State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, told about 60 Nevada County residents the imperative government must follow is “to figure out how to implement a small government.”
Much of the legislator’s message was met with approval and applause from the constituents gathered in Eric Rood Administrative Center board chambers Thursday night, as many wore red Tea Party Patriots T-shirts.
Preservation of Second Amendment rights, the need to balance the Democratic supermajority in the California legislature, the need to curtail government spending and waste, the illegality of the State Responsibility Area fee and reform to the California Air Resources Board and the California Environmental Quality Act were all discussed by the senator.
Gaines introduced himself as a family man with six children and as a small-business owner — a business he inherited from his father and plans to pass on to his children.
“I’ve had a lot of struggles with government-related issues operating a business,” he said. “Now that I’ve gotten an up-close look at how government operates, let me tell you, it is a three-ring circus.”
He reserved particular ire for the California Department of Transportation.
“Is CalTrans incompetent?” he asked, referring to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which has drawn increasing scrutiny and criticism from elected officials who have asked for a formal investigation into how the project has been managed.
“The project was estimated to cost $1.3 billion, and now we are at $6.8 billion, and we find there are rusty bolts,” Gaines told the crowd. “How do we change the culture in CalTrans to a culture of excellence?”
The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday that steel tendons that support the structure’s viaduct were subjected to corrosion, and the overall safety of the span was questionable, causing Governor Jerry Brown — a longtime supporter of the construction project — to admit the bridge may not open by its projected Labor Day date due to safety concerns.
Nevada County officials also expressed frustration earlier in 2013 with CalTrans, when it ran nearly $1 million over budget on the widening project of Highway 49 in South County.
Gaines did not stop at CalTrans, saying the SRA fee — the $150 assessed to property owners last fall — is actually an illegal tax.
“We had the repeal (of the tax) brought in front of a committee,” Gaines said. “We fell one vote short, but we are hopeful that Howard Jarvis will be successful in its lawsuit. We will have our day in court.”
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sued the state of California last year, claiming that the so-called fee was actually a tax that was not passed with the required two-thirds majority.
Gaines also touted his lifelong membership in the National Rifle Association and said he is opposed to five of the six gun-control legislative items currently circulating.
“The attack on our Second Amendment rights is outrageous,” he said. “California already has enough tough laws.”
The focus should be on preventing guns from reaching criminals or the dangerously mentally ill, Gaines said.
One woman repeatedly challenged Gaines on the gun control issue, saying those who advocate harboring firearms to prevent tyrannical government were doing so out of an irrational fear.
Gaines shared his take on a bevy of other issues affecting the state of California:
On the May Revise:
Governor Brown’s plan is more responsible than the Legislative Analyst’s Office. If there is a surplus, it should be stored in a rainy-day fund. California needs to be better at planning for the future.
On Gov. Brown:
In some ways he is (the Republicans’) best friend. He wants government to operate in the right way. He is known as a cheapskate. He wants to devolve power to local jurisdictions, particularly in terms of education, and he wants to reform the California Environmental Quality Act. These are things that we can work with him on.
On former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:
He was unpredictable. You never knew where he would come down on an issue. He was not philosophically grounded.
On unions’ role in government:
We attempted to end undue influence on the government by public unions last election cycle, but the public unions spent $60 million on Proposition 32. Also, we lost seats on my side of the aisle, so I am not sure what the answer is.
On illegal immigration:
We should secure our border. We don’t want terrorists, illegal immigrants and drugs crossing into this country. As far as our workforce, we need to reform our green card program.
On surveillance drones:
I want to make sure our civil liberties are protected. I do not want a drone peering through my bedroom window.
On prison realignment:
I voted against that bill, and I oppose the wholesale release of people from state prisons. I oppose housing prisoners in facilities that are not designed for long-term tenancy.
On state parks:
The California Parks Department has accountability issues. That said, it is used as a political football during budget debates. I would like to see each park operate more efficiently and be able to generate revenue to become more self-sustaining.
On how to influence state government:
We track all of our emails and phone calls, but the most effective way to influence policy is to physically show up at the office or schedule an appointment with the senator. Activism in terms of organizing political action groups is an effective way of getting a message across. Also, citizens who show up at public hearings can affect the passage of bills.
On the Central Valley Water Project:
I oppose it. Much of my district is viewed as a playground for the wealthy in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Many of them feel they can extract what they want out of the district without even engaging us. They want to unilaterally take our water by building tunnels or a canal without a vote of the people. Our rights need to be protected.
When asked about the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, chemtrails and the propensity of police for breaking into homes without a warrant, the senator said he would have his staff research the issues and respond to the constituent.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.