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Published December 12th, 2018
Orinda mom takes over District 16 California Assembly seat
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan Photo Sora O'Doherty

Lawyer and law professor Rebecca Bauer-Kahan didn't find out that she had won her seat in the California legislature until 10 days after the election. She spent that time trying to make certain that every vote was counted. Afterward, she was treated to a tour of the Contra Costa County Elections Division, a tour which she wishes everyone could take, so impressed was she with the procedures there.
Although her years working on environmental compliance law and teaching at Santa Clara and Golden Gate law schools make her comfortable with the legislative process, she was enthusiastic about the two-week new member training course. "Every department that supports the legislature comes and gives presentations to the new members," she said. Her favorite was the 80 lawyers who assist the legislature in writing bills. "I think that is so valuable," she said, "because it removes lobbyists from bill drafting."
Bauer-Kahan has stepped into the shoes of the former Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, taking over the District 16 office in San Ramon and her office in the state capital, both of which are state-funded. Bauer-Kahan, who has lived in Orinda since relocating from Oakland in 2011 and who is in the process of hiring her team, will continue to live in Orinda, commuting to Sacramento daily when the legislature is in term from January to mid-June and August through September.
The new representative is committed to local control, and hopes to hear from her constituents their ideas on how to make things work better, like BART parking or solving the housing crisis, because she says it is the locals who understand the challenges faced by their particular location. For example, she points out, the city of Dublin has grown 30 percent in the last few years. That kind of growth makes it difficult for local services, such as schools, to keep up.
Bauer-Kahan acknowledges that she is representing a diverse district, but she believes that her constituents share similar values, such as environmental impact. For example, she points out that fire protection is so crucial because of its obvious threat to lives and homes, but also because California fires have the biggest impact on climate change. It's a vicious cycle, she acknowledges: climate change causes the fires, which then intensify climate change.
Among her other priorities are school funding and general fiscal responsibility. With children in the Orinda schools, Bauer-Kahan knows how the local control funding formula, set up to bring up the districts that need more support, impacts the other districts. "We need to prioritize education," she says, noting that California spends more on prisons than on schools. And she has a lot of ideas about how California can reduce its prison spending. "We need to do something about recidivism," she says, pointing to a program initiated in Los Angeles that not only reduced recidivism by 40 percent, it was 50 percent cheaper to run.
While acknowledging that she is entering an Assembly with a Democratic super-majority, she believes that "we need to be careful with the health of the state budget." She says that she believes in "slow government," and notes that while there are many Democrats in the Assembly, "there are different shades of blue." In addition, she points out that because of the change in term limits, she is joining the first class of Assembly members going into their eighth year.
"They are the most mature" members in a while, she says, and she in interested to see how that affects the Assembly.

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