By Sharon McElhone
Question: What are your views on the border wall?
Answer: I think they ought to use the concrete for road repairs, not the wall. I think it’s just a crazy idea. It’s expensive, crazy…some of the stuff I’ve seen coming out of Washington is not just billions but tens of billions of dollars that would be wasted on some of these ideas that have no bearing on what’s needed in this country. What is needed in the country is to have our economy grow and we need an international focus. We can’t alienate our basic partner, which is Mexico. It’s absolutely insane. Mexico is a huge economic partner with the United States. They are creating this “bad American” image and unfortunately it’s labeling all of us Americans, but in California we definitely are contrary to the President on this subject. We think the whole thing is counter- productive. He ought to focus on creating citizenship opportunities.
Question: What are your views on guest visas for migrant workers?
Answer: The State’s economy is dependent on guest visas in a lot of different ways. The agricultural community desperately needs those. The tech community needs them. We have a guest visa program for students in college. The Federal government ought to continue the process of allowing them in California. It’s not just Mexico. It’s Pacific Rim, South America, Europe, everywhere. I went to San Jose State and we’ve always had the International House. Students from all over the world have always been welcome at San Jose State… It’s why I don’t like to leave here because I think we are special here in San Jose. We’ve always had this international welcome all cultures… the guest visa is part of that and I think what Trump is trying to do destroys that.
Question: Do you believe California is ready to lift the mandate to conserve water during a drought?
Answer: Yes. I think we ought to have a general conservation law, but I think the drought mandate should be lifted at this point.
Question: What measures do you support for conserving water?
Answer: There are a lot of people in California who don’t even have water meters. I think all the water meters should be put on every user of the water—agriculture, industrial, residential. We should have conservation. If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. You can’t make it more efficient if you can’t measure it, so water metering is important. We got forty percent of the water used for agriculture, only ten percent is used for urban use, fifty percent is used for flow in the environment and gets let go to the ocean. My feeling is that if we get agriculture to be more conserving, it would have a much bigger impact. The urban users still have to do it, but I think the agricultural users still have to convert to conservation. It would save everyone a bunch of money. We wouldn’t have to have these big water projects.
Question: What is your response to the reversal in ideology under President Trump?
Answer: We are developing in the Senate a package of goals for California. The first one is the California Values Act (SB-54) to prevent the use of state and local resources to aid federal immigration and custom enforcement and deportation actions. There are going to be other bills that deal with things like healthcare and other kinds of things. We have Eric Holder who is our lobbyist working with us on these things.…but the California senate has SB-54 and we want the public to support that… We are waiting to see what he is up to because he talks and he tweets but we want to see the substantive proposals that he comes up with.
Question: If ObamaCare is repealed what is your response as a legislator?
Answer: I want to look at how we preserve the healthcare for all. We could look at single payer. We could look at other options to institute in California, but the idea of covering everybody has to be part of it. We can’t exclude people. We can’t have uncovered people in health care. It could be done by single payer or some other expansion of the Santa Clara county family health plan for example.
Question: What is your view on childcare for working parents and students?
Answer: We would like to have childcare for the earliest possible age, but also for after school, during school for the youngest kids and before school. It’s something that could be school based if they are in school. I believe in school based childcare, first of all, so while they are in childcare it could be coordinated and blended in with the educational experience; therefore, benefiting the child in terms of their development. You know they can do their homework; they can have counselors, behavior counselors if they need that… in the school, around the school. I think that is my vision of childcare, to make it part of the early education of the child.
Question: Do you foresee a state law making childcare universally available?
Answer: Not now because we don’t have the funds for it, but yes it has been studied and I think eventually there will be. In the budget, what we are doing is growing the childcare to a level of funding where it was pre-2007. In 2007 the general fund was $117 billion then it went to $84 billion two years later. All these programs got cut. Now it’s gone up to about $124 (billion) in the general fund so we are now increasing education, childcare, [and] other services and in the last two years, we’ve added large additional pots of money for childcare and it looks like this year it will be the same. We will add money, not maybe as much because the budget is not quite as good as it was, so I think they are going to incrementally step up the funding over time and the goal is universal childcare. Now we have a limited number of subsidized childcare slots. We are adding a little more every year but it’s expensive. It’s going to be in the billions of dollars to get to the universal… The budget is locked into certain things. Like there is prop 98 that passed that locks in the education system to get almost 60 percent of the state budget. Then you have a certain amount that has to go to fund the prison system and foster care…the prison budget is governed by a federal judge right now. He says, “Here is how much I want you to spend on this, and I’m ordering you to do that.”
Question: How would you legislate a redesign of the workplace that would eliminate sexual harassment?
Answer: I think the biggest issue is enforcement and getting comfortable with enforcement and I think part of it is to have good enforcement of the laws and another one is to have more women managers… I co-authored a law to extend the statute of limitations for child abuse. Extending them serves as a deterrent to sexual harassment and sexual assault. I think we have to continue those kinds of laws, especially in enforcement. We now learned from Brock Turner and the situation there… We have to have judges and prosecutors that are willing to prosecute people. Sexual harassment, such as for teens, we did Audrie’s law. I authored that. We have a stronger law for use of social media to bully somebody like Audrie Pott… It’s got of be part of your personnel practices to train people on the laws so they are aware, especially men. I think it is important. In the Senate, we do training for all members. We are mandated to go through training. The culture of the office has to be a main focus.
Question: What plans would you support to keep clean or alternative energy production at the forefront now that there has been a renewed promise to produce more energy using oil and coal?
Answer: We have passed SB 32 that sets the course over the next decade to drop our green house gas production by thirty percent by 2030 and we would like to go fifty percent by 2050. So, we are trying to develop a strategy and part of it is a cap and trade program….one of the bills I authored which is hugely popular in California is AB811…. That is where there can be financing of energy conservation on your home and it can be put on the property tax bill and paid off over a period of time. They can pay it off in thirty years… San Jose has it’s global warming policy and San Jose works with the state in terms of reducing energy overall in our community. What we want to have is more renewable energy, less coal—have solar, wind… The biggest center of green energy is Silicon Valley and a lot of the companies are small size businesses. We have a huge employment base after five or six years…and it is growing faster than other sectors of the Silicon Valley Economy. That includes green cars of course like Tesla [and] ChargePoint, the charger guy that creates the plugs for green cars. All that kind of stuff is happening here. We have the solar production facility. People are being hired to manufacture a lot of stuff. It’s actually bringing back manufacturing to Silicon Valley, the green industries. This is in our interest from an environmental standpoint but also from an economic standpoint.