It has been a great privilege to represent the Central Coast in the State Assembly for the past six years. I’m honored that voters put their faith in me three times since 2010 to be there champion in Sacramento.
I could not seek re-election this year because of term limits. And while it is with some sadness that I leave the Assembly this week, it is with great excitement that I look forward to taking the oath office in early January as a new member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, representing the City of Salinas.
By far, the most rewarding part of my job in the Assembly has been working with you, constituents, on issues important to the Central Coast. From the day I was sworn into office in Sacramento, I directed my staff to make the district back home our top priority.
To that end, my first year in office I started the Young Assemblymembers Program, a four-week-long leadership course for local youth. We graduated more than 160 Central Coast high school and first-year college students over the past six summers. The incredible youth who participated in this program learned about the legislative process, community organizing, debate skills, team organizing and much more. This program was provided at no cost to the students or their families. Graduates have gone on to become stellar students at top universities, such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and St. Mary’s College.
We also sponsored numerous college financial aid workshops each year in various communities throughout the district, connecting local families with the assistance they needed to ensure local students who wanted to go to college could afford it.
With invaluable help from constituents in the district, we were able to do a lot in Sacramento to help the Central Coast. Just this year, we got $5.5 million inserted into the budget for the City of Salinas for gang prevention and public safety, and $2.5 million from the Coastal Conservancy to purchase the Carr Lake property and double the amount of parkland in Salinas. We also brought home $10 million for the Interlake Tunnel Project between Lakes Nacimiento and San Antonio, and $3.7 million for vegetation removal and maintenance of the Salinas River.
In 2015, we got $3.5 million in state debt eliminated for San Benito County, and obtained an additional $300,000 annually for the bailiffs for the new Hollister courthouse. We also got $4.4 million in redevelopment loans repaid to the City of Watsonville. For the South County High School District in King City and Greenfield, we got their loan rate lowered in 2013 creating an additional $400,000 per year that can be spent on our students instead of going to the state.
During my first year in office, we convinced the state to audit the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, ending its multi-million dollar pension abuses. Our efforts last year led to an audit of the troubled King City Police Department, which has resulted in major reforms and helped restore public confidence in the Department.
During my six years in the Assembly, I authored 76 bills that were signed into law and 16 legislative resolutions that were approved by the legislature. These bills included landmark legislation such as AB60 (drivers licenses for immigrants), raising the minimum wage to the highest level in the country (AB10), the first ethnic studies statewide model curriculum in the country (AB2016), creating a new redevelopment tool for economic development and affordable housing for disadvantaged communities (AB2), and numerous bills to provide safe and clean drinking water for poor communities.
I was chosen to serve in key leadership roles, including chairman of the Assembly Environmental and Toxic Materials (ESTM) Committee from 2012-2016 and as vice-chairman of the Assembly Local Government Committee from 2010-2012. I was also proud to serve as the chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus from 2014-2016, where I increased the Caucus membership to an all-time high of 27 and increased the record number of Latinas in the legislature for a total of 10.
I have been humbled by the faith Central Coast residents have invested in me over these past six years. My last words to you as your assemblymember will be these: Thank you.