Making Democracy Work

Interview with Assemblymember Evan Low

Interview with Evan Low, Assembly District 28, on February 16, 2018

Participants: Wendy Hendry, Eleanor Yick, Barbara Lee, Karen Nelson, Roberta Holliman and Rosaleen Zisch

Q1: Money Bail Reform:
Currently, release pending trial is based on an arrestee's capacity to post money bail. Do you support legislative changes to a risk-assessment based system, so that release is contingent on preventing violence in the community, rather the arrestee's finances?

Yes, Assemblyman Low resoundingly supports the use of a risk-assessment based system rather than bail so that release is contingent on preventing violence in the community rather than the arrestee's finances. His belief is that, "Justice should not be determined by one's socio-economic status." Although he voted in support of AB 42, a sister bill to SB 10, and it was supported by a Supreme Court Justice, there were some problems with the language in the bill. In particular, the language would have prevented a judge from considering an arrestee's prior record. The governor, who is not usually so directly involved in the legislature, is actively engaged in this legislation and extended it to 2018 for reconsideration. Assemblyman Low requested that the League stay aware of and be involved in this legislation and when it comes to the floor again, please send emails and letters of support. They do make a difference.

This question led to a discussion of the very recent, horrific gun violence in a Florida high school. Assemblyman Low pointed out that during the first 45 days of 2018, there were 18 school shootings. It is very difficult for elected officials to take on the NRA and successfully enact gun legislation. He is very proud of two bills that he has sponsored:

AB1968: stipulates that any person who has been placed on a 5150 psychiatric hold twice in a calendar year would be prohibited from purchasing or owning a gun for life. The individual could still petition the court for a hearing to have his or her firearms returned. AB 2781: mandatory ballistics testing of casings and firearms used in a crime. The Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen supports this bill. While this bill would not have prevented the Florida incident, it still would provide law enforcement with better information in order to solve violent crimes. Again when this bill gets submitted, the League should be involved and actively sending emails and letters of support.

Assemblyman Low supports legislation that will help to "create a movement" to address gun violence. He talked about the idea of a "compact" between/among neighboring states supporting gun legislation that could spread across the country. This could be a better approach rather than expecting or waiting for Federal legislation to address it.

Q2: CEQA Reform:
What is your view regarding the use of CEQA to delay affordable housing projects? While recent legislative changes have streamlined the CEQA process for in-fill projects, do you think other legislative changes to CEQA are needed?

YES + CEQA, as currently written, does need to be reformed. While recent legislation has streamlined the process for in-fill housing development, more reforms are needed while still protecting environmental issues. As currently written, CEQA has been frequently used to delay or prevent affordable housing projects.. Lack of affordable housing is at a crisis stage in CA right now and must be addressed. Modifying CEQA could definitely help with the development of affordable and low income housing.

Q3: Sea Level Rise:
We need a regional, coordinated effort of several state agencies. And since the threat is swift in terms of typical infrastructure projects, we need to coordinate now. What is the path forward to assure continuity of infrastructure as we approach 2050 and beyond? What can be done legislatively?

Assemblyman Low agrees that we need a regional, coordinated effort of several state agencies to address sea level rise, with a focus on coordinated efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In addition to mitigation efforts, we need to make adaptations and address sea level rise in a coordinated effort. Can this be done legislatively + yes, if there is the will. The path forward should focus on renewable energy, solar, and infrastructure like high speed rail and charging stations. For those who still do not believe in climate change, use science and data to convince them it's real. Attempt interstate compacts to reduce carbon emissions. When the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement, California stepped in.

Q4: Local League Question

A.Do you support more transparency in government and the Disclose Act.

Yes, he supported the legislation that requires more disclosure on ads. He has also submitted a bill that bans signature gatherers on ballot issues from being paid per signature. Currently, many are paid per signature, which creates an incentive to mislead voters for their signatures. He feels that is an abuse of the system but difficult to not only legislate but also enforce. There might be a legal issues re: free speech so the proposed legislation still allows the signature gatherers to be paid hourly or by the job. But, bottomline, signers need to be aware of who is being paid to gather signature, how they are being paid, and who is paying them.

Assemblyman Low also authored successful legislation (AB765) that prohibits local initiative proponents, like the ones in Campbell that forced a special election, from timing their initiatives to force stand alone special elections that suffer from low and underrepresented turnout.

B. Do you support a Single Health Payer System and why don't you support SB562.

Philosophically, Assemblyman Low supports a Single Payer Health Care but is concerned about how it would or could be implemented. Even if California passed this legislation, there is great uncertainty about how the federal government would react. Without the needed federal financial support, California would have difficulty financially supporting the program. He also feels choice of healthcare is important to many and would need to be addressed. We also need to be aware of how it will impact large HMO's like Kaiser? He posed the question + how do we move in that direction? He feels California is being targeted at the Federal level re: healthcare, immigration and cannabis. California could be and should be a role model but it's a very complex issue. The legislation is currently on hold. Q5: General question: 
What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2018? What are your personal priorities?

One of Assemblymember Low's priorities for the year is voting rights and civic participation. In addition to banning paying per-signature, Assemblymember Low has introduced AB 2165, which would create an Election Day holiday in California each year in which a statewide or national election is held.

Assemblymember Low has also introduced a package of three bills to fight the growing opioid epidemic in our country. While California as a whole has not been the hardest hit, many rural counties in the state have some of the highest overdose rates in the country. The three bills address the overprescription, diversion, and abuse of prescription drugs like opioids. A related bill, AJR 27, condemns Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his crusade against legalized cannabis, which diverts scarce public safety resources away from addressing the opioid epidemic.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, Assemblymember Low has two bills focused on firearm safety. AB 1968 would restrict firearm possession for people at risk of harming themselves or others, while AB 2781 would harness the power of existing technology and systems to quickly solve gun crimes and identify crime gun shooters.

Interview with Evan Low, Assembly District 28, on February 17, 2017

Participants: Southwest Santa Clara Valley: Eleanor Yick (lead), Meg Giberson, Wendy Hendry (recorder); Santa Clara/San Jose: Trudy LaFrance, Judy Chamberlin, Barbara Freitas; Sunnyvale-Cupertino: Tracey Edwards

QUESTION 1: FUNDING OF ELECTIONS What legislative measures would you support to ensure adequate and stable funding of election administration in California?

Assemblymember Evan Low is very active in supporting measures to increase voter access. As Chair of the California Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, he introduced a package of bills recently to improve voter participation, eliminate barriers to voting, and fight back against those who seek to deny Californians their voting rights. One of his bills supports the idea of making election day a holiday. Another supports prepaid postage on all mail in ballots. Another bill he is introducing lowers the voter age to 17. He stated, "California has the strongest voter accessibility in the books." He also shared that he was shocked and dismayed to hear President Donald Trump continue to make irresponsible and unfounded allegations about widespread voter fraud in California when there is no evidence for such a claim....a claim which undermines our democracy.

Regarding inconsistencies in voting procedures and funding between counties in our state, Assemblymember Low explained that it was differences of opinion regarding local control and state control that were at the heart of this issue. "Each county has its own system in place," he said, adding that state versus local control is a complex and challenging issue.

Passionate about the importance of voting, Assemblymember Low stated he would be a champion for any measure to support adequate and stable funding for our state election process. He shared with us the sad fact that in 2014 only 25% of California eligible voters cast a ballot. His goal is to take down barriers to voting and to streamline and improve the process.

QUESTION 2: PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION How can California meet the challenge of enrolling more students, including students with greater needs at the UC and CSU? Is more state funding needed? Where does this issue run in your legislative priorities?

Assemblymember Low emphasized that he, as a former community college instructor, has a passion for higher education. He has been a member of the State Assembly Committee on Higher Education since his initial year in the office. In terms of increasing access, he shared how "time to completion" strongly impacts access. The fact that only nine percent of San Jose State students graduate in four years, not only increases cost, but also limits space available for other students. Time to completion at the Community College and University levels has also increased. One of the reasons for this problem is that courses aren't offered when or where needed and this delays students from graduating. Tuition and housing costs also continue to increase. Obviously, more funding is needed, but how to acquire the funding is, in his opinion, the critical issue. He discussed the need for more certainty and less fluctuation in state revenue. One possible solution being discussed in Sacramento would be to restructure the current sales tax by lowering it and instituting a tax across the board on all goods and services purchased. "To keep kicking the can down the road is not a solution," he concluded.

Assemblymember Low was made aware of and given a copy of the recently completed LWVC Study of Public Higher Education in California. When asked if he would support an increase in the number of Community Colleges being able to offer four year degrees, he answered in the affirmative. This would certainly increase access for many students because the student would be able to live at home and wouldn't incur increased transportation costs.

QUESTION 3: WATER RESOURCES What kind of legislative proposals would you support to ensure that enough water of adequate quality is available for municipal and industrial uses, agriculture, and environment in the face of over-stretched surface water and groundwater resources and climate conditions different than those California experienced in the last century?

Assemblymember Low began his answer to this question by referring to the recent Oroville Dam disaster which made us all aware of the importance of the infrastructure. Again, funding is needed to improve our state's infrastructure. The question he and fellow legislators face is how to determine the fairest ways to increase the revenue stream for the state. This increase in revenues is needed to ensure that the repair of this infrastructure takes priority. He is aware of other state committees such as Natural Resources and Parks and Wildlife discussing infrastructure issues, but he is not a member of these committees.


Assemblymember Low stated that he is most concerned with the initiative process which he sees as an "abuse of the system." This initiative process leads to special elections which are quite costly. He cited the recent initiative in Campbell to allow several medical marijuana dispensaries even right next to residences, and to allow growing of a large amount of marijuana in private homes for "personal use". Because proponents forced this into a special election, this initiative alone costs the taxpayers $700,000. It also is likely to have far lower and less representative turnout than a general election. He is introducing a bill which will consolidate special elections into the regular election cycle unless the local governing body decided the matter was sufficiently urgent to merit a special election.