A freshman’s first impressions
By Assemblyman Brian Jones
My name is Brian Jones and I have the great honor and privilege to represent the citizens of the 77th Assembly District in the State Legislature. My family and I are humbled and blessed to be given this opportunity and trust by the voters.
I have been in office four months now, and it has been quite an experience. I will provide a monthly column to share my thoughts of serving in Sacramento and I am going to use this inaugural issue to share some aspects of being a legislator and my first impressions.
It’s an interesting lifestyle and it is a sacrifice and a burden on my family. However, we look at it as our opportunity to serve and, besides, our sacrifice pales in comparison to the sacrifice military families make for a 9- to 13-month deployment.
As you can imagine, I get asked a lot of questions about my thoughts as a freshman. They’re asked many different ways, but there are only a few themes:
•How do you like it? Is it what you expected?
Well, to tell you the truth I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not a Sacramento insider. In fact, prior to the primary election I had been to Sacramento only three times and none of those for legislative purposes.
•Are you having fun? Is it exciting?
The fun and excitement are more like signing up for military duty, not like going to Disneyland. I’m not sure serving in the Legislature is supposed to be defined by being “fun.” The decisions and votes we make affect people’s everyday life and, unfortunately, right now most of the time not for the better. I hope to change that.
•What legislation are you running?
I purposefully have a small legislation package this year. The voters didn’t send me to Sacramento to pass a bunch of new laws to burden our personal lives. However, I do have a couple of bills dealing with illegal immigration, the DMV, the labor code, and a bill to help the county streamline one of its programs.
•What is your agenda? What are your priorities?
This question was asked often during the primary. I had two very well qualified competitors in the primary who both had a well-articulated agenda. If either one of them had won, our district would still be well represented. However, that question always frustrated me because I did not have a personal or lobbyist directed special interest agenda.
Finally, one day in a forum, I said, “You know what, I really don’t want to go to Sacramento to do anything. I want to go to Sacramento to undo some stuff.” That was very well received, so the theme of my service has become “Undo Sacramento.”
•What are your goals?
Two things: 1) Build a Republican majority in 2012 or 2014, but if it doesn’t happen until 2016, when (if the voters let me stay till then) I am on my way out, that is OK, too! 2) Fundamentally restructure the way the California government works.
•What are your frustrations?
1) We have a deceitful budget process. The budget committee is separated into six subcommittees, each specializing in a few of the state’s agencies. For example, I serve on Budget Subcommittee, which deals with the parks, transportation, and natural resources. Each subcommittee conducts a series of hearings to receive reports and requests from the departments for funding. The committee then approves or denies the requests and sends the recommendations onto the full Budget Committee for approval.
I naively was under the assumption that the recommendations of the subcommittee would be what the full budget committee would see and discuss. I was wrong. As an example, one of the issues we heard in subcommittee was for the Department of Parks and Recreation to “borrow” $5 million from the OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) fund that has a $27 million surplus. We reluctantly approved this proposal, but placed some restrictions on the process. What the full budget committee saw was a full taking of the $27 million.
2) Sacramento insiders accept and promote a slow legislative process. By the middle of March we had not approved a budget or debated any legislation. By contrast, states with part-time legislatures adjourned for the year at the end of March. That means their legislators went home for the year having completed all their budget and legislative responsibilities. The pocketbooks and liberties for the citizens of those states are safe for one more year.
• How do you like your colleagues?
I am very encouraged and excited by the opportunity to serve with the people I do. Every single freshman Republican (there are 11 of us) are small business owners. A couple actually own large businesses. We have all come to Sacramento with an attitude of service. We like our lives at home and would rather not have to deal with the mess in Sacramento. However, situations in our lives compelled us to get involved and do our best to change the destructive course that California is currently on. I am further encouraged that there are a handful of Democrats with the same attitude.
My overall attitude about serving in Sacramento is very positive. Although the challenges are big and somewhat complex, I believe that next to the founding of the state, this is the most exciting time to be serving in the Legislature. The winds of history are at our back and it is our job as pro-freedom legislators to hoist our sails and navigate our state on a new and proper course.
The people of California recognize their government is broken and will, over the next couple of years, vote to keep these winds of history blowing.
I am truly grateful for all the appreciation and encouragement my family and I receive when I am home in the district.
I thank you, the citizens of the 77th Assembly District, for giving me the opportunity to represent you in this truly historic time.
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