Putting partisanship aside for the good of Orange County

By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist

Orange County is a donor county. This means that collectively we send far more in revenue to the state than we receive back. Not surprisingly, this impacts almost every aspect of our lives. It would be difficult to identify a public service that wouldn’t be in a better position to serve the public if we just received back approximately the amount of revenue we send to Sacramento.

Politicians across the political spectrum in Orange County decry the unfairness of our donor status. But there are some lawmakers who are working to bring much needed resources to our communities. And there’s another portion of our Sacramento delegation that joins a chorus of blame, yet does everything imaginable to ensure the situation never changes.

This ultra-partisan group continues to submit legislation it knows will not only never pass, but will infuriate the very people who have the power to bring the resources back to O.C. that we so desperately need. This past week, hundreds of workers from across California got a front row seat to this kind of dysfunction when the California Labor Federation brought them to the Capitol to talk to lawmakers.

For example, we are advocating for legislation that protects whistleblowers from retaliation in the workplace. We are fighting to streamline an arduous process of establishing safety regulations that protect workers from dangerous conditions, such as exposure to chemicals, heat and violence in the workplace. We are pushing for transparency on prescription drug pricing, so that families’ budgets are not decimated when life-saving drug costs unexpectedly skyrocket.

An additional major focus of the O.C. meetings involved advocating for more resources to come back here to O.C.

In preparation for these meetings, local workers reached out to the entire county delegation three months in advance of our trip to schedule briefings. And we scheduled a day that was packed with meetings with our representatives, and also with the legislative leaders who would need to help with this effort.

Sen. Josh Newman, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Assemblyman Tom Daly and Sen. Tony Mendoza all shared specific examples of their efforts to bring resources to O.C.

But not a single member of the county’s Republican delegation would meet with workers from their districts. (To their credit, Sen. John Moorlach and Assemblyman Steven Choi at least sent staff members in their place who both listened intently and provided valuable feedback.)

Meanwhile, instead of meeting with constituents, many of these lawmakers were busy advocating for failing legislation that may be popular with a small segment of their supporters, but only alienates them from the rest of their colleagues in the Capitol and reinforces the inaccurate and negative stereotypes about our community.

For example, the same week he refused to meet with his constituents, Assemblyman Matt Harper advocated for anti-worker legislation that was predictably defeated in committee. Since his election in 2014, Assemblyman Harper has only authored two bills and one resolution that were ultimately adopted — none of which brought additional resources to O.C.

We all know O.C. deserves better. And our image is also changing in Sacramento. We have become more and more a largely pluralistic, tolerant, creative and diverse population, and increasingly more of our elected leaders reflect that.

Now it’s time for our resources and our leadership to reflect that. We deserve our fair share from the state, and urge all O.C. lawmakers to work collaboratively to make that happen.

Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.

Publication Date: April 28, 2017