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Braving the Maze at State Leg Summit

By Adrian Rehn

I shouted “Hooray!” as I finally emerged from the elevator in front of Kip Lipper’s office in the California State Capitol. I learned the hard way that Kip’s office is in the older “historic” section of the Capitol building, and requires entry using a different elevator and set of stairs than the newer “Annex.” Suffice it to say, the secrets of the Capitol building began to reveal themselves to me on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 13th.

The 2018 State Legislative Summit was a window into the Capitol lifestyle that so many of my friends and colleagues live and breathe, but one that has remained mostly unknown to me. Organized by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, ‘SLS’ (as it is known) is a day of meetings with the Sacramento region’s state-level elected representatives, staff, and consultants about policy issues that matter to our region.

I served on the Air Quality team this year, advocating for vital investments in clean air, transportation infrastructure, watershed protection, and more, alongside leaders from Valley Vision, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, SMUD, Union Pacific Railroad, and other members of the Cleaner Air Partnership.

Valley Vision’s Meg Arnold and Adrian Rehn

The day kicked off with a brief program focused on the statewide housing crisis with a number of powerhouse speakers. Eleni Kounalakis, candidate for Lieutenant Governor and former Valley Vision board member, spoke concisely about issues including affordable housing finance and rent control. She challenged many in the room to think differently about solutions to the housing crisis, but did it in a way that was unifying at the end of the day. University of California President Janet Napolitano talked about the power of the UC system to shape the state narrative around housing, and brought up the important issues of workforce development and the serious lack of “workforce housing.” Jeff Michael with the University of the Pacific shared some excellent insights on the new federal tax bill and how it could affect our region’s housing market, as well as the possibility of redevelopment funds coming back to California under a new Governor. Assemblymember Jim Cooper facilitated a rockstar panel as well – it really was a fantastic program!

Lunch was followed by the real meat of the event – select appointments with a bipartisan group of our region’s elected leadership in the Capitol building. Setting aside Kip Lipper’s office in the older part of “The Building,” the rest of the appointments (as well as the restrooms!) were much easier to find. By the way, I’ll never get used to calling it, “The Building.”

Our conversations at SLS went incredibly well – perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone cares about air quality! Our team listened as much as we spoke – gleaning knowledge from those in the room, following up about relevant issues or initiatives, and taking copious notes about general (but critical!) insights about the processes that guide decision-making in the Capitol.

Huge congratulations to Anna Ballard of Intel, who did an excellent job as 2018 SLS Program Chair, and the whole team at the Metro Chamber for making this year’s event possible. I know how much of a team effort that was – thank you all! The State Capitol building will always be a maze to me, but these organizers of State Legislative Summit made it a truly a-MAZE-ing experience. I’m already looking forward to SLS 2019! My homework until then: get to know that “historic” side of the Capitol like the back of my hand. Oh wait, I’ve never noticed that birthmark before…

Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Manager overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership and Valley Vision’s online communications.