Newly sworn-in Assemblyman Robert Rivas underscored the overwhelming but exciting nature of taking office in Sacramento.
“Obviously, it’s been a tremendous experience since Election Day,” Rivas said. “I have been just bombarded between Assembly trainings, meeting with my new colleagues in the legislature, meeting with Assembly staff, meeting with the speaker’s office. The whole transition had been really overwhelming, but certainly it’s an exciting time for me and my family.”
Rivas, a Democrat, defeated Republican Neil Kitchens to win the 30th Assembly seat representing San Benito, Santa Cruz County, Monterey County and southern Santa Clara County.
Among the interesting facts he’s learned, he said, is that he’s the first San Benito County supervisor elected to the state legislature since 1901 after having served eight years in his prior role. He also has experienced how every new Assembly member basically starts from scratch, such as putting together a staff, learning the ropes of the state capitol and laying the groundwork for prospective legislation.
“Some of my new Assembly colleagues have never held elected office,” he said. “They have expressed to me the overwhelming nature of this process. Even with my experience, it’s very challenging trying to identify your own staff and at the same time set your policy priorities and get your stuff in order.”
Fortunately for Rivas and others in the Assembly, relatively new term-limit laws allow one to serve a total of 12 years in either house of the legislature, as opposed to old rules limiting Assembly members to six years. That means he doesn’t necessarily have to run quite as much as he would have under the old rules.
“With the opportunity to serve all 12 years in one body, either the Assembly or the Senate, there’s not so much of a rush to get policy across the desk or submit bills,” Rivas said.
Still, Rivas mentioned how everybody can submit up to 50 bills in a legislative session and how he plans to put in his fair share of proposals.
Early on, he has “jumped on” in co-authoring Senate Bill 50 from Scott Wiener of San Francisco. That bill pushes for more housing near mass transit areas.
He’s also going to be a joint author of Assembly Bill 11 to bring back redevelopment agencies to local communities. He said he is particularly interested in investing redevelopment funds toward affordable housing. The agencies, called RDAs, were dissolved eight years ago due to fiscal mismanagement.
Some other topics he’s exploring for legislation include housing, healthcare and the environment. Assembly members have a Jan. 25 deadline to submit their bills.
“I really want to prioritize the very first bill I submit,” he said.
As for his his office, he hired Steve O’Mara as his chief of staff. O’Mara has previous political administration experience and recently worked for an education organization in Sacramento, Rivas said.
“We’re really fortunate to have him for our district,” Rivas said. “He has a tremendous amount of experience and I have a lot of trust in him. I think he and I are going to work well together.”
He said he’s eager to “work really hard” for the 30th District.
“This has been a tremendous experience,” he said. “I’m really excited. It was great to have my family with me in Sacramento.”