Feb. 16 2011 10:23 AM

San Diego County's delegation in Sacramento prepares to crank the sausage grinder

Nathan Fletcher has a lot of ideas, just none of them on paper yet.
Photo by Dave Maass
The drive between San Diego and Sacramento is 504 miles, or eight hours and 21 minutes—excluding traffic congestion, Google Maps says—but the disconnect between our citizens and our legislators is often even wider. We vote them in and ship them to the capital, where, like children at summer camp, sometimes they write home and sometimes they just get so caught up in the festivities that they forget we even exist.

As unpleasant as it may be, it's important to watch the sausage-making in Sacramento—especially in a year as lean as this. Here are profiles of San Diego's 12 legislators, arranged by number of bills introduced as of Tuesday.


Mark Wyland, Republican, District 38

Bills: 22, which makes him San Diego County's best-prepared senator. Much of the legislation is related to education, including improving science and history instruction in schools. He's also delving into employment law, trying to eliminate mandatory meal breaks for armored-car drivers.

Voters can expect to hear a lot of discussion about “Izaiah's Law,” SB 247, which would mean juveniles who cause great bodily injury or death while driving drunk can be tried as adults.

Wyland's carrying the bill on behalf of the parents of a toddler paralyzed by a teenage drunken driver last October. The question will be whether it's fair to try juveniles as adults for alcohol-related crimes when they're not considered responsible enough to drink alcohol in the first place.

Spokesperson Judee Hooper says Wyland's top priority is a package of three constitutional amendments focused on government reform. One would require the state auditor to conduct performance evaluations of every state program. Another would redefine the two-year legislative cycle so that legislators would work on the budget the first year, and then general legislation the second year. The third would require all budget bills to be made public three weeks before a floor vote.

Committees: Appropriations; Business, Professions and Economic Development; governmental Organization; Insurance; Labor and Industrial Relations

Top Industry Donors: Tribal governments, insurance, health professionals, real estate, alcoholic beverages

Juan Vargas, Democrat, District 40

Bills: Nine, including adding $100,000 to the bail amount for any suspect who has to be extradited to California. Vargas has said that he may introduce legislation to require studies of economic impacts when superstores are proposed, following in the footsteps of an ordinance recently repealed by the San Diego City Council. So far that bill hasn't materialized.

Vargas will likely please public-employee labor unions with SB 252, the government Oversight and Fiscal Accountability Review Act of 2010, which would require every state agency to file extensive reports and documentation of any attempt to privatize a service normally provided by civil-service employees. He's also doing a favor for pawnbrokers, by attempting to increase caps on what they can charge for interest on loans.

One of his most interesting proposals is SB 323, which would create a new category of business, the “lowprofit limited liability company,” or L3C, defined as a company that provides a public service and isn't driven by profit.

These organizations would then be able to receive “programrelated investments,” a special category of spending under IRS laws. This is often floated in media circles as one way to save the news industry.

Committees: Banking and Financial Institutions (chair); Agriculture; Business, Professions and Economic Development; Education; Public Employment and Retirement

Top Industry Donors: Insurance, labor unions, health professionals, real estate, tribal governments

Joel Anderson, Republican, District 36

Bills: Eight, covering issues such as handgun ownership, criminal probation and adding teeth to the Public Records Act, though, at this stage, he has yet to add meat to the text. He tells CityBeat that his education bill would make it easier for school districts to liquidate text books they no longer need.

Last year, he took video testimony from business owners, including debt collector Larry Urdahl and Astroglide inventor Dan Wray, on various measures that could make California more business friendly. Voters can expect at least some of those ideas to make it into an as-yet empty “job creation” bill.

“I get that I'm in the minority party, so I work twice as hard to get my bills through,” he says.

Right now, Anderson's main priority is passing emergency legislation to allow taxpayers who accepted IOUs from the state (“registered warrants”) to use those IOUs to pay fees owed to the state.

In his more powerful role in the Senate, Anderson once again plans to take the state public-employee and teacher pension systems to task for failing to divest from corporations engaged in business in Sudan and Iran.

Committees: Budget and Fiscal Review, governmental Organization (vice chair), Health, Insurance, Public Safety (vice chair)

Top Industry Donors: Insurance, tribal governments, alcoholic beverages, health professionals, public-safety unions

Christine Kehoe, Democrat, District 39

Bills: Seven, but she was the first senator to file a piece of legislation—SB 1, to allow the state to sell the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Race Track to the city of Del Mar, a subject of almost daily controversy as Gov. Jerry Brown cools to the deal struck by his predecessor.

The only other bills Kehoe has publicly promoted so far are SB 304, which would allow San Diego County to test an all-mail election in 2016, and SB 337, an ACLU-backed revamp of a bill vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would allow apartment dwellers to display campaign signs in their windows.

Kehoe's most prominent role will be chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee, but she was also again elected chair of the LGBT Caucus—which may be why she's sponsoring a bill prohibiting the state from awarding contracts greater than $100,000 to companies that don't extend benefits to the spouses and partners of gay employees.

Committees: Appropriations (chair), Banking and Financial Institutions, governance and Finance, Natural Resources and Water, Transportation and Housing

Top Industry Donors: Labor unions, insurance, tribal governments, utilities, telecommunications,


Kevin Jeffries, Republican, District 66

Bills: 12, and he prides himself on having a pretty high success rate for a legislator in the minority party (last year, 10 of his 51 bills were signed into law, excluding bills that named highways after people). So far, he's proposing that the governor face a 90-day deadline to fill vacancies on county boards of supervisors and a requirement that the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection run criminal-background checks on job applicants. A spokesperson for Jeffries says he'll also introduce legislation to help antique-car collectors with environmental regulations.

Jeffries also has an eye on the $11.1-billion safe-drinking-water bond that will be on the 2012 ballot; he wants to cut 25 percent from the spending across the board to make it more palatable to voters, including axing at least $65 million from San Diego County projects.

Jeffries has a trio of legislative reforms that are similar to Wyland's, but may be more reasonable, such as his bill to create a split session, where the first year is dedicated to the budget and the second is a general session. Jeffries also wants to require legislation with amendments to be publicly available 24 hours in advance of a vote and to limit floor sessions to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in an effort to cut down on legislation passed late at night, when the public isn't watching and legislators may give in simply because they want to go home.

As far as lawmakers go, Jeffries was an early adopter of Twitter and continues, for better or worse, to personally post updates and respond to questions. After Brown's State of the State address, a tweeting Jeffries compared Brown to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, but a week later, he seemed to respect Brown for being candid in his discussions with the Republican Caucus.

UPDATE: Jeffries tweeted at us "Nice article today, but you mis-read my Egypt tweet. governor Brown suggested WE Republicans were like Mubarak not vice versa."

Committee: Governmental Organization, Budget, Transportation (vice chair)

Top Industry Donors: Tribal governments, insurance, public-safety unions, real estate, alcoholic beverages

Martin Garrick, Republican, District 74

Bills: Six, including one to extend the time limit, from 10 to 30 days, that a company has to file a response to an unemployment-insurance claim. He also wants to limit the sales tax on cell phones to only the portion that a customer pays for it in a package deal, as opposed to the price of what the phone would cost if the customer bought it alone.

He also plans to introduce legislation that would reduce the fee for registering a business with the Secretary of State from $800 to $100. At the same time, he wants to require co-pays for Medi-Cal enrollees and reduce the amount of time people can be in the Cal-WORKS welfare-to-work program.

Garrick was ousted as the Republican minority leader this session by Assemblymember Connie Conway, a more moderate conservative, so voters can probably expect to hear a little bit less from him. He hasn't been exactly clear on his position on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but he recently published an informal poll of his constituents that showed overwhelming opposition to the city purchasing it from the state.

Committee: Health, governmental Organization, Accountability and Administrative Review (vice chair)

Top Industry Donors: Insurance, health professionals, tribal governments, real estate, oil and gas

Diane Harkey, Republican, District 73

Bills: Four, including one to exempt fireworks from regulation by the California Coastal Commission, which has earned her much media attention since CityBeat first reported it at Lastblogonearth.com. Harkey also has introduced two bills targeting high-speed rail in California, which she describes as a “multi-billion-dollar boondoggle.”

Unlike many Republicans, Harkey seems to be down with Brown, telling constituents in a December newsletter that she's impressed with the Democrat and that he “gets it.” Even after his State of the State address, she said she looked forward to working with him, even though she wasn't totally thrilled with his plan to increase taxes.

Committees: Appropriations (vice chair); Budget; Revenue and Taxation; Banking and Finance; Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security

Top Industry Donors: Insurance, real estate, tribal governments, telecommunications, oil and gas

Toni Atkins, Democrat, District 76

Bills: Four, including one ordering the Secretary of State to research whether installing polling places on college campuses would increase student voter turnout and another mandating that the Department of Transportation meet with citizen groups before adopting new rules for traffic lights and signage. She also wants to establish the governor's Office of Planning and Research as the official liaison between the state and the U.S. Department of Defense.

However, she tells CityBeat via e-mail, more bills are to come, including legislation to pre-enroll Californians in the state's Health Insurance Exchange in conjunction with new federal health-care reforms set to take effect in 2014. As a member of the LGBT Caucus, she says she'll also introduce anti-discrimination and civil-rights bills.

CityBeat will pay close attention to Atkins' work on the Select Committee on Homelessness; not only is she the chair, but, so far, she's the only member of the committee listed online.

Committees: Housing and Community Development (vice chair), Veterans Affairs, governmental Organization, Health, Judiciary

Top Industry Donors: Labor unions, health professionals, tribal governments, trial lawyers, insurance

Marty Block, Democrat, District 78

Bills: Three, including legislation to provide property-tax relief to unmarried spouses of deceased soldiers. A spokesperson tells CityBeat that Block will zoom in on higher education, since he's chairing that committee this session. So far, he's introduced a bill to get the California Post-secondary Education Commission to produce a report on ways to improve college opportunities for students in Chula Vista.

On Thursday, Block will roll out legislation to reform the process of applying for a reduced sentence or pardon, following Schwarzenegger's last-minute sentence reduction for Esteban Nunez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. The legislation will likely require prisoners to notify a district attorney 30 days in advance of submitting a plea.

To accompany the Assembly's annual Holocaust Memorial Week, Block is also organizing a documentary film of survivor testimony as an alternative to the written book that has accompanied the memorial in previous years.

Committees: Higher Education (chair); Veterans Affairs; Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy; Accountability and Administrative Review

Top Industry Donors: Labor unions, tribal governments, health professionals, insurance, trial lawyers

Nathan Fletcher, Republican, District 75

Bills: Zero, though Fletcher has a list of measures that he plans to unveil soon, including bills related to bicycles, adoption, pensions and establishing an electronic-only filing system for campaign-finance reports. He plans to propose some “fairly non-controversial,” tweaks to Chelsea's Law, the violent sex-offender

legislation he got passed last year, but also some more difficult changes to sex-offender residency restrictions, which CityBeat has covered in depth.

Fletcher also sits on the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, where he hopes to get some answers out of the Administrative Office of the Courts, following a damning audit released last month, as well as the Department of Corrections, regarding inconsistencies in its temporary hiring policies.

Committees: Utilities and Commerce; Accountability and Administrative Review; Health (vice chair); Water, Parks and Wildlife

Top Industry Donors: Health professionals, insurance, pharmaceuticals, real estate, tribal governments

Ben Hueso, Democrat, District 79

Bills: Zero, but spokesperson Paola Avila tells CityBeat that the former San Diego City Council member will introduce two pieces of legislation this week. Working with San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, Hueso aims to protect SANDAG's Graffiti Tracker program, a sophisticated, GPS-enabled database, by mandating that 10 percent of vandalism fines go toward the program. The other bill would prevent state appointees to boards and commissions from joining the state pension system and would tie their salaries to those in the Assembly, approximately $95,000 per year.

Hueso also convinced Assembly Speaker John Perez to form a Select Committee on California-Mexico Bi-national Affairs. Hueso will chair the committee, which will look at economic and public-safety issues in the border region and tackle environmental threats to the Tijuana River Valley.

Committees: Housing and Community Development; Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy; Rules; Water, Parks and Wildlife; Local government

Top Industry Donors: Labor unions, trial lawyers, tribal governments, real estate, health professionals

Brian Jones, Republican, District 77

Bills: Zero, and that's apparently part of Jones' strategy to “undo things” in Sacramento rather than add to what he perceives as a state already burdened with too many laws and regulations. Jones' policy director Laurie Paredes says Jones has spent much of his time gathering feedback from business leaders, and during the course of the year, he'll compile it into data that'll be crunched, analyzed and then formed into legislation. Other than that, he plans to introduce legislation to simplify smog checks and “protect” employee paychecks (that's code for messing with union dues-paying), and he'll have Harkey's back as she goes after high-speed rail.

Committees: Legislative Ethics; Budget; Human Services (vice chair); Judiciary; Water, Parks and Wildlife

Top Industry Donors: Waste management, real estate

All industry donor information derived from followthemoney.org. Write to davem@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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