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GUEST OPINION: Taking office in time of great change in Sacramento

  • 6/7/2012: B3:

    5/31/2012: B1:

    PC: Marc Levine

It is an incredible honor to be sworn in Monday as the state Assembly member representing Marin and southern Sonoma counties. It means the world to me to represent the beautiful and vibrant North Bay where my wife and I are raising our children. I am so very fortunate and grateful to be elected to represent the communities I love.

As I assume office, I cannot help but take note of the phenomenal responsibilities and challenges ahead — not just for the Legislature but for all Californians. In California, as a state and as a people, we face historic barriers in our effort to restore our greatness.

We need to create jobs for the unemployed. We need to stem efforts to balance the state's budget on the back of our natural resources. We need to build on the passage of Proposition 30 by providing long-term and sustainable financing for our schools, community colleges and universities. California and the North Bay are home to some of the brightest minds in the nation, and we must encourage innovation and investment in ideas and creative thought.

I will give every ounce of my effort to tackle these challenges and to ensure that the interests of the North Bay are well-represented.

It's important to note that the new class in the Legislature, of which I am proud to be a member, is taking office at a time of significant change in state government. Not since the days of Hiram Johnson has our system of governance undergone such scrutiny and seen such change. And there is much more to come.

After decades of systemic dysfunction in Sacramento, newly instituted reforms are providing a needed shake-up. Changes were made to provide that legislators are now chosen through an open primary system that allows the top two primary election vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to advance to the general election. My race for state Assembly was a perfect example of how this reform has created more competitive elections and more choices for voters of all political persuasions.

Additionally, the Legislature was, for the first time, elected under a nonpartisan process for drawing legislative districts. While this is a good thing for the state, here in Marin and Sonoma counties the creation of new districts has resulted in a temporary anomaly. State Sen. Mark Leno, who has ably represented a state Senate district covering portions of San Francisco and the North Bay, is now representing a San Francisco-only district. I will work diligently with North Bay Assembly members Wes Chesbro and Mariko Yamada and state Sens. Noreen Evans and Lois Wolk to advocate for the issues and values of concern to our communities.

Democrats in the state Legislature have captured two-thirds of the seats in both the Assembly and state Senate. For years, a two-thirds requirement to pass significant bills meant that a small minority created gridlock. Having a two-thirds majority in both houses allows the majority to deal with a variety of urgent and constitutional issues that would otherwise languish in the Capitol. Although upcoming special elections may prevent a true governing supermajority, the election should give members of my party additional opportunities and responsibilities.

As I said during the campaign, I believe that we must use the opportunities presented by new reforms to restore the trust of the voters so that we can move forward together as a state. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve the North Bay and the Golden State.

<i>Marc Levine, a member of the San Rafael City Council, was elected on Nov. 6 to represent the 10th Assembly District, which includes Marin and southern Sonoma County.</i>


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