During his time as President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has led the 40-member Senate body to historic accomplishments that will improve the lives of Californians and the state’s environment and economy for decades to come.
Senator de León has led a bold agenda to increase economic opportunity for all Californians with a focus on maintaining California’s global leadership role in fighting climate change and building a clean-energy economy, rebuilding our state’s infrastructure, public education, work-place and health-care equity for women, immigrants and low-wage workers and public safety.
In his three years leading the Senate, Senator de León has empowered his caucus members to take on big and bold legislation that truly shape the policy conversation in the nation. Through his ambitious approach to policymaking, he has authored groundbreaking legislation on a variety of issues that have become national models. The progress that has been made on critical issues confronting California and the nation stands in stark contrast to the gridlock in the U.S. Congress.
In many ways, Senator de León embodies the promise of America. From a childhood of poverty to community activism, to the upper echelon of the California Legislature, his respect and commitment to working families and the betterment of all Californians has never diminished.
Senator de León is the son of an immigrant mother who supported her family in the San Diego barrio of Logan Heights with housekeeping and other pick-up jobs. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school.
He attended U.C. Santa Barbara and graduated from Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges with honors. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California. He has one daughter.
Before entering into politics, Senator de León served the public as a community organizer, taught English as a Second Language and U.S. Citizenship, and advocated for public schools.
During his five years at the California Teachers Association, Kevin fought for additional funding for “high-priority schools” in low-income neighborhoods, more school construction, and health insurance for children.
As a Senior Associate for the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington, D.C., Kevin advocated for more resources for schools in low-income neighborhoods. He fought against schemes to take funds from public schools through taxpayer-funded vouchers and academic censorship in public schools.
Senator de León was elected by his colleagues to lead the Senate in 2014, making him the first Latino to hold that position in over a century. Senator de León served four years in the Assembly before his election to the Senate in 2010. He is the first person in California history to serve as the Chair of the Appropriations committees in both the Assembly and Senate.
Leader on the Environment and Clean Energy
With his leadership and landmark legislation, Senator de León has burnished California’s reputation as a recognized global leader in the battle against climate change and pioneer in creating a clean energy economy.
He played a central role in crafting a bipartisan deal this year to extend California’s cap-and-trade program with $1 billion of the generated revenue to tackle diesel pollution and bolster electrification of our transportation and vehicles.
Continuing steady progress in energy efficiency, Senator de León has put California on a path to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 – the largest state in the nation to do so – with an eye toward becoming 100 percent renewable by 2045.
California is by far the nation’s clean-energy leader and its paying workforce dividends with the creation of well over 500,000 clean energy jobs in the Golden State – 10 times more than there are coal jobs in the entire nation.
With SB 1275 (2014), he created a rebate initiative to make electric cars more accessible to working families with the goal of placing one million low-emission vehicles on the roads.
Recognizing the disproportionate suffering from pollution and climate change in disadvantaged communities, Senator de León successfully passed SB 535 (2012) that requires California to spend at least 25 percent of cap-and-trade revenue to benefit low-income communities. This law is resulting in new transit, energy efficiency, renewable energy and affordable housing projects across the state.
Also in 2012, Senator de León co-chaired the successful Proposition 39 campaign closing a corporate-tax loophole and creating a $2.5 billion revenue fund for energy-efficiency upgrades in schools.
Exemplifying his longtime commitment to increasing access to the environment, Senator de León’s first legislative measure when he arrived in Sacramento allocated park funds for communities lacking parks and green space, resulting in 126 park projects across the state - the largest initiative of its kind in the nation.
Tackling pollution in his district, Senator de León was instrumental in bring attention and accountability to the hazardous pollution caused by the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, which for years had operated illegally while contaminating nearby communities with lead, arsenic, and other toxins. Senator de León has since secured millions of dollars for cleanup, while implementing oversight and reform measures at the Department of Toxic Substance Control to prevent similar future occurrences.
Senator de León’s record on the environment and energy has been studied by international leaders as they lay out their own steps to confront climate change and build clean-energy economies. He led the California delegation to the U.N. Climate Talks in Peru and Morocco and accompanied Governor Brown to Paris in 2015 to showcase California’s landmark accomplishments.
Transportation, Housing and Infrastructure
The road to California’s future infrastructure has long been in disrepair. This year, Senator de León led the Legislature in creating solutions that will benefit future generations of Californians.
He was instrumental in shepherding SB 1 (Beall) into law this year, making an additional $5.4 billion a year investment in road, freeway, bridge and transit projects over the next decade. The result will be lower commute times, safer roads and job creation.
Senator de León also this year successfully passed SB 5, giving Californian’s the opportunity to make long-overdue investments in our parks and flood-control infrastructure with a $4 billion general obligation bond measure on the June 2018 ballot.
At a time when homeownership in California is at its lowest point since the 1940’s, Senator de León led the Senate in moving legislation to fund new development, streamline approval processes, strengthen existing laws, and create more local accountability to build new housing and increase homeownership across the Golden State.
Focusing on the most vulnerable, like returning veterans and the homeless, the Senate passed landmark measures to help those with the fewest options when it comes to housing.
In 2016, Senator de León championed the “No Place Like Home” initiative, an innovative and ambitious proposal to address homelessness in California by securing $2 billion in bond financing for construction and rehabilitation of permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless Californians suffering from mental illness.
With a firm understanding in the contributions of the undocumented community to California’s culture and economy, Senator de Leon has led the fight against local law enforcement being commandeered to enforce federal immigration laws. This year, he passed SB 54, the California Values Act, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.
The bill also directs the state Attorney General to develop model policies to be implemented by public schools, libraries, hospitals, courthouses and other public facilities that would limit “to the fullest extent possible” assistance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
With President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, Senator de León was instrumental in negotiating a $30 million to assist the nearly 250,000 Dreamers in California with legal services as well as “safety net” funding to help DACA students stay in school should they become unable to work to support their education.
In 2015, Senator de León led a bicameral coalition to sponsor legislation that addresses lapses in our justice and labor systems creating serious challenges for the California’s immigrant community, including stronger wage theft laws, securing u-visas from law enforcement, and providing healthcare for undocumented children. In 2013, he brokered a compromise with Governor Jerry Brown to ensure signage of a law which allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, gain access to insurance, and step out of the shadow economy.
Before joining the Legislature, Senator de León taught citizenship courses to immigrants and led opposition to 1994’s Proposition 187, a voter-approved statewide initiative that denied government services to undocumented immigrants.
Voice for the Working Class
Senator de León was a lead negotiator with Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s unions to secure a $15 minimum wage in California, and then shepherded the legislation through both houses to the Governor’s desk.
He overcame powerful opposition from Wall Street to pass SB 1234, which created Secure Choice retirement-savings program for California’s private-sector low-income workers. Secure Choice was the first automatic IRA program of its kind in the nation and will help millions of Californians achieve retirement security when fully implemented.
Senator de León has also authored workers’ compensation reform that lowered insurance costs for businesses, while increasing workers’ benefits. He also authored legislation that strengthens the Labor Commissioner’s authority in tackling the scourge of wage theft in cities across California - especially Los Angeles which has been dubbed the “Wage Theft Capital of the U.S.”
Senator de León also negotiated the expansion of California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program, replacing the program’s lottery system with a process that quantifies job creation and economic benefits to the state’s economy.
When Planned Parenthood advocated this year for an increase in higher Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for reproductive health care, Senator de León carried their fight into budget negotiations and secured $50 million from Proposition 56 tobacco tax revenue.
Guided by a strong belief in a woman’s right to control her own health care, Senator de León has been stalwart defender for preserving federal funding for family planning as a Republican-led Congress continues to target Planned Parenthood for defunding.
Senator de León’s strong and unwavering advocacy for access and choice has been recognized by Planned Parenthood with a consistent 100 percent voting record and numerous awards, with special recognition in 2014 for legislative leadership.
Alarmed by the serious problem posed nationwide by sexual violence on college campuses, Senator de León set out to find solutions for California.
In 2014, his bill to prevent sexual assault on college campuses was first law in the nation to require affirmative consent, earning him the recognition from Marie Claire last year as one of the “ten biggest supporters of women’s right in U.S. government.” Ms. Magazine selected his “yes means yes” measure as the most significant legislative victory on behalf of women for 2014. He followed up with legislation in 2015 that requires public high schools teaching health education classes to include sexual assault prevention in their curricula.
Also in 2015, he empowered women in the workforce with state budget funding for thousands of more slots for subsidized child cares.
Throughout his decade in the legislature, Senator de León has fought for sensible gun control. In 2016, he led the charge to enact the most stringent gun control policies in a generation, including his groundbreaking SB 1235 requiring background checks for anyone who buys or sells ammunition.
Negotiating the Budget
In three years serving as the Senate’s lead in negotiating the budget, Senator de León has secured critical investments that strengthen the bookends of a student’s educational career, pushing for new investments in childcare and higher education. Under his leadership, California has added over 20,000 additional slots for California students in the University of California and the California State University. Both budgets during his tenure as Senate leader have been delivered on time, provided protective reserves, payed down debt, provided relief funding for the drought, and wisely invested in children and working families.
As leader of the Senate, Pro Tem de Leόn also serves as Chair of the Rules Committee, which is responsible for the vetting of Governor’s appointments that are subject to confirmation by the Senate. This role also provides additional opportunity for the oversight of Administration activities, as the confirmation process allows for the review and evaluation of state agencies, departments, and boards and commissions.