Tough economic times, coupled with major financial and
policy problems have state legislators singing a different tune.
For the fourth consecutive year, a delegation of Santa
Clarita residents chartered a bus up to Sacramento
to participate in a series of meetings with state legislators and policy
In the inaugural run under Assemblyman Keith Richman in 2005,
the trip was designed to display the complete dysfunction of Sacramento,
and open lines of dialogue to those who could help bring about progress on
issues important to Santa Clarita residents.
This year, however, things were different. Maybe it was the
fact that California is in
crisis. Maybe it's the fact that most of the older generation hardliners have
termed out, being replaced by fresh faced legislators eager to make their mark.
Whatever it is, the attitude of the 11 speakers that the SCV
delegation heard from was uncharacteristically candid, and every single one
discussed in detail their plans and ideas on how to reform the state government
and the way it does business.
The meetings were spaced out over two days, organized by
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth's office and sponsored by AT&T.
It started with Assembly member Jared Huffman, who, as chair
of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee spoke of the dire problems
surrounding the Delta area of northern California,
which is responsible for a massive amount of the water we receive in southern California.
Faced with the dying out of an entire ecosystem, Huffman
became one of several Democrats proposing a water bond that includes surface
storage solutions, something the party had been historically opposed to.
On the other side of the isle, Republicans like Roger
Niello, who serves as Vice-chair of the Assembly Budget committee, is in favor
of extending temporary tax increases if it means that legislative reforms like
a spending cap come with it.
Also, Senator Tony Strickland, who represents portions of
Santa Clarita, plans to push for green jobs in California. Typically a Democrat-backed
idea, Strickland believes that California can lead the world in
environmentally-friendly technology, and those companies should receive
incentives to set up in our state.
Assemblyman Hector De La Torre sent shockwaves down through
the SCV delegation when he announced that, as the head of a brand new committee
dealing with government accountability and efficiency, he had uncovered
millions in redundant and unnecessary spending by a state agency in the committee's
first hearing, and planned to delve through every inch of the state government
to fin and destroy wasteful spending.
While De La Torre is a Democrat, the oversight committee is
backed and staffed by members of both parties. He first came to fame in the
city of South Gate, where he led the charge to recall and prosecute two city
council members and the state treasurer on corruption charges.
There were hugs, warm comments and laughter from all of the
speakers directed at their colleagues.
Of course, this seemed odd in the middle of another
impending budget shortfall, 14% approval ratings, and a water crisis that will
filter down to consumers' checkbooks in a matter of weeks.
But the spirit was that of working men, who shared ideas
that were often different, but not necessarily unreasonable. The dialogue is
there, and that may be perhaps the most promising news to come out of our
state's capitol in a long while.
In the coming days, KHTS will detail each major issue that
the Santa Clarita delegation was lobbying for and describe what progress was
Also, look for pictures from the trip and podcasts of
interviews with the road trip participants.