Making Democracy Work

Interview with Assemblymember Kansen Chu

2017 Interview

Assemblymember Kansen Chu Legislative Interview February 10, 2017. League of Women Voters of Fremont-Newark-Union City, San Jose-Santa Clara

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

Assemblymember Chu co-authored a bill requiring the Registrar of Voters to pay postage for Mail-In-Ballots. He also supports AB14 Clean Money legislation. He supports updating aging voting equipment. Assemblymember Chu has co-authored a bill requiring the Registrar of Voters pay for return postage on Mail-In-Ballots. Cost of ballot mail-back varies from election to election. This should make going to PO to find return postage less onerous. At a minimum the Government should at least print the amount of return postage needed on envelope. Santa Clara Co now pays return postage. Alameda tells post office not to return envelope even if no stamps. Assemblymember Chu supports the Clean Money legislation AB 14. by Gomez and thinks that new members of the Assembly will support it this year. County Registrar of Voters should be encouraged to address the issue of aging voting equipment although there has been no reported fraud. There is a pilot program to have the State pay the return postage on Vote By Mail ballots.

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?

Assemblymember Chu supports closing loopholes in Prop 13 by building a two tiered system, one for home ownership, one for commercial/industrial buildings. Assemblymember Chu thinks that taxing internet sales and other non-brick and mortar sales is an avenue to pursue. Assemblymember Chu indicated that Governor Brown is trying to eliminate help to middle class families, causing more problems in California. The Assemblymember is trying to help middle class by increasing upper amount of income allowed for students receiving grants. Now more than 55% of state budget is for education (includes K-12) to add more to education reduces help in other areas. Need to close loopholes in areas to bring in more money to fund programs.

1) Need to really look at prop. 13 -- not to hurt home owners having the exemption. Need to make a two tiered tax program - separate home ownership from commercial/industrial buildings. Home property changes hands more often than Commercial property. The transaction of Home Ownership changing hands is much more straightforward than that of Commercial Property Ownership change. The example of Commercial Property change is that it is confusing and old owner can be paid but still retain some ownership blocking revaluing property for tax purposes.

2) Need to rework taxing internet sales and other non-store businesses (air B/B, Lift, Uber etc.) DeLeon is interested in increasing money to UC and CSU. The legislative asked the universities to increase the number of Californians admitted. He is especially interested in a middle-class scholarship. 55% of the budget is used for education, k-12 and higher education. Assemblyman Chu is interested in closing loopholes in proposition 13 on commercial and industrial property. He talked of split role and split tax. The latter should be very simple to install. When asked the chances of closing these loopholes, he said zero. He didn't mention any other tax to increase state funding for higher ed. Chu is interested in the Homeless, water conservation and transportation needs. Education is in the 2nd layer.

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?

Assemblymember Chu supports conservation through recycling and wants to increase water storage capacity. He sees opportunity for conservation with fixing aging infrastructure where water is wasted because it never reaches its ultimate destination. He thinks California needs to build more treatment facilities, especially waste water treatment. Assemblymember Chu would like to be on Water Committee but probably will not be appointed to Committee. Water IMPORTANT! Supports conservation through recycling, wants to increase storage capacity Assemblymember has a bill to look at aging infrastructure. He indicated that much water delivery systems very old (much older than PGE delivery system). In Vallejo 20% of treated water leaks out before delivery = wasted! Need to build more treatment facilities + especially new technology to treat "waste" water. Question: water used in fracking (oil extraction) Assemblymember says Fracking in Calif different from other states. Other states ground water low so need to pump water in then extract it later.... Calif doesn't need to pump water in to extract oil. + therefore not a problem. It was mentioned old 30 gal toilets using too much water. ... Can't state require change to new low-flo toilets + especially in older dwellings? Assemblymember indicated that it would be difficult to "require" + not always as simple as new toilet + cost to replace etc. Santa Clara County has a free water audit available to households to check for wise water use. Difficult to mandate though. What about lifeline rates being allowed on water bills? .... Asseblymembers reply was that a big chunk of water cost is in infrastructure. That cost is included in the water bill. If you give a lifeline to some + others must pay more. The Assemblymembers priorities are: Conserve. Recycle, Build more storage. He wants a bill to address aging infrastructure. He will look into ACWD's and USD's plans to study an Indirect Potable Water plant to supply the Niles Cone Aquifer. He thinks CA has good fracking regulations.

Question #4: Local League Question: Affordable Housing

Assemblymember Chu thinks that agencies must work together better to achieve low cost housing to streamline permit processes. Assemblymember Chu states the problem: various agencies involved with low cost housing must work together. State now talking about requirement for redevelopment areas to have a 20% low-income requirement. State needs to streamline approval process for permits (including for "granny" units). Legislature passed a 4 mill $ bond issue bill but governor vetoed it. There was a new housing bond bill but building trades & labor unions didn't like it. Assemblymember Chu indicated that the legislature must remind governor that the governor proposes the budget, but the legislature approves it. Prop 1A's provisions are expediting AH.

Question #5: Assemblymember Chu Priorities for 2017

Assemblymember Chu said that there have been fewer bills submitted this year (about as many as usual). People holding on to new laws until they get a better idea of what is happening in the Fed. Govt. Expecting a fight over government regulations especially involving Covered Calif. program. Bracing for Fed moves.... LOCAL PRIORITY Housing and the Homeless Water Conservation, Transportation needs, Education is on everyone's mind, KC is on local education committee & Chair of Cultural Committee, Wants to bring in more tourist money to help,

Priorities: He supports the hiring of Eric Holder to help represent the state against the Federal Government. Covered CA will be important. Homelessness. Water conservation. Local transportation issues. Education. Tourism. Assemblymember Chu thinks that the state is holding its breath to see what will happen on the Federal level on funding for transportation and health care.

2016 Interview


Question 1: Voting and Elections What legislative proposals would you support to improve the number of California citizens who register and turn out to vote? Are there other steps that government should take to engage more California residents in elections?

Assembly member Chu stated that he has supported legislation to increase voter turnout, including allowing youth (17 yr. olds) to vote in their local school board elections. In the end it is up to all of us to encourage voting. He supports extending days for voting, although counties have extended days at the ROV offices. He also supports changing voting to weekends. Turn out may also have something to do with the candidates. His observation is that whenever his name is on the ballot the Chinese vote increases by about 45%.

Question 2: Housing What will you do to ensure that your constituents are not displaced from their homes, and what steps would you take to increase the supply of housing--especially housing that is affordable to people of modest means? Do you agree this would require a stable and dedicated source of funding?

Assembly Member Chu is working with others to get $1 billion from the general fund for housing in high cost areas. This goal competes with the Governor's other priorities for general fund use. With escalating costs we need help from all parties: federal, non-profit, and committed state funds. On the local level, city leaders need to be able to put more density into housing stock by building up + not out. This is always a tough fight. While a San Jose City Council member he spearheaded the North San Jose development plan to bring 32 thousand housing units and businesses with jobs for those residents. It was started with RDA funds which are no longer available. A replacement source of funding is needed. He acknowledged that AB1335 is a source of funds. However, he did caution on the use of bonds. There are too many bonds circulating already and a housing bond will not be viable in 2016. In order to provide on-going funding for housing it is necessary to revisit Proposition 13, looking at a split rate or split roll formula. He does not believe in changing Prop 13 for family housing, but believes business tax rates should be revisited. We need to find another mechanism to replace redevelopment that will have 20% AH in the developments the legislation encourages such as blighted areas. Cities will need to push for this to happen. Assembly Member Chu thinks we need to continue to educate people on the need to close the loopholes in Prop 13, and he believes in "split roll" valuations for collecting property taxes.

Question 3: Climate Change What are your priorities for state legislation and policies on climate change? Are there other related issues that you feel need to be addressed?

Assembly member Chu made the connection with housing and transportation, 2 sides of the same coin, being climate change issues. Housing near jobs would reduce commute times. Improvements in public transit such as extending BART along 237 to Moffett Field and around the 49 Stadium would reduce the number of cars on the roads reducing pollution. We need some east/west connections for commuters. We are close to getting funding to electrify CalTrain between San Jose and San Francisco, as well as to extend some platforms, enabling more cars to be added. The outcome is expected to be faster travel, smoother ride, and therefore less pollution. The funding source is Cap and Trade. He says that Dumbarton Rail is dead but if Shinn Transfer is completed, a train spur would link people to BART from Newark.

Question 4: Local League Question: What is the best/most effective way to influence legislation?

Assembly member Chu identified himself as a grass roots public servant. He believes that a personal relationship is important between the legislator and his constituents. Email is a good way to contact him. Online petitions do not sway him because there is no way to know where the petition originated and who the signers are. His office does however, tally contacts made by the constituents. He makes his decisions based on research Assemblyman Chu was clear that he makes decisions based on the best interests of the voters in the 25th Assembly District which he represents. And responds to those voters. Developing a personal relationship improves influence. He offers office hours for face-to-face communication every other week in his local offices. He has rotating evening hours (7pm + 9pm) weekly throughout the district. Asked about petitions ---- "Personal touch better than numbers. Staff checks how many people sending (or signing) things are actually in my district. I don't have time for those not in district."

Question 5: What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2016? What are your personal priorities?

1. Education. It is important to grow the next generation. His priority is to get the state colleges and universities to accept more in-state students. They are balancing their budgets with out of state tuition. He also has a bill to create standards for pre-school. Since there is a push for more pre-schools they need to have standards. He is working with First 5 on this.
2. Housing and Transportation policies that address both needs.
3. Infrastructure, especially water.
4. Environment
5. Public Safety.

Assembly Member Chu every year has a District-wide Local Heroes Event (AB 25) No one from his office is allowed to be nominated. Nominations must come from the constituents. It is a way to empower constituents.

LAST STATEMENT: "I consider myself a public servant more than a politician; therefore I am second lowest in fundraising."

2015 Interview

2015 Interview with Kansen Chu, Assembly District 25 by League members John R. Smith of Fremont-Newark-Union City League and Martha Hull from the San Jose/Santa Clara League.

QUESTION 1: Money in Politics (Campaign Disclosure) Would you support funding for the rebuilding of Cal-Access? Possibilities that have been mentioned include an item in the 2015-2016 state budget and a loan from the state's General Fund that would be repaid over time from an existing fund dedicated to improvement of Cal-Access.

Assembly member Chu supports funding for Cal-Access, which would provide an ease of access to filing information for more people. He indicated that the State is not as transparent as cities and that the State needs to become more transparent. He said that this is a primary issue for the Secretary of State. The Assembly member stated that local agencies, cities, counties and special districts should have their own e-filing and then possibly link to Cal-Access but that Cities don't want unfunded mandates. The Assembly member stated that the State should not mandate local control without money to go along with mandate.

QUESTION 2, Part 1 + Early Childhood Education. Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs were greatly reduced during the economic downturn. Although significant funding was reinstated last session, it is still not at the previous level, and large numbers of children, with differing needs, go unserved. Among the options for increased funding of ECE programs are 1) universal access for all four year olds, 2) limiting funding to low-income children and those with special needs while expanding the reach to three-year-olds, 3) expanding and improving service for the very young (ages zero to three), or 4) the ideal, all of the above. What would be your preference? What first? What do you think has the best chance of being funded and signed?

Assembly member Chu would prefer to have all children covered, but can't see the state allocating additional funds during the current budget year for early education. The Assembly member stated that there is no state curriculum for early childhood education. The State is working on Preschool Standards, but they are not there yet. There are limited resources available and that in Sacramento the thinking that education for poor and developmentally challenged children come first.

What has the best chance to be passed and signed?

Assembly member Chu said that until we can rewrite Prop 13 there is little chance to finance more education. Most educational funding comes from property tax. + There has been a big jump in income tax (coming into the state budget) but not from property tax. 70% of the property tax goes to education (and this has not seen the increase because of Prop 13.) He went on to suggest that "Split Rate" could possibly be an idea to find more money. Prop 98 guarantees minimum funding for education, but it is not enough. We need to rewrite Prop 13.... Not to take away homes, but to close loopholes on business property. The Assembly member does not know of any bills this year, but he is pushing for a "split rate" so that they can tax commercial property at a higher rate than homes. With Split Role, It's possible they could reassess commercial property at a different time sequence (not just once every 10 years.) The problem would one of infrastructure of the assessor's office is immense. (Too much work for the number of people)

We need new ideas on how to finance education.

QUESTION 2, Part 2 + Cap on Reserves. As part of the 2014-15 state budget, the legislature adopted a trailer bill, SB 858, one provision of which would place a cap on local school district reserves, including assigned and unassigned year- end balances, under certain conditions. That provision was linked to Proposition 2 in the November election, and with the passage of Prop 2, it is now in effect.

In August, at the close of the legislative session, there was an attempt to repeal the cap language, but it failed. Would you support a bill to repeal the cap and restore the authority of local school districts, in alignment with the norm of local control, to ensure school districts can maintain healthy reserves to protect students and teachers from budget cuts during future economic downturns?

Assembly member Chu definitely would co-sign bill to repeal cap. When he was on the Berryessa School Board they thought they needed a 6 percent reserve. The Governor says that with the upturn of the economy there should be more income for the schools so the schools don't need additional money, which the Assembly member stated was incorrect. The Assembly member stated that that you should save money when you have money; therefore, you need to build up reserves now with the economic upturn.

Question 3: Water. In recent months, voters approved the Proposition 1 water bond and the legislature passed significant groundwater legislation. Do you see these actions as having addressed the important water issues in your district? If not, what more should be done? What can the Legislature do to increase California's resilience in the face of future water supply uncertainties?

Assembly member Chu indicated that goundwater is very important, especially for coastal cities due to the fact that we can't allow salt water intrusion to ruin our agriculture. We must pump water to refill our ground water supplies. The Assembly member sited an example in Alviso when we lost groundwater through dams etc. the land dropped 14 feet! We need to regulate groundwater use plus pump more water into ground water reserves.

The Assembly member stated that we need more of the 1 A money to strengthen the levees in the Delta, siting examples in Louisiana with Katrina) .. If we don't strengthen the levees they can break and bring in salt water intrusion that will kill agriculture. A lot of the dams built in the 1960s need retrofitting. Even when we have rains our dams can store only 40% of their capacity because of safety concerns. We must strengthen our dams. The State legislature has not spent enough on infrastructure since Jerry Brown Sr. was Governor. We need to improve our infrastructure + will bring safety and lots of jobs.

The Assembly member also talked about that in many cities there is major leakage between the water treatment plant and local usage: Some cities as much as 60% of the water is lost. He is now writing a mandate to encourage water companies to rebuild infrastructure (on 1 A) possible load to help cities with 60% waste to lower waste to 10%

Assembly member Chu indicated that there is a big challenge regarding treated water. San Jose "bit the bullet" and built a water treatment plant to provide "Toilet to Tap" water. .. Good idea but the problem is 1) money (such treatment facilities are expensive) and 2) convincing people to use the treated water. San Jose came up with the "Toilet to Tap" slogan to popularize the idea. --- San Jose is using the water to replenish ground water

Assembly member Chu opposes the use of water for fracking, but is still collecting data to make final decision.

Question 4. Climate Change

Assembly member Chu supports "cap and trade" -- it will help limit greenhouse gasses. Supports green building standards. He is working on a "Car emissions bill" to encourage those with older cars to get new "greener" cars. The idea is to put a $1.25 / week charge on people with the newer environmentally good cars to compensate for the loss in gas taxes. (newer vehicles don't use as much gas) + Gas taxes pay for road maintenance and our roads need repair. Fund would also provide incentives to get old cars off the road.

Assembly member Chu supports the plans now to electrify Cal-Train from San Jose to San Francisco and he supports the high-speed rail train.

Assembly member Chu supports the State government having a green fleet and would like to get people involved by using differing media to educate people.

Question 5. What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2014? What are your personal priorities? What do you see as your strengths? What do you hope to work on?

The Assembly member has been appointed Committee Chairperson for human services in the Assembly and feels Education is VERY important --- pre natal to grave.

He is on the transportation committee... Jobs and economic development