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
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
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
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.