Back in office, Anthony Portantino clocked in for the first time and put forth a trio of bills in his first few hours as state Senator for California’s 25th District.
“It’s an honor to serve the communities that have been wonderful to me,” said Portantino, a former state Assemblyman who won a seat in the state Senate for the first time by defeating L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich in November.
“You get to work on issues you care about, you get to continue to learn more about the community you represent and I’m honored to be in a position where I can affect what is positive change,” added Portantino, a La Cañada Flintridge resident who previously served as the city’s mayor.
Following a special swearing-in ceremony earlier this month in Sacramento, Portantino proposed Senate Bill 23, which seeks to expand California’s Umbilical Blood Collection Program funding for a decade; SB 24, which would require more accurate financial disclosure from elected representatives; and SB 25, which could create an education model that includes community college in a comprehensive K-14 model.
While he was in the state Assembly, Portantino worked to pass a bill that helped establish and fund the California Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program. “Expanding that,” he said, “is very important to me.”
Prior to his legislation, 98% of cord blood was discarded as medical waste. Following the passage of the bill, UC Davis began collecting cord blood stem cells for public use. Umbilical cord blood is commonly used to cure leukemia and other blood-related diseases and is reported to be 100 times easier to match to a patient than bone marrow.
Portantino also wishes to see legislation that does more to prioritize community colleges.
“Right now we have K-12 and higher education, in two different silos,” Portantino said. “What I want to do is blend and institutionalize a K-14 education because the economy demands that we do more for our children. But the model we use goes back to when we were a farming and manufacturing economy; we never really changed or updated the education model itself. What I want to do is actually update the model to meet the needs of 2016 California.”
Portantino said he doesn’t yet have a sense of how the idea will be received by his fellow state Senators, but he believes it has enough support among educators that he’ll be able to build the necessary political coalition to pass the bill.
He also wants to see elected officials have to disclose more details about their wealth and investments. Under current rules, elected officials check a box disclosing the value of their income and investments that ranges from between $2,000 and $10,000; $10,000 and $100,000; $100,000 and $1 million and more than $1 million. Someone with an investment worth $1.1 million and someone else with an investment worth $15 million would check the same box.
Portantino’s bill would expand the categories to also include whether the value of an investment is worth between $1 million and $5 million, between $5 million and $10 million and more than $10 million.
A similar bill, also presented by Portantino, was vetoed in 2012 by Gov. Jerry Brown, who reportedly said then the current law was sufficient. Portantino thinks this time, the public is in the mood for more specifics from lawmakers.
“I think there’s a lot of focus on accountability and transparency,” Portantino said. “It’s important. We, as leaders, need to show that we’re transparent and accountable to the people.”
Portantino said he has plans to engage directly with some of the people in his district — which extends from Tujunga to Upland — at an upcoming open house at his local office in Glendale. Details are forthcoming, he said.
“California, being a large, diverse state, has very unique needs and strong political feelings,” he said. “But it also has very common needs. Most people want a good education, they want their education to have a path for success and they want to live in safe communities. I’m going to focus on those issues.”