Betsy Butler has been busy.
During her initial term in the state Assembly, Butler (D-Marina del Rey) has had legislation approved banning a chemical compound found in baby bottles and providing funding for local domestic violence prevention programs, as well as three bills pertaining to military veterans.
All told, Butler has had 15 bills passed during her two years, considered by many Sacramento observers to be an impressive record.
In seeking a second two-year term, the assemblywoman will square off against Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom for the newly created 50th Assembly District, which includes Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Malibu.
The assemblywoman, who currently represents the coastal 53rd Assembly District, beat back seven challengers in a campaign two years ago that was filled with attack ads against her by several special interest groups.
“That’s politics,” Butler responded with a shrug in a recent interview near her West Los Angeles campaign office when asked about the past attacks.
“We’re incredibly blessed to live in the state of California. We’re very resilient and capable of figuring out the next best things,” Butler continued. “It’s been an honor to serve in the 53rd District and I believe that many of the things that I worked on that are important to my constituents in the 53rd are also important to the people who live in the 50th.”
At times lawmakers are inspired to draft legislation based on stories that they hear from their constituents or through their own personal experience. The latter case was one of the primary reasons Butler sought to legislate elder care.
Her father, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease for nearly 20 years, was in an assisted living facility and the assemblywoman and her mother had an up-close and personal view of the type of patient care at the facility. Butler said she learned that her father, who is now deceased, had been physically abused during his stay at the facility.
That experience prompted her to sponsor Assembly Bill 2149, which prevents legal settlements between an elderly person and another party from including gag clauses disallowing an elderly victim of financial or physical abuse, from reporting the abuse to law enforcement or adult protective services agencies.
“After I got my veterans bills and my elder care bill signed into law I could feel my dad with me,” the assemblywoman recalled. “He was a Republican and he never agreed with anything that I did politically but if he were still alive I think that he would be so happy and proud of me for that.”
Assembly Bill 1319, the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, bans Bisphenol-A (BPA), an organic compound commonly known as BPA that is found in baby bottles and was among the first bills that she carried that was signed into law. A 2010 report by the Food and Drug Administration warned of possible dangerous effects of the compound to fetuses, infants and young children.
The ban also includes “sippy cups” often used by toddlers.
The United States recently joined Canada and the European Union in outlawing the sale and manufacture of BPA.
Environmental causes have long been one of her passions. Butler said she was disappointed when a plastic bag ban bill by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) and legislation by Butler to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, did not make it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk this year.
Fracking is a process used by oil and gas firms to access petroleum or shale in rock formations thousands of feet underground. Large quantities of water and chemicals are injected into the rock to gain access to the gas during the procedure.
“We need to be leaders on solar energy and technology. We need to be passing plastic bag bans,” she said. “With fracking, there are no regulations in California for (this procedure).
“Considering some of the things that are happening with groundwater in places like Pennsylvania, we need to know what oil companies are doing and what chemicals they’re using.”
The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have endorsed Butler and she received a 100 percent “scorecard” from the California League of Conservation Voters.
Her environmental credentials also appeal to Santa Monica Councilman Kevin McKeown, one of dozens of elected leaders backing Butler.
“I’ve known Betsy Butler for many years through the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and know she’s a true environmentalist with a legislative record on that and on workers’ rights,” the councilman told The Argonaut.
The assemblywoman was also involved in an action locally that is not an actual law but had an impact on the communities that she represents until election day. In 2011, she authored an Assembly resolution that will allow a memorial marker to be erected at the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards in Venice to commemorate the evacuation and internment of local Japanese-Americans during World War II.
If she wins another term in Sacramento, Butler would like to revisit a ban on plastic bags as well as a moratorium on fracking and getting a farmer worker protection bill, which was vetoed by Brown, passed.
As in the 2010 primary, Butler has been the subject of recent negative advertising in campaign mailers to the homes of potential voters. McKeown addressed the sharp campaign rhetoric that has been lodged against the assemblywoman in Santa Monica.
“The attacks on her are being funded by big agribusiness, upset that she supported the farm workers with a shade and water bill this last session,” he noted.
The assemblywoman’s bill, the Farm Worker Safety Act of 2012, would have mandated that water and shade are provided to California’s farmworkers and will sanction those who did not adhere to the proposed legislation by making the growers liable for heat-related illness. It would have also established a private right of action so that farmworkers can hold their employers accountable under the law.
The Western Growers Association, an organization that is supported by farmer and agriculture interests, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to defeat Butler.
McKeown also touched on his council colleague’s legislative record, which others in Santa Monica have railed against, as well as Bloom’s environmental record as a member of the state’s Coastal Commission. “Richard Bloom’s votes on development and living wage issues on the Santa Monica City Council have been a real disappointment,” he explained. “And the Sierra Club rates him one of the worst on the Coastal Commission.”
Butler feels that she has the experience necessary to represent her potential new constituents in the 50th Assembly District. She said there is unfinished business on certain legislation and has a continued desire to serve the public.
“I wanted to go to the Assembly because I wanted to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” she said. “And I want to go back to Sacramento to continue to speak for our elders, our veterans, farmworkers and anyone else who doesn’t have a $5 million lobbyist.”
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. §