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  • Santa Maria 2022 Election State Assembly.png

  • State Assembly Candidate Questionaire Responses

  • The Chamber applauds the two individuals who have stepped forward this year as candidates for the State Assembly representing Santa Barbara County.   We appreciate their willingness to be part of the solution for our community.   The Chamber is committed to working with all community leaders, including our elected representatives in Sacramento, to solve these challenges and to create an environment in which businesses can successfully operate and grow, creating jobs and opportunities that lead to increased economic vitality.

    The Chamber has articulated a Policy Framework that provides elected officials and their staffs with a filter for making decisions that maximize the potential for our community to thrive.    The core of the framework is built on the affirmation that business success is essential to community success and vice versa.    

    Based on our Policy Framework, the Chamber identified 9 key topics that we want at the top of the Legislature's agenda and asked the local candidates to share ideas, or at least principles, that help voters understand how they would approach the various challenges.    We encourage voters to review and compare the responses submitted by the candidates (presented verbatim as submitted) and compare the candidates approaches to these issues. 

    As you evaluate the candidate statements, we encourage you to consider the Chamber's Policy Framework as a filter.

    Read the Chamber's Policy Framework here.

  • Questions & Candidate Responses

  • Q1: Homelessness continues to be a significant concern for residents and businesses. What would you advocate for in the Legislature to improve this situation?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    The growing number of California residents experiencing homelessness is one of the most important issues of our time. I will advocate for the innovative policies that are showing great promise locally including tiny homes coupled with supportive services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and permanent affordable housing projects.

    I have been working closely with Dignity Moves, a non-profit organization that recently opened 35 small units for individuals who want to get off the street and into a private space of their own. In return, the client agrees to participate in supportive services such as counseling and job training. This is a successful model program operated locally by Good Samaritan Shelter that can be replicated through the County of Santa Barbara as an affordable and effective model program for the State of California.

    As Chair of the Regional Collaborative on Homelessness, I have been working collaboratively with my local government colleagues around the County to align our approach to addressing this issue. This new collaboration is showing good results in aligning our encampment clean up efforts,securing new sites for affordable housing sites and the expansion of the Safe Parking Program. California has suffered from a system of patchwork, decentralized efforts to house our neighbors who live outdoors. We need to better align our efforts with data driven solutions that work and provide local governments with a permanent, reliable funding source to create the housing and services needed to bring people indoors and get their lives back on track.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    The state’s decision to move away from centralized medical mental institutions cut the state’s ability to properly address many residents’ severe mental health issues. In addition, Props 47 & 57 tied the hands of law enforcement and brought an end to drug courts, which demonstrated a real ability to get addicts on a path to recovery. We need to bring back drug courts and provide locals with the tools they need to compel folks into drug treatment.

    In addition, I strongly support the state’s new CARE Court proposal. Many of the people on our streets are so sick they do not understand the need for medical care. CARE Court will help get these people into treatment.

     


  • Q2: Housing may be the defining challenge for the state of California today. What strategies would you support in the Legislature to make building more housing units (at all price points) attractive?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    I plan to advocate for an expansion of state funding for affordable housing construction and the preservation of existing housing stock. Additionally, I believe the requirements to include affordable housing in a market-rate housing project should be amended to both increase the percentage of affordable units assigned within the project and require those units to remain affordable in perpetuity.

    The state should provide incentives to cities and counties to create specific plans and adopt programmatic EIRs that allow for a streamlining of future housing projects that will provide housing units at all price points, including rental housing.

    In addition to providing opportunities on private land for housing developers, the legislature should create programs that assist our non-profit housing builders such as People Self Help and the County Housing Authority. These organizations have created housing projects that are very compatible with their surrounding community and provide new housing at price points local families can afford. I also support certain price-restricted housing projects allowing the owner to share in the equity of the unit so that both the non-profit and the seller receive a portion of the price-restricted equity upon resale.

    I have supported these programs as a County Supervisor, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature to evaluate opportunities to partner with local governments to build more housing units throughout the state.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    We need all the housing we can get. The problem continues to be state and local regulations that make it more difficult for projects to pencil out at affordable price points. We need to streamline CEQA requirements for housing projects and address other requirements that state agencies hand down, like the solar requirement on new housing.

    I also support proposals that would allow homeowners to build ADUs byright, thus increasing local housing supply in an affordable way.


  • Q3: Our communities continue to see increases in property and physical crimes. What strategies would you support to increase public safety in our communities?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    As a member of the City Council and Board of Supervisors, I have always supported the budget resources of our public safety departments. That is why I have been endorsed by the California Highway Patrolman’s Association, the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations, the California Professional Firefighters, Santa Barbara County Firefighters Association and the Santa Barbara City Police Officers Association.

    I believe our criminal justice system does not work well for either victims of crimes or perpetrators. Recidivism remains far too high and prisoners often cycle through prison and jail without receiving adequate treatment for the underlying causes of crime. I support investing in data-driven crime reduction strategies including active community-led policing, drug and alcohol treatment, job training, and mental health services.

     

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    First and foremost, we need to make sure our local cops are fully funded. We cannot cut funding to law enforcement.

    In the Capitol, I will support common-sense, pro-public-safety policies that protect our communities. I will push to bring back sentencing enhancements for brandishing a firearm while committing a crime and work with my colleagues to bring back gang enhancements.


  • Q4: The Central Coast’s transportation network (essentially Highway 101) is critical to connecting our region to the rest of the state and world. That system is increasingly under stress. What additional investments would you advocate for in the Legislature to expand transportation capacity and resiliency (highways, rail, other?) in our region?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    I have been a 20 year champion of the work to widen the 101 freeway in south Santa Barbara County because it is the region’s highest transportation priority. The 101 freeway is our County’s economic engine bringing our products to market and visitors to our communities. As the former Deputy Director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments I helped lead the coalition that successfully passed Measure A which will invest a billion dollars in our regional transportation infrastructure. There are critical transportation projects in all parts of Santa Barbara County in SBCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan that I will advocate for state funding to build. Also, as Chair of the Southern California Rail Authority that operates the Pacific Surfliner train service, I have advocated for restoring the commuter rail service between Ventura County and Santa Barbara County. The Clean Air Express regional bus service and the transit connections between northern Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo County are very successful operations that provide cost effective transportation options between these housing and job centers.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    State transportation dollars need to go towards improving and expanding our state highway system. Period. Our state is growing, but our highway system was built for the 1950’s. The Legislature – and the last two Governors – have been reluctant to invest in highway expansion. I would be a loud voice for investing in expanding our existing infrastructure to increase capacity.

    In addition, I would continue to push for investment in goods-movements routes connecting the Central Coast to Los Angeles and Interstate 5. Assemblyman Cunningham has prioritized these state routes, and I would continue that work.


  • Q5: Access to childcare services is a serious challenge for working families. What would you advocate for in the Legislature to expand affordable, quality childcare services?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    As the former owner/operator of a child care center I am acutely aware of the challenges business owners face in starting and maintaining high quality child care businesses in our County. The lack of availability of affordable quality child care threatens our region's economic growth as too many workers cannot reenter the workforce because they can’t find good quality child care.

    The State of California is investing significant new funding to improve the situation by expanding access to transitional kindergarten to all four year olds. In the long run, this will be enormously beneficial to working families but, in the short term, it will also destabilize existing private child care centers as many parents move their children to public schools. The State needs to address this issue by financially supporting existing child care centers through this transition.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    Workforce issues are plaguing all industries – childcare centers included. Investing in local community colleges and getting more skilled workers in the pipeline will help everybody.

    Specific to childcare, I am a supporter of the state’s plan to expand Pre-K to all students.


  • Q6: Northern Santa Barbara County has been described as a “Higher Education Desert” given the lack of access residents have to four-year and graduate degrees. While we’re bracketed by two world-class universities (Cal Poly and UCSB), the reality is that these institutions are over-enrolled and do not have the capacity to admit local students in the numbers needed to ensure our community produces a highly qualified workforce. What would you advocate for in the Legislature to increase access to higher education for youth and working adults in our region?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    It is true that while Santa Maria is uniquely positioned to have both a UC campus and a CSU campus relatively close by, neither higher education institution has successfully opened an annex of their campuses in the Santa Maria region.

    I believe that the legislature should do more to require the UC and CSU systems to accept more eligible students from the state and provide opportunities for local students to enroll if they academically qualify. I understand the UC and CSU systems financially benefit when they accept students from out of state or international students. These students can enhance the experience of each campus but it occurs at the expense of eligible students from California.

    This imbalance of too many eligible students and not enough slots at UC and CSU students means our state is not producing enough workers with bachelor's degrees. I believe the legislature must require the UC and CSU to enroll more students and that the state must support appropriate levels of funding for both the physical enhancements to the campuses and provide enhanced CalGrants so our students are not burdened with significant college loans upon graduating.

    Finally, our community colleges such as Allan Hancock College provide an excellent pathway for local students to matriculate into a four year college. We should do more to make this excellent educational opportunity available to our local students and to create a path for community colleges to offer four year degrees.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    Northern Santa Barbara may be a “higher education desert,” but it is home to one of the state’s premier community colleges in Allan Hancock. Hancock and community college degrees can be a pathway to the middle class, and I will continue to fully-support community colleges and their job training programs.

    With regards to local 4-year institutions, the Legislature needs to do more to ensure that there are more slots available for in-state students. Too many in-state students are being pushed out of our state schools in favor of out-of-state students who pay higher tuition rates.


  • Q7: Water continues to be a significant challenge for our state, including the Central Coast. In addition to continued conservation, what strategies (additional surface storage, desalinization, etc.) would you advocate for in the Legislature to ensure California has the water it needs now and in the future to support growth and quality of life?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    Water conservation and reclamation are central solutions to address California’s chronic water shortage issues and should be at the forefront of every community’s water strategy. I believe that water reclamation projects bring significant value to local regions, and the state should assume a leadership role in the permitting and supportive funding of these projects. Additionally, recharging groundwater basins has proven to benefit those basins that are in overdraft or can accept additional sources of water through injection.

    Agriculture is a corefoundation of California’s economy. Historically, water allocations have helped ensure our state remains a food producer for the entire world. I understand that agriculturists apply water judiciously to their crops. However, I believe more needs to be done to ensure agricultural water is used as efficiently as possible and irrigation methods should be updated whenever available. Based on the extreme overdraft of many important water basins around the State and particularly in Santa Barbara County, it is incumbent on agricultural operations with private water wells to use the well water appropriately for the health of the overall groundwater basin.

    California needs a diverse water supply portfolio that includes modernization of the existing State Water system that brings water from northern to central and southern California, stormwater recapture, potable reuse and desalination. The City of Santa Barbara’s experience with desalination proves it has the potential to provide significant diversification and stability to a community’s regional water supplies but to be environmentally the energy used should be powered with renewables.

     

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    We need an all-of-the-above approach to adjusting to this historic drought. We need to invest in additional large, statewide water storage projects (like Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flats), and we need to look at ways to bring new water sources online, like desal projects and aquifer recharging.

     


  • Q8: California has set aggressive climate goals, including shifting from existing energy sources to new sources (e.g. wind, solar, etc.). At the same time, the state’s demand for energy is outstripping the ability of these new sources to provide, at least in the short-term. Adding to this challenge, the state is facing significant clean energy source losses from the closure of the Diablo Canyon power plant and the expected loss of hydro-generated power due to the ongoing drought, leading to projections of additional brownouts and other energy supply challenges. What would you advocate for in the Legislature to ensure California (and the Central Coast) have the power needed to support growth and quality of life?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    I agree with the state’s climate goals. As a member of the Board of Supervisors I strongly support clean energy projects such the Strauss/Lompoc Wind Project. I support development of the off-shore wind project proposed off the San Luis Obispo coastline and believe similar projects should be pursued.

    The state should expedite more solar projects in remote areas of California and also mandate solar panels on new commercial and multi-family residential construction.

    The transition from a fossil fuel based energy grid to a renewable energy future is difficult and complex and will require compromise and foresight. I welcome the input of the Santa Maria Chamber on practical ideas your members may have to generate the power we need as a state and support growth into the future.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    As I finalize my answers to this questionnaire, CAISO has issued a flex alert and an EEA watch for the grid this evening (8/31), meaning they do not believe they will have the power to keep the grid operable during peak demand. This is unacceptable.

    Similar to my approach on the drought, we need an all-of-the-above approach to solving California’s electricity crisis. The fact of the matter is that we will need far more electrons in a few years than we need now – but we’re struggling to even meet current demand. I fully support extending Diablo Canyon’s life for at least five years in order to help us bridge the gap between now and when we can have more renewables ready to produce.

    At the legislative level, we will need to take drastic steps to speed-up the approvals process for new renewable projects. We cannot afford to have critical projects held up in one of many approvals processes. We need these projects – and the electrons they produce – on the grid today.


  • Q9: Excessive regulation, delays due to inconsistent or unpredictable procedures, arbitrary requirements, increased exposure to litigation, and special assessments, taxes or fees represent considerable added costs and deter investment. As a member of the State Legislature, would you commit to avoiding new laws or regulatory schemes that increase these types of barriers?

  • California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart California State Assembly District 37 - Gregg Hart

    Yes. I agree that the state should not adopt new laws that result in arbitrary barriers to economic growth.

    I do believe certain health and safety regulations, while considered a nuisance by some, do in fact protect workers and help maintain our region's quality of life, which is a primary reason we live in Santa Barbara County.

    Many taxes, fees and special assessments are applied by local governments and are used for a specific, local purpose. I understand that added costs, particularly unforeseen costs can deter investment.

    As a member of the Assembly, I pledge to work with my colleagues to not increase the unnecessary regulatory burden of businesses or layer new regulations that could stymie innovation. I look forward to working with the Santa Maria Chamber to identify how state regulations, procedures and requirements can be addressed to minimize your members' exposure to litigation and allow your member companies to compete and succeed.

    California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker California State Assembly District 37 - Mike Stoker

    Yes.

    Uncertainty scares away investment. Between the legislature’s continued attacks on industry, state bureaucracy’s arcane and undemocratic rulemaking and labor unions’ continued attempts to raise taxes via the initiative process, it doesn’t surprise me when a business picks up and leaves the state.

    We need to create a more stable and more certain business environment in this state. As your next State Assemblyman, I promise to work with the small business community and find ways to lower the regulatory burden and make the Central Coast more affordable.