Every year Leagues all over California meet with their representatives to discuss a few of the League’s priorities for the year. This is the report from such an interview with Assemblymember Phil Ting, conducted on January 10, 2014.
Question #1: Money In Politics
Bills to require disclosure of the sources of all contributions in California campaigns and to make campaign disclosure more transparent and user-friendly in general will come before the Assembly and Senate early in 2014. Will you help see that effective measures are passed in the Assembly/Senate to help voters know who’s funding campaigns?
As elected officials we need to find a way to have less money in politics. I view it as a responsibility to the public. I understand that we cannot ban money in politics, but I believe that through public financing we can eliminate a lot of the reliance on outside funding that leads to questionable loyalties and outside influences. By letting money have such a large part in politics, we give those with money more and more influence.
I was supportive of a number of proposals to combat dark money in politics- SB27, SB2, AB800. I was also co-author of SB3 and AB 52.
However, there is much work still left to be done. As far as I am concerned, the more we can diminish money in politics the better.
QUESTION 2: Education
The LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) is rolling out over the next few years. Implementation strategies are being drafted and there will inevitably be some adjustments. What do you see as the ongoing role of the legislature? Are there programs you feel should remain categorical? Are there areas you deem as off limits for spending supplemental and concentration funds?
I am actually a huge supporter of LCFF. I think that it deals with the realities of our world- some schools are better off and don’t need as much monetary assistance and some don’t have as much and need more financial aid.
One of the critiques of LCFF’s supporters is that they only align with it because it benefits their districts. For me in San Francisco that is absolutely not true. The funding for schools in San Francisco almost didn’t change with LCFF. The reason I supported it was because it was the right thing to do.
While I am a huge supporter of LCFF, I am also an advocate for checks and balances in any system, especially in new systems. Now our job is to dig down and develop accountability measures, get data and evaluate it, and tweak the system as needed. As with every new program, we need to monitor it to make sure it gets where it is intended.
We did leave some things categorical- the TIIG Program and Transportation Program. We just need to continuously make sure we are accomplishing the goals we set out.
Question #3: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Do you think specific projects should be exempted from parts or all of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, or have special rules set for them? If so, how would you determine which projects should receive such treatment?
I think CEQA is one of the most important landmark legislations in our state history. Because of CEQA we have a state where we are surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, where we can breathe clean air, and drink clean water. However, there are definitely areas that need re-evaluation. We need to limit exceptions. We owe a lot to CEQA but it definitely needs to be amended, and that process should be done carefully and strategically.
QUESTION # 4.
What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2014? What are your personal priorities?
I want to see us continue on a path of fiscal strength. We need to continue to fund our government, to be able to pay our bills and have adequate services for the public. I hope to focus on tax reform. We need to create a process that can adequately fund the kind of government we all deserve.
What I really want to see done is a reinvestment in what I call the “California Dream,” especially with education, not only K-12 but also in higher education. We need to work to diminish inequalities, which begin in early childhood education. The last thing we want is for inequalities to even exist in Kindergarten. If we let them exist at that age, they will only expand as the children grow. I also want to see us continue to take steps away from bubble tests and towards creating critical thinkers. I want to see technology used in our schools. For example, I see schools using tablets instead of textbooks. Of course, I do not advocate for tablets to replace teachers. Instead, I want to see them used as tools to further our children’s’ education.
I also think we need to repair our social safety nets. I want to focus on supporting the Affordable Care Act, most specifically by educating the public. I have already held a few town halls to explain and help guide residents through the process, and I intend to continue doing outreach to my community.
As far as Prop 13 is concerned, I think it is something that needs to be looked at. However, I do believe that, ultimately, it needs to be addressed by the voters. From my experience, I find that most residents do not fully understand it. They don’t understand that the same benefits that are afforded to homeowners, which I think are great, are also afforded to large malls, huge office buildings, etc. It is this kind of misinformation that needs to be clarified, and then the voters need to amend it as they see fit.
I want to stress as well that we are doing so much right- we are the leaders in innovation and clean technology. Now is the time to focus on the things that need improvement.
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