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San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara Counties, CA August 17, 2010 Election
Smart Voter Full Biography for John Laird

Candidate for
State Senator; District 15

This information is provided by the candidate


In 2002 John Laird ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and was elected to represent California's 27th Assembly District, which includes portions of Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties. He was re-elected in 2004 and 2006, when he received over 70% of the vote.

In his first Assembly term, Mr. Laird was one of only five first-term members to chair a major policy committee, the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. He also served as chair of the Special Committee on State Mandates and chair of the Select Committee on California Water Needs and Climate Change.


At the start of his second term in 2004, Mr. Laird was named by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez to join the Assembly leadership team as chair of the Budget Committee, a position to which Speaker Karen Bass reappointed him in 2008.

As Budget Committee Chair in 2006, Mr. Laird helped deliver the first on-time budget since 2000, a budget that reduced community college fees, restored funding for transportation and K-12 education, dramatically increased funding for deferred park maintenance and foster care, and increased the budget reserve while reducing the so-called "out year" deficit.

During his tenure as Budget Committee Chair, Mr. Laird earned a reputation as the Assembly's budget expert, a key resource during annual budget negotiations, a proponent of investing in California's future and a critic of both excessive borrowing and the two-thirds vote requirement for budget passage.

Mr. Laird also served as a member the Labor and Employment, Judiciary, and Natural Resources Committees.


During his tenure in the State Assembly, Mr. Laird received dozens of accolades for his legislative work and advocacy, some of which included the ACLU "Hammer of Justice Award"; the California Hunger Action Coalition "Hunger Fighter Award"; the Environment California "Environmental Champion Award"; the Planned Parenthood "Advocate for Change Award"; the CalPIRG/UCSC Chapter "Oceans Champion Award"; the Drug Policy Alliance "California Hero Award"; the Vote the Coast "Coastal Champion Award"; the AIDS Coalition of Silicon Valley "Award of Distinction"; the Equality California " Building a State of Equality Award"; the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club "Legislator of the Year Award"; the California Conference of Local AIDS Directors "Policy Leadership Award"; the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council "Leader Award"; the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges "Legislator of the Year Award"; the California Federation of Teachers "Legislator of the Year Award"; the Good Times Newsweekly "Best Politician," "Best Mover & Shaker" and "Best Hero" awards; the Metro Santa Cruz "Goldies Award for Best Politician" and "Goldies Award for Local Visionary"; and the San Jose Mercury News designation for "Most Effective Legislator."

Mr. Laird received "100%" or "A" ratings on his legislative record from numerous organizations, some of which included the California Congress of Seniors, the Consumer Federation of California, AFSCME, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, the California League of Conservation Voters, the California Labor Federation, the Children's Advocacy Institute, the National Association of Social Workers/California Chapter, Asian Americans for Civil Rights & Equity, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the California Park & Recreation Society.


During Mr. Laird's three terms, he authored a wide range of bills signed into law--to establish the landmark Sierra Nevada Conservancy, restore community college health services, expand and clarify state civil rights protections, increase access to healthy food for school children, reform the state mandates system, address the future of the vulnerable San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta, ensure availability of oil spill response funding, expand the development of renewable energy, establish an advanced planning program for invasive pests, fisheries management, and significantly increase water conservation.

Specific to the 27th Assembly district, Mr. Laird successfully authored bills to provide new protections for sea otters, help build a new veterans cemetery at the former Fort Ord, modernize governance at the Monterey Airport, provide pay increases for park rangers and fish and game wardens, support development of the California Coastal Trail, and establish assistance programs for first-time homebuyers in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.


Mr. Laird's contributions to the communities of the 27th Assembly District also included pushing UC to mitigate growth issues; fighting for protection of organicly-grown herbs from pesticides at Jacobs Farm; authoring the bill to authorize funding of a state share of the Pajaro River levee project; bringing together Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve stakeholders to work on fire recovery and encouraging the Department of Fish & Game to increase protections at the Reserve; pressing the City of San Jose to fulfill its commitment to install an air monitoring station downwind of the Metcalf Energy Center in southern Santa Clara County; authoring the bill to assist the communities of Carmel Valley and San Martin in their efforts to incorporate; authoring two bills to assist in the effort to complete the California Coastal Trail; supporting the development of the Castroville Plaza and Library; securing funding for staff and maintenance at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve; fighting for an open public process based on sound science during the Light Brown Apple Moth crisis and authoring legislation to prevent future similar crises; fighting for local control of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District; pressing the Olin Corporation and state agencies for faster and more comprehensive cleanup of water poisoning in southern Santa Clara County resulting from the chemical perchlorate; advocating for a permanent CHP officer in Big Sur; and working to secure Prop 50 funds to support the Salinas Valley Water Project.


In his six years in the Assembly, Mr. Laird became one of the leading voices on sustainable building in California. In 2006 he introduced AB 2928, requiring the State to develop sustainable building standards for all buildings in California. Despite a year-long effort to meet and negotiate with all parties, a final agreement could not be reached. Mr. Laird chose to hold the bill in order to continue his efforts the following year.

In 2007 Mr. Laird introduced AB 1058, again attempting to incorporate sustainability into the California Building Code. Mr. Laird worked diligently with the building industry and administration to find common ground, but maintained that a minimum standard of sustainability must be included in the legislation. However, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1058.

Also in 2007, Mr. Laird joined Speaker Fabian Núñez in authoring AB 118, legislation that provides investment in renewable fuels, technologies, advanced vehicles and alternative fuel infrastructure, in order to help the state meet its climate change goals as established by AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (of which Mr. Laird was an original co-author). AB 118 was signed into law by the Governor.

In 2008 Mr. Laird introduced AB 2466, which would allow local governments to better utilize renewable energy technology on their facilities. The bill, which was signed by the Governor, created an incentive for local governments to install renewable energy technology on their facilities, and will lead to more renewable energy generation throughout the state.

Also in 2008, Mr. Laird joined Speaker Fabian Nuñez to author AB 2678, which would have had the California Energy Commission develop regulations requiring energy audits of existing homes that could lead to significant reductions in energy use statewide. Existing buildings present the greatest untapped opportunity for energy conservation. Though the bill was ultimately held in committee, several members have expressed an interest in continuing to carry the torch on this topic.


During his tenure, Assemblymember Laird was among the Legislature's top experts on management of California's water system. At the start of his first term, Mr. Laird was named chair of the Select Committee on California Water Needs and Climate Change. He has also authored and championed legislation to implement statewide and far-reaching water management legislation, primarily in the areas of water conservation, recycling and management of the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta.

Water Conservation--In 2004 Mr. Laird authored AB 2717, which requested the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC) convene a stakeholders workgroup to make recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor for improving the efficiency of water use in new and existing urban landscapes. Landscape water use makes up approximately 33 percent of urban water use in California + and the percentage is even higher in the hotter inland areas. The bill specified a list of areas to be examined. The Governor signed the bill, and the council submitted its completed report to the Legislature in 2005.

In 2006, based on the recommendations included in the AB 2717 Task Force Report, Mr. Laird authored AB 1881 (Chapter 559). AB 1881 required the State Department of Water Resources to update the Model Landscape water conservation Ordinance for use by local governments when permitting new developments, requires designated landscape water meters for new service connections that serve large landscape areas, and requires the California Energy Commission to adopt low water-using performance standards for irrigation controllers and moisture sensors sold in California. AB 1881 had broad support from all interest groups.

In 2006, Mr. Laird introduced AB 2496, which would have phased in requirements for high efficiency toilets (first in new construction and later in retrofits), resulting in annual savings of 8 billion gallons of water by the tenth year of implementation. AB 2496 would have reduced the water use in toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush and in urinals to 0.5 gallons per flush, and would have authorized waterless urinals. However, the bill was vetoed by the Governor.

Also in 2006, Mr. Laird carried AB 984, which directs the State to seek to collaborate with other states and the federal government to develop a plan to control or eradicate non-native tamarisk in the Colorado River watershed. Removing or controlling tamarisk is one method to increase the water supply on the Colorado River, restore the environment and avoid interstate conflicts. The bill was the second attempt on this issue, following a previous veto, and was signed by the Governor.

In 2007, Mr. Laird introduced AB 715, which was essentially similar to AB 2496. However, AB 715 included a phase-in process, which was requested by toilet manufacturers. The manufacturers supported the bill and Governor signed the bill into law. The manufacturers have subsequently talked to congressional offices about making this the new national standard.

In 2007 and 2008, with the water supply crisis worsening in California, Mr. Laird expanded the scope of his efforts to increase the incentives for urban and agricultural water agencies to further increase water use efficiency.

In 2007 Mr. Laird authored AB 1420 to require all urban water agencies over a certain size to implement all the water conservation Best Management Practices (BMPs) in their jurisdiction in order to be eligible for sate grant and loan funds. Until this time, the urban agencies had voluntarily agreed through an MOU to implement the BMPs. However, recent reports on the status of the implementation had indicated that there were significant gaps in the implementation and progress of many urban agencies. AB 1420 was signed by the Governor.

In 2008, with increasing threats to much of the State's water supply due to climate change, court rulings limiting delta water exports, and continued drought, Mr. Laird introduced AB 2175, legislation setting mandated targets for urban and agricultural conservation by 2020. Jointly authored with Assemblymember Feuer, AB 2175 set targets to reduce urban water use and measured in gallons per capita per day. For agricultural water conservation, the bill required the implementation of BMPs. With strong opposition from agriculture and from the business sector representing commercial and industrial water use, the bill failed to pass out of the Senate in the final days of the 2007-08 legislation session.

Measuring Water Use in California--In 2007, recognizing the need to improve the management of existing water resources and obtain the critical data necessary regarding urban and agricultural water use, Mr. Laird introduced AB 1404. AB 1404 required the state water agencies to develop a coordinated water use and measurement database, and required agricultural water districts to report--for the first time--on agricultural water deliveries. AB 1404 had broad agricultural and environmental support, and was signed by the Governor.

Water Recycling--In addition to reducing water demands and increasing water use efficiency, Mr. Laird sought to expand new water supplies through the increased use of recycled water for urban and agricultural purposes. Recycled water provides additional water supplies that are a cost-effective and drought-proof method of helping meet California's water needs.

Mr. Laird introduced AB 2270 in 2008 to promote the use of recycled water and remove barriers to implementation. Specifically the bill addresses two areas of water recycling--setting statewide targets for recycled water, and revising existing law regarding water softeners. Regarding water softeners, the bill provided local agencies with another tool for managing salts in waste water by limiting the use of softeners that contribute to salt problems. One of the barriers to using recycled water is if there is a high salt content in the recycled water. AB 2270 passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support, and broad support from agricultural, urban, environmental and business interests. However, the Governor vetoed the bill citing the concern over possible impacts to small business owners operating water softener companies.


Mr. Laird championed and developed policy initiatives for a wide range of issues, some of which included a comprehensive and long-term funding solution for State Parks, planning for sea-level rise, and reform and increased access to California's food stamps and CalWorks programs.

Mr. Laird also championed universal health care for all Californians. With the support of a statewide coalition, Mr. Laird chose to pursue coverage of all children in California as a first step. He authored AB 1 to provide health coverage for every child in the State. The bill was approved by the Assembly and the Senate, and was withheld from consideration by the Governor pending resolution of the State's fiscal crisis.


John S. Laird was born in Santa Rosa, California, in 1950. He was raised in Vallejo and educated in Vallejo public schools, Mr. Laird's parents both were educators. He graduated from UCSC's Adlai Stevenson College. Prior to elective office, he served on the congressional district staff of U. S. Representative Jerome Waldie, was an analyst for the Santa Cruz County Administrative Officer, was Executive Director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, and anchored a public affairs radio program on Central Coast Public Radio. Assemblymember Laird lives in Santa Cruz County with his spouse John Flores. He is fluent in Spanish, has traveled widely, has conducted extensive family history research and is a life-long Chicago Cubs fan.

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