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Legislators Who Supported Local Government in 2007

The League’s lobbying strength relies on cultivating and maintaining effective relationships with legislators, both in Sacramento and at the local level. When legislators take extra steps to help California cities, they deserve our recognition and thanks. Assembly Member Anna Caballero (D-28, Salinas) was honored by the League as “Legislator of the Year” in September 2007.

Throughout the year, many legislators offered assistance to the League or supported city issues in various ways. The following eight legislators, selected by the League’s lobbying team, stood out during the 2007 legislative session for their efforts in working with the League and their support for local government.

Senator Dave Cox (R-1, Fair Oaks). A former member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, Senator Cox deserves our recognition for his consistent support of local government over the years. As a member of the Senate Local Government Committee, he commands the respect of his colleagues for his experience in local government and his careful and principled approach. Senator Cox is a dedicated advocate in ensuring that the impacts of prisons on small communities are adequately mitigated. He was also very helpful to the League in supporting an effort to maximize the flexibility of local matching funds for state transportation bond dollars. His opposition to provisions in legislation that would have limited local flexibility under the Brown Act was vital in the effort to secure acceptable amendments.

Assembly Member Hector De La Torre (D-50, South Gate). When the League and other groups were considering which legislator to approach to author the eminent domain reform proposal (ACA 8), Assembly Member De La Torre’s name kept surfacing. As former mayor of the City of South Gate, he understood the vital role that redevelopment can play in a community’s economic turnaround. He was also a leader in the Legislature, serving as chair of the Assembly Committee on Rules, with a reputation for hard work and fairness on both sides of the aisle. In short, there could not have been a better author for ACA 8. Assembly Member De La Torre understood the issue thoroughly and made countless attempts to seek compromise on key points with Republican leaders. In addition to his work on eminent domain, he sponsored AB 701 to increase the outdated salary schedules for city council members from general law cities.

Senator Bob Dutton (R-31, Rancho Cucamonga). A former member of the Rancho Cucamonga City Council, Senator Dutton has solidly supported local government and city priorities, especially transportation issues. While the League recognized him as a “Legislator of the Year” in 2006, he deserves our recognition and thanks once again for his work during the 2007 session. Senator Dutton was critical to our successful efforts to clean up (through AB 193 and AB 196) major technical flaws in language affecting local streets and road funds included in the transportation budget trailer bill. In addition, he operates his office with an open-door policy and excellent staff that consults with the League on a variety of issues.

Assembly Member Jared Huffman (D-6, San Rafael). A freshman member and chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, Assembly Member Huffman is seen by many as a rapidly rising star in the Legislature. Having served on a local water district board, he is familiar with the challenges facing local officials. He wants to make progress in providing local governments with more revenue-raising flexibility. Early in the 2007 session, he introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would reduce the vote threshold for local special taxes, and convened a coalition of stakeholder groups to discuss the matter. While getting such a measure out of the Legislature will be difficult, Assembly Member Huffman has professed his interest in working on this measure over the long term. On other matters, he has demonstrated understanding and insight on local government concerns about coastal issues.

Assembly Member Kevin Jeffries (R-66, Riverside). In his work as vice chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, Assembly Member Jeffries has proved a true friend to the League for his votes and positions on labor relations bills that could limit local government flexibility and impose significant cost on public employers. He was also helpful and worked to communicate his views to Governor Schwarzenegger on several labor relations bills opposed by public agencies that were pending on the governor’s desk. His efforts included drafting an op-ed article. The League looks forward to continuing to work with Assembly Member Jeffries, especially given that public retirement costs are subject to increasing scrutiny at the state and local levels.

Senator Mike Machado (D-5, Linden). Serving for many years as a member of the Senate Local Government Committee, Senator Mike Machado is a practical and thoughtful policy-maker who weighs his votes carefully. He often emerges as a critical swing vote on this five-member committee and is not easily swayed once he makes up his mind. In 2007, Senator Machado applied a well-reasoned and balanced approach — including incorporating the practical realities of local government — into the final agreement on the flood package, highlighted by SB 5 (Machado). The League appreciates his leadership on this bill, as well as his fairness to cities over the years in his votes on pending legislation.

Senator Joe Simitian (D-11, Palo Alto). As a former mayor of the City of Palo Alto, member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and president of the Palo Alto School Board, Senator Simitian has a background in local government that few legislators can match. He also is a certified land use planner. With this kind of experience, it’s no surprise that Senator Simitian has a reputation as a thoughtful policy-maker in the Capitol. In 2007, he demonstrated all his skills with his professional and statesmanlike conduct as chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee in hearings on the controversial SB 303 (Ducheny), a developer-sponsored measure that proposed sweeping changes to local land use practices. Senator Simitian artfully managed the tensions and delved into the topic with a depth rarely seen in the Legislature. In the end, he insisted on a major rewrite of the bill that removed numerous provisions opposed by local governments.

Assembly Member Cameron Smyth (R-38, Santa Clarita). A former council member from the City of Santa Clarita, Assembly Member Smyth plays a critical role as a member of the Assembly Local Government Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over many issues important to cities, including legislation affecting local land use authority. Assembly Member Smyth has taken a balanced approach to this role, and his roots in local government are reflected in his votes. He provided immense assistance to the League and cities throughout the state by refusing to vote for SB 303 (Ducheny), a bill that would have significantly undercut local land use authority.

This article appears in the January 2008 issue of Western City
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