By Julie Reeder

Farewell to Senator Joel Anderson


Last updated 10/20/2018 at 7:04am

Sen. Joel Anderson is recognized in the Senate as a caucus of one.

Poet Robert Frost exclaimed, "Nothing gold can stay" and that is how I and likely many of the almost 1 million constituents of California State Senator Joel Anderson feel as his term concludes at the end of November this year, if they have been staying abreast of what they're Senator has been accomplishing.

He is a Republican whose voting record has gotten the highest ratings from the American Conservative Union, California Taxpayers Association, California Republican Assembly, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, whose president called Anderson a "rock star for taxpayers."

Yet, he also reached across the aisle to author 418 bills with Democrats over the last 12 years in the state Legislature while serving as an Assemblyman and a Senator. It is hard to imagine any other legislator mentored more than 1,400 interns, received 26 "Legislator of the Year" awards, or held over 50 district town hall meetings in 12 years.

As an Assemblymember, his district was made up of East County San Diego, and his election to the Senate expanded his representation to include Poway, Fallbrook and Southwest Riverside County. After redistricting, the 38th Senate District he has represented for the last four years has included Escondido and San Marcos. Anderson fundamentally understood his district was made up of hardworking people aspiring to achieve the American dream for themselves and their children, and that he was elected to make government work for them.

Anderson devoted considerable effort to veterans' issues. He wrote successful legislation to grant veterans free state parks passes and provide veterans assistance with citizenship application processing and spearheaded a multi-year effort to ensure veteran's halls receive their full property tax exemption.

In 2014, Senator Anderson repeatedly introduced amendments on the Senate floor to call attention to AB 13, a bill restoring veterans' education benefits in California that Senate leadership had quietly killed in the appropriations committee without a vote. Thanks to his efforts, AB 13 passed and became law. This guaranteed the 78,000 veterans and their beneficiaries currently attending California public universities and colleges could continue their education with in-state tuition.

Veterans' advocate Pete Conaty expressed, "As a Vietnam veteran I want to thank [Senator Anderson] for all of his work on veterans' legislation. He is singularly responsible for ensuring that all veterans moving to California did not have to pay out-of-state tuition when they attended California colleges. In my 30 years in Sacramento as a veterans advocate, I've never seen anyone work harder for veterans."

Anderson received international attention and media coverage during his first year in the legislature when he wrote Assembly Bill (AB) 221. The bill required the California Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (STRS) to divest from companies that violated federal law by doing business in the Islamic Republic of Iran – over $24 billion of taxpayer funded public pensions. A majority of states followed suit and introduced similar legislation.

Upon signing the bill, then-Governor Schwarzenegger said "I couldn't be more proud to sign this bill. Last year I signed legislation to show our defiance against the inhumane murder and genocide in Sudan. This year I am pleased to support additional efforts to further prevent terrorism by doing what's right with our investment portfolio and signing this legislation to divest from Iran."

Another bill that garnered considerable media attention at the time was AB 1506, which would have required the state to accept its own IOUs as payment after it issued 450,000 of them, totaling $2.7 billion to taxpayers.

Then-Assembly Speaker John Perez spoke of Anderson's bipartisan leadership on the IOU bill in his inaugural address to the entire Assembly after he was just selected as the Speaker of the Assembly: "Last year during the height of the fiscal crisis, our state was forced to issue IOUs for only the second time since the Great Depression. One of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle, Mr. Anderson, felt that people who received IOUs should be able to use those same IOUs in lieu of payments they owed the state. I thought that was a commonsense idea and worked with Democrats and Republicans in supporting this sensible proposal."

It's clear Anderson worked hard to build relationships with all of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle, as evidenced by the number of successful and often landmark measures he joint-wrote with democrats, such as what WIRED Magazine called the "nation's strongest electronic privacy bill" with Sen. Leno (D-San Francisco), and a bill to prevent the state from cooperating with the federal government to conduct warrantless spying on law abiding citizens, SB 828 with Sen. Lieu (D-Redondo Beach).

A hallmark of Anderson's time in office has been his effort to recognize the work of community organizations and nonprofits in his district. He has given out hundreds of thousands of "Certificates of Recognition" to students, volunteers, first responders, and other exceptional community members working to make our neighborhoods a better place.

When the Governor and legislative leadership let down the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled community with the 2016 state budget, Anderson used his platform to continually beat the drum for more funding to ensure the state kept its promise to this population, as enshrined in our state constitution with the Lanterman Act.

Carlos Flores, executive director of the San Diego Regional Center of San Diego said, "Senator Joel Anderson has demonstrated exemplary support for persons with developmental disabilities and the people who provide their services. In 2016, Anderson was very influential in securing the first-rate increase for service providers in a decade, when our entire system was on the brink of collapsing. We have been fortunate to have him as a champion for our cause. Senator Anderson's advocacy and support have ensured that persons with developmental disabilities and their families receive the services they need."

Anderson was awarded the "Bridge Builder Award" from the USS Midway Museum Diversity & Inclusion Committee for his work on SCR 90 to rename a portion of I-15 the "Tuskegee Airmen Highway," and for bringing recognition to the service, sacrifice, and trailblazing lives and careers of the Tuskegee Airmen.

On one of the last days of legislative session, Senator Anderson's colleague, Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), stood up during floor session to praise his accomplishments and bid him farewell. She shared how working with him on the Public Safety Committee (Skinner and Anderson served as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively) made her appreciate Anderson's thoughtful remarks and perspective. She shared with Anderson in front of her colleagues, "It comes from a deep value set that you have that is that everyone deserves a second chance. And I so admire and honor that about you and have found you to be an incredible colleague to work with, and a great partner."

Although the worthy goal of term limits is to keep our elected representative closer to the people, there are true statesmen like Anderson who have so distinguished themselves during their tenure that it seems a shame they have to leave when their term expires.

Many of us have busy lives, children to take care of, and jobs to report to, and when faced with the daunting task of confronting the bureaucracy of state government, whether it's the DMV, Franchise Tax Board, getting a professional license, or a handgun purchase, it has been a relief knowing we could count on Anderson and his staff to advocate on our behalf in Sacramento.

For the last 12 years, Anderson served as a pillar of our community, maximizing his time in office to make government work for the people he serves, and if he continues his public service in the future we know he will continue to serve with distinction.


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