Politics has been called the "art of the possible,” yet for too long at the state Capitol, bipartisan progress on the state's intractable problems has been elusive. However, with a historic 2012 election cycle, the political planets have aligned to create an extraordinary opportunity to improve governance in the state of California.
When the 2013-14 legislative session convenes this week, I'll be joined by a bumper crop of 38 other newly elected assemblymembers. This represents a turnover of nearly half of the 80-member Assembly, due in large part to the decennial redistricting process. I am honored to represent the 12 cities that comprise the newly configured 22nd Assembly District, including Brisbane, part of South San Francisco, Pacifica, San Bruno, Millbrae, Hillsborough, Burlingame, San Mateo, Belmont, Foster City, San Carlos and Redwood City, as well as unincorporated communities.
2012 was also the year of the "Top Two” June primary, which promised more moderates being elected to the Legislature. Primary voters also chose to reform term limits in the Legislature, reducing overall allowed service from 14 years to 12 years, but enabling members to serve all of those years in one house, or a combination of both houses. That means many fellow assembymembers could serve up to 12 years in the Assembly instead of the previous six-year limit. A doubling of service time allowed in the Assembly has the potential to be transformative as members can build relationships and have more time to engage in longer-term, thoughtful policymaking.
Democrats in Sacramento unexpectedly achieved a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature. Despite this supermajority, and maybe even because of it, the need for bipartisan cooperation and problem-solving approaches to governing have never been more important. With the passage of Proposition 30 and its promise of new revenue to bring about a balanced approach (tax revenue and budget cuts) to a balanced budget, it is my sincere hope the Legislature will move away from crisis-driven decisions and begin focusing on longer-term challenges.
Given this significantly altered landscape, the Legislature is positioned to address tax reforms, fiscal sustainability, governance reforms and rebuilding faith in the Legislature as an institution. The state-local fiscal relationship also is ripe for restructuring, especially in light of the state's elimination of redevelopment agencies, which were important tools for local governments to revitalize blighted areas and encourage growth near public transit. As a former local government official, I believe many decisions are best made at our city, county and school board level, where elected officials are most in tune with community needs and where the public feels most connected. I will work with my colleagues to devolve fiscal autonomy and authority to the local level, and rebuild the relationship between the state and localities.
San Mateo County is also home to key industries like biotech and high-tech which are driving the state's innovation economy. Job creation strategies and workforce development programs aimed at these and other industries, as well as investing in public infrastructure (like an electrified Caltrain) that support our county's economic well-being, will be essential to restoring and expanding opportunities locally and statewide. Adequate funding of education at all levels, from early childhood education to our higher education system, will certainly be a legislative priority for many members myself included.
Thank you for the extraordinary opportunity to play a role along with the incoming class of freshman, in partnership with our veteran colleagues, to restore public trust in state government in addressing our most challenging problems. I welcome your opinions and feedback on how I may best serve your interests.
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, is the newly elected representative of Assembly District 22, which encompasses northern and central San Mateo County, and was named assistant speaker pro tempore. Mullin's district office is located at 1528 South El Camino Real, Suite 302, San Mateo, CA 94402. The phone number is (650) 349-1900 and the website is: www.asmdc.org/members/a22.