When Anthony Rendon was elected to the California State Assembly in 2012, he thought he would focus on early childhood education. “I came to Sacramento after working in early childhood education for 20 years . . . probably thinking that I would work on that.” However, he continued, “You come here and you realize the extent to which all of these issues impact one another. I think it’s dangerous to isolate any single issues.”
As he noted in his conversation with PPIC’s Mark Baldassare last Thursday, Rendon has focused on many individual measures in this legislative session, including a recently signed bill to modify the criteria for police use of deadly force and a bill to address predatory lending. In the wake of the Gilroy shooting, he has also prioritized a package of gun control bills. He sees these measures as part of a broader focus on improving opportunity for all Californians.
Rendon became Speaker in 2016, when Jerry Brown was governor. At first, he found working with Brown to be “a little frustrating,” but “eventually, we did a lot together. . . . There was a very narrow focus, two or three things—criminal justice reform, climate change, but that was about it. Those are still the things he cares about.” Governor Newsom focuses on a wider range of issues. And, Rendon said, “He’s also more sort of open-ended. He’ll come in and say, ‘Hey, housing, what do you think?’”
One of the issues Newsom cares about is early childhood education—which is still a major priority for Rendon. While Brown “helped us to start down the path” to reinvesting in this area, “now we have a governor who believes that . . . it has a positive impact on families and communities and children.” Newsom’s belief translated into significant funding increases for early childhood education in this year’s budget. “The budget was phenomenal,” said Rendon. Early childhood education is particularly important, in his view, because it’s “not trying to fix something that’s already broken. It’s a way of addressing issues early on, it’s a way of breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Although the Democratic Party controls both the governor’s office and the legislature, Rendon believes it’s important to work with Republicans whenever possible. He sees some common ground on issues such as climate change and education—“the real issues that really impact Californians.” More generally, it is important that state leaders represent all Californians: “I want to be able to tell people . . . ‘I’m working for you.’”