Every now and then, we check in with our state legislators to see what they've been up to: What bills are they introducing? Who are they schmoozing? While it's still early in the two-year 2013-2014 legislative session—the real excitement comes at the end—we've got a handful of new state lawmakers who got right to work introducing bills ranging from common-sense to highly ideological. There's not nearly enough space to mention every bill, so we picked a few that stood out.
Quick guide to the blurbage below: "Clout quotient" refers to the number of bills that have made it through the committee process to a floor vote and are now being scrutinized by the other house. All the information for "Perks" comes from the Statement of Economic Interest that state elected officials are required to file annually with California's Fair Political Practices Commission. The most recent information on file is for 2012.
Joel Anderson (R)
Senate District 36
Clout quotient: Three of the 17 bills he's introduced, or 17.6 percent, have made it out of the Senate.
This session, Anderson again introduced legislation to speed up California's death-penalty appeals process. The bill, SB 779, failed to make it out of the Senate Public Safety Committee after opponents raised concerns that it would "gut the current standard for [legal] counsel" and allow for a new form of execution that involves sucking the air out of a room. As the ACLU pointed out, it would make California the only government in the world that sanctions death by suffocation. Anderson was one of the few local legislators to have a bill signed into law this year—in this case, SCR 17, which designated April 7 through 13, 2013, "Cancer Prevention Week." Of his two other bills that have moved on to the Assembly, one would provide increased protections for veterans facilities and the other, SB 702, would standardize the paperwork that courts require from creditors seeking a default judgment against debtors.
Perks: For 2012, Anderson reported $7,436.08 in gifts, including roughly $2,500 in airfare, lodging and meals to attend two conferences put on by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed lobbying organization. He accepted a Turf Club ticket from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club ($200) and added on valet parking ($40) and lunch ($105).
Mark Wyland (R)
Clout Quotient: Nine of Wyland's 24 bills, or 37.5 percent, have made it out of the Senate.
Wyland continues to work on a couple of education bills aimed at increasing high-school students' exposure to politics and government. Both pieces of legislation are on hold in the Senate Education Committee. SB 512 would expand the state's high-school exit exam—which currently includes only language arts and math—to include United States history and government in accordance with the statewide content standards. SB 521 would require American government and civics classes to include a comparative study of how the rights of U.S. citizens differ from those in other countries.
Last year, he reported a mere $94—a dinner furnished by Barona Resort and Casino.
Marty Block (D)
Senate District 39
Clout quotient: Of the 25 bills Block's introduced this session, 20—or 80 percent—have been passed by the Senate.
Block's legislation is largely focused on education and public safety. His bills this session include SB 316, which, if federal funding becomes available, would require California public schools to install door locks that can be locked from inside the classroom. SB 419 would make it easier for probation officers to toss offending probationers in jail (aka "flash incarceration"); wisely, nonviolent drug offenders would be exempt. SB 473 is Block's second attempt at legislation that would allow prosecutors to tie pimping and pandering to gang activity.
Perks: Block comes in third behind Toni Atkins and Ben Hueso on the list of the perkiest local legislators, accepting $10,167.99 in gifts, meals and travel reimbursements in 2012—the costliest of which was $4,172 from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to park his car at Lindbergh Field when he flies to Sacramento. Like Anderson, he went for the full $345 Turf Club experience and also took in a Summer Pops concert ($250) and football game ($138) courtesy of Bridgepoint Education.
Ben Hueso (D)
Senate District 40
Clout quotient: Hueso has introduced 31 bills this session, roughly half of which have made it out of whatever house he was in (see below) when the bill was introduced.
Hueso started the session a member of the Assembly but in March was elected to fill a Senate seat left empty when Juan Vargas was elected to Congress. His active leg islation includes a bill that would forbid the state Department of Social Services from counting military housing as income in determining whether a household's eligible for food stamps. For those of you hoping your birth certificate in a Ziploc bag serves as adequate ID to get back over the border, SB 397 seeks to create "enhanced driver's licenses" that would be all you'd need to show at U.S. ports of entry in Mexico, Canada and Bermuda. And SB 488 takes aim at slumlords by allowing city code-enforcement officers to declare housing with vermin infestations and inadequate garbage facilities to be substandard. Currently, only county public-health officials can make that determination.
Perks: In 2012, Hueso accepted $10,910.74 in meals, gifts and travel reimbursements. An avid golfer, he accepted free games from the prison-guards union ($333) and the Governor's Cup Foundation ($330), a $328 golf club from Crime Victims United, $358 in golf apparel from the Coalition for Safer California and $307 in golf clubs and balls from Minorities in Law Enforcement. He also got a parking pass, valued at $1,001, from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
Brian Jones (R)
Clout Quotient: So far this session, five of Jones' 17 bills, or 29.4 percent, have made it out of the Assembly.
Jones' AB 871, introduced in February, would have made it easier for Californians to get approval to carry a concealed weapon. It was quashed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee. AB 890, now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would loosen advertising standards by allowing a "Made in the U.S.A." designation to apply to goods even if 10 percent of the components were assembled in a foreign country. Currently, the entire product—and all its parts—must be made here. Jones unsuccessfully pushed similar legislation last year.
Perks: In 2012, Jones enjoyed more than $5,070 in gifts, meals and travel reimbursements. That included a $1,300 trip to the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies' annual roundtable, $355 in tickets to the Holiday Bowl from Bridgepoint Education and a $19 ticket from NBC Universal to a screening of The Lorax.
Marie Waldron (R)
Assembly District 75
Clout quotient: Two of Waldron's 11 bills, or 18 percent, made it out of the Assembly.
Waldron, a Republican whose Twitter handle is @ConservtveWoman (which is odd because @ConservativeWoman hasn't been claimed) this year introduced AB 20, which would impose an additional fine of $2,000 on anyone caught looking at kiddie porn on a government-owned computer, and ACR 59, which seeks to declare Sept. 17 through 22, 2013, "Constitution Week," when Californians will be urged to "reaffirm the ideals of the framers of the Constitution of 1787." Her AB 255 seems reasonable on its face—it would create a digital-arts degree at California's public colleges and universities—but the bill's vague definition of what exactly such a program should include and its short timeline (it gives campuses until the start of the 2015-16 school year to pull it together) raised concerns for the author of an analysis written for the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.
Perks: Like all new Assembly members, Waldon was gifted a glass bowl, valued at $85.80, from Assembly Speaker John Perez and also reported a $95 meal from the Barona Band of Mission Indians.
Rocky Chavez (R)
Clout Quotient: So far this session, nine of Chavez's 17 bills, or 52.9 percent, have made it out of the Assembly.
The freshman Assembly member from Oceanside spent part of his first legislative session pushing tuition reform for higher education. AB 159, which died in committee because of its price tag, would have required the California State University system to lock in tuition rates and fees for incoming freshmen for six years, increasing only to keep pace with inflation. His AB 13 would allow out-of-state members of the military who were honorably discharged within the past year to pay instate tuition at California colleges and universities. And AB 258, now in the Senate, would amend state agency forms to change the question "Are you a veteran" to "Have you ever served in the United States military?" The law seeks to address concerns that many former service members miss out on benefits because they don't self-identify as veterans.
Perks: Chavez hasn't had a lot of time to rack up political gifts, fancy meals or exotic vacations. But last December, he took advantage of $237.83 in food and lodging provided by the California Policy Conference & Tech Academy. He also got one of those personalized glass bowls from the Assembly speaker.
Brian Maienschein (R)
Assembly District 77
Clout quotient: Of the 12 bills he's introduced, exactly half have made it out of the Assembly.
The freshman legislator who took over Nathan Fletcher's seat was most recently commissioner for the United Way-sponsored Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. So, we were excited to see AB 264, introduced in February, with the topic "Homelessness: Housing." The text of the bill says: "This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to provide housing for homeless persons in this state." Awesome! Obviously, this is placeholder language. We eagerly await details (Maienschein's spokesperson didn't return a phone call.) Among the six bills that have made it out of the Assembly, AB 68 would require that district attorneys be notified should someone they send to prison become eligible for medical parole. AB 465 allows community sports programs to require volunteers to undergo background checks, and AB 1339, which adds a layer of oversight to the court-appointed conservator program, is a response to a San Jose Mercury-News investigation that found that professional fiduciaries were often charging exorbitant hourly rates.
Perks: Maienschein has accepted $293 in gifts, including a glass bowl from Perez, $90 for tickets to the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl and a $94 meal from the Barona Band of Mission Indians.
Toni Atkins (D)
Assembly District 78
Clout quotient: Atkins wins the clout award. All but two of her 17 bills, just over 88 percent, made it out of the Assembly.
Atkins picked up the mantle for Sen. Christine Kehoe, who was termed out last year, reintroducing legislation that would allow nurse practitioners and midwives to perform abortions. That bill's currently on its way to the Senate Committee on Health. Further commentary on the struggles of military families to make ends meet (see Hueso) is AB 163, which would exempt thrift shops on military bases from charging sales tax. An advocate for low-income housing when she served on the San Diego City Council, Atkins introduced legislation in February, AB 952, that seeks to incentivize affordable rental-housing projects targeted at helping specialneeds populations.
Perks: In addition to winning in the clout category, Atkins also wins in the perks category. In 2012, she reported $14,191 in gifts, including a $6,395 trip to Russia, paid for by the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly and the Moscow City Duma, to discuss "public policy issues related to transportation, economic development, energy, public finance." She also reported $3,689 in free parking from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
Shirley Weber (D)
Clout Quotient: Eight of Weber's 13 bills, or 61.5 percent, have made it out of the Assembly.
The newly elected Assembly member has been busy proposing several small, common-sense bills that leave one wondering, "Why isn't there already a law for that?" AB 56 would require K-12 schools built after 2013 to install carbon-monoxide detectors near furnaces. AB 979, now in the Senate Public Safety Committee, would require peace officers who work on boats to complete a course in basic maritime operations that would include boat handling and navigation rules, as well as maritime boarding and arrest procedures.
Perks: In her short time in office, Weber's reported $1,147 in gifts, meals and travel reimbursements, including $892 to attend the California Independent Petroleum Association conference, where she gave a speech.
Lorena Gonzalez (D)
Assembly District 80
Last month, Gonzalez was elected to fill the Assembly seat left vacant by Ben Hueso. It's too soon for her to have introduced any leg islation, but a spokesperson said she's spent her first month in office helping to shepherd a bill that seeks to reform California's controversial Enterprise Zone program, which offers tax breaks in exchange for business development but has been criticized for, as a bill analysis put it, "offer[ing] a poor return on the state's sizable investment."