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Assemblyman reaches out to promote busy legislative agenda

The state assembly’s spring break brought no sign of respite for Assemblyman Chris Holden. If anything, the hiatus helped fuel further activity for the local legislator. He kept up the momentum outside of Sacramento last week with meetings across the 37-mile stretch of the 41st Assembly District, spanning Altadena to Rancho Cucamonga.  

Business has remained steady in recent months with the opening of Mr. Holden’s second district office location in Claremont’s Old School House complex, an effort to be more readily available to constituents of the district’s easternmost portion. A full slate of legislative agenda items have also occupied much of the lawmaker’s time. After movement on several measures relating to the economy, including the 2013 adoption of a bill making the small business loan program easier to use, Mr. Holden is refocusing efforts on another area of importance stressed on his 2012 campaign trail: education.  

“We need to put our money back where it belongs and support our kids. It’s an important investment,” Mr. Holden said. “It’s such a cliché to say they are our future, but they really are. We need to provide the resources to support that statement.”

With that in mind, the assemblyman moves forward with legislation geared at expanding educational opportunities for high school students. This includes providing high school students with the opportunity to get a jump-start on vocational or college-credit courses.

“The real goal there is to create opportunity,” Mr. Holden said. “We want to expose young people to college courses earlier and sort of broaden the universe beyond high school. Get them motivated.”

Part of this is expanding the amount of Advanced Placement (AP) courses—college-level curriculum that sometimes provides college credit—offered at local high schools. Currently, an estimated 90 percent of high schools throughout the 41st district do not offer these courses or are maxed out in terms of capacity, Mr. Holden asserted. Assembly Bill 1940, introduced in February, would create a pilot program to offer more AP courses in underrepresented subjects like science, technology, engineering and math for high-performing students in underserved communities.

“A lot of our young people are scoring well in their PSAT scores, showing an aptitude for math and science, but do not have access to AP courses that allow them to take a hold of those skills and hone their abilities,” Mr. Holden said. “We want to give them those opportunities.”

It all relates back to the focus on bolstering the local economy, he insists.

“We are not leaving the economy and jobs behind. There’s an opportunity here to focus on growing our workforce with talented young people, if they are allowed the chance to apply themselves and get the education they need.”

Staying on track

While addressing statewide concerns, Mr. Holden remains focused on local issues. Regional transportation needs are at the top of his list, with sights set on increasing the voice of the San Gabriel Valley on the La County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). AB 1941 pushes for a change in the makeup of the MTA Board with two new voting members appointed by the speaker of the state assembly and senate committee on rules. The Metro Board is currently made up of 13 voting members: five county supervisors, the mayor of Los Angeles, three appointed by the LA mayor and four representing other local governing bodies.

“I get the fact that the city of LA is one-third of LA County and therefore should have a disproportionate amount of representation, but that doesn’t mean that the other two-thirds get relegated to crumbs,” Mr. Holden said.

AB 1941 began brewing last year in response to Metro’s plans for Measure R funds, approved by the voters in 2008 for critical highway and transportation projects throughout the county. In July, the Metro board approved changes to the multi-million dollar transit expenditure plan while excluding the expansion of the Gold Line light rail from Azusa to Claremont from the list of projects. Proponents for the extension of the railway argue that they weren’t asking for Measure R money to fund the project, but wanted the plan to accurately reflect the funding gap that needs to be filled.

Not all are behind the bill. Several Metro Board members have asserted they were “blind-sighted” by the legislation. Mr. Holden, however, says he has reached out to LA mayor Eric Garcetti and felt positively about their discussions.

“He has said on a number of occasions that he supports regional transportation, like the Gold Line, as valuable and that he really does want to make sure resources are in place for our project,” he said. “If I take him at his word, and I’m prepared to do that, we will hold the bill until next year.”

In the meantime, the assemblyman works with other legislators and local officials in continuing to identify the funds needed to see the Gold Line to Claremont realized.

“The Gold Line is a priority for me,” Mr. Holden said. “It’s a project that will employ a lot of people, get cars off the road and help reduce the carbon footprint. There are a lot of important valuable reasons for supporting this transportation project than just moving people from Point A to Point B.”

Mr. Holden’s Claremont office is located at 415 W. Foothill Blvd., Suite 124 and can be reached by calling (909) 624-7876. For more on the assemblyman’s current legislation, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a41/.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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