This year we interviewed State Senator Al Muratsuchi. Other local Leagues across the state have discussed these same issues with their legislators. Interviews from past years are posted for historical purposes.
This report was prepared by Joan Arias (LWV Beach Cities) and Athena Paquette (LWV Torrance), who met with District Director Stephanie Molen, Office of Betsy Butler, Assemblymember 53rd District.
After a brief introduction to the League of Women Voters and the goal of our Legislative Interviews, we asked Assemblymember Butler the following questions.
1. Do you support efforts to increase transparency and provide more information to the public through such steps as requiring disclosure and quick reporting of all election-related spending?
Response: Yes! Campaign Finance Reform is critical. We need fair and accurate information with reasonable record keeping. It is unfortunate that our pilot project with the Secretary of State's Office did not succeed. There is currently a bill that would enable $200 donations to go without being reported (at the present time, the limit on unreported donations is $99; any donations $100 and higher need to be reported).
(In response to a follow-up question about how she would like to control campaign financing or change policy and what changes she would make) There should be a set limit on campaign financing from whatever source or sources that are reported. We need to take Independent Expenditures out of the equation (in US elections, Independent Expenditures are political campaign communication s which expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation or concert with or at the request or suggestion of a candidate , a candidate's authorized committee or a political party.)
(Assemblymember Butler talked about how she had been attacked with false accusations when she ran for Assembly and the money spent by her attackers on the 17 print brochures and materials that were sent to voters in the 53rd District. She also commented on the idea of limiting the money allowed on a campaign depending upon the office sought.)
We need to know where the money is coming from until we have true campaign finance reform. Real campaign finance reform could establish an overall limit on finances for campaigns no matter the source. The limits would be based on the level of the office sought. That is, the limit able to be raised would be higher for Congressional elections and the Presidency as opposed to the State Legislature. By capping the amount of money spent on a campaign, we level the playing field and help diminish campaign negativity since the money is no longer unlimited. This would include self-contributions, corporate contributions and small donor contributions.
2. What can you do to help improve civic discourse and reduce the level of rancor and partisan bickering in national politics?
Response: We have our challenges in the State. Term limits and the last budget situation with the governor was interesting. We need to get rid of the 2/3 vote requirement to raise taxes because we can't pass tax increases without bipartisan support and this is problematic. Through the course of the discussions, a number of Republicans were on board but they were threatened by the party and radio talk show hosts Ken and John. Legislators were scared that they'd get their heads on a stick - that they would be targeted for recall as what happened last election.
There need to be fair and non-biased media outlets. Somehow Democrats always allow others to have messages that hurt us. I am disappointed with this aspect of my party. We need better communication because the changes we need to look at are the long-term costs of a non-educated society, of poor health care and poor environmental control. I was (pleasantly) shocked when Proposition 16 ( "New Two-Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers - Initiative Constitutional Amendment") and Proposition 23 (the proposition that would have suspended AB 32, a 2006 law - The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 until the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5% or below for 4 consecutive quarters) both lost. Californians didn't accept that and that shows that voters are intelligent and that despite the investment by many corporations, it is possible to defeat such initiatives.
We need clear campaign finances and fair media coverage. When I ran for office, I did not want to go negative. Candidates and representatives on both sides are equally threatened by the bloodsport nature of politics today and by the issues that have become so harsh deterring them completely from a life of public service. We have hour-long floor debates on such issues as open carry (carrying loaded weapons openly), same-sex marriage, and other issues in which the fringe elements have taken over. Some of these discussions are unproductive and represent grandstanding from fringe elements. The attitude is anti-establishment, anti-incumbent. I don't know how to fix that! I'm a pretty conservative Democrat but I've become more liberal because we are combating an attitude that government is bad and yet we need a safety net. People need to be educated and feel safe in their communities. That's government.
We need campaign finance reform - that's where the rancor comes in. We need more information and a balanced media. The national media needs to mandate fair and balanced reporting.
3. What are your major priorities for the 2011-2012 Assembly?
My major priorities are consumer fairness and awareness - banning toxic substances and working to keep families, especially children, safe. Also, to grow the job market. I have bills in play to prevent elder identity theft, establish veterans' courts and address job creation and green growth. I also am working on broadening the film tax credit so we stop California from hemorrhaging film jobs.
I will continue to work on consumer protection legislation and speak for those who don't have a voice. The chemical industry is against my BPA bill (Bisphenol-A - a toxic substance used in "sippy cups").
(When asked about bipartisan support and how she makes that happen:) Most of my bills have passed with bipartisan support. I WORK my bills; I talk to my colleagues and am proud that members of both parties are helping me and speaking for my bills.
SB 173 - (awaiting action in the Assembly and opposed by doctors and insurance companies) requires that, following a mammogram, individuals with dense breast tissue be told that they have dense breast tissue, that dense breast tissue can obscure seeing a problem and other abnormalities on a mammogram, and that they may wish to discuss with their doctors the potential value of additional screenings.
(When asked about how, as a new member of the Assembly, she picks her issues): I want to fight for families, people without a voice. I campaigned on these issues: energy, environmental issues, the elderly (this district has the fastest aging population in California), jobs - green jobs in particular.
When asked about term limits: Term limits are good but ours are too short. 12 years would be better. Even in the United States Congress, 30-year limits would be good. In the past, when you began a career in the California State Legislature new members didn't say anything for the first two years! You learned. Right now you need to know who you're working with. I believe that public service and politics is about working to make people's lives better, healthier and safer.
1. Do you believe that Congress should delay or curtail enforcement of the Clean Air Act?
We should NOT delay the clean air bill (AB32) BUT what's scarier are the particulates we can't see. The air in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire causes huge asthma rates. Thank heavens we are addressing this problem.
2. Do you support repealing or limiting the newly enacted national health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act? I'm totally for National Health Care. I want to work on it. We may need to implement it before we can get people to look at the long-term effects and costs. For example, when we expanded the film tax credits, we could see the positive results.
We need to work and be creative as a state instead of turning against one another. We live quarter to quarter and we need to turn that around and plan, strategize and build for the future. It will cost a lot less money in the long term.