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Home / Articles / News / News /  Catching up with San Diego County’s legislators
. . . .
Tuesday, Jul 03, 2012

Catching up with San Diego County’s legislators

A look at our delegation in Sacramento as they head into the home stretch

By Dave Maass, Kelly Davis, Hutton Marshall
news Our legislators (including Assemblymembers Nathan Fletcher, Ben Hueso and Senator Joel Anderson, from left to right) have only a few months left to carry their bills across the finish line.
- Photo illustration by Adam Vieyra

In 2010, San Diego County voters selected 12 fine citizens to represent our region in Sacramento. You might well wonder how hard our legislators fought for us, or whether they spent their time fundraising and partying. For your Fourth of July reading pleasure, we present these far-from-comprehensive capsules of our legislative delegation’s activities. (Remember, they still have half a year left to make a difference.)

Joel Anderson (R) 

Senate District 36

Clout quotient: Anderson’s had 9.3 percent of his 43 bills signed into law this term.

A true right-winger, he’s pushed anti-sharia-law legislation and recorded a robocall for Birther-Minuteman-Christian Zealot Gary Kreep’s campaign for Superior Court judge. Anderson’s expended a lot of effort on go-nowhere legislation to speed up the death-penalty process even as civil-rights groups have collected enough signatures to get a repeal of capital punishment on the November ballot.

Anderson managed to get one bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this year: SB 1371, which eliminates a law that allows criminal defendants to spend extra time in prison rather than paying restitution to victims.

Campaign coffers: Anderson raised $77,060 so far in 2012. Almost all of the money came from corporate interests.

Perks: He disclosed $7,452 in gifts, meals and travel reimbursements in 2011, including $4,789 worth of trips from the shadowy, arch-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. In 2012, he’s accepted dinners from the Chukchansi Indians and FedEx and a bouquet of flowers from the California State Floral Association.


Mark Wyland (R) 

Senate District 38

Clout quotient: Wyland’s had 8.8 percent of his 45 bills signed into law.

Both of his 2011 bills to regulate therapists and counselors passed last year, but so far in 2012, only one of his bills has traction: a proposal to extend the Board of Equalization’s (BOE) power to negotiate tax-debt settlements. If it becomes law, he’s certain to use it to bolster his own run for the BOE in 2014.

Wyland serves on the Little Hoover Commission, an oversight body that has spent much of 2012 looking at energy issues, property management and state parks. He also serves on the State Allocation Board, which doles out state money to local schools. Last week, the board approved $637 million in construction projects, including $25 million for schools in San Diego County. About $10 million went to Oceanside Unified projects in his district.

He also requested an opinion from the Attorney General’s office about whether school counselors are required to report pregnancy or abortion information about students to principals or parents. The AG responded in December: No.

Campaign Coffers: Wyland’s BOE campaign banked only $14,300, with donations from Philip Morris USA and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

Perks:
In 2011, he disclosed only $337 worth of meals. This year, Wyland accepted a $32 “rice gift box” from the California Rice Commission.

Christine Kehoe (D) 

Senate District 39

Clout quotient: Kehoe’s had 44 percent of her 43 bills signed into law.

Her SB 468 was an ambitious attempt to alleviate congestion on Interstate 5 between La Jolla and Camp Pendleton by prioritizing public transit over additional freeway lanes. Alas, car-lovin’ conservatives flipped, and that portion of the bill was removed.

Another bill would have created new categories of violent crimes for attempted strangulation and suffocation. Thing is, some people do that for fun. Based on concerns from groups like the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Kehoe amended the law, called the Diana Gonzalez Strangulation Prevention Act, to ensure that folks won’t be punished for engaging in consensual acts.

Just in time for election year, Kehoe authored successful legislation that says landlords can’t prohibit tenants from displaying political signs. Meanwhile, her bill to create a pilot project of all-mail-ballot elections in San Diego through 2015 failed.

Campaign coffers: So far in 2012, she’s raised only $16,900 for her 2016 Assembly campaign, almost all from political-action committees (PAC) representing professional or medical associations.

Perks: Kehoe disclosed $1,276.80 in gifts, meals and travel reimbursements in 2011, including a trip to China. The Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, a fivedecades-old diplomacy-focused group, covered four days of hotel accommodations, ground transportation and meals for Kehoe, whom, U-T San Diego reported, paid for her own airfare. This year, she’s accepted goodies ranging from an $8.68 box of navel oranges from California Citrus Mutual to a $250 ticket to a roast paid for by the California Professional Firefighters Association.


Juan Vargas (D) 

Senate District 40

Clout quotient: Vargas has had 16.3 percent of his 50 bills signed into law.

Last year, he passed legislation to allow counties to set up online reporting of elder abuse and eliminated an election-law provision that allowed political parties to have propaganda mailed out to voters with the sample ballots. None of his 2012 bills so far have made it to the governor’s desk, but his bill to regulate pet groomers and his “Sandusky Bill” to make coaches required reporters of child abuse are getting close. Vargas also secured $12 million in AB 31 money, or, as we like to call it, “Park Pork for the Poor,” for urban parks in City Heights, Chula Vista and Brawley.

Vargas outraged the reproductive-rights community when he blocked a bill supported by Planned Parenthood and sponsored by colleague Kehoe that would’ve allowed nurse practitioners and midwives to perform abortions.

Campaign Coffers: Vargas raised $309,374 for his congressional District 51 campaign in 2012, with major backing from the financial and insurance industries and labor unions. He collected $44,734 for his Senate reelection campaign.

Perks: Vargas reported $1,214 in free meals, gifts and travel in 2011, including a $123 dinner from the Civil Justice Association of California, a corporate group that spent $1.2 million to get him elected in 2010, then was fined for campaign violations. This year, Vargas and three of his staffers accepted meals from the Chukchansi Indians.


Kevin Jeffries (R) 

Assembly District 66

Clout Quotient: Jeffries has had 6.3 percent of his 32 bills signed into law.

This may be the last session that San Diegans hear of Jeffries, as the Lake Elsinore-based Republican runs for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Legislatively, San Diegans won’t miss much. In 2011, he passed two bills. One fixed a screw-up in a previous bill he got passed regarding what kinds of driver’s licenses are suitable for using firefighting equipment. The other authorized Riverside County to include “neighborhood electric vehicles”—essentially souped-up golf carts—in its transportation plans.

Jeffries earned a lot of respect from government watchdogs with his proposal to require legislation to be available to the public at least 24 hours before a vote. The bill died in committee in May; ironically, the vote itself still hasn’t been posted online.

Campaign coffers: Between his Assembly committees and his supervisor campaign, Jeffries raised $144,300 from a mix of private donors, corporations and usual-suspect PACs.

Perks: In 2011, he reported $3,960 in perks, including $400 in expenses for a specialty-car-building expo in Las Vegas. A few months later, Jeffries sponsored a bill to make the registration process “friendlier” for these types of vehicles.


Diane Harkey (R) 

Assembly District 73

Clout quotient: Harkey’s had 8.6 percent of her 23 bills signed into law.

Last year, she succeeded only in naming a section of Interstate 5 after a fallen officer and designating April 11 as the official day to talk to your kids about sexual abuse. In her newsletters, Harkey tells her constituents that she doesn’t believe in introducing a lot of legislation, choosing instead to focus on “important” issues. Apparently, that includes using her legislative office to demand that the California Department of Food and Agriculture tell her what was up with the equine-herpes quarantine at the stable where she keeps her horses.

Harkey herself is a bit of a one-trick pony, focusing almost singularly on defunding California’s embattled highspeed-rail project with a bill she calls the “Lemon Law.” The bill, backed by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, turned out to be a lemon itself, failing just as it had the last two times she introduced it.

Harkey’s district has been redrawn, so she won’t represent any part of San Diego County next session.

Campaign coffers: In 2012, she raised more than $208,000 for her reelection campaign and a 2014 BOE campaign. Some of her biggest donations came from the tobacco, booze, healthcare and insurance industries.

Perks: Harkey reported $669 in meals and gifts in 2011, including $140 in Padres tickets courtesy of Cox Communications. This year, she’s accepted that $8.68 box of oranges and meals from the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Association of Winegrape Growers and the Chukchansi Indians.


Martin Garrick (R) 

Assembly District 74

Clout quotient: Garrick’s had 9.3 percent of his 43 bills signed into law.

In January, he made a speech to motorcyclists in which he promoted his bill to make the Legislature part-time so that, he said, he can ride his two Harleys full-time. By June, the bill had gone nowhere and Garrick was working full-time on activities such as competing in a fly-casting competition at the capitol that was sponsored by the trout lobby.

Each year, Garrick sponsors the annual resolution to name Feb. 6 Ronald Reagan Day, but now he’s pushing to get a statue of California’s 33rd governor and the 40th U.S. president in the capitol building. He has a bill to make it easier for yachts to enter California waters in time for the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco. While that bill sailed through the Assembly, his voter-ID bill sank in its first committee hearing.

In April, Garrick shared the witness table with a fluffy white dog named Sweet Pea during a committee hearing on his bill to allow groomers to clean pet teeth using a “scaler.” Sweet Pea was unconvincing; the bill died.

Campaign Coffers: Garrick’s 2014 Senate campaign reports aren’t due until later this year.

Perks: He reported $7,703 in gifts, meals and travel in 2011. Each year, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Garrick accepts about $400 in free shamrock plants from agricultural associations, which he then delivers to other Assembly members. This year, he’s taken meals from the California Mortgage Bankers Association, the Pacific Water Quality Association, the California Charter Schools Association, the California Forestry Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation. He also received a $32 gift box from the rice commission and a box of those navel oranges.


Nathan Fletcher (I)

Assembly District 75

Clout quotient: Fletcher has had 17.1 percent of his 41 bills signed into law.

Fletcher would be the most successful member of the local Republican delegation—if he hadn’t abandoned the GOP this spring while running for mayor of San Diego. Last year, his laws included regulating beer-tasting rooms the same way as wine-tasting rooms and preventing courts from garnishing the wages of young homeless people for low-level fines.

Fletcher is set to pass three more bills very soon, including a measure that CityBeat highlighted the need for in a 2011 cover story. AB 1572 would dissolve the San Diego Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies, the waste-ass agency that collects millions in fees from drivers each year to fund an outdated roadside-callbox system. The other bills would strengthen his signature sexual-predator legislation, Chelsea’s Law, and further reform the adoption process. Considering the value of Fletcher’s independent vote, we don’t foresee many vetoes coming his way.

Fletcher isn’t caucusing with either party, but we can tell you who his digital hosts are: When he left the GOP, the Republicans stripped him of his website on their server. The Democrats gave him a new one with his own unique domain: assembly-independent.org.

Campaign coffers: Fletcher’s mayoral campaign raised $582,000 in 2012 in one of the most expensive races the city’s ever seen. He also kept his officeholder account open to augment his Assembly budget. PACs and corporations donated $10,900, which he used to pay for staff cell phones, tele-townhalls, flowers for secretaries and a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces meeting.

Perks: Fletcher reported $3,671 in gifts, meals and reimbursements in 2011. He also disclosed that his staff pitched in to buy him a $220 double-stroller for his two sons. Those staffers also received perks this year, including free coffee from Starbucks, tickets to The Lorax from Comcast and dinners from the California Rice Commission, CTIA- The Wireless Association and the Chukchansi Indians.



Toni Atkins (D)

Assembly District 76

Clout quotient: Atkins has had 27 percent of her 33 bills signed into law.

Dubbed the “Gardasil Bill” by opponents (the name of the vaccine that protects girls from the cancer-causing human papillomavirus), Atkins’ AB 499, which allows minors 12 and older to get medical care for STD prevention without parental consent, was signed by the governor in October. And if that wasn’t enough to put religious conservatives over the edge, she got another bill passed that ensures transgender folks can’t be discriminated against. Meanwhile, two bills that would’ve helped parolees transition back into the community went nowhere.

Atkins’ AB 1522 is working its way through the Senate and is sure to pass: Prompted by a San Diego case, the bill says that if you commit a “violent sexual felony” against your wife or husband, you can’t come around later demanding spousal support.

Campaign coffers: Atkins raised $170,000 in 2012, largely from PACs representing a wide variety of industries and labor unions.

Perks: She disclosed $15,271 in perks in 2011, including golf at Torrey Pines from Farmers Group, a $51 pen set from a naval commander and a $5,866.99 trip to Israel, paid for by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. This year, she’s received a $1.55 bag of rice chips from the California Rice Commission, a $2.50 handkerchief from California Cotton Growers Association, $60 worth of flowers from the California Cut Flower Commission and a box of navel oranges.



Brian Jones (R)

Assembly District 77

Clout quotient: Jones has had 5 percent of his 20 bills signed into law.

The freshman legislator has passed exactly one bill, giving counties a little more flexibility when dealing with families that file late reports for welfare benefits. As matters stand now, he has only one other bill that’s made it as far as the Senate: a change to civil code that lets warring neighbors take shared-easement disputes to small-claims court.

Jones was recently promoted to Assistant Republican Leader. He also launched a new weekly “Are You Kidding Me” video series in which he rants about Democrats for about 40 seconds in front of a big yellow question mark.

Campaign coffers: Jones has raised about $100,000 in 2012, with big money coming from the healthcare industry.

Perks: Jones lived large in 2011, reporting $8,510 in gifts, including a free trip to Maui, where he was wined and dined by the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries and the prison-guard union. He accepted free bowling games, Chargers tickets, an overnight quail-hunting trip and a ticket to The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon. For Christmas, the Walt Disney Company gave him $400 worth of tickets to Disneyland. This year, he’s accepted meals from the California New Car Dealers Association, California Professional Firefighters and the Chukchansi Indians, as well as the same bouquet and navel oranges that other legislators received.


Marty Block (D)

Assembly District 39

Clout quotient: Block’s had 37.5 percent of his 40 bills signed into law.

Block currently has a bill on the governor’s desk that, in theory, would allow district attorneys to respond more effectively to public-records requests as offices move to paperless record-keeping. Other bills in the pipeline would ban marbles and pushpins in preschools and mandate congenital-heart-defect screening for newborns. As head of the Assembly’s higher-education committee, nothing university-related gets done without his mark on it: To balance the budget, $103 million in grants that would’ve helped 11,000 students at for-profit colleges was cut.

An outraged Block held a hearing on the UC Davis pepper-spray incident, but before Occupy San Diego names him a hero of the 99 percent, they should know this: The bill that came out of it doesn’t say anything about the use of force. It only requires college campuses to designate someone to serve as a liaison between police and protesters.

Campaign coffers: Block has raised $183,000 so far this year, with large sums predictably coming from teachers unions, but also from fellow Democratic legislators who aren’t facing competitive races.

Perks: Block disclosed $21,600 worth of meals, trips and gifts in 2011, including tours of Israel and Italy, tickets to concerts and sporting events and even an $84 jacket from the Speaker of the Assembly. This year, he accepted a meal from the California State Council of Laborers, and those same oranges and flowers.


Ben Hueso (D)

Assembly District 79

Clout quotient: Hueso’s had 26 percent of his 34 bills signed into law.

He had a rocky freshman year, with three bills vetoed by the governor, including one to regulate petition-circulators for ballot initiatives and another to set up a “blue ribbon task force” to study whether California needs a state bank. Hueso succeeded last year in barring the sale of synthetic drugs, such as “bath salts,” but his bill to criminalize possession of those substances failed in committee this year.

He has a few intriguing bills moving through the Senate now, including one to set strict parameters for when a child-welfare agency can place juveniles in the care of guardians outside the country and another to allow a student group at Sweetwater High School to share school-lunch proceeds if they volunteer to help in the cafeteria.

Campaign coffers: Hueso raised $112,000 for his reelection campaign, including money from payday lenders, energy companies and other corporate interests, as well as labor unions.

Perks: Hueso accepted more than $6,000 in meals, gifts and travel reimbursements in 2011, including tickets to a Josh Groban concert from the California Dental Association. This year, he’s accepted meals from the California Farm Bureau and the Chukchansi Indians.


All images courtesy of the legislator's official websites.  Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMaass.  Email kellyd@sdcitybeat.com or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.




 
 
 
 
 
 
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