Commentary

08/27/2014  by Alexandra Bjerg

Q&A: Assemblymember Scott Wilk on redistricting, Capitol culture

In a recent meeting between California Forward leadership and newspaper editorial board members, CA Fwd stated that the political environment has improved in the State Capitol; it is less partisan and much more productive. In particular, we opined, the new legislators elected in 2012 seem to be of a different breed. The editorial board members were skeptical about the claim. The editorial board members’ skepticism prompted us to think about this topic and we came up with an idea:  Ask the new legislators, elected in 2012, how they feel about the Capitol’s culture, as their first terms are coming to an end.  

So we did. We prepared a short questionnaire that asks legislators about governance reforms and their thoughts about the future. Here is the second set of responses, from Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita). Prior to being elected to represent the 38th assembly district in 2012, Wilk served on the Santa Clarita Community College Board of Trustees and as Chief of Staff for both California Assembly Members Tom McClintock and Paula Boland.

Do you think the voter-approved democracy reforms regarding redistricting, open primaries and term limits have improved governance in the California Legislature? If yes, how have these reforms improved governance? If not, why not?

  • Redistricting is still an inherently political process, despite the "Independent Citizens Commission." However, there was greater transparency than if the Legislature did it behind closed doors.
  • It’s too soon to tell the impact of open primaries. My first race I ran a primary-style campaign in the primary and moved to the center in the General Election.
  • I think Term Limits will have the greatest impact on governing. People will stay long enough to acquire policy areas of expertise and build relationships to increase trust.

Did these reforms influence your decision to run for office in 2012? Why or why not?

No.

As new legislators are elected under these governance reforms, do you predict changes will occur in Sacramento’s political climate? Why or why not?

Term limits should improve the climate.  I'm the only GOP representative within Los Angeles.  So I spend time with Dems on Southwest Airlines and regional events. I know them better than member of my GOP Caucus. I think long-term relationships will increase compromise and reduce partisan rancor.

Do you believe that there is more bipartisan cooperation in the Legislature now than in the past? Why or why not?

I've been told that is true. I don't know.

Are there other reforms you think California should adopt to improve governance?

We need to have a fairer balance in resources. When I arrived in 2012 the budget they gave me to run my office was the same dollar figure that I had to run Assemblywoman Paula Boland's office in 1993! The Dems stack the deck through Committee Chairs and Select Committees (many which do nothing). This allows Dems to have professional staffs and Reps to hire young people.

Assuming that you serve the maximum of 12 years in the Legislature, do you expect to serve them in the same chamber?

Yes.

What’s the big issue you plan to address and work to improve during your tenure in Sacramento?

I'm a Republican we cannot work on big issues. I had a workers comp bill that I was working on with the administration and the Assembly Insurance Committee grabbed it and has sat on it. I'm hoping it will come back in August as a "gut & amend" but I don't know.

Categories: Democracy, Elections, Proposition 11, Proposition 14, Redistricting, Tech-enhanced Government, Accountability, Governance Reform, Government

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