By Nick Diamantides
Incumbent Democrat Bonnie Lowenthal is running for reelection as the California Assembly 54th District representative. “Our state is in a crisis,” she said. “I believe I have delivered for my district, and I want to continue along the same path to address the needs and the economy and to move forward for the district.”
Lowenthal said her track record proves she has served her constituents well, and she mentioned three of her accomplishments as legislator.
The one of which she is most proud is AB 2098. “This bill will bring 18,000 jobs in California to improve the infrastructure of our state and is perhaps the most important bill passed in the last two years,” she said. “It was a bipartisan bill that created a special resolution for the design, build and completion of a $1.3-billion upgrade of the 91 Freeway. This will also result in improving regional traffic flow.” Lowenthal said that she worked with Democrats and Republicans and played a key role in the passage of that bill.
Another bill of which Lowenthal is proud is the urgency bill she authored that will enable the plans to construct a new courthouse in Long Beach to move forward. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law last month. The bill exempts the state from having to pay a “possessory interest tax” that is imposed on real property interests on public land. The tax threatened to delay the much-needed project. “Without this bill, there was a real chance that we’d be waiting several more years to start building our courthouse,” Lowenthal said.
Another bill that she authored– AB 2629– prevents patients who live in residential care facilities from being forced into nursing homes when they are recovering from surgery. “Very often, the elderly who are living in assisted-living homes, and want to stay there, were forced out,” she said.
Lowenthal also authored AB 2435, which was signed by the governor this year. She explained that the new law requires all mental-health professionals to have elder abuse training. “The recognition of elder abuse is really critical,” she said. “Elder abuse is one of the fastest growing crimes in California.
Lowenthal explained why she thinks she is the best choice for the 54th Assembly seat. “I have the experience and track record that tells people that I am focused on delivering for my district,” she said. “This is a job that requires difficult choices that go beyond campaign promises.”
Speaking of difficult choices, Lowenthal explained her vote with the majority of her colleagues in the legislature to take $3.5 billion from local governments, which included $1.7 billion taken from the schools– $176 million from the Long Beach Unified School District.
“In the last two years, we had to cut an enormous amount– billions of dollars– from the state budget because we don’t have the revenues,” she said. “That included municipalities and school districts. Everybody was hurting, and the money was not there to provide the critical services. People had been asking us to cut government and we did.”
Lowenthal noted that although her opponent Martha Flores-Gibson has sharply criticized her for voting to cut the $176 million in state funding for LBUSD, the California Teachers Association and almost every member of the LBUSD Board of Education has endorsed her. “I am supported by the parents, and by the people who care the most about education,” she said. “They know that I am watching very closely to ensure that the districts get at least as much as they had last year, if not more. Education is sacred to us in California, and I will continue to guard all of the school districts in the 54th Assembly District.”
Lowenthal also talked about eliminating wasteful expenditures in the state government. “There is a great deal of auditing going on,” she said. “One of the audits being done by the state auditor was at my request.” She explained that she had asked the bipartisan Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) to look into the ongoing development of the state’s Court Case Management System. She noted that the project was originally estimated to cost approximately $200 million, but legislators were later told that it could cost as much as $2 billion. After looking into the matter, JLAC asked the state auditor to audit the project, and that process has now begun.
Lowenthal noted that she also serves on the Assembly’s Accountability Committee in order to examine any excesses and lack of efficiencies that exist in state government.
Lowenthal earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Cal State University Long Beach and has served on the LBUSD Board of Education, as well as the Long Beach City Council.
“I believe very strongly that I am the person to represent the people of the 54th District,” she said. “I have been appointed the chair of the Assembly Committee on Transportation, which will allow me to have oversight of the $10 billion the voters have invested in high-speed rail. She noted that she is also working with experts and stakeholders to make sure infrastructure for plug-in vehicles is in place in the near future. “I am very actively working for environmental issues, for business issues, for economic development, to improve the educational system in our state and for jobs,” she said.