In state representative Mariko Yamada’s first year representing the 8th District, five of the seven bills the Democrat authored were signed by the governor. Only two were vetoed.
Formerly a member of Yolo County’s Board of Supervisors, Yamada now represents an area that includes portions of Solano and Yolo counties and Benicia, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville, West Sacramento, Winters and Woodland.
She was also named 2009’s “Legislator of the Year” by the Solano County Child Abuse Prevention Council.
The awards ceremony was held on Oct. 27 in Fairfield. Yamada was nominated by local community members, for both her votes on legislation of interest to the Child Abuse Prevention Council and her willingness to stand up for certain vulnerable populations.
She also was a strong advocate for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass’s AB 1422, the “Healthy Families Act.” The legislation restored $196 million of funding to the California Healthy Families Program, saving 650,000 children from being cut from the program.
Yamada volunteered with the Children’s Network last year for their Earned Income Tax Credit workshops in Vacaville. This year she is an official Community Partner for the workshop. These workshops help struggling families receive all state and federal tax credits for which they are eligible.
Yamada said all of these honors and successes were not something she was expecting as a first-year legislator.
“The honor not only goes to me, but to my staff,” Yamada said. “They are deserving of the recognition, and I’m simply their messenger. By all accounts, this was one of the most difficult years in Sacramento anyone has seen, so these successes are even more rewarding.”
Chief Deputy to Yamada for the past five years, Andrea Jones, knows her well.
“She’s a great advocate,” Jones said. “Also, as a former social worker, she’s not one to shy away from justice.”
Another one of Yamada’s focuses is college students.
Yamada was one of the leaders who supported UC-employed Sodexho workers in 2008 in their fight for fair wages, affordable health care and better working conditions.
“[Yamada] has always been vocal about unfair fee increases for students,” Jones said. “She also has spoken out about unrealistic costs of living for students.”
Yamada also said her bills support college students’ aging grandparents by removing many burdens in the aging population’s lives.
One of the bills signed, AB 76, extends funding of the insurance fraud investigation program.
AB 292 extends the time period for the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorder Research Fund state income tax form check-off. She says she is proud of the protection provided to consumers by her legislation.
AB 647 requires the DMV to lift its consumer access restrictions to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. Consumers can check the history of used cars they buy by paying a small fee to the state rather than a more expensive fee to sites like carfax.com.
AB 1093 clarifies that a workers’ compensation claim cannot be denied based solely on a perpetrator’s hatred of a victim’s personal characteristics – such as race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
Yamada has also made environmental strides.
AB 1165 is a “clean up” bill from the 2007 flood legislation. It reforms the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, formerly know as the “Reclamation Board.”
Even though Yamada’s AB 1228, which would have brought all vote-by-mail ballots to Yolo County, was vetoed, Jones still sees the positive in Yamada’s work.
“She had the courage to bring that legislation forward,” Jones said. “She knew there would be a really large resistance to changing the way elections are conducted.”
In the governor’s official veto bill, he explained his reasoning for rejecting this legislation.
“Under the provisions of this bill, one polling place would be open per city,” Schwarzenegger said. “This limit would significantly increase the distance needed to travel to vote in-person. This burden would fall disproportionately on those who are less mobile, frequently the poor, disabled and elderly. I cannot support a measure that would make it more difficult for these individuals to exercise their right to vote.”
AB 369 would have delivered federal dollars for Adult Day Health Care centers that assist elderly and disabled veterans was also vetoed by the governor, under the grounds that it is premature and too expensive.
Yamada is upbeat about her district and the state’s future.
“It’s been a great privilege to represent the 8th district,” Yamada said. “Next year, I’ll work doubly hard to make sure people’s voices are heard in the halls of the capital.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.