By Jesse Muñoz
Signal Staff Writer
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth reflected on his first 100 days in office during a small but informative town hall meeting at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center on Saturday – during which both partisan relationships in the capital and pending legislation were discussed.
As one in a series of “get to know your assemblyman” presentations taking place throughout the district, the meeting was attended by city of Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha Mclean, Councilman TimBen Boydston and a handful of SCV residents.
“First of all, Sacramento is much less partisan than you hear about, and that was a surprise to me,” said Smyth about his early impressions on working in the state Assembly. “You’re not going to agree on everything, and there are some party-line votes that need to be cast … but it’s not nearly as angry as it seems to be in Washington.”
However, Smyth went on to describe some of the obstacles he has faced as one of 35 freshman members serving in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly. Democrats control 48 of the 80 Assembly seats.
“Democrats can really do anything. They can actually start and function as an Assembly without any of us there, because you only need 41 to have a quorum. And that has happened in the past,” Smyth said. “That being said, trying to get something done, for me, is not going to be easy.
“A lot of my bills have not made it. They’ve died a good death, and that’s OK, but I’ve also put a pretty good package together that’s been able to engender a lot of support from Democrats as well.”
Included in that package are bills which would increase the senior citizen homeowners mortgage tax exemption from its current level of $7,000, secure increased funding for bicycle lanes throughout the district, and establish qualification criteria for cities looking to apply for funds under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Urban Green Act of 2007. Also included in that package is a bill co-authored with State Sen. George Runner which would breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“That’s one that is very important to me is increased funding for bicycle lanes,” Smyth said.
According to Smyth, approximately $450,000 per month, and a total of roughly $6 million a year, is allocated statewide for bicycle lane funding. Smyth’s legislation would increase that funding to $1 million per month, and $12 million per year across the state.
“I have a lot of confidence that bill will actually make it to the governor’s desk,” said Smyth about the bill which is in Appropriations.
The LAUSD-based legislation comes in the wake of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s failed attempt to take control of the district to impose reform. The Smyth-Runner legislation would initiate change by breaking up the LAUSD into several smaller, and more manageable, districts.
“We’re really lucky in Santa Clarita to have the schools that we do, but the kids in (Los Angeles) unified just don’t have that same opportunity,” Smyth said. “So we’re hoping that bill will really take off next year.”