2014 Legislative Interview: Assemblymember Tom Ammiano


ammianoEvery 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 Tom Ammiano, conducted on February 28, 2014.

 

 

 

Question #1: Money In Politics

Question:

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?

Answer:

Unfortunately, when it comes to money in politics things are constantly getting worst rather than better. I always felt that money poisoned politics. There are definitely models of other countries that have policies in place that we can learn from.

We have to diminish the power of lobbyists. They simply have too much power. By correcting term limits we preserve institutional knowledge rather than relying on what has become the “Third House.”

We should reintroduce local district elections, which greatly minimize the amount of money needed to run a campaign.

I also encourage putting limits on campaign contributions and the use of public funding, which is always under attack in California. People argue that it is a freedom of speech issue, but I disagree. Minimizing money in politics is about leveling the playing field and I support anything that attempts to limit money’s influence in our political world.

 

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?

Answer:

I have a strong teaching background, and so education has always been a top priority for me. As far as LCFF- I believe it is a good concept but it will cause a lot of house-to-house fighting. As a supervisor in San Francisco I tried to break down the wall between the Board of Education and the Board of Supervisors.

I don’t think the LCFF is bad. However, it will require work to maintain and ensure that those who this money was set aside for are actually its recipients. We have to constantly look below the surface, monitor and ensure the kids that need the money are getting it.

Our state has been so negligent in education. In my attempt to remedy this, I have tried to both focus on general policies and specific populations that suffer the most. These populations include people of color, and ESL students. Under the umbrella of public education in California, we still have a very long way to go and governors are so important in this process.

As far as categoricals are concerned- in a perfect world we wouldn’t need them. If we analyze the realities of trends and the experiences of different communities, it will diminish the need for categoricals.

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?

 Answer:

I don’t believe that CEQA is a sacred cow but in order for it to be successful it has to translate to all communities. I’m not saying “leave CEQA alone” but I do believe we should maintain its integrity. I don’t believe in exemptions and definitely not without strict scrutiny.

There has been a lot of dishonesty in promises made by developers, but that is not necessarily CEQA’s fault.

 

QUESTION # 4. 

What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2014? What are your personal priorities?

Answer:

I have always maintained very similar priorities- healthcare, education, prison reform, protection of sex workers, term limits, and public safety are some recurrent priorities.

I believe sentencing reform is so, so important. For example, I believe in the “tiering” of sex offenders, where non-violent first offenders can eventually (e.g. 10-15 years) get off the “Sexual Predator Registry.” Currently, we treat the vast array of sexual predator cases the same. An eighteen year old who had relations with their sixteen year old partner is listed in the same “Sexual Predator Registry” as a monster who viciously raped others. I call these the “Romeo and Juliet” cases and the “Monsters.” We simply can’t treat them the same!

In addition, I have also always been an immigration champion, an advocate of women’s rights, and a promoter of LGBTQ rights. 

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