2022 election: Q&A with Brian Maienschein, California State Assembly District 76 candidate

There are three candidates on the June 7 ballot for the newly drawn state Assembly District 76, which includes San Marcos, Escondido, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Santa Fe and San Pasqual: businesswoman/water advocate Kristie Bruce-Lane and business owner/attorney June Cutter, both Republicans, and Assemblymember/educator Brian Maienschein, a Democrat. The top two vote-getters will advance to a Nov. 8 runoff election. The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board sent each a 13-question survey and is their responses here. Bruce-Lane declined to participate.

If you have comments or questions about the election or any of the candidates after reading this interview, please email Editorial and Opinion Director Matthew T. Hall at matthew.hall@sduniontribune.com.

Below are Brian Maienschein’s responses and a link to Cutter’s.

Q: From wildfires to sea level rise, the climate emergency is increasingly affecting California. What immediate steps should California lawmakers be taking to address it?

A: Bold action is needed to combat the climate crisis. California has been a leader in setting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit our reliance on fossil fuels. But we also need to focus on immediate steps that can help us bridge the gap until we reach our longer-term goals.

The transportation sector accounts for half of our climate change impacts, yet electric and zero emission vehicles are still not feasible options for many families. We have made significant investments in public transit as a way to reduce vehicle miles traveled, but until safe and reliable public transit is truly an option for all San Diegans, we cannot have that be our only solution.

We need to accelerate the deployment of electric charging stations and provide financial incentives to help families, businesses and heavy-duty vehicle operators make the transition to cleaner technology.

As a state, we also need to build on the historic actions we have taken to reduce plastic pollution and improve California’s recycling infrastructure. We need to help make it economically achievable for businesses to move away from single-use packaging.

We need to double down on our efforts to bolster recycling infrastructure and keep recyclable materials out of our landfills. Combating the climate crisis is not going to be done in one single piece of legislation. It is going to take many small actions by each and every one of us that will have a tremendous collective impact.

Q: The governor’s pleas to reduce water use have been widely met with indifference. What, if anything, should state lawmakers be doing to address drought conditions?

A: I am pleased to see that the governor is pushing for reduced water usage. However, I believe more needs to be done as droughts are becoming a years-long occurrence in our state.

There should be increased emphasis on storage and conservation at the federal, state and local levels.

Q: What would you do to address the surging gas prices in California?

A: I voted against the gas tax increase in 2017, and I continue to stand by that. There are a lot of solutions on the table right now, and I am in full support of whatever puts the most money back into San Diego taxpayers’ pockets.

Q: How do you strike a balance between reducing the state’s dependency on fossil fuels and addressing energy affordability issues, including the high cost of gasoline?

A: The Legislature has been focusing on ideas that reduce consumption of fossil fuels by creating options that every Californian can afford.

For example, while I’ve supported the current financial incentives we provide for the purchase of an electric vehicle, an overwhelming number of Californians can’t afford a new vehicle of any kind. I think incentives could be more impactful on gasoline consumption if the incentives reduced the price of a used hybrid vehicle to $10,000.

That price point would enable Californians of modest means to both contribute to the fight against climate change and dramatically reduce their use of gasoline and the costs they currently are bearing.

Q: How would you bring down the high cost of housing, both for homeowners and renters?

A: The high cost of housing won’t be solved easily, or quickly, or in one grand effort. The problem developed over decades. We need to expand down payment assistance to those who want to become first-time homebuyers. This will keep talented college graduates in California, free up rental properties and help young people begin acquiring wealth. California also needs to continue financing assistance for low- and medium-income individuals seeking housing.

Q: Homelessness is growing dramatically across the state. How would you address it?

A: I created Project 25 in 2010 as the homeless commissioner for the United Way of San Diego County to house our region’s chronically homeless individuals, which was one of the most successful programs in San Diego’s history.

I support expanding and fully funding this program. In addition, the Legislature has provided local governments significantly increased funding to help address homelessness over the past several years. I support continued state funding to localities in their efforts to combat homelessness.

Q: What, if anything, should the state do to make mass transit a viable option for commuters?

A: In this year’s state budget, we will increase funding for local mass transit. That said, in 2008, long before I was elected to the state Assembly, I voted against Proposition 1A, which began the funding of high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

I voted no because that project would serve far fewer commuter needs than spending money on regional rail transit would. That remains the case today and I have supported efforts to redirect state funding to do so.

Q: How will you balance public health with economic and educational concerns going forward in this pandemic or the next one? What specific steps and strategies, from lockdowns to mask mandates, would you recommend or rule out if there is a new surge in deaths and hospitalizations?

A: Fortunately, our region is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. I will continue to follow the guidance of our local public health professionals.

Q: California has the strictest gun laws in the nation yet has had some of the nation’s worst mass shootings this year. What more, if anything, should be done to reduce gun violence in California?

A: There has been a nationwide surge in gun-related violence and deaths since 2015. I believe we need to do more to get guns out of the hands of dangerous people. After the Poway Chabad shooting in 2019, I wrote a law that closed the loophole that enabled the shooter to obtain a gun. This year, I am authoring legislation to prohibit people who have been convicted of abusing children or seniors from possessing firearms. I support adequate funding and training for law enforcement to take appropriate measures to protect our communities and combat the growing epidemic of ghost guns.

Q: California has adopted a number of criminal justice reforms in recent years. What would you change and why to ensure justice is equitable and effective?

A: I voted in favor of then-San Diego Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s balanced reform of police use-of-force policies and state Sen. Steve Bradford’s law to end the hiring practices that allowed officers who have been fired in one place for misconduct from being hired in another community.

Q: What single change would you make to improve California’s K-12 public school systems?

A: During my time in the Assembly, California has doubled the amount we spend on each student. This past year’s budget also begins implementation for universal transitional-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in California. Research shows that children who attend preschool are better equipped for kindergarten than those who do not. I am proud to have been a lead author on Assembly Bill 22, which will ensure that every child in California has access to quality preschool by the 2025-2026 school year.

Q: Should taxes in California be increased? If so, which ones?

A: I do not support increasing taxes.

Q: What is the most important issue we have not raised and why?

A: There is more than one important issue to be addressed. That being said, this past year, I was proud to introduce Assembly Bill 114, the Rare Disease Sequencing for Critically Ill Infants Act. This bill was inspired by the success of Project Baby Bear, a pilot study I secured $2 million in state funding for as the co-chair of the Rare Disease Caucus. Project Baby Bear demonstrated that offering rapid whole genome sequencing to newborns with rare diseases was proven to provide quicker, more efficient answers to the underlying causes of a baby’s symptoms. This bill was secured in the 2021-2022 state budget and received $3 million to offer rapid whole genome sequencing as a Medi-Cal covered benefit, helping expand access to this life-changing diagnostic tool.

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