Despite their political differences, California’s legislative leaders have similar views of the state’s most pressing challenges. In a conversation facilitated by PPIC this week in Sacramento, the two top legislators from both major parties provided a preview of the issues they expect to tackle this session. With the impact of federal policy changes still unclear, the legislative leaders focused on longstanding challenges.
Asked to list the top issues the legislature and governor need to work on this session, Anthony Rendon, the Democratic speaker of the state assembly, named housing and transportation—topics he heard about repeatedly as he campaigned around the state. He said he saw the impact of a housing and transportation crisis first hand when walking precincts in the Inland Empire. “If you knock on someone’s door at 7:00, 7:30 p.m., they’re not home yet. They’re still on the freeway.”
Jean Fuller, the Republican leader of the state senate, sees the top issues as affordability in California generally and jobs. “We are concerned about housing, but we are also very concerned about jobs.” She noted that in her district, which stretches from Visalia to Twenty-Nine Palms, there is double-digit unemployment.
Kevin de León, the Democratic state senate president pro tem, said the past legislative session had been particularly productive; he highlighted minimum wage, gun safety, and climate change legislation. In this session, he said, “we have to deliver on the issues of housing and transportation and the issue of economic growth.”
For Chad Mayes, Republican leader of the assembly, poverty is the number one issue in the state, which has the highest poverty rate in the nation. “If you use that as a performance measure for how well our board of directors—the state legislature—is doing, I think you’d have to say we have been failing.” He added: “We’re failing, in large part because of housing costs.”
The speakers acknowledged major policy differences. But they pointed to past successes in bridging them as a sign that they can do so again.
“Things are not broken here, in comparison to DC,” said de León.