It seems like only yesterday that I was a Madera County supervisor, yet it has now been six months since I was sworn into the State Assembly. While I was home among friends as a county supervisor, I kind of stand out now as an Assemblyman in Sacramento because of the ranch hat I wear. Fortunately, the big-city folks at the State Capitol are now used to seeing me walk the hallways.
It has been quite a ride so far, with hiring staff, getting to know my fellow Assembly members, and getting up to speed on the critical issues facing our state. But one issue that I need no briefing on is the fire tax on rural property owners. The tax is nothing more than a budget gimmick from 2011 and that is why repealing it is one of my ongoing priorities in Sacramento. I have co-authored Assembly Bill 124 to do just that.
One of my goals in the Assembly is to bring timeless values back to the capitol, such as honoring one’s word. Given that California’s voters approved Proposition 30 last November to protect education, I have co-authored Assembly Bill 67 to freeze tuition at our public colleges and universities for four years. It keeps the Governor’s promise that new tax revenues would go to students. While the majority party killed this bill in a partisan vote recently, I will keep fighting to ensure that the Governor delivers on his promise.
Another issue I am addressing is curbing livestock theft, which has increased in recent years due to the rise in value of livestock. As a rancher, I know how costly this theft can be to families and businesses, so I have proposed Assembly Bill 924 to give law enforcement new tools such as limiting probation for repeat offenders and increasing penalties. The state has neglected this crime for too long and I am hopeful the legislature will finally act. I am also petitioning the governor to protect the Central Valley by preventing the mass release of dangerous criminals. With too many innocent Californians becoming victims of crime as a result of the public safety realignment law, I urged the governor to responsibly address a looming court-ordered inmate population reduction that would put more Californians at risk. We cannot put the concerns of inmates over those of innocent people.
As the new chair of the Legislative Rural Caucus, I am also working to protect rural health care and ensure the viability of county fairs. I have made outreach to the Valley’s Latino community a high priority, by meeting with local groups and visiting the Univision studios in Fresno to learn how we can work together to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
The past six months have also given me an opportunity to attend various community events in the district. I have attended events such as the Madera Chamber of Commerce dinner honoring Madera’s Senior Farmer of the Year, Sarkis Sahatdjian, and a meeting with the local National Rifle Association chapter to discuss Second Amendment issues.
Additionally, I am looking forward to opening a new Madera field office in July staffed by Mika Petrucci, my new field representative. This office will lessen the drive time for many residents seeking assistance on state issues.
With one-quarter of my first Assembly term now complete, I can say with confidence that there is no place like home in Madera County. Sacramento is a nice place to work in, but it does not beat the small-town way of life that we enjoy here.
As the legislature considers the governor’s budget proposal and thousands of bills, I will continue to fight hard for our shared values. With six months of Assembly experience now under my belt, I look forward to doing even more for our fellow citizens in the weeks to come.