Newly elected Wilk, Acosta face old challenges as members of GOP minority

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SACRAMENTO – It’s one thing to get yourself elected to the state Legislature, and it’s quite another thing to actually get things accomplished once you get there.

That figures to be the toughest task facing Scott Wilk and Dante Acosta after they were officially sworn in Monday as state senator and assemblyman, respectively, for the Santa Clarita area.

That’s because Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, and Acosta, representing the 38th Assembly District, are that rare thing here in Sacramento – Republicans.

With Democrats holding super-majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly, as well the governor’s office, GOP lawmakers like Wilk and Acosta will be challenged, indeed, by what Wilk calls the art of “attempting to get to yes.”

“Thirty-one years of marriage have taught me how to work in the minority,” Wilk said with a smile.

But joking aside, Republicans will face uphill battles for whatever pieces of legislation they hope to get passed.

The Democrats hold a 55-25 edge in the Assembly and a 27-13 advantage in the Senate.

Wilk, a veteran of four years in the Assembly – Acosta is taking over Wilk’s former seat – pointed to his successes as a minority member of the Assembly as evidence he can still make an impact from his side of the aisle.

As an Assemblyman, he said, he was one of the principal authors of the state’s film tax-credit bill, as well as having a big hand in the state’s so-called “rainy-day fund.”

It’s a matter of knowing the X’s and O’s and calling the right plays, Wilk said.

And, he added, “it’s about relationships.”

The way the deck is dealt here in Sacramento, Wilk said, “on the big issues, there’s always got to be a Democratic author.”

That’s the ignition key to getting anything done here, Wilk said. It’s Lesson 1 in Surviving Sacramento 101.

And so Wilk’s first goal as senator, he said, will be to find a Democratic author for a bill he hopes to pass that would require, on still-pending projects, environmental permits OK’d more than 25 years ago to get a new round of public hearings.

The target of that bill would be Cemex, which has long been trying to mine in Soledad Canyon, and whose fate is now in the hands of a panel of administrative judges, after the Bureau of Land Management last year rescinded its mining permits. The company appealed the decision.

For his part, Acosta said, he and Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-36th) will be co-sponsoring the Assembly’s version of that bill – the first piece of legislation Acosta will touch in his newly minted role.

Wilk, meanwhile, also said he is watching Kevin de Leon, the Democratic president pro tem of the Senate, with a hopeful – but wary – eye.

De Leon, Wilk said, has been very public about pursuing a progressive agenda and battling the Donald Trump White House on issues ranging from health care to climate change to health care.

“I’m watching all the comments he’s making – he thinks he’s a world leader,” Wilk said of de Leon. “My sense is, they (the Democrats) are going to overreach.”

Acosta, a freshman Assemblyman after two years on the Santa Clarita City Council, pushed himself as a “reach across the aisle” kind of guy during his campaign against Democrat Christy Smith.

He’s going to need that skill here.

But he said that, from his time on the council, he’s already built relationships with area legislators, and thinks those can help carry the day against whatever partisan gridlock might lie ahead of him.

Acosta said that, during training classes for his new job, he’s already begun conversations with three Democratic Assembly members from area — Adrin Nazarian, Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh — over jobs and economic issues affecting the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys.

“We begin by working on things we agree on and then go from there,” Acosta said.

“That’s the first step.”

Whether there will be subsequent steps will ultimately define the success or failure of the Republican minority.

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