Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Marina del Rey, has only been in office since December, but she's already amassed a list of accomplishments. Over the past two months, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law six bills introduced by Butler, including , and measures intended to encourage electric-vehicle use and protect seniors from abuse.
Now, following in California, Butler—who currently represents the 53rd District— in the new , which includes Santa Monica. Some Butler supporters have asked her to run instead in the new 66th District, which includes Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes.
Butler recently spoke with Santa Monica Patch about why she's running in the 50th District instead of the 66th, what can be done about California's crumbling education system, and why is cause for concern.
Santa Monica Patch: Why are you in the race for the 50th Assembly District and not 66th?
Betsy Butler: The 66th is a more conservative part of Los Angeles, and it's become more conservative now that Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates are integrated. I only got elected because of Venice and Marina del Rey. If you take [them] out, then my perspectives in the 66th are not what the voters want. I'm not going to run where [the voters'] beliefs are not my beliefs.
With the 50th, I've been very active on a lot of issues that are key to this area: equal rights for the LGBT community and women; I've been involved with Democratic Party community; [pushed for] access for education to all. I've also thought outside the box and [fought for] green-industry investment.
Patch: How do you respond to critics who say Democrats may not be able to reach a two-thirds majority with you running in the 50th instead of the 66th?
Butler: It's really nice that there was a petition, however 221 votes doesn't really make that big of a difference, considering I won with 23,000 votes.
Patch: Have you decided where you're going to relocate to in the 50th District?
Butler: Probably to the Santa Monica area, but I am still considering the location.
Patch: What makes you more qualified than the other candidates in the race for AD 50?
Butler: I've been in public service since I was 24, and it's always been my desire to do well and make lives better for people—which is what government is about. Being able to respond to and serve people's needs is an honor.
Patch: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishments in the Assembly so far?
Butler: Earlier this year, [State Senator] Joe Simitian got through the renewable portfolio standards, but we didn't get the [Bisphenol-A] ban and plastic-bag bans passed. I said that, when I get into office, I'll take one of those issues and do it. [Ed. note: The Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, authored by Butler, bans BPAs in baby products.]
Patch: What are California's top three priorities?
Butler: Jobs/ economic security, education and transportation. We really have to look at how we use transportation and spend time on the road. I'm a big believer in .
Education and public safety are key and paramount to any state, so we have to find revenue sources for education. Members of the business community should be concerned that our kids aren't being educated.
We need to get more public/private partnerships involved. [For example,] at Da Vinci Schools [college-preparatory public charter schools in Los Angeles], Northrup [Grumman] has put in $1 million for computer bays, so [students] can learn how to apply their computer skills. And Northrup employees go there and help the kids. [We need more of] that type of commitment.
When you involve kids at that level when they're doing something they may want to do, they're more excited about it. We need to stop having teachers to teach to pass the test and [start having] kids analyze what they want to do when they get out of high school.
Patch: What can be done to solve California's economic woes?
Butler: I believe this governor is going to be very pragmatic. We need to look at how we incarcerate people, how we educate people—these things are all intertwined. We need to look at really funding education and maybe [implementing] an oil-extraction fee. It didn't pass recently in Beverly Hills, so getting it through the state level might be difficult, but this governor might be able to build some bridges.
Patch: What about cuts to community colleges like ?
Butler: Our tremendous education system is out of whack. If students can't get into the [University of California] system, they're going to go into the community-college system. And if [prospective] employees can't get into community colleges, they can't be hired. We've got to restore education for all these different levels.
Patch: How would you help Santa Monica specifically?
Butler: We have to make sure that, environmentally, we stay a viable destination. Tourism is very important. We should never have offshore oil drilling. We need to [pay attention to] what [debris] comes to the beach from other cities in L.A., and work with other partners throughout the state to make sure our oceans and beaches are clean.
Patch: Do you support shutting down Santa Monica Airport?
Butler: I definitely think that the [flight] school is fairly dangerous and [something] that the residents didn't really bargain for. The dynamics of the airport have with the flight school and the number of jets coming in, it's definitely having an impact on the residents. I feel for those residents: It's loud and bad for the environment as well. I'd love to be a part of that reconsideration of who's going to the airport and how often.
Patch: What do you like most about Santa Monica?
Butler: It's a great place to live and work. I've spent a lot of time at all our entertainment establishments. I used to ride the bike path every other day. We are very lucky here.
I like the 's Day of the Child for underprivileged kids. Heal the Bay always has nice events.
I love the 50th [District]. I've spent a lot of time in it, from West Hollywood to the coast, and am really honored to represent L.A.
This interview has been edited and condensed.