Making Democracy Work

Interview with Assemblymember Ash Kalra

2017 Interview

Legislative Interview Assemblymember Ash Kalra, District 27 March 17, 2017 by the League of Women Voters San Jose/Santa Clara. Interview attendees Martha Beattie, Anne Clark, Pat Reardon and Connie Hunter

Question 1: Funding of Elections What legislative measures would you support to ensure adequate and stable funding of election administration in California?

Ash supports a bill that the state will foot the bill for postage for mail-in ballots statewide. He also supports greater flexibility in where and when people can vote. If the state were to move to 100% vote-by-mail, he believes that an education program would need to be provided so that people who may have some reluctance to vote-by-mail would continue to vote. One of the advantages of vote-by-mail is its accessibility.

Question 2: Public Higher Education How can California meet the challenge of enrolling more students, including students with greater needs, at the UC and CSU? Is more state funding needed? Where does this issue rank in your legislative priorities?

More funding is clearly needed. The funding of public higher education is an Assembly priority this year. A budget package has been introduced by Senator McCarty that encompasses where the state would like to be in 5 years + able to ensure that young people from families making less than $150,000 annually can graduate from college debt free + not only tuition debt free but housing, books, fees and all other costs associated with college debt free. Getting to this end goal over the next 5 years will be an incremental process + beginning with free community college and continuing from there.

Question 3: Water Resources What kinds of legislative proposals would you support to ensure that enough water of adequate quality is available for municipal and industrial uses, agriculture, and the environment in the face of over-stretched surface water and groundwater resources and climate conditions different than those California experienced in the last century?

Water conservation is very important. Ash supports legislation that offers rebates to those who replace appliances with low-flow appliances. Recycling water for potable use must be expanded. Seismic upgrades to water storage facilities must be made so that reservoirs, e.g. Anderson, can utilize their full capacity. All of the above are more important than the tunnels proposed by Governor Brown. When asked about groundwater storage, Ash responded that the water bond has funds available for recharging ground water. The trend is currently away from desalination plants due to cost and environmental impact. It will be important to end fracking (requiring lots of water) and move to clean energy sources.

Question 4: Policy Priorities What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2017? What are your personal priorities?

Ash is out to `save the planet'. He is Chair of the Committee on Aging and Long-term Care. He is conducting research and hoping to find a long-term solution to long-term care. The current insurance model is not sustainable. Education, K + 12 and higher, are important and as noted earlier need increased funding. Ash would like to see funds taken from criminal justice funds and moved to education. CA is in need of more affordable housing. Assemblymember Chiu has introduced and Ash is a joint author of a bill (AB71) that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for a second home. Senator Toni Atkins has authored a bill that puts a recording fee on certain real-estate documents. The revenue resulting from both of these bills would be used to fund affordable housing. He mentioned other areas of concern, e.g. transportation, jobs training to upgrade a person's skills as they are displaced by automation, payday lending, AB 20 divesting pension funds from Dakota pipeline, restoring SSI funding, funding for home improvements made to help keep a person in their home, AB21 requiring community colleges, CSU's and certain independent institutions put in place policies and procedures to protect immigrant students from illegal deportation and ensuring they can complete their education.