Lieu and Stern Talk Politics, Near and Far, at Recent Town Hall

California State Senator Henry Stern addresses the crowd, March 2019

At a standing-room-only town hall meeting and bagel brunch held at the Topanga Library on March 9, Congressman Ted Lieu and State Senator Henry Stern updated interested constituents on what is happening in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. The town hall, hosted by The Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, gave the two politicians a warm welcome.

When Lieu introduced Stern, he said, “Henry is brilliant, funny and accessible, and he’s agreed to take all the hard questions,” to audience laughter. 

Lieu, who represents Malibu in the U.S. House of Representatives, explained that he has three jobs as a Congressman: “Stop stupid legislation, pass appropriate legislation and congressional oversight.”

One of the most important recent bills in the House was H.R.1—For the People Act of 2019. “This massive bill would reform campaign finance in order to equalize the playing field, which tends to tilt in favor of special interests,” Lieu explained. “Last week, every single Democrat in the House voted for it—234 votes—and it passed.” The Senate does not plan to take it up, but Lieu said he hopes they will consider parts of it.

The bill also addresses voter access, election integrity and security, and political spending. It would expand voter registration, make Election Day a federal holiday, limit removal of voters from voter rolls and provide for state redistricting commissions.

Another important piece of legislation is H.R. 8—Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, a piece of gun safety legislation that Lieu said closes a loophole in the law that currently allows gun purchases at gun shows without background checks. The new law would require federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers.

“It’s the first major piece of gun legislation in 25 years,” Lieu said. “It has bi-partisan support and we hope the Senate takes it up.” 

Lieu also serves on the House Judiciary Committee. 

“We’re going to conduct oversight on everything—all these [Trump] scandals,” he said. “We’ve sent out document requests, and it’s not just a fishing expedition. Multiple scandals from whistleblowers have been reported and we intend to leave no stone unturned. It’ll either exonerate Trump or it won’t.”

When asked to speak about the immigration issue, Lieu quipped, “This is Day 22 of the National Emergency,” to audience laughter. “From 2000 to 2018, apprehensions at the Mexican border decreased 75 percent. Study after study shows that immigrants commit fewer crimes than American-born citizens. And most drugs come through our legal checkpoints—so a wall won’t help any of that.” 

Stern spoke about several issues facing the state. He feels strongly about cybercrime enforcement, saying, “It has to evolve in order to save this democracy—big companies are taking over our information platforms, and that’s scary. We’re trying to hold tech companies accountable, but our goal is not to eliminate those companies.” 

He is also highly concerned about climate change, noting its role in the Woolsey Fire. “Nature is getting violent,” he said, pointing out that California is “the third-largest consumer of petroleum in the world,” which contributes to climate change. “[In a way], we burned ourselves down.” He wants the state to go even more aggressively toward a clean energy future.

Also of major concern is the chain reaction of financial devastation caused by the fire. 

“PG & E’s bankruptcy threatens the entire state,” he said. “Climate has now transcended the ability of the state to be progressive, because the cost of the fires affects the funding for other programs.

“Some say the Green New Deal is just something for rich people, but it’s for all of us,” Stern continued. “I proposed a resolution to accelerate carbon neutrality and clean energy goals” for California. “I want climate politics to be feared.”

Other issues Stern is involved with include legislation on criminal justice reform to “keep fewer people locked up,” greater transparency on the use of force by law enforcement, and a push to get the feds and Boeing to clean up toxic waste in and around the Santa Susana Field Lab (near where the Woolsey Fire started).