A Day in Sacramento
Each spring ASCE Region 9 sponsors a Legislative Day in Sacramento. The goal is to meet with our State Senators and Assembly Members to discuss issues related to ASCE’s strategic priorities and how they apply to our region. This year, the primary topics included infrastructure, sustainability, and education.
Region 9 solicited participation from across the state, including all Sections, sub-branches, and YMF members. The San Diego Section sent four members; Jeniene Knight, Aaron Cook, Tyler Lawson, and myself to the event on May 14th. According to Phillip Bordenave who has served as our Government Relations Chair for the past few years, this is a good number because it allows the coordinator to pair up members from the same region for the meetings. As a Section, we encouraged participation by our younger members and both Aaron and Tyler are active with YMF.
This was my first visit to the State Capitol for the fly-in and I learned a lot. Hopefully the following summary is beneficial to our San Diego Section and Imperial County Branch members, who may consider participating next year or who are interested in joining our Government Relations Committee.
You should expect a well-organized event and a full day. The Region 9 leadership set up all of our meetings ahead of time and provided information about ASCE, potential talking points, and a position summary for current legislation. The day began at 8 AM with a light breakfast and briefing. We had to fly out the night before so we just had a short walk from our hotel to the Capitol in downtown Sacramento. Over breakfast we had a chance to meet with the other 26 attendees from the different Sections. We also met with our California legislative advocate, Richard Markuson (
Between the four of us from the San Diego Section, we had eight meetings scheduled throughout the day. We meet with Assembly Members (AM) Allen, Atkins, Frazier, Yamada, Alejo, Gary, Maienschein, and Gorrell. Almost all of these meetings were actually with the AM’s legislative aid and lasted for approximately a half hour. Not all of these AMs are from the San Diego region so we had to tailor our discussion to their specific local issues.
The Capitol is a busy place. All of our meetings were scattered throughout the building and we quickly learned how to use the directory to find our way around. We ran into numerous school field trips, lobbyists, and even members from Caltrans who were presenting to the Senate on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge bolt failures. Most of the AMs we met with said that they get five or more scheduled meetings each day from individuals or groups like ASCE. They also get hundreds of emails and letters from their constituents. I think I’ll stick with engineering for now.
We had a few breaks in our schedule and used that time add some additional meetings. We brought copies of our 2012 San Diego Report Card and hand delivered them to the Senators and AMs from the San Diego Region. Many of them were not available for a scheduled meeting due to other commitments. We also filled-in for the San Joaquin Branch (Central Valley) in the afternoon to facilitate three additional meetings.
For the most part, everyone we met, whether Democrat or Republican, was receptive to our message. They all agreed that our infrastructure is in poor condition and that we need to make changes to our current system although many asked that ASCE offer some specific solutions. One recommendation by ASCE is the establishment of a Joint Legislative Committee on Infrastructure to review infrastructure planning, monitor progress, set priorities, and develop funding plans.
Overall the Legislative Day event is a great introduction to the government relations process in Sacramento. We had a chance to introduce ASCE to our representatives and to offer our assistance to them as a technical resource. However; a 30-minute meeting with a legislative aid is just the start. Our plan is to use our local Government Relations Committee to establish regular contact with our Sacrament representatives as well as our local government.
If you are interested in learning more or in joining our Government Relations Committee, please contact Philip Bordenave (
) or me at
. We will add you to our email list and our next planning meeting.
We’ll see you on June 25th for our last General Section meeting before the summer break.
James Frost, P.E.