Yes, I Vote
Editor - I never gave much thought to Woody Allen's saying that "80 percent of success is showing up," until I was in one of California's toughest and most expensive primaries for state Assembly. During that campaign, votes I made on the Board of Supervisors were taken out of context and misleading attacks landed in voters' mailboxes.
Yet, for me, not voting was never an option in local government. As a member of the Assessment Appeals Board, and then as a San Francisco supervisor, I've always cast a "yes" or "no" vote. My votes earned me supporters and detractors, but everyone knew where I stood. As a result, The Chronicle endorsed my campaign, and more than 30,000 Democrats supported me because of this experience, figuring it was better to know where someone stands, even if you don't always agree.
In the Assembly, nearly all Democrats vote "aye" on the vast majority of bills presented to the Assembly. But it's not just approving legislation that matters. I have voted "no" on legislation supported by powerful interests when the public interest matters. Last June, I was called to jury service, but I completed my civic duty and drove two hours back to the Capitol to vote. As it turned out, I was one of just nine votes against the gambling expansion deals that denied casino workers the right to organize.
Yet, the Assembly's breakneck pace and inflexible deadlines create a perfect storm for missing votes. The Chronicle printed out that I missed a vote to protect consumer privacy. Last year, I earned a 100 percent score from the Consumer Federation of California because of my pro-consumer voting record and I voted in favor of the bill: AB 3011, which requires cell phone companies to get customer permission to share private information. When the first votes were tallied, however, I was attending to other duties. Since the measure did not secure the needed votes right away, it was put "on call," meaning that the author could bring it up later. When Assembly Member Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, took his bill "off call" I voted "aye."
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass is taking meaningful steps to reform this process by ensuring that legislators are present when votes are cast. As a member of the Assembly leadership, I accept responsibility for recent events and pledge to use my position to urge real change. I am proud to support Speaker Bass in her process to better define and consistently enforce the rules.
I trust that together, Assembly Democrats and Republicans will work on a bipartisan basis to improve the Assembly's practices. I also invite readers to share their thoughts through my Web site at www.fionama.com, where I will be sure to post my ongoing efforts and the results of the Assembly's collective work to restore the public's trust.
Assemblywoman FIONA MA