South Bay legislators hit the ground running in new posts
Dave Cortese and Alex Lee wasted no time setting their agendas in Sacramento. Image by glenngould is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    New state Senator Dave Cortese and San Jose Assemblymember Alex Lee both introduced large pieces of legislation on their first day in Sacramento.

    On Dec. 7, within hours of beginning his post as representative of California’s Assembly District 25, Lee introduced AB 20, called the Clean Money Act.

    The legislation seeks to bar all businesses from contributing to any candidate running for office in California.

    Lee was strict during his campaign about rejecting campaign contributions from corporations, which he said made him more accountable to constituents than to corporate interests.

    AB 20 also works toward establishing publicly financed elections to replace private funding in campaigns.

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states have some kind of option for publicly funding a campaign. They include Hawaii, Maine, Arizona and Connecticut. Some states only publicly finance gubernatorial campaigns, while others limit that support to legislative seats or positions on the state’s Supreme Court.

    “Public financing also breaks down barriers of entry into running for public office, providing the opportunity for more nontraditional candidates like women and people of color to participate,” said Lee. “It also allows for more people to run for office that aren’t independently wealthy or depend on the wealth of corporate special interests.”

    Cortese’s bills

    On his first day as state senator representing California’s 15th Senate District, Cortese introduced a pack of four bills designed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in new construction statewide.

    The building and construction sector contributes to nearly 40 percent of all carbon emissions.

    “As a public servant, I am committed to doubling down my efforts to restore our climate and safeguard the health of our communities,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “There is simply no time to waste. I’m confident that this building decarbonization package will revolutionize what it means to be a ‘green building’ and serve as a model for our country and our world.”

    Dubbed the Building Decarbonization package, Cortese’s first bill, SB 30, calls for state properties to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2035. It stipulates the state divest from non-zero-emission projects by 2023. The bill also requires new state buildings to be zero emission beginning in 2022.

    Similarly, another piece of the collection is the Decarbonization Act of 2021 (SB 32) which would require municipalities to update their general plans with policies to “decarbonize” their buildings.

    SB 31, the Decarbonization Programs Act, aims to create programs focused on decarbonization through the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission. The bill is crafted to create opportunities for low-income utilities customers.

    “Silicon Valley has proven that decarbonized, all-electric buildings cost less to build, require less infrastructure and provide more value to builders as well as customers,” Cortese said. “California must commit to the rapid decarbonization of our buildings to remain a global leader in the face of our climate crisis.”

    Last week, San Jose became the largest city in the country to ban natural gas in commercial buildings, with exceptions for several businesses.

    The final piece of the package is a tribute to Cortese’s father who served in the state Legislature in the 80s and 90s. SB 37, called the Cortese List Act of 2021, would update a piece of legislation authored by Dominic Cortese in 1986 that created a list of the state’s hazardous waste sites.

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese.

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