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Ed Chau, Assembly Member, District-49

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My Legislative journey 

“Walking on thin ice while not forgetting the Mission”

In 2012, with the trust of the voters, I was fortunate to be elected to serve as the Assembly Member for the 49th district. After 9 years of service, I'd like to reflect upon my journey in the California Legislature.

For the past 9 years, under the leadership of (former) Governor Jerry Brown and (current) Governor Gavin Newsom, members of the Legislature (mostly Democratic) have balanced the state budget, eliminated waste, raised reasonable tax where needed, and turned the state's deficit posture into a substantial surplus with a "rainy day" fund, which has become critical in cushioning some of the carnage caused by the pandemic and wildfires.

One of the unique characteristics about the 49th assembly district is that it's the first majority Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs’) electoral district in California and the Continental United States, with 54 percent of the population comprised of APIs’.  Being a first generation Chinese American who’s familiar with the culture and language, I might also be considered the epitome of some of my constituency's makeup.  Since I took office, my biggest desire as a member of the Democratic Party (which makes up a super-majority of the Legislature), was to fight for my constituents and to voice their concerns.  I wanted to help them understand the political process, become a bridge and conduit to the mainstream, to promote harmony among all cultures, enhance mutual respect, and to help secure the resources for them to succeed in life.  When building consensus, challenges and fights were oftentimes inevitable, testing my political acumen, which I describe as "Walking on Thin Ice".

( 179 legislative Bills proposed, 80 became Law )

In the last 9 years, I introduced a total of 179 legislative proposals (bills). Of those bills, 80 of them passed and were signed into law.  Most of my bills (well over 95%) received support from both my Democratic and Republican colleagues, making them “bi-partisan” bills. The bills encompassed quality-of-life issues, such as health care, housing, education, environment, public safety, transportation, labor, technology, data privacy, and small businesses-related. 

In June of 2021, I was appointed by the Speaker to serve as the Assistant Majority Leader, thus becoming a member of the Assembly Leadership team. 

Previously, as the Chairperson of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, I had focused on, and introduced a large number of bills in that area, including laws that would protect children's privacy, data protection, prevent hacking, and safeguard against identity thefts. For example, in 2018, I authored and passed a historic bill, AB375 (CCPA), which gives California consumers significant rights and control over their personal information, and provides a limited private right of action for data breaches.  The law, which became effective in 2020, completely changed the landscape about how personal information is collected or shared by a business.  The bill received attention not only in the U.S. but other parts of the world.  The landmark law is the strongest Privacy law in the nation to date.  In 2019, I passed AB1202, which requires data brokers who secretly collect and sell personal information to publicly register with the Attorney General’s office annually so that consumers would know who’s collecting their private information.  In 2021, I passed AB1391 to prohibit the sale and purchase of hacked data. In addition, I passed AB2828 to require data breach notice to be given if the encryption key was compromised.

California is at the forefront of technology and innovation. As the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Emerging Technology and Innovation, I convened numerous hearings on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Facial Recognition, Drones, mobile applications, and Internet of Things (IOT) and 5G technology. I also introduced legislative proposals in such areas. Throughout the 9 years, I provided bi-lingual reports of my work to the various media outlets. I'd like to thank them for covering and publishing those reports and briefings.

( Legislation of interest to the API community )

Over the years, there have been several issues that are of particular interest to the API community.  Soon after I took office, a senate colleague introduced a bill, SCA5 (Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5, more commonly known as the bill to repeal Affirmative Action in higher education and employment). After the bill passed the state Senate with 2/3 votes, it was sent to the state Assembly, which also required the same 2/3 majority to pass. At the time, an avalanche of opposition came from the API community. I witnessed about 500 protesters outside my office opposing the bill. As a representative of the district, I publicly stated that I would not vote for SCA5. The bill did not proceed or pass that year. In 2020, a similar bill, ACA5 (Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5), was introduced. I did not vote for the bill when it was presented in the Assembly floor.  Yet, the bill received the required 2/3 votes in both houses in the legislature and went on to appear in the November 2020 ballot for all California voters to decide, which ultimately went down in defeat. This is part of the democratic process in action, and a good example of how we can participate in the political process (i.e. to vote). 

In recent years, due to upticks in local crimes, much discussion has centered around Prop 47 and Prop 57.  These laws (Proposition 47, Proposition 57), and the law legalizing the use of recreational marijuana (Proposition 63), were all "Initiatives", ultimately voted on and passed by the voters throughout the State of California, NOT by the California legislature.    

Yet, due to the potential harms caused by marijuana (cannabis) to children, I introduced AB76 and AB3067 (in 2017 & 2018) to prohibit websites and apps from marketing marijuana products to children. I also introduced AB175 to prescribe labeling of cannabis products to prevent children from purchasing them. In 2019, I passed AB397 dealing with marijuana-drunk driving. To address some of the issues purportedly caused by Prop 47 and 57, I also introduced AB3011 (2018) and AB1772 (2019) to allow “aggregation” of multiple crimes of petty theft (under $950) into a charge of grand theft, in an attempt to close the loophole around individuals committing multiple smaller crimes to avoid being prosecuted under more serious criminal laws.

( Acknowledging API Contributions and Struggles )

In 2016, I introduced AB2864 to honor the Chinese workers who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, as well as to remind all of us about the discrimination faced by the Chinese as a result of the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.  My legislation would require the State to consider including these histories in our school textbooks so that students would learn about them.  Despite some obstacles faced in a policy committee, including the opposition from the committee chair and a Senator with ties to the Chinese community, I persisted. The bill dramatically “squeezed by” the committee with the absence of another senator on the day of the hearing, and it ultimately passed the legislature and was signed into law. This law will now enable our next generations of young people to get educated about the Chinese American experience. After the bill was signed into law, the ethnic media, including CCTV in China, reported the bill on TV, press and social media. 

( Language Access )

To address the issue of language barrier faced by new immigrants, I also introduced AB2370 (in 2014), AB389 and AB1443 (in 2015), to provide better language access for the newer immigrants in the contexts of court interpreters, hospital services and public elections.

( Small Business Owners )

There are many small businesses in the 49th district, a substantial number of them are owned by first generation immigrants, many are not familiar with the local laws or have language barriers, resulting in having their legal rights and entitled benefits deprived.  In 2017, I introduced and passed AB1583 to educate business owners on how to avoid violating Prop 65, California's labeling law, and to help reduce frivolous lawsuits.  In 2021, I continued such efforts by introducing AB693 to allow businesses to rectify violations of labeling issues, to require the court to approve settlement agreements of Prop 65 lawsuits, as well as requiring the potential plaintiffs to provide proof of violations early on to avoid protracted litigation and attorney fees.

In 2018, an article in the World Journal caught my attention. A Chinese business owner wanted to re-model his business so he applied for a permit. A government inspector showed up with a contractor who (after the official departed) told the business owner, that he (the contractor) could do the job and implied that he would guarantee issuance of the permit by the government. The business owner begrudgingly agreed to use the contractor despite his price being much higher than what the owner was previously quoted by another contractor.

In 2018, I introduced and passed AB2485 to prohibit government officials (e.g. inspectors) to be accompanied by contractors who may have a financial interest in the project. This was to weed out potential unequal treatments and potential corruptions. In 2015, I introduced AB758 to help raise the educational standards of Acupuncture schools, and in 2019, I introduced and passed AB775 to help streamline the application approval process for massage schools and to notify students of their (un)approval status.  My district office also constantly helped conduct workshops and assisting constituents with connecting them to government services. 

( Protecting the Environment )

In the San Gabriel Valley, underground water contamination is an issue affecting the quality and safety of drinking water. In 2014, I introduced and passed AB1043 to provide funding for more water cleanup. I also sought out solutions to address climate change, which has played a role in our State’s wildfires and drought. In 2017, I introduced and passed AB739 to require zero emission heavy-duty vehicles to be purchased by the state, and in 2018, I passed AB2195 regarding natural gas.  In 2021, I introduced and passed AB693 to establish a program to combat forest fires on national forest lands by allowing the state and federal government to work together and set up fire resiliency and ecological restoration projects. 

In 2021, I introduced and passed AB69 to establish the CA-China Climate Institute in state law between UC Berkeley and Tsinghua University, so that California would more effectively continue to work with China to fight the effects of Climate Change, a global issue. It is also my hope that such efforts will enhance the US-China relationships going forward.

( Protecting the Young and the Old )

I have also fought to protect the elderly and our children as part of my legislative agenda.  For example, in 2013, I passed AB381 to allow for the recovery of double damages and attorney's fees to seniors who are victims of fraud and abuse.  AB2634, passed in 2018, requires life insurance companies to give advance notice to consumers prior to increasing their premiums and costs. AB453, passed in 2019, requires training to be provided to EMTs (emergency personnel) on interacting with persons with dementia, a condition generally found in elderlies. 

I passed AB2536 in 2016 to fight against cyber sexual bullying; I passed AB872 2017 to revoke a teacher's teaching credential who is required to register as a sex offender. I passed AB2511 in 2018 to address the online sale of illegal products to children, such as guns and knives.  This law stemmed from a story in Sacramento, California, where a father discovered that his 14-year old son was able to purchase a BB gun and knives online (through Amazon) with a credit card.  My law would ensure purchasers of these items are of legal age.  Another bill, AB2799, passed in 2016, protects the online personal information of children who are enrolled in preschool and pre-kindergarten. I also introduced AB2662, in 2018, to study the impacts of electronic media on children. AB2786, introduced in 2018, would have required reporting of child abuse. AB2010, introduced in 2018, dealt with limiting the use of chemical sprays in juvenile facilities. 

In 2020, I read a story in the Chinese media that a Chinese parent, due to his busy schedule at work, left his minor child in a car under extreme heat, leading to the death of the child. Feeling a tremendous loss of innocent life, I conducted research on the topic and finally introduced AB2717, which would allow someone (i.e. a good Samaritan), to break the window of a “heated” vehicle to rescue a minor child from the vehicle.  This bill passed, became effective in 2021, had received a great deal of media attention as a result of its passage.     

( Fighting for Funding and Resources )

In addition to passing laws, part of my job was to serve the constituents in the 49th Assembly District, including fighting to obtain information and resources for them.    

In 2017, I secured $1.825 million for the YMCA of West San Gabriel Valley, a facility used by many constituents, including those in the API community, to construct and expand their building to accommodate more youths, many of whom were homeless. The project completed in 2021.

In 2021, I secured $3.5 million for the Chinatown Service Center to expand their facility to serve the constituents in Alhambra, part of the 49th District. The Center provides social, medical and mental services to an excess of 20,000 people every year. 

( Fighting against Hate crimes and discrimination )

During the pandemic, some people have described COVID-19 as the "China virus". As a result, many Chinese (Asians) have fallen victims to hate crimes and incidents.  I wrote an article (op-ed) to a main-stream media outlet, CalMatters, pointing out the problem and praised many of the contributions made by Chinese and Asian Americans, and urging everyone to work together to combat hate crimes.  https://calmatters.org/commentary/my-turn/2020/04/we-must-stand-together-to-stop-hateful-acts-against-asian-americans-during-covid-19-pandemic/  Part of my job is to be a voice of (and for) the community.

In 2021, I introduced AB28 to increase penalties for perpetrators of hate incidents and hate crimes and to allocate such additional funding to provide for education of ethnic sensitivity training and classes. I also held press conferences to highlight related issues.

In 2021, I introduced and passed ACR55 to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Chinese Massacre of 1871 to combat hate crimes, foster awareness about the tragedy and to promote inclusiveness, tolerance, and unity, while recognizing the contributions of individuals from all backgrounds. The Massacre occurred in old Los Angeles Chinatown in 1871 where 18 Chinese men (one child) were murdered and lynched, constituting one of the largest lynching in history.   

I am unable to fully describe all 179 bills and other services that we have provided over the years, whether the issue dealt with EDD, DMV, or other state agencies.  Our office remained open to all, my team and I are proud of doing our utmost to serve the District.  

Finally, my family and I sincerely thank all of you for your steadfast support and the opportunity to serve you over the last 9 years, it has truly been an honor, privilege, memorable and gratifying experience of my life!