Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

Passion and Policy in California: Interview with California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

Passion and Policy in California: Interview with California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez

Article excerpt

Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-46th District) was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002 and sworn in as the state's 66th Speaker on 9 February 2004.

Last year, he presided over what the 31 August 2006 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle called "... one of the most productive legislative sessions in decades."

In previous legislative sessions, Nunez authored bills to curb pollution, aid small business, help the homeless, discourage predatory lending, improve working conditions for hotel attendants, and offer solutions to California's long-term energy needs. As Speaker, Nunez has pushed for tough consumer protections for car buyers, a state minimum wage increase, the halting of offshoring of California jobs, the expansion of affordable health insurance to children, and affordable prescription drugs.

Last year, the Speaker worked to pass the nation's first legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California industries. Other legislation he crafted will encourage cable television competition and launch major investments in California's infrastructure. Also, as a University of California regent, he has fought for more transparency and accountability in compensation practices.

Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Nunez was government affairs director for the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2000 to 2002. In this capacity, he tackled a broad range of education issues and secured millions of dollars in funding for school construction projects, children's health insurance, and low-performing schools. From 1996 to 2000, he served as political director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Nunez, age thirty-nine, earned bachelor's of arts degrees in political science and education from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. He resides in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Maria, have three children: Esteban, seventeen, Teresa, fifteen, and Carlos, six.

Alejandra Campoverdi conducted the interview 19 January 2007. Originally from Santa Monica, CA, Campoverdi will receive a master's in public policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008. She previously worked for the California Endowment, focusing on grants to organizations in the San Francisco Bay area and the Agricultural Worker Health Initiative.

HJHP

Thank you for taking the time to interview with us today. What is the unique role that you see for yourself as a Latino in policy making, and do you feel that being a Latino influences your policy-making priorities?

Nunez

I see myself as being one of a lucky breed of young Latinos that was able to reach an elected job in a critical period of time, but I also see myself as someone who is probably representative of the first generation of Latino "electeds" who have a certain level of influence, who are not viewed simply as Latinos.

I think that's a very important development--to be able to govern for everyone. And people don't look at us and say, "Well, you're a Latino Speaker." You're the Speaker, and you have just as much responsibility as any other Speaker. People don't have to question how authentic your interest is in serving all of California, and in my case, the 46th District. As the Speaker, my responsibilities are statewide.

HJHP

According to the California Latino Demographic Databook Web site, in 2005 more than a third of all Californians were Latino. What do you see as the effect of this growing population on policy making?

Nunez

I think this population trend that we have experienced in California will continue to spiral upward for Latinos in terms of the demographic makeup of the state. I think it's significant, but it presents a lot of challenges as well. On the one hand, there are some opportunities. For example, the more Latinos who live in California, the more acceptable the Latino culture is in the mainstream. …

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