In a State of the State address that ranged in literary allusion from the Bible to The Little Engine That Could, suggested dramatic reforms in education funding, sprinkled in a lesson on California history, and proposed $14-billion water tunnels be built under the Sacramento River Delta, Governor Jerry Brown set the agenda for a gleaming new Democratic supermajority in the Legislature that includes Santa Barbara’s Hannah-Beth Jackson. “I thought it was an energizing and optimistic address,” said Jackson, who has just begun her first term as a senator. “He wants us to be bold and conscious. He wants us to exercise enough fiscal discipline so that we pay down our debt.”

A member of the Environmental Quality Committee who has built her reputation as an environmentalist, Jackson believes that Brown’s call to reform the California Environmental Quality Act will demand much of her time. The law, onerous to businesses and agencies, has kept Santa Barbara from looking like Miami Beach, said Jackson, but she remains confident that it can be reformed “in process rather than substance.”

While Jackson supports high-speed rail, another pillar of Brown’s address, she expressed concerns about the cost and location, noting that proposals to build inland make little sense when the bulk of California’s population lives within 100 miles of the coastline. Jackson, also on the Education Committee, did not take a hard stance on the governor’s call to overhaul the K-12 funding formula, but said she is looking forward to meeting with educators to, well, get educated. She was quite happy, however, to hear Brown say college tuition should not increase.

And those tunnels? Jackson believes they are an aspiration of Brown’s rather than a short-term priority, although the project would come into her wheelhouse since she is a member of the Natural Resources and Water Committee. “We get our water in this part of the world from the Sacramento River Delta, and our food is grown with water from the delta,” so, she said, it should definitely be part of the discussion.


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