Getting the Work Done Together in Sacramento

Through my discussions with people and what I read in the news, it seems to me that when many people think of the legislature, partisanship is often the first thing that comes to mind. The image of those tense debates between opposing parties that verbally duke it out to make a case for or against a piece of legislation seems to be the predominant image of our legislative bodies. And yes, while many of the issues that come before us are inherently divisive along party lines and even within the parties themselves, there is also a not as publicized normality in our decision-making that needs a little bit more recognition – collaboration.

Since being elected for my first term in November 2016, I have been the principal author of 25 pieces of legislation that passed both houses, were signed by the governor, and have become law. A large portion of those bills started with plenty of opposition at the onset. But the reason those bills were able to make it through the legislative process is because of the willingness of the opposing parties and myself to work together on a shared solution. Now we don’t have to agree on everything, and we shouldn’t. There are some issues and values that legislators run and are elected on that they cannot compromise. Yet there are also plenty of areas where we can and do work together.

In my first term, I have had the opportunity to put forward and vote on a number of large, sweeping pieces of legislation. The work put into reviewing and revising the legislature’s procedures and response to sexual harassment could not have happened if it wasn’t for the tremendously unified bipartisan and bicameral effort. Senator Wiener’s net neutrality bill, SB 822, of which I was a principal coauthor, may have turned into one of this year’s most hotly contested bills. At points in the process this bill divided people within the parties, and only ended up succeeding through a long negotiation process that resulted in support from enough legislators on both sides of the aisle.

There were also examples of bipartisanship that may surprise some people. My AB 2975, which ensures the protection of our state’s designated “wild and scenic” rivers in the event of rollbacks at the federal level, took a year-and-a-half of negotiations before earning support from enough Democrats and Republicans to pass both houses.

Then there are the issues that come up that don’t even require lengthy negotiations. There are many bills that tackle tangible issues, where legislators from both parties agree. I’ve worked very closely with my colleagues across the aisle to make sure our state takes care of the needs and rights of underserved and underrepresented populations, such as foster youth, domestic partners, veterans and those struggling with addiction. My AB 766, which fixed an existing gap in benefits to foster youth attending college, received overwhelming support regardless of party.

This is also true for my AB 2663, a bill brought to me by LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, which ensured that all registered domestic partners have the same tax benefits as married couples. My AB 3162 is the first law to update the oversight of residential treatment facilities for drug and alcohol abuse and ensure accountability. It only succeeded because of strong bipartisan support.

In fact, the majority of the legislation I have put forward has ended up receiving support from my colleagues in both parties. Throughout the process, I haven’t had to compromise my values or dilute the positions I was elected to represent. The truth about politics, one that I think many of us can forget in polarizing climates like the one we are in now, is that many of us are here for the same reason and just go about it a little differently. We have more shared values than I think we tend to remember.

We all want to keep our communities safe, we all care about our most vulnerable, and we all believe in equal rights and the freedoms that follow. When it comes to how to get there, it is okay to disagree, along party lines and within your party, but it is also important that a solution is reached. As we get ready for the next legislative session, let’s keep in mind that, when it comes to taking care of the issues Californians care about, there’s a lot more that we can do together than apart.

Laura Friedman represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.