It’s not easy being a “Valleycrat,” as Assembly Member Adam Gray of Merced learned the hard way last week.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a Valleycrat is a Democrat from the San Joaquin Valley whose political beliefs are more conservative than party members from coastal California. Valleycrats often focus on pragmatic solutions to thorny problems and try to stick up for their constituents.
The rub comes when sticking up for constituents — or even voting your conscience — puts you at odds with the liberal Democratic leadership that runs the Legislature.
You can end up in the infamous “doghouse,” the smallest office in the Capitol, as happened to then-Assembly Member Juan Arambula in 2006. Arambula’s sin was not voting on a public works bond package because it did not include money for dams. Arambula bolted the party and became an Independent.
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Another Valleycrat, then-Assembly Member Nicole Parra of Hanford, was ordered from her office in 2008 as punishment for bucking the party on a budget vote. Karen Bass, the Speaker at the time, was so mad she assigned Parra space across the street in a building where no other lawmakers were quartered.
But we digress.
Gray was dismissed from the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee by Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego after his Assembly Bill 1242 passed its first committee vote April 14. A member of Atkins’ staff told The Modesto Bee it was a routine reassignment. Don’t you believe it.
AB 1242 is important to the Valley. Basically, it anticipates the demands expected from the State Water Resources Control Board that more water be left in rivers for the benefit of fish and downstream users. AB 1242 would require the state to recognize the potential harm of these demands and take steps to mitigate that damage.
Understand: The expectation was that Gray’s bill wouldn’t make it out of committee. But AB 1242 passed despite long odds, largely because at least two dozen people from Modesto and Merced cared enough to attend the vote and testify about its importance. Dozens of others submitted letters explaining the impact the state’s expected water grab will have on farming and residents.
Atkins should not believe for a second that the Valley will sit quietly while she tries to silence our voices with her childish party games. Give her a taste of Valley straight talk by email, http://asmdc.org/speaker/, phone (916) 319-2078, Twitter @toniatkins, or in writing State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849; Sacramento, CA 94249-0078.
Removing a sitting Assembly Member — in this case Gray — from the committee he specifically asked for and has served on since arriving in the Assembly is a dramatic and symbolic gesture. Such treatment is usually reserved for criminals.