Assemblyman explains his position on Cap & Trade, and more

By Robert Vilhauer

New Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham was the featured speaker at the Paso Robles Rotary Club lunch meeting on July 27. Cunningham was elected last November, succeeding Katcho Achadjian, to represent the 35th District in the California State Assembly, which includes all of San Luis Obispo County and nearly half of Santa Barbara County.

In doing what he believes is best overall for his local constituents, Cunningham explained his July 17 vote to approve the extension of California’s Cap & Trade Program (AB 398).

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Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham speaks to the Paso Robles Rotary Club on July 27.

He acknowledged that his vote was considered controversial by some of his Republican colleagues, but Cunningham defended his decision by stating the bottom line is state law requires the reduction of greenhouse gases by 40 percent (below 1990 levels) by 2030. He believes there are three options to meet this mandate:  Institute a carbon tax; let the Air Resources Board regulate reductions; or continue the Cap & Trade Program. Cunningham estimates that the Cap and Trade Program will be $18 billion cheaper than the other alternatives. It has the further benefit of eliminating the very unpopular fire prevention fee levied on rural residents and also limits the use of Cap and Trade revenue for the controversial bullet train that Cunningham opposes. The vote demonstrates that he intends to be thoughtful and pragmatic in weighing the complex trade-offs posed by various legislative initiatives.

Cunningham began his presentation by outlining his four legislative priorities: improving the regulatory and business environment for small business owners; ensuring the public safety needs of his constituents; increasing local water resources; and providing for a robust Career Technical Education program.

He noted that only half of local high school students attend college and only 30 percent attain their degree.  So the remaining 70 percent of young people need technical skills development and training. The legislative focus on this issue is particularly timely since the state grant program that currently funds technical education programs is set to expire at the end of the next school year and must be reauthorized by the California legislature soon. Cunningham has introduced legislation (AB 445) to permanently fund and improve the CTE program and is working with members of both parties on passage.

On his other priorities, Assemblyman Cunningham is proud to have supported funding for the new Paso Robles waste water treatment facility that will improve the quality and availability of drinking water to local residents. He has also supported fixing the intersection of Highways 46 and 41. This dangerous intersection has resulted in six deaths this year alone, but no design for improving safety has been forthcoming from Caltrans.

Cunningham observed that the Central Coast does not have the political clout of major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or San Francisco, making transportation resource allocations extremely challenging. He believes you have to be a “squeaky wheel” to get things done and he continues to aggressively advocate quick action from his colleagues in Sacramento to address this safety need.

Cunningham is also very proud of his work on legislation to improve background checks for public safety officials, and what he considers to be the best small business initiative under consideration that creates a government liaison to efficiently resolve regulatory or other issues for small business owners.

Cunningham was raised as part of a third generation family residing in the Central Coast. He graduated from Atascadero High School, attended Point Loma Nazarene University, receiving a degree in physics with honors. He served as a Senate Fellow in the California Legislature, working for the Senate Minority Leader on legislation and policy. Jordan received a law degree from UC Berkeley. After graduating, he worked in Washington D.C. as an attorney in private practice, a federal law clerk, and an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. He returned to the Central Coast to raise his family, and joined the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy DA.

After he left public service, he founded the Cunningham Law Group. His passion for the community coupled with his experience as a deputy district attorney and taxpayer advocate, motivated his successful run for the State Assembly.