Lawmakers plan future battles

Local lawmakers plan to tackle a variety of issues in 2012, not the least of which may be campaigning for re-election.

Prominent U.S. Congressional Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) will be facing off against each other in an open primary in June. The two Democratic heavy-hitters were drawn into the same district after a citizens’ committee revised legislative district boundaries in California earlier this year.

GOP challengers Susan Shelley and Mark Reed also plan to enter the race for the new 30th Congressional District, which includes part of western Burbank.

The first day candidates can pull papers to run for office is Feb. 13.

That may not be the only politically-divisive local race. Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), who will be termed out in 2012, has been seeking endorsements from Democratic organizations for the Senate seat in the new 25th District, where he would square off against incumbent and longtime political ally Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge).

Portantino said he plans to continue bringing accountability and transparency to the California Legislature by pushing for the repeal of state lawmakers’ exemption from the Public Records Act.

“It’s not fair for Glendale to have to comply with the Public Records Act and the Legislature doesn’t,” he said.

Education will remain a top priority for Liu, said her spokesman, Robert Oakes.

While K-12 education will be a focus for her, she also wants to improve the transfer rate from community colleges to the UC and Cal State university systems.

A task force recently found that the number of community college students who said they want to transfer to a four-year college is much higher than those who actually do, Oakes said.

Liu will continue to support public libraries, which are facing challenges as the demand for digital services outpaces demand for books. More people are going to libraries for Wi-Fi access, so Liu will work on efforts to expand that service in the future, Oakes said.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) wants to make it more difficult for so-called “ballot-box budgeting” to take place by making it more difficult to change the state constitution, which has seen about 540 revisions since 1911, compared to only 27 changes to the U.S. Constitution since it was ratified in 1788.

State constitution changes often favor special-interest groups and result in voters approving programs the state can’t afford, he said.

Gatto also plans to reintroduce legislation that would require the California Energy Commission to explore the possibility of generating green electricity from passing cars, trucks and trains by placing sensors under roadways that convert the vibrations caused by the vehicles into electricity.

The bill was approved by the legislature this year but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October.

Sherman said he will fight to extend payroll tax cuts through next December, letting workers take home more money with every paycheck.

He also wants stricter enforcement of intellectual property laws.

“When you make a movie, you should be able to charge people to see it before it’s on their computer screen,” Sherman said.

In the coming year, the Alternative Minimum Tax should be scrutinized, Sherman added, to make sure it accomplishes what it was set up to do: make sure the rich pay a minimum tax amount. The tax has been patched over the years and is now starting to impact middle-income earners, he said.

The economy is at the top of the list for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who is particularly interested in creating manufacturing jobs.

“We need to make America a manufacturing powerhouse again,” he said.

He wants to work on legislation and initiatives that will make it easier for manufacturers to get approvals for facilities in a timely manner.

While he acknowledged the challenges caused by cheaper overseas labor, he said U.S. workers can be more efficient, and therefore more competitive, than their foreign counterparts.

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