Kevin de León
The Honorable Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, has proven to be a tenacious leader that takes on powerful special interests on behalf of his diverse district and those marginalized in California’s economy.
With a focus on using the public-policy process to empower the least fortunate and voiceless, he has led a bold agenda to increase economic opportunity for all Californians focused on education, equity for women, immigrants and low-wage workers, public safety, and strongly maintaining the state’s leadership in building a clean-energy economy that benefits everyone.
Senator de León has authored groundbreaking legislation on a variety of issues that have become national models and exemplify his ambitious approach to policymaking. He employs this today as he leads the upper house in California’s legislature, making real progress on critical issues that stands in stark contrast to the U.S. Congress which stays mired in gridlock.
De León served four years in the Assembly before his election to the Senate in 2010. He is the first person in California history to serve as the Chair of the Appropriations committees in both the Assembly and Senate. In 2014 he became the first Latino elected leader of the Senate in over a century. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, later earning a degree with honors from Pitzer College. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California.
Leader on the Environment and Clean Energy
Last year, De León championed sweeping new standards that double energy efficiency in buildings statewide and set the largest state in the union on a path to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources, all by 2030. The debate over de Leon’s SB 350, the most far-reaching climate legislation in the country, created a serious public discussion on how to adequately address climate change and severe pollution while creating equitable access to clean energy.
Along these lines, De León has successfully directed more clean-energy investments to disadvantaged communities. His SB 535 (2012) requires the California Air Resources Board to spend at least 25 percent of cap-and-trade revenue to benefit low-income communities across California disproportionately impacted by pollution. This law is resulting in new transit, energy efficiency, renewable energy and affordable housing projects across the state.
Last year, with SB 1275, he created a rebate initiative to make electric cars more accessible to working families with the goal of placing one million low-emission vehicles on the roads.
In 2012, De León co-chaired the successful Proposition 39 campaign closing a corporate-tax loophole and creating a $2.5 billion revenue fund for energy-efficiency upgrades in schools.
Exemplifying his longtime commitment to increasing access to the environment, de León’s first legislative measure when he arrived in Sacramento allocated park funds for communities lacking parks and green space, resulting in 126 park projects across the state - the largest initiative of its kind in the nation.
Tackling pollution in his district, de León was instrumental in bring attention and accountability to the hazardous pollution caused by the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, which for years had operated illegally while contaminating nearby communities with lead, arsenic, and other toxins. de León has since secured millions of dollars for cleanup, while implementing oversight and reform measures at the Department of Toxic Substance Control to prevent similar future occurrences.
Senator de León’s record on the environment and energy has been studied by international leaders as they lay out their own steps to confront climate change and build clean-energy economies. Last year, de León led the California delegation to the U.N. Climate Talks in Peru and will be accompanying Governor Brown to Paris in December to showcase he latest landmark accomplishments.
Throughout his tenure in the legislature, De León has fought for sensible gun control. This year, he led the charge for the most stringent gun control policies in a generation, leading efforts to approve 11 measures, including his groundbreaking bill, SB 1235, which requires background checks for anyone who buys or sells ammunition. Governor Brown signed the bulk of the measures into law in early July 2016.
Voice for the Working Class
Senator de León negotiated with Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s unions to secure a $15 minimum wage in California, and then shepherded the legislation through both houses to the Governor’s desk. He fought to ensure the legislation was comprehensive and universal, opposing industry-specific and regional carve-outs that would have weakened the law.
In 2012, de León overcame powerful opposition from Wall Street to pass SB 1234 which created Secure Choice retirement-savings program for California’s private-sector low-income workers. Secure Choice is the first automatic IRA program of its kind in the nation and de León has worked with the White House and Labor Secretary to remove any federal legal barriers that could prevent California and other states that followed from fully implementing their programs.
Senator de León has also authored workers’ compensation reform that lowered insurance costs for businesses, while increasing workers’ benefits. De León also authored legislation that strengthens the Labor Commissioner’s authority in tackling the scourge of wage theft in cities across California - especially Los Angeles which has been dubbed the “Wage Theft Capital of the U.S.”
De León also negotiated the expansion of California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program, replacing the program’s lottery system with a process that quantifies job creation and economic benefits to the state’s economy.
At the start of his Senate career, De León led efforts that cleaned out corrupt governance in the city of Vernon and put in motion political reforms that have since created a real community and good neighbor to Los Angeles.
Leader on Immigration
Senator de León is a leading international voice on immigrant rights and proudly represents a district comprised of many different cultures and ethnicities. During his time in the legislature, he has facilitated numbers of immigration reform laws that together have been recognized as a model for the nation. In 2013, de León brokered a compromise with Governor Jerry Brown to ensure signage of a law which allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, gain access to insurance, and step out of the shadow economy.
This year, he led a bicameral coalition to sponsor legislation that addresses lapses in our justice and labor systems creating serious challenges for the California’s immigrant community, including stronger wage theft laws, securing u-visas from law enforcement, and providing healthcare for undocumented children. Before joining the Legislature, De León taught citizenship courses to immigrants and led opposition to 1994’s Proposition 187, a voter-approved statewide initiative that denied government services to undocumented immigrants.
In 2014, his bill to prevent sexual assault on college campuses was first law in the nation to require affirmative consent, earning him the recognition from Marie Claire last year as one of the “ten biggest supporters of women’s right in U.S. government.” Ms. Magazine selected his “yes means yes” measure as the most significant legislative victory on behalf of women for 2014.
This year, he followed up with legislation that requires public high schools teaching health education classes to include sexual assault prevention in their curricula. He also authored legislation this year that would make significant investments in child care with a focus on empowering women in the workforce. The state budget resulted with new funding for thousands of more slots for subsidized child care.
Running the Senate
In his first year leading the Senate, de León has empowered his caucus members to take on big and bold legislation that truly shape the policy conversation in the State Capitol. The Senate continues to prove why California’s legislature is the nation’s R&D center for common-sense and forward-thinking policies (Read full Senate Democrats accomplishments here). Senator de León also strengthened the Senate’s oversight functions with an unprecedented amount of hearings on the operations, effectiveness, and failures of government departments, agencies, and programs. To increase transparency and public participation in the legislative process, de León implemented video of all hearings to be livestreamed and archived online for the first time.
Negotiating the Budget
In two years serving as the Senate’s lead in negotiating the budget, De León has secured critical investments that strengthen the bookends of a student’s educational career, pushing for new investments in childcare and higher education. Under Senator de León’s leadership, California has added over 20,000 additional slots for California students in the University of California and the California State University. In 2016, he also championed the “No Place Like Home” initiative, an innovative and ambitious proposal to address homelessness in California by securing $2 billion in bond financing for construction and rehabilitation of permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless Californians suffering from mental illness. Both budgets during his tenure as Senate leader have been delivered on time, provided protective reserves, payed down debt, provided relief funding for the drought, and wisely invested in children and working families.
As leader of the Senate, Pro Tem De Leόn also serves as Chair of the Rules Committee, which is responsible for the vetting of Governor’s appointments that are subject to confirmation by the Senate. This role also provides additional opportunity for the oversight of Administration activities, as the confirmation process allows for the review and evaluation of state agencies, departments, and boards and commissions.