Local leaders often complain that Sacramento makes it difficult for local governments to get things done. After spending one year in the Assembly, Christy Smith sees their point.
“I think there’s nothing more valuable than service at a local level to understand what that means and how decisions that are made in Sacramento impact communities and city municipal governments to do their job,” she said. “I made a point to consistently remind myself of that.”
Smith (D-Santa Clarita) completed half of her first term last month. She secured more than $1.5 million in funding for 38th District projects, including $450,000 for the senior center to complete its capital campaign, $700,000 for Simi Valley’s free health clinic and $397,000 to modernize College of the Canyons’ Boykin Hall.
She authored 14 bills, 12 of which either became law or are on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature.
“The upper limit of what a member of our house can introduce is 50 bills, which I find too much,” she said, “and so I wanted to focus on quality and impact over quantity, and so I’m happy with this quantity.”
Smith said she maintained her legislative focus “on the issues I campaigned on, which is good governance and government transparency.” Several bills dealt with education.
She created the Golden State Scholarshare College Savings Trust, which provides financial aid for post-secondary students. She wrote legislation that benefits COC nursing-school faculty, expands dual enrollment for high school kids who might want to take advantage of community college course work, helps low-income students pay for Advanced Placement tests, and requires high schools to conspicuously post in bathrooms and locker rooms written policies on sexual harassment and how to report charges, in addition to posting in the already-required main administration building.
She also wrote a new law that allows unclaimed property to be directly returned to the municipalities that might have monies in the state controller’s office. And she honored her late mother by co-authoring a Senate bill that set more ideal nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals (Smith’s mother was a critical-care nurse and also worked in transitional care, she said).
Along the way, she enjoyed many memorable moments, starting with the swearing-in.
“I kept it together and kept it together, but because this has literally been my life’s goal and my life’s dream, to be in elected office at the legislative level, we got off the floor after swearing in and I was being interviewed on camera and started I started to tear up a little bit,” she said. “The significance of the moment hit me.”
She met with constituents – registered Democrats and Republicans alike, and at least on one occasion wrote legislation because of it. Assembly Bill 1507, which requires a charter school to be located within the jurisdiction or geographic boundaries of the chartering district, is an example, she said.
“That’s one of the unique privileges and responsibilities of serving a district like this is we have this nearly equal balance between conservative perspectives, liberal perspectives, and a large portion that is the most quickly growing segment of our voters is no party preference,” she said. “All three of those groups combined want to see effective government. My ability to connect across whatever the political divide is and really get to the heart of what an individual constituent’s issue is and how the government might be able to serve them better is really what the work is about, regardless of political party.”
Smith said she wants to introduce a similar number of bills in the second half of her term. Included in her package are bills that would set credentials for someone to be called a “special education advocate,” that would help regulate the costs to clear a teaching credential, that would help make the recycling industry attractive to entrepreneurs, and that would help make housing affordable. The Assembly reconvenes in January.
“We’ve got a lot of young professional people,” she said. “We’ve got teachers and firefighters and law enforcement officers, all of whom find themselves priced out of the housing market and these are individuals who should be able to buy an entry-level home, and so we need an all-of-the-above strategy where we’re looking at below-market housing solutions to meet that homelessness crisis but also making sure we’re building enough supply so that hard working people can afford housing, can have that American Dream, can contribute to financial and future security by purchasing a home.”