By Edwin Folven, 7/22/2010
Four years after being elected to state office, Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) remains focused on what can be done now to make the local area better in the future.
Feuer, who represents the 42nd Assembly District, which includes West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and portions of West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, said the future prosperity of the district is directly linked to the decisions made today. That philosophy has led Feuer to push for legislation at the state level that is designed to improve transportation, education and public safety in local neighborhoods. He dropped by the Park LaBrea News/Beverly Press on Tuesday to outline some of those priorities.
Feuer said transportation is one of the key issues for the local area, and deemed projects such as the Subway to the Sea and others supported by Measure R — the countywide half-cent sales tax for regional transportation projects — critical for the future. The Assembly Member said he fully supports Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s “30/10 Initiative”, which seeks to complete large projects like extending the Purple Line subway down Wilshire Boulevard within 10 years. Feuer added that such projects are directly linked to the future economic growth of the region.
“Measure R is a golden opportunity to change Los Angeles for the better, and it is incredibly important for us to support that vision,” Feuer said. “The idea of having a subway stop at Fairfax and Wilshire in another five to seven years is great, and it can happen. We are on the verge of a transformation that will change the way people travel, forever, in Los Angeles.”
To help get the project started, Feuer said he has been generating support among colleagues in the assembly, and is working with federal officials to secure the necessary funding. He added that he is also working closely with local city leaders to ease rules and clear hurdles to make it easier to implement Measure R projects.
Another key area is ensuring children have the best opportunities in education, Feuer said. State budget cuts have drastically impacted public schools in Los Angeles, as well as community colleges and public universities. Feuer said he will be fighting to preserve funding for public education in the state budget, and called it absolutely crucial that school districts be provided with the resources necessary to serve their communities.
“As we do the budget this year, it is essential we elevate public education,” Feuer added. “That will be a real priority for me. We can’t continue to hack away at public education and pretend we are concerned about our kids. It is extremely short sighted to look at public education as a place to cut. We should be looking at enhancing it, because that will dictate the future of our economy, the future of every aspect of our lives.”
In addition to education, the Assemblyman said protecting young people is critically important, and added that several bills he has authored are designed to enhance safety. They include legislation that was passed recently that increased penalties for adults who furnish alcohol to minors, as well as a bill that requires convicted drunk drivers in Los Angeles County to have a breathalyzer machine installed in their vehicles. Feuer added that he was deeply concerned about the recent death of a 15-year-old girl who attended a rave party at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and said he will be considering legislation that would place more regulations on events such as raves.
“Obviously there is a serious problem when so many underage kids are in a situation where lots of drugs and alcohol are present,” Feuer said. “It’s an extraordinary tragedy when a child dies at one of these events, and unfortunately, society is much too reactive. My goal is to stay ahead of the curve, and this will be one of the issues I will look at.”
While Feuer said he is focused on future legislation, he is also currently working with fellow lawmakers on passing a state budget. He said it is unlikely a budget will be passed in July, but added that progress is being made. He said the sticking points involve disagreements over funding for healthcare, education and programs to spur economic growth.
“There is a lot of hard work going on right now, and hopefully we will have a budget in the next several weeks,” Feuer said. “It has to ensure a basic level of healthcare for the people of California. It has to preserve funding for basic city services and necessities. Jobs, education and healthcare must be sustained in the state.”
Once a budget is passed, Feuer said he plans to focus on a variety of new bills, including laws to improve healthcare. He said one bill he is considering would expand healthcare to children of low income families, while another would require state approval when insurance companies want to raise rates for healthcare coverage. He also said he wants to introduce legislation that would limit raises in healthcare rates to one per year, which would allow residents and businesses more opportunity to plan when choosing coverage.
“There is very little that is more important than access to healthcare,” Feuer said. “If healthcare insurance rates go up, small businesses unfortunately are faced with the horrible choice of ‘do we insure the workers, or do we lay people off?’”
In addition, Feuer said he is planning more legislation that will protect children in foster homes, and senior citizens in convalescent care. He previously authored legislation to establish a rating system for nursing homes that gives consumers information when making choices about where parents or relatives should live. He also plans to reintroduce legislation that was previously vetoed because of budget constraints that would create an agency to investigate abuse within nursing homes, as well as new legislation to address abuse within foster homes.
Feuer, who is seeking reelection for a third term in November, said he also hopes the upcoming election will bring a new sense of optimism and positive change in California. He said there are many other critical issues at stake such as job creation, economic stability, improvements to education and access to healthcare, and he took a jab at candidates who spend lavishly on political campaigns.
“Certainly the gubernatorial campaign is generating much of that attention, and I think Californians will reject the idea of electing a candidate who is trying to buy their votes,” Feuer said. “There is a history of bringing down initiatives and candidates who simply pour money into the government. It is a very important test for the people of California. Merit needs to define the outcome of an election, not money.”