For state Assembly candidate James Lau, working on legislative and policy issues for elected leaders in Sacramento has helped give him a foundation to be the next representative of the 53rd District.
In his five years in the capital serving as a policy consultant to former state Sen. Teresa Hughes and later a legislative director for former Assemblyman Jerome Horton, Lau said he learned how to navigate the legislative process and specialized in issues such as the environment and education.
He added to his legislative experience as a program director for a nonprofit children’s organization in Los Angeles as well as working with the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee, to which he was first elected in 2002. During his more than ten years fulfilling these roles, he notes that he has worked on over three dozen bills that have been signed into law, some that have created revenue sources for the state.
It is this experience, he believes, that will enable him to “hit the ground running” as a member of the Assembly. Lau is one of eight Democratic candidates vying to replace Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who is termed out of office, in the June 8th primary.
“It’s looking at how we can find additional creative ways of generating new revenue, and having done that in the past I know it’s something I’ll be able to go up (to Sacramento) and do it again,” Lau said of his experience.
Currently, the Venice resident serves as the executive director of the California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to educate the public about environmental issues. He says that in talking with district voters — who are “very engaged and informed” — two of their biggest concerns seem to be the budget and environment, issues that he has directly worked on.
“I have a background and experience working on the budget and environmental issues… and that’s why I think I’m really a good match for the priorities of this district,” Lau said.
“It’s why I want to work as a legislator with things around the state budget and the environment, looking at bringing back many of the jobs that are focused around renewable energy and green technology, and combining the two around increasing the quality of our environment.”
Lau, whose daughter was born 18 weeks ago, says the state’s budget crisis is one of the things that galvanized his interest in running for the Assembly, noting that she and other children are affected by policies that take place in Sacramento. Programs related to the environment, education and health are being dismantled due to the budget situation, says Lau, who hopes to bring creative solutions to address the problems.
“I want to bring my creative ideas and my ability to get things done up there and make an immediate impact,” he responded to why he is running.
Lau says he developed his passion for protecting the environment while growing up near rivers and mountains in Idaho. Among his proposals addressing environmental impacts is to create more options for people to get around without their cars.
Having sold his car and relied on public mass transit since 2001, Lau says the health impacts of such a move would be significant. He says he feels good about being free of his car but understands that it is not an option for most people. That’s why he wants to look at supporting alternative forms of transportation, such as mass transit, carpooling and bicycling, including making thoroughfares safer for bicycle riders.
He is in favor of transportation projects including the Metro Exposition Line light rail extension to Santa Monica and the Green Line extension to Los Angeles International Airport, saying he can utilize his knowledge of the state budget to find potential funding sources.
“I support having a more extensive light rail system that connects the major thoroughfares people go to,” he said.
In another environment-related proposal, Lau wants to develop more incentives for homeowners to purchase solar panels and use more renewable energy.
Lau joined the other 53rd District candidates in signing a pledge initiated by congressional candidate Marcy Winograd to not use jets at the Santa Monica Airport, saying it’s important to get involved in nearby residents’ concerns of jet emissions. Referring to other concerns at LAX, Lau said he supports airport regionalization and having light rail connections from regional airports.
In regards to Venice’s controversial issue of RVs parking overnight on streets, Lau says he believes in local control, explaining that the people who are impacted by the issue should decide how to address the problem rather than the state.
In the last two weeks before the primary, Lau plans to continue meeting with voters of the district and encourage them to consider his experience when going to the polls.
“It’s the experience, that know-how, and the creative ideas I bring to the position to be an innovative problem solver,” Lau says of why voters should choose him. “I have a background where I worked on many of these issues that voters of this district care about and I’ll have a leg up on making an immediate impact on Day 1.”