Sen. Fran Pavley hits the ground running

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Helping to solve the state’s fiscal crisis and implement already passed green legislation are the newly elected senator’s top priorities.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

Fran Pavley was elected state senator of the 23rd District by an overwhelming majority last month and took her district oath of office earlier this month, and is already in the throes of state government.

Hitting the ground running, Pavley helped pass the budget bill last week that would have helped eliminate some of the $40 billion deficit facing the state, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

In a message to The Malibu Times Pavley wrote, “Unfortunately, the governor negotiates through his press conferences. California cannot sell infrastructure bonds unless Wall Street sees we are dealing with our huge budget deficit. Apparently, the governor prefers holding up the budget solution … to insist on additional concessions to labor and environmental protections in order to fast-start some infrastructure improvements. California cannot sell the bonds to do that if the governor holds up signing the budget. It’s a Catch-22.”

Pavley, who was also recently appointed to the Natural Resources and Water Committee, had served for six years in the Assembly and is credited with authoring and coauthored important environmental legislation

Former Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who was termed out of office, said of Pavley during her ceremonial swearing in at UCLA, “You know someone has written some amazing legislation when everyone else wants to take credit for it. That’s the case with both her greenhouse gas bills.”

Pavley authored AB 1493, which made California the first state in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in automobiles. The “Pavley Bill” was eventually adopted by 14 other states and is awaiting a waiver from the EPA to implement.

She also worked on AB 32 with former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, which codifies reporting requirements for all industry polluters and capped emissions. These acts helped bring her the “Global Warming Leadership Award” from the California League of Conservation Voters in 2006.

“Fran is a living example of what you can accomplish in a short time,” Kuehl said.

New California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that when it came to considering whom to appoint to the Natural Resources and Water Committee, Pavley was a unanimous and noncontroversial choice.

“I knew we needed someone with a strong intellect and a track record of solving complicated issues with patience,” Steinberg said. “Some people say California is ungovernable. Fran’s work is ahead of her time and, with her help, not only will we be governable, we will demonstrate the most dynamic representative government in the country.”

Despite the accolades, Pavley is humble about her work, and talked about the importance of education, and the problems the state faces.

“I’m just a middle school teacher at heart,” Pavley said at her swearing in. “With UCLA and three community colleges in the 23rd [District], education is very important to this district.”

Pavley catalogued a list of 21st century problems that would not respond to 20th century solutions, including outsourcing of jobs, the social costs of fossil fuels and mass transit, an impending water crisis and the dysfunction of the health care system.

“I don’t consider myself political,” Pavley said. “But I love policy and these are the issues I look forward to tackling.”

After her swearing in, Pavley immediately returned to Sacramento to meet with the governor’s finance director and the state treasurer to work on the state’s budget crisis.

“The fiscal reality is that we are looking at a $28 billion deficit over the next 18 months,” she said. “Our state credit rating is 50th out of 50 because of our deficit, and part of the challenge is overcoming the requirement of a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to pass a budget. There will probably be proposals on future ballots to change this, but our next fiscal year starts July 1. We have a lot of work to do.”

Pavley said she’s looking for economic stimulus packages-similar to federal projects being considered by President-elect Barack Obama-that would include infrastructure construction in transit that would provide jobs. She said the governor is looking to cut some spending, but that revenues must be increased.

“We don’t have a spending problem,” she said. “We have a revenue problem. The federal government can print money, but we have to balance the budget.”

Despite the gloomy outlook, Pavley is optimistic for “win-win” solutions. She cited the recent model of a private company’s solar panel energy project in Lancaster as an exemplar of public-private solutions to unemployment and creation of sustainable energy.

“This is a perfect example of economic stimulus that will transition us to a new economy,” she said. “Alternative energies will create thousands of new jobs.”

Regarding her landmark greenhouse gas legislation, the senator should finally see the EPA grant the long-awaited waiver so the state can impose regulations. California had been denied the waiver to implement AB 1493 by current EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, despite a Supreme Court decision requiring him to do so last year.

“According to Obama’s Web site, it is highly probably the new EPA administration will grant the waiver,” Pavley said. “Auto manufacturers are working on more fuel efficient vehicles and we’ll all be the better for it. I am ready to go.”