Legislative and Advocacy Update
Jason Bryant, Government Affairs
Heraclitus of Ephesus was an Ancient Greek philosopher recognized for his revolutionary thinking and noted for his writings about change in the world around him. Around 500 B.C., Heraclitus famously wrote, “The only constant in life is change.” Heraclitus’ philosophies inspired perhaps the most famous philosopher – Plato – who, of course, was a major influence in the emergence of western political philosophy.
Heraclitus’ revolutionary pronouncements are particularly relevant in today’s political climate in California as we experience a tremendous amount of change in the make-up of the State Legislature. Due in large part to term limits and the once-in-a-decade redistricting process which reconfigures the boundaries of California’s Congressional and state legislative districts, members of the Legislature are departing for other opportunities, including semi-retiring from public office, running for Congress or local office, heading up advocacy organizations or even becoming lobbyists.
As of the writing of this piece, the Assembly has five empty seats out of 80 – the highest number of vacancies in decades. Six members of the Legislature have chosen to run for Congress in newly-drawn seats. While they will serve out their terms this year, those members running for Congress will not return to the Legislature in 2023. Five Legislators are seeking other local or state elective offices. Twelve other members have decided not to run for re-election. Several factors drive those decisions, including running against formidable incumbents in newly-drawn districts or the prospects of different career opportunities in and outside California politics. Just last month, Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) announced he was entering the race for Governor (Sen. Dahle is midway through a four-year term, so he does not have to run for re-election to the Senate in 2022).
Two notable and relatively high-profile announcements came earlier this year when Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R – San Luis Obispo) announced he would not seek re-election this year. Cunningham currently represents a San Luis Obispo County Assembly seat primarily. Still, after the redistricting process, the seat expanded north significantly to encompass significant portions of Monterey County and even Santa Cruz County changing the political make-up of this district. Another notable departure from the Legislature is Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Chula Vista), who Chaired the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee. She announced her resignation from the Assembly in January and will become the Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation.
With the deadline to file for state office, not until March 11, lawmakers still have time to plot their next steps – either run for re-election in a newly-drawn legislative seat or perhaps depart the State Legislature and pursue greener pastures. The coming weeks will likely bring about more announcements from incumbent legislators and add to the growing list of “open” seats that will bring about new legislative contests this year and usher in a new and very sizeable freshman class to the State Legislature beginning in January of 2023.
It is entirely possible that we will see a quarter of the State Legislature turnover by the end of this year and have 25-plus newly-elected members of the Assembly and Senate. They will be charged with leading our state, engaging on issues critically important to downtowns.
Over 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus broke from the conventional thinking of the time by suggesting the world – and our place in it – is not static, and change is the only constant. If the 2022 political climate in California is a measurement of those pronouncements – truer words were never spoken.