Huber Touts Transparency Agenda

SEPT. 28, 2010


When a Democratic legislator claims to have a more conservative voting record than Republican Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, it must be either an election year or the Republican is no conservative. Or both.

In a CalWatchdog interview, Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, met with me to discuss her experiences as a new Assemblywoman, her hot-button issues and even the fight she finds herself in after only two years in office.

Huber was first elected in 2008, with some saying that she rode the Obama tsunami into office. Only, the wave she rode was no tidal wave – she only won by 500 votes. It was so close that her opponent assumed victory, and showed up for Assembly orientation before the final count was in, only to ultimately lose the election.

In what was once deemed a safe Republican district, Huber showed me the map of her district – oddly shaped like an elephant, and obviously gerrymandered. Representing the counties of Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, San Joaquin and cities from El Dorado Hills, to Elk Grove, Ione, Lodi, Rancho Cordova and Sacramento, Huber has a wildly diverse district, which she said has presented messaging challenges.

The district ranges from urban and suburban communities, to farm and rural areas.  Instead of expecting constituents to come to the Capitol with their issues, Huber said she solved the problem by holding town hall meetings in towns within the district, as well as informal meetings at coffee houses and grocery stores. “I don’t want them to just see a name and never see you – I want to talk face to face,” she said.

Government waste is one of Huber’s main issues. She recently pushed for Assembly members’ and staff salaries to be more easily located online. Huber introduced AB2064, which died in the Senate, but would have made all government salaries available online.

Huber has pushed hard for sunset review legislation as well, which seeks to end unnecessary boards, commissions and agencies, rather than just let them go on indefinitely. Huber said that when she was first elected, she questioned how and why some state agencies exist. “Despite the explosion in California’s bureaucracy, no system has been instituted to comprehensively evaluate their effectiveness and necessity,” said Huber. “But because of term limits, the Legislator(s) who created the agency or commission are long gone, and no one could explain the purpose of the agency, or if it was effective (or not). Legislators create new boards, commissions, agencies and departments to solve a problem and then no one looks back and asks whether the new bureaucracy actually solved the problem it was created to solve, or whether the problem is worse.”

Sunset review “would conduct comprehensive, regular reviews of state government to ensure taxpayers that their money is being used wisely.  Other states have been doing this for years and California should adopt this common sense approach to oversight,” said Huber.

She participated in Sunset Advisory Commission meetings in Texas while she researched the issue. “Numerous other states have a sunset review process, including Texas, which created its Sunset Advisory Commission in 1978.  Since the Texas Commission’s inception, 58 agencies have been abolished and another 12 agencies have been consolidated saving nearly 5 percent of the state’s budget.”

Huber’s bills — AB1659 and AB2130 are companion bills — both needed to address the issue of how to effectively accomplish sunset review. AB1659, seeks to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies by creating the Joint Sunset Review Committee within the Legislature, and AB2130, serves as the implementation bill for the Joint Sunset Review Committee created in AB1659, by defining which government entities will be subject to the committee’s review over a 15-year rotating cycle. AB2130 is contingent on the passage of AB1659.

Asked what prompted her to run for office, Huber said she had never held elected office until she ran for Assembly, but knew that the system that helped propel her to success, also prepared her to give something back. “I thought I had something to add, and I always knew I would give back,” said Huber.

Raised in Lodi by parents reliant on welfare during difficult times, Huber said she was the first in her family to graduate college. She found her voice on the debate team while a student at San Joaquin Delta College. She transferred to Chico State where she had a scholarship on the debate team, and then to Cornell University. Huber moved back to California for law school, attending University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.

Huber’s votes since being elected are interesting, and demonstrate both conservative and liberal politics. Some say that Huber casts conservative votes on issues of relative unimportance, and always with her party on the big Democratic issues. But Huber said she votes according to the interests and issues pertinent to her district.

Some of Huber’s “no” votes include the farm worker overtime bill, race and gender preferences in university admissions, pet insurance, the plastic bag tax, individual health care coverage, ski helmet requirement, food stamps for felons, and solar power energy credits.

Huber voted “yes” on prohibiting smoking at state beaches, Harvey Milk Day, fur product labeling, renewable energy requirements, state approvals for health insurance rates, and local government bankruptcy restrictions.

Huber is facing off  Republican Jack Sieglock in a re-election campaign redux of the 2008 race.

On the 2009 Capitol Weekly legislative scorecard which bases the score on 19 bills, “100” is a perfect liberal score, “0” is a perfect conservative score, Huber scored “42.” Abel Maldonado scored a “55.”

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