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Six Months in Sacramento

It seems like only yesterday that I took the oath of office to represent the Mother Lode region and the rest of the vast Fifth Assembly District in the Legislature. But time flies as the end of May marked six months in office for me as your Assemblyman. The big-city folks who work at the State Capitol are finally getting used to seeing a guy with a ranch hat walk among them.

It’s been great to have the opportunity to visit with you at events like the Mother Lode Parade and Round Up, and recognize local residents who are making a difference. One resident who I was proud to honor with an Assembly resolution was Coach Rick Francis of Sonora High School, who recently retired after 42 years of coaching.

Recently, I also had the opportunity to visit with leaders from the Tuolumne County School Board. As we toured some of our local schools, I had the chance to meet with some of our region’s finest teachers who are doing such a great job in preparing our kids for the future. Each of them talked about the importance of protecting classroom dollars in these tough budget times and ensuring that rural schools like ours receive their fair share of state dollars.

These have been my priorities as your voice at the State Capitol. Earlier this year, I joined with Senator Tom Berryhill in co-authoring Assembly Joint Resolution 9, to urge Congress to reauthorize the federal Secure Rural Schools Act. This program provides critical dollars for rural school transportation and safe roads to schools.

In our neck of the woods, honoring one’s word means something. Last November, the voters of California approved Proposition 30 to protect education funding from budget cuts, but there were no ironclad guarantees to protect this new revenue for our students. I have been working with my fellow Republicans to ensure that these dollars go to education as promised.

Governor Brown has also recently proposed changing the way that local schools receive their funding. While I support the intent of providing more funding to our schools based on their needs, I am concerned that rural schools could be shortchanged in favor of big city schools in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to our kids.

Another issue that I have heard from you about is curbing livestock theft, which has increased in recent years due to the rise in value of livestock. As a family rancher, I know firsthand just how big a problem livestock is for our ag economy. To help stop this, I have proposed Assembly Bill 924 to give law enforcement new tools such as limiting probation for repeat offenders and increasing penalties. The state has neglected this crime for too long and it is time the Legislature does something about it.

I am also very concerned about rural health care in the Mother Lode region. Recently, I had the chance to tour Sonora Regional Medical Center and saw firsthand the life-saving work being done every day by the doctors and nurses. To protect funding for rural health care, I have joined with Democrats and Republicans in co-authoring Assembly Bill 900, which will restore budget cuts made to the Medi-Cal program.

As the Legislature considers the Governor’s budget proposal and thousands of bills, I will continue to fight hard for our shared values. With six months of Assembly experience now under my belt, I look forward to doing even more for our fellow citizens in the weeks to come.

Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, represents the 5th Assembly District in the California Legislature.