Meet the state park heavyweights in California’s state capital

California lawmakers are scheduled to kick off this year’s legislative session on January 11, 2021, just one day after Governor Newsom is mandated to release his proposed FY 2021-22 state budget. With so many pressing issues facing our state and our parks, it’s bound to be an important year in Sacramento for California’s state parks. 

Since this time last year, the state of California has experienced a historic recession and public health emergency as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, we also saw a record 4.2 million acres burn across the state, with fires impacting at least 22 state parks.  

These combined forces had significant impacts on the natural landscapes of our state parks, state parks staff, parks budgets, and countless state parks visitors across California.  

We also experienced some important shakeups as a result of the November election. In California, Democrats gained a net of two seats in the State Senate, increasing their supermajority 30-9. In the State Assembly, Democrats lost one seat, but preserved their supermajority at 60-19.  

At the federal level, the election of President Joe Biden, left Vice-President elect Kamala Harris' U.S. Senate seat vacant. After much anticipation, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed California’s current Secretary of State Alex Padilla to represent California in Congress and tapped Assemblymember Shirley Weber to take on the role of Secretary of State in Padilla’s stead. If approved by Congress, Biden’s appointment of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services will create another vacancy for Governor Newsom to fill.  

With the election results in and legislator’s committee assignments announced, meet some of the state legislators who are likely to have an outsized impact on our state parks this year: 

Assembly 

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-63) 

  • Speaker Rendon, previously Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, has authored important parks legislation and was a proud supporter of Proposition 68. As the Assembly Speaker, Assemblymember Rendon is the most powerful member of the State Assembly. In this role he controls what bills are voted on and when and is responsible for assigning legislators to Assembly committees. 

  • State parks in district: none 

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-19) 

  • As the chair of the California State Assembly’s Budget Committee, Assemblymember Ting will play an important role in crafting this year’s state budget, which includes the general fund budget and any additional allocations allotted to state parks.  

  • State parks in district: San Bruno Mountain State Park, Thornton State Beach 

Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-39) 

  • As the newly appointed chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, Assemblymember Rivas will oversee hearings on legislation that impacts state parks directly, as well as indirectly through other environmental issues like climate change and coastal protection. 

  • State parks in district: Verdugo Mountains, Placerita Canyon State Park 

Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-50) 

  • As the Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation, Bloom will have an important role to play in this year’s budget process. Subcommittees on the state budget take on specific issues and help shape how those issues are funded within the final state budget. In this committee, Bloom will help determine the funding levels for our state parks, including whether specific projects addressing challenges like wildfires and climate change are resourced. 

  • State parks in district: Will Rogers State Beach, Will Rogers State Historic Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Point Dume State Beach, Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, Topanga State Park 

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-80) 

  • A longtime park champion and our 2018 Legacy award honoree, Assemblymember Gonzalez is chair of the Assembly Appropriations committee. This committee has important power in the legislative process, overseeing hearings on any bills with financial impacts.  

  • State parks in district: Border Field State Park 

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-56) 

  • Our 2017 Legacy Award honoree, Assemblymember Garcia contributed heavily to passing Proposition 68 and has served as Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee since 2016.  Assemblymember Garcia is also an Ex-Officio Member of the California State Park and Recreation Commission.  

  • State parks in district: Heber Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Indio Hills Palms, Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, Picacho State Recreation Area, Salton Sea State Recreation Area, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia at California State Parks Foundation 2019 Park Advocacy Day

Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-27) 

  • A member of the Water, Parks, and Wildlife committee, Kalra has proven himself to be a supporter of state parks and a champion for access to the outdoors. Last year, Assemblymember Kalra authored ambitious land conservation legislation and he has already introduced legislation this year aimed at expanding access to the outdoors in underserved communities.  

  • State parks in district: Martial Cottle Park State Recreation Area 

 

Senate 

Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-39) 

  • As the Senate President pro Tempore, or “Pro Tem,” Senator Atkins is the most powerful member of California's State Senate. Presiding in this role since 2018, Senator Atkins is in charge of appointing committee members, assigning bills to committees, moving legislation through the Senate, leading the state’s majority party, and confirming gubernatorial appointees. As such, Atkins holds considerable power over the overall direction of state policy and California’s Democratic Party.  

Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-25) 

  • All bills with a significant fiscal impact on the state must pass through the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, which makes Senator Portantino a powerful player in the State Senate.  

  • State parks in district: Verdugo Mountains 

Senator Skinner (D-9) 

  • A former board member of the East Bay Regional Park District, Senator Skinner will have an important role to play in her new position as Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. Throughout the budget process, the role of this committee is to investigate the state’s budget bills and is empowered to summon or subpoena relevant parties or records.  

  • State parks in district: Albany State Marine Reserve, Emeryville Crescent State Marine Reserve, McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach 

Senator Mike McGuire (D-2) 

  • With 60 parks in senate district 2, Senator McGuire has more than any other State Senator. As a member of the Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy, Senator McGuire will have an important role to play in reviewing elements of this year’s budget that directly impact state parks and the Department of Natural Resources.  

  • State parks in district: Trinidad State Beach, Van Damme State Park, Angel Island State Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, and 55 others 

 

Senator Mike McGuire at California State Parks Foundation 2019 Park Advocacy Day

Senator Benjamin Allen (D-26) 

  • Senator Allen is a longtime champion for state parks and the environment, including having passed legislation to help keep parks and beaches clean. As the Chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, Allen will help determine the fate of many environmental bills before the legislature this session.  

  • State parks in district: Dockweiler State Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, Topanga State Park, Will Rogers State Beach, Will Rogers State Historic Park  

Senator Henry Stern (D-27) 

  • Elected in 2016, Senator Stern is a champion for the environment and an Ex-Officio Member of the California State Park and Recreation Commission. As Chair of the Natural Resources and Water committee, Senator Stern helps determine the fate of bills addressing important issues for state parks, including conservation and management of public resources, fish and wildlife, recreation, parks, and forestry practices.  

  • State parks in district: Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, Point Mugu State Park, Topanga State Park, Point Mugu State Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, Los Encinos State Historic Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Point Dume State Beach, Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach 

Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-10) 

  • Senator Wieckowski is the Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy and serves as a member on other important committees, including Appropriations and Budget and Fiscal Review. As such, he will play an important role in the state budget and state parks funding. 

  • State parks in district: none 

Senator John Laird (D-17) 

  • While new to the State Senate, Laird previously served in the California State Assembly from 2002-2006. Under Governor Jerry Brown, Laird also served as California Secretary for Natural Resources. This year, Senator Laird will be serving as a member on several important committees, including Appropriations, Budget and Fiscal Review, and Natural Resources and Water. Importantly, Laird’s district includes 48 state parks, several of which saw devastating impacts in the 2020 wildfire season. 

  • State parks in district: Henry W. Coe State Park, Año Nuevo State Park, Pacheco State Park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Asilomar State Beach, Cambria SMP, and 42 others 

Senator Monique Limón (D-37) 

  • A proven champion for access to parks, Assemblymember Limón authored legislation to increase the ability of under-served and at-risk communities to participate in outdoor environmental educational experiences at state parks and other public lands. As a member of the Natural Resources and Water committee, Senator Limón will have an important role to play in advancing parks-related legislation. 

  • State parks in district: Carpinteria State Beach, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Gaviota State Park, and 8 others 

Senator Monique Limón at California State Parks Foundation 2019 Park Advocacy Day