Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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California State AssemblyCandidate for District 8

Photo of Ken Cooley

Ken Cooley

California State Assemblyman
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Accountable Govt: In 2017 I published the California Assembly Legislative Oversight Handbook and as Chair of Assembly Rules, I have kept promoting active exercise of this vital duty.
  • Support Foster Youth: As Chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care, my focus is how the system is working and where it may be strengthened to the betterment of these kids.
  • Earthquake and Disaster Planning: A 1976 job led to a life interest in Earthquake policy and safety. I've sat on the Seismic Safety Commission in many roles since 2007.

Experience

Experience

Profession:California State Assemblyman, 2012 to present
Assemblymember, California State Assembly — Elected position (2012–current)
Commissioner, Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission — Appointed position (2015–current)
Chair, Assembly Committee on Rules, California State Assembly — Appointed position (2016–current)
Chair, Joint Rules Committee of the California Senate and Assembly, California State Senate and Assembly — Appointed position (2017–current)
Principal Consultant, California Senate Standing Committee on Insurance (and its predecessor, Standing Committee on Banking, Finance and Insurance) (2009–2012)
Founding Councilmember, City of Rancho Cordova — Elected position (2003–2012)
Legal Counsel, State Farm Insurance (1991–2008)
Chief Counsel, California Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Insurance and Commerce (1988–1991)
Legislative Counsel, California Land Title Association (1985–1988)

Education

McGeorge School of Law J.D., Law (1984)
U.C. Berkeley B.A., Political Science (1977)

Community Activities

Chair, California Capitol Annex Project Executive Committee, This 3 person committee provides direction Joint Executive and Legislative Branch guidance to the Capitol Annex Project. (2015–current)
Co-Chair, Legislative Oversight Working Group, Council of State Governments - West (CSG-West) (2014–current)
Guest Lecturer/Program Participant Moot Court/Master’s Public Policy, McGeorge School of Law (2005–2019)
State and Divisional Leadership, League of California Cities, League of California Cities (California’s Municipal League) (2004–2009)

Questions & Answers

Questions from The Sacramento Bee (3)

Should California enter the prescription drug business to help drive down prices? Why or why not?
Answer from Ken Cooley:
Neither my legal nor my business background involve pharmaceuticals but that life experience makes me respect the nature of specialized knowledge and the difficulty in translating such knowledge into tangible processes, systems and equipment to reliably produce any complex product. I do not support the state diverting its scarce resources to become a venture Capitalist with taxpayer funds in such a complex and specialized knowledge enterprise. I believe there are other tools that fall more uniquely to the State as a governmental enterprise that would remain, for me, the preferred tools of choice to help bend down the cost curve on pharmaceuticals generally.
Should California make changes to the property tax system set up in Proposition 13? Why?
Answer from Ken Cooley:

I oppose changes to Proposition 13. 

 

The beneficiaries of Prop 13, while broader than single family homeowners, includes many, many small businesses. In the 8th AD, it is apparent that as average ages increase, so that older residents go out less frequently or opt to spend less to conserve their retirement dollars, the result is greater pressure on the ability of small businesses, even long-established small businesses like popular restaurants or other service providers, to survive. Accordingly, I know in the 8th Assembly District of central Sacramento County, and I suspect statewide, the benefits that small businesses enjoy under Prop 13 to slow the increase in property taxes they are subject to grows more critical every year. 


Accordingly, I do not favor altering Proposition 13.

To lower rent costs, should California build more or focus on rent caps and tenants’ rights? Why?
Answer from Ken Cooley:

I favor growing the available housing stock through building more homes, including new and improved multi-family properties.

 

In our county, most cityhood efforts in recent decades were strongly backed by home builders. But back in 2002, I got myself elected by going door-to-door citywide for months, it’s still my favorite method of campaigning. Back then it was not just a campaign tool, but a political philosophy. I felt certain that if elected, I would be a better public official if no developer could pull me aside before a critical vote and say “Remember Ken, my financial backing made you. Now I need your help.”

 

I have never regretted that decision and it put my public service life on a very satisfying footing that I have never, ever regretted. 

So I favor building housing since it means that people have clean, safe and up-to-date housing which reflects their dignity as individuals. On the Rancho Cordova City Council, I led the successful fight to ensure an affordable housing element component in new home communities during an epic City Council meeting in Spring 2006 that only adjourned after 2 a.m.  In Rancho Cordova, with 5 percent of the county’s population, when the City formed in 2003, 38 percent of Sacramento’s emergency and transitional housing was in the city limits at the former Mather Air Force Base. Those populations, supported by outstanding wrap-around services, never posed a problem for city residents. 

 

Our city has also led, or supported, new housing for formerly homeless or disabled veterans one block south of the VA Hospital, housing for 58 emancipated foster youth and through our code enforcement process we have aggressively pursued maintenance and upkeep of Rancho Cordova multi-family housing. 

 

When the city formed, over 50 of the city’s housing stock was multi-family rentals. With so many residents dependent upon rental housing, an aggressive effort to inspect and prod property upgrades made sense. But the city did more. In one especially distressed neighborhood, we bought up a set of parcels and built a brand new multi-family property (less than 24 units as I recall) so that the adjacent property owners – to their shame – had an example of up-to-date quality housing just down the block. That was done to induce improvement as indeed it did. 

 

I believe the task of the public realm is to invest strategically, build housing that reflects the dignity of people, and do so in a way that it yields the double benefit of constructive change that spurs the further release of energy as a change agent. The only thing that can spur an upgrade to existing housing stocks in investing monies in their improvement and I favor that as the kind of change that carries the message to all who live there that their circumstances are improving and their value as people is being acknowledged. 

 

 

 

Questions from League of Women Voters of California (4)

To reach a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, as set forth in a 2018 executive order what, if any, proposals, plans or legislation would you support?  Please be specific.
Answer from Ken Cooley:

I will continue to work to implement the policies of AB 296 which I successfully presented to Governor Newsom last year and which I believe he erred in vetoing. My approach specifically included carbon capture – which supports the specific interest of the Bee in carbon neutrality – but it had a much broader vision. 

 

We put our future at risk if we are not engaged in a broad-based search for any ideas that can come to our aid in the present era. That was the idea behind my AB 296. I said it was subject to a veto, but that was due to a late-arising hesitation about where to place and structure it within state government rather than disagreement over its essential innovative vision. 

 

We cannot risk failing because we missed a simple, obvious thing. Every time I presented this bill, my closing statement made its centerpiece recitation of a famous 14th Century nursery rhyme to vividly highlight why California should support broad-based innovative research:

 

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

 

To avoid failure of “all for the want of a horseshoe nail” variety, my AB 296 would have established a Climate Innovation Grant Program to award grants to research, develop, and accelerate innovations and technologies that mitigate and improve adaptability to the impacts of climate change. Specifically, AB 296 would have funded projects that neutralize or remove emissions and pollutants to minimize current and future risks to human health and safety, quality of life, economic growth, ecosystems and the environment. 

 

Although current law requires conservation of precious resources and limits the emissions of greenhouse gases, criteria air pollutants and other contaminants into the environment, it is shortsighted for it lacks a holistic approach to understanding how to best address the removal of emissions and pollutants from the environment to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

 

Climate change impacts are being felt across the state with more extremes of weather and greater repetition of drought fire and flash flooding episodes. Seeking out innovations that address the direct causes of, and vital systems affected by, climate change can limit negative impacts. To that end, AB 296 proposed to use a peer review system to award matching grant funds to projects that create new innovations in such fields as carbon storage and capture, clean, reliable and affordable electric and transportation solutions, and air, water and soil quality. These are all topics current state climate change policy – despite its well-deserved reputation for being cutting edge – overlooks. 

 

Describe what proposal(s) you would support to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing for all income groups in California?
Answer from Ken Cooley:

Earlier this year I publicly announced my support for Governor Gavin Newsom’s comprehensive plan to reduce homelessness in California. 

 

Governor Newsom has proposed a $1.4 billion plan to combat homelessness in California by allocating money to help pay rents, build more affordable housing, construct more shelters, and expand services. Governor Newsom has also directed agencies to locate public land that can be utilized for emergency shelters.

 

In Sacramento County’s Assembly District 8, we already have several supportive housing communities, including the Mather Veterans Village, Mather Community Campus, and the Adolfo Housing residence for emancipated foster youth on the site of the former Mather Air Force Base. I know from my experience in Rancho Cordova that when you provide housing and then place supportive services around that housing, it is very compatible with outstanding community life.  

 

I have long been a committed advocate for people experiencing homelessness both in my City of Rancho Cordova role but also consistently across my five-year rise to the top leadership level of the League of California Cities. At the League of California Cities, my service included serving as 1st Vice President and President of the League’s Sacramento Valley Division (58 cities/16 counties from Sacramento to Oregpon) and service as an At-Large Member of its Governing Board in 2006-2007, then its statewide Second Vice President (2008) and 1st Vice President (2009) (A job change led me to resign my League leadership role in April 2009 so as to avoid any hint of a possible conflict of interest; that hard decision was made less than 5 months before I would have been installed as the League’s State President for 2010). 

 

While at the League, I Chaired it’s Housing, Community, and Economic Development Committee; and while on the League Board, Chaired it’s Homelessness Working Group. In the State Assembly beginning in 2013, I served as a member of the Select Committee on Homelessness and in 2015 authored legislation to increase funding for “rapid rehousing” services. 

 

It is my view that while housing and homelessness are crises in our State, we must not let our fears or apprehensions undermine our confident belief in a better future for all Californians. Instead, we must bring confidence to the conversation and then add the full resources needed to properly meet this challenge, including evidence-backed solutions and partnerships between state agencies, local governments, and private organizations. I know my reputation for being very deliberative in appraising the pros and cons and fitness and viability of the ideas in pending bills has given my votes an outsize impact in the Assembly these last seven years. It has made me a de facto leader on many issues once they reach the Assembly Floor, even if it traveled to the Floor via committees I do not serve on. I expect I will continue to play this bellwether role in a manner consistent with my oath of office throughout 2020.

According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, we spend over $81,000 per individual who is incarcerated.  Other than incarceration, what ways can the State address safety and justice?
Answer from Ken Cooley:

Education, including early childhood education is a vital tool in this toolkit as is provision of mental health services and strong partnerships at the local level of city governments that strategically coordinate parole,  education and code enforcement services that support quality housing for all residents. 

 

More than 2 million adults—about 8% of the population—are affected by potentially disabling mental illnesses every year in California. In 2004 California voters passed Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), to transform the mental health system. The purpose of Proposition 63 was to expand services while improving the quality of life for Californians living with or at risk of serious mental illness. It was the voters’ intent that Prop 63 funds are spent in the most cost-effective manner and that services are provided following best practices, with local and state oversight.  

 

Prop 63 envisioned that it would infuse into all California communities programs comprised of the following “building blocks” which are relevant to how we keep people out of prisons and promote safe and just communities. The building blocks are community services and support, capital facilities and technological needs, workforce education and training, prevention and early intervention and, finally innovative programs. 

 

I believe California needs to do a better job of supporting all the state’s 58 counties to fashion mental health programs of these types in ways that make sense for local communities, constituencies and families. 

 

One-size-fits-all solutions from Sacramento rarely advance safety and justice. Rather, approaches are needed that provide a core package of program assets and resources, including funds, but provided in a way that lets local governments release their own local energies and vision on the problem.

 

This was done in 1982 when during an economic downturn Governor Brown committed to providing funds to all the state’s counties to fund a brand new program – child abuse prevention – that had been overlooked by the state up until that time. That program, with resources and funds put in the hands of committed and energized locals, proved to be a brilliant success. 

 

This strategy of empowering local solutions is also how voters like things to be done. In 2006, when Governor Schwarzenegger proposed raising funds to improve our state’s roads, he heeded the counsel that came out of a meeting of the Sacramento Valley Division of the League of California Cities (I was President at the time when we met in February in Chico.) My Division’s cities told the  Governor his proposed bond program was a non-start because it did not guarantee a secure block of funds for every city and county in California. Our insistence on a local “release of energy through local problem-solving” strategy led to a re-writing of the Governor’s bond plan before it went before the voters and then Proposition 1B was passed resoundingly. 

 

I believe this type of approach to education, pre-school, mental health, human dignity and re-integration into society can yield success like the 1982 child abuse prevention breakthrough did so long ago. 

What programs or legislation would you support to meet the water needs of all Californians?
Answer from Ken Cooley:

 

I support new water impoundment strategies and also efficiency in reuse that furthers maintaining a healthy environment for California’s delta and the great estuary of San Francisco Bay, but I am mindful that here in Sacramento, the water we use, gets re-used as it travels downstream and this means we should have some credit for not sending our precious water immediately out to sea as is true for so much of coastal California. 

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $481,395

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

1
American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees- CA People
$18,600
1
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California PAC Small Contributor Committee
$18,600
2
California Land Title Association PAC
$9,400
2
Californians for Jobs and A Strong Economy
$9,400
2
Chevron Policy Government & Public Affairs
$9,400
2
Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits, LLC
$9,400

More information about contributions

By State:

California 75.13%
District of Columbia 3.33%
Illinois 3.16%
Florida 2.78%
Other 15.59%
75.13%15.59%

By Size:

Large contributions (99.98%)
Small contributions (0.02%)
99.98%

By Type:

From organizations (99.27%)
From individuals (0.73%)
99.27%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

EXECUTIVE BRANCH OVERSIGHT BY CALIFORNIA’S STATE ASSEMBLY

Summary

Executive Branch Oversight by California's State Assembly

In our system of checks and balances, the Legislature’s power to enact policy includes the power to safeguard the well-being of Californians by monitoring compliance with previously adopted laws.  In this way, a Session’s legacy is made not just by the enactment of new laws but also by its efficacy in holding the Executive Branch accountable for how it administers current law, including its attentiveness to ensuring that all others subject to current law meet its dictates.

Such oversight efforts play the vital role of upholding the rule of law as the foundation for California society and commerce.  In a unique way, oversight inquiries enable Members of the Assembly to fulfill the body’s pledge, emblazoned in Latin above the Assembly Dais – Legislatorum Est Justas Leges Condere – “It is the duty of the Legislature to make just laws. 

Oversight efforts help ensure that the accumulated body of California law, of which the Executive Branch is bound to be both steward and servant, remains apt to its intended purpose and administered fairly and in accord with its intent, to the benefit of California.

Oversight’s key premise is that it can be far more impactful than merely passing new laws.  In particular, through focused inquiry and follow-up, an agency’s priorities can, in time, be realigned to be more accommodating to the Legislature’s view of intended priorities.

Policy committee oversight efforts are fact-based examinations of the conduct and work of an entity or system of entities with a view to determining facts about the current activities and operations of the organization.  The committee focuses on those areas of state government administration or program responsibility within the committee’s subject matter jurisdiction. In this way, a thoughtful Chair and their committee colleagues can open their committee’s entire jurisdiction to inquiries not tied to the timing, process, and germaneness limits of the bill cycle.

Committee Chairs have the option to use oversight hearings to get a close look at state agencies subject to the panel’s policy oversight.  These hearings can inform the committee of each unit’s organization, programs, available resources, administrative priorities, challenges and recent accomplishments. Beyond the information value of such a hearing, it begins to establish the concept that the Executive Branch’s duty of program administration carries with it the prospect of periodic briefings and updates to the appropriate legislative policy committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter of current programs.  Then, as more law or program-specific oversight hearings are conducted, the principle has been established that the relevant agencies should expect to be present and a part of the Assembly’s review process.  

Within this co-equal branch of government oversight framework, a subject is researched and examined and the resulting facts are used to evaluate whether, for the effort and resources being expended, appropriate results are being obtained, and if changes or improvements can be made to achieve better, more needed, or different high-value outcomes.

As important as oversight is, our system of governance relies upon the power of enacting new laws as an important check and safeguard within government and for the public.  The emphasis upon oversight supports the value and propriety of sound, well-crafted, timely change and evolution in California law. Times do change. Markets evolve. New behaviors emerge and technological advances reframe our understanding of the tools and resources available to address particular problems.  For this reason, a fit topic for oversight will frequently be how an emergent issue fits with an existing facet of state government and how a “hole” in the law, or a straitjacket imposed by current law, must give way to a new solution. 

The ultimate purpose of oversight is enhanced governance that is responsive to the need of Californians. Given this fact, California’s State Assembly recognizes that under the leadership of Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs, and professional subject matter staff, inquiries which are structured to enhance our understanding of the challenges facing contemporary governance, so as to permit the fashioning of innovations that are responsive to those challenges, are fit topics for oversight whether the focus is on a current law, or a new one.

Oversight in the California State Assembly gives committees a means to touch Californians by holding agencies & others accountable to the laws already in place.  

 

More accountable California governance is the result.

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