Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, held up her arms to the camera to display her jacket sleeves during a virtual meeting with The Signal’s editorial board held Tuesday.
“I have this ongoing joke that I like to wear jackets with three-quarter-length sleeves so that my sleeves are rolled up and I’m ready to get to work,” said Valladares, a freshman member of the state Legislature’s lower chamber.
The new assemblywoman is a member of the California Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of state legislators who wrote in a February letter that they want to reform “the legislative process to foster an environment that encourages rather than discourages common-sense solutions.”
Valladares said problem solving is in the nature of who she is and how she operates.
“We’re not ignoring the fact that partisan politics is real, but we want to try and tackle some of California’s big issues through that nonpartisan lens,” Valladares said of the group, which has proposed a two-year budget cycle, a streamlined legislative process, a nonpartisan attorney general and secretary of state, and consolidating and reorganizing the state’s bureaucracy to increase accountability.
Valladares, mother of a 4-year-old daughter, also would like to see the bipartisan group tackle affordability and the cost of living in California.
“You don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, if you’re nonaffiliated, you want access to affordable housing,” said Valladares, who said the caucus has gotten broad support across the state. “I think that this vessel, these 10 members from both houses in the Legislature can actually accomplish this.”
In her first five months, Valladares, whose district includes Six Flags Magic Mountain, said she’s sponsored a dozen pieces of bipartisan legislation, including partnering with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, to craft a bill Valladares said was “the catalyst for putting pressure on the governor to give our theme parks a path for reopening.”
“I’ve been able to connect with them, on issues and on a personal level. At the end of the day, we’re all human. We do all care about California. We want to improve the lives of the people that live in our communities and I think that there is opportunity for synergy there.”
Valladares also spoke to The Signal about Southern California Edison’s controversial Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS, program, unemployment insurance fraud, tax relief and the future of Republicans in California.
Valladares requested that the state’s next fiscal year budget continue to include funding to support local jurisdictions incurring costs to keep their communities safe during PSPS events. Her request was for $100 million.
She’s also introduced Assembly Bill 418 to create a grant program within the state’s Office of Emergency Services that would make this funding a regular part of the state budget.
Valladares said a permanent program would increase accountability.
“When it is funded, it’s going to actually have accountability. We’re going to be able to know who is applying for what, what the need is, where it’s being spent, because that’s not really happening right now,” she said.
Valladares is supporting legislation by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, to reform the state’s Employment Development Department in the wake of more than $30 billion in unemployment insurance fraud and an antiquated system of processing claims, according to Valladares.
“One day, hopefully a long time from now, there will be another recession,” Valladares said, noting that her office has helped many constituents with receiving their unemployment checks during the pandemic. “There will be another spike and a need for unemployment checks to go out and processing, and this (fraud) can never happen again.”
One of two bills submitted by Valladares on her first day in office tackled tax relief for small and microbusinesses. Assembly Bill 91 would reduce the minimum franchise tax fee paid by businesses in California.
“We have to be looking at policy from a perspective of making the cost of living and the affordability better for everyday Californians,” she said.
Republicans in California
Valladares signed the petition to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and told The Signal he’s been uncollaborative with Republicans and the Legislature.
“I think that it’s appropriate for the people to judge him on his performance,” Valladares said, adding Newsom has failed to perform.
Valladares said the present moment is a crucial one for Republicans in California.
“When we’re listening, and if we can truly listen to the people of California, the people in our communities, and represent their needs and values, that there’s hope for us,” she said. “It’s crucial that we show that our policy, that what we care about, the work that we’re going to do, is for everyday Californians.”
Valladares said she’s hopeful that political balance will return to Sacramento in the coming years.
“Over the next couple of cycles, we’ll start to see that we’ll elect more Republicans and break those supermajorities in both of the houses, which is just good government,” Valladares said. “When you force balance, when you force negotiations, that’s I think when you get the best policy.”
Valladares told The Signal that she’ll be hosting Facebook Live events to update the public about her work and invited constituents to join the events — or contact her office — to ask questions. “Even in the middle of a pandemic, where it’s not easy for us to be in the same room together, I’m still here and I’m still ready and accessible,” said Valladares.