CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY



In 1986, I was elected to the California State Assembly to represent the 22nd District in Santa Clara County after a hard-fought campaign against two local Mayors. I arrived in Sacramento full of ideas to improve public education, lower taxes, and keep the economy expanding. Like all new Legislators, I ran into an immediate brick wall as the realities of politics were revealed to me. But it was here, in the Assembly, where I would learn the complex art of political maneuvering. After some early frustrations, I began to collaborate with bipartisan groups of likeminded lawmakers who were interested in advancing positive changes. Working in this way allowed me to build relationships and trust with colleagues. I learned that Ronald Reagan was absolutely correct when he advised, "There is no limit to what a man can accomplish if he doesn't care who gets the credit." That saying made a lot of sense to me since the Democrats always controlled the Assembly during my years in the Legislature. Following that principle allowed me to help shape budget priorities in California for eight years and to have a significant impact on the state's business environment.

In my first term I was able to expand the research and development tax credit for high tech companies, an issue critical to the economic health of Silicon Valley. This earned me the distinction of being designated by the American Electronics Association as "High Tech Legislator of the Year." I was able to ensure continued funding for California tourism marketing and direct money to expand the use of computers in the classroom. A significant bill passed by me sharply restricted the power of tax assessor by forcing them to assume that the sales price of property was, in fact, its fair market value. This prevented the widespread practice of over assessment, keeping money in the private sector. This accomplishment earned me an award as the California Business Properties Legislator of the Year.

My second term was highlighted by the emotional debate over the availability of assault weapons in California. From my post on the Public Safety Committee, I was able to ensure that a carefully written law emerged that restricted the use of these weapons and did not infringe on the rights of legitimate gun owners. Other bills I authored increased penalties for crimes committed with guns and gave new flexibility to District Attorneys. In this term I began to champion the role of "sub acute care" facilities in California, medical institutions that cared for people who needed long term, constant medical treatment but did not need an expensive hospital. This was the beginning of a two year effort to force MediCal to recognize the cost savings potential of using the sub acute facilities in lieu of hospitals. Continuing my work advocating policies that improved the business environment for the electronics industry earned me a second award as the AEA High Tech Legislator of the Year. My third term was a tumultuous time in California as an economic recession buffeted the state. Tax revenues to the state shrunk alarmingly and a bitter budget debate consumed California. Working with Governor Pete Wilson, I helped formulate the tough solutions to a seemingly impossible situation. One of the key provisions I fought for was a requirement that any tax increases be temporary with a hard expiration date. The second half of this term was consumed with the always controversial reapportionment process that redraws legislative district lines every ten years. I served as one of the negotiators on the Republican team.

Major bills authored by me created public school choice for students, reduced property tax appraisals, expanded research and development tax credits for high tech companies, and lowered the age to 14 where juveniles can be tried as adults for murder. My fourth term became my most productive as a new spirit of cooperation spread through the Legislature and members were determined to fix some growing problems. Growing alarm at the negative business environment led to a major reform of the workers compensation insurance system in the state. Research and Development tax credits authored by me became law. I was able to pass a law allowing parents choice of where their children attended public school in California. In 1994, I also passed a law allowing District Attorneys the discretion to try 14 year old juveniles as adults for the crime of murder. The years in the Assembly were a terrific learning experience. Eight years of immersion in the complexities and subtleties of legislating and governing such a diverse State had prepared me for my next challenge, running for the office of State Insurance Commissioner.

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