordon feels water is the major issue for 2014. California’s primary storage is the snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas. We have inadequate water storage across the state and no way to capture both run-off and rain fall. Gordon is part of a group working on a multi-billion dollar water bond for the November 2014 ballot. A key way this bond is different from the Governor’s is that it would leave out the construction of tunnels under the delta. Further ways to alleviate California’s water shortage are to promote reuse and recycling of water. Some groups are looking into desalination. Overall with the current drought, this fall’s election is a good time to take water issues to the voters.
He is also very interested in and concerned about sea level rise. He is holding a forum on this subject in July at Moffatt Field in Mountain View. He is carrying legislation (AB 2516) that will create a centralized data base of information on how California is preparing for, and adapting to, sea level rise. He is also in favor of incentivizing regional planning efforts around this issue.
Another legislative priority is community/school-based gardens. At this time school kids are not allowed to eat the produce they grow in their school gardens as the produce has not been inspected. Other groups such as farmers’ markets have found ways to self inspect and certify produce; AB 1990 would allow these same techniques to be used for community and school based gardens as well.
The Affordable Care Act – the current cap for out of pocket medical expenses is fixed at about $6,000 a year. For persons with chronic illnesses such as cancer or HIV that have high medication costs, this cap can be reached in the first month. Through AB 1917, Gordon suggests an extended payoff plan whereby payments could be spread out over the entire year.
Gordon is chair of the Rules Committee.