League of Women Voter Members Present at Interview:
LWV North & Central San Mateo Marie Baldisseri, Ann Kuchins, LWV North & Central San Mateo, Diana Stephens, LWV North & Central San Mateo, Shirley Des Marais, LWV South San Mateo, Joyce Shefren, LWV South San Mateo, Barbara Windham, LWV South San Mateo
Redistricting, State and Local
Would you support a bill to require local governments that have district representation to establish independent redistricting commissions that would use a transparent process and fair criteria similar to the State, including safeguards against discriminating against any political party?
Assemblymember Mullin is in favor of local redistricting and thinks local groups as well as other states can use the California model. District elections democratize the cost of campaigning for local office but raises the bar for candidates especially in vote-by-mail areas since all voters automatically receive ballots. Automatic voter registration is part of that effort and gets more voter participation. A side effect may be that districts that are too small may have difficulty getting enough candidates to run. This is an experiment and what might result is less consensus. He has noticed that more power is moving to regional governance, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Association of Bay Area Governments. Local districts are gaining more representation but less power. Sacramento is devolving more power to regional and local government. We will have to see how this works out and challenges democracy.
What ideas to you have for addressing the needs of your own constituency while advancing water management planning that benefits all Californians?
The water problem is multifaceted. He said, "I generally support Governor Newsom's plan to shrink the plan from two to one tunnel." The governor is taking a new approach. While the transfer of water from north to south is regarded with suspicion, we know that the water conveyance system needs updating. We also know that climate change requires us to be smarter about water policy. What ASM Mullin sees is a new water bond, possibly as high as $9 billion, with state and federal regulatory agencies and the governor working together to define the bond terms. This will probably occur within the next four years.
Public Education in California – Closing the Achievement Gap
For years closing the achievement and opportunity gaps has been both a clear state and local priority. We join with the researchers in asking a different and equally important question: “Are there ways to avoid the gaps in the first place?" As a legislator, what are your thoughts about the findings of Getting Down to Facts II? What action(s) would you support to further these goals?
ASM Mullin supports universal access to affordable quality early childhood education. The state has to start earlier in the education process. In high cost areas physical facilities are a problem because the overhead expenses are so high. ASM Mullin serves on a task force focused on finding facilities and space. One solution might be to convert from fund programs to having the state give grants to cover costs. K-12 needs more money as well. CA will have to spend more to become one of the top ten funding states. Important as money is, it is not the only factor. California needs to reform its tax system.
California has an over-reliance on the wealthy and the stock market along with a shrinking middle class. We need to completely redo the revenue stream to provide more stable funding for government. We need to consider taxing services making exceptions for health and certain educational services since we have a service-based economy. This might include legal and accounting services. As for Proposition 13, Proposition 20 is on the ballot to close the business property tax loophole. The legislature will hold public hearings and maybe have a better bill or provide a companion bill. If Proposition 20 passes unmodified, cities and counties will have an incentive to zone for commercial use because of the cash that it will bring in. Affordable housing is not great for city budgets, and they need money for their own expenses.
California is a boom or bust state. Recession will eventually hit. What can be done to improve this situation is to take advantage of the good times, the governor’s political capital, and the current enthusiasm for political change to improve education. The $2 billion in the current budget will bring education up to the level before the last big recession. Equity in education will be an ongoing effort.
What other major issues do you think the Legislature must deal with in 2019? What are your personal priorities?
A bill giving 17-year-olds the right to vote in the primaries if they will be 18 by the next general election is working its way through the legislature. It would not need the governor’s signature to go on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. This move is to involve the young in government, not a push to get more Democrats. If the bill gets through the current session, which ends in September, it will be on the March 2020 ballot.
Transportation and housing are two of his top priorities. He is pushing for restarting redevelopment agencies, but the governor is not enthused. ASM Mullin thinks yanking funds if communities do not meet housing goals is a negative approach and believes that accessing funds if you meet goals is a more positive message. He said, the state ought to partner with local entities: if they can build enough units, then they can access funds for transportation etc. It will result in more affordable housing. Communities should meet their target housing numbers and be incentivized to do so. "
He is working to extend disclosure requirements to issue ads. The public has a right to know who is funding them. He is also working on having lobbyists report monthly while the legislature is in session instead of quarterly as they do now. He expects lots of resistance to this. While he finds people more energized about government, he wants them to stay engaged even after the 2020 election. ASM Mullin thinks the social media revolution has changed society, and we are still grappling with it. He said the purpose of the issue ads and lobbyist requirements were "to provide a more timely way to see who is trying to purchase influence at the state capitol as bills are being passed.