Get to Know the 24%: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th district located in San Diego County. The native San Diegan, is incredibly passionate about representing her district in very purposeful and meaningful ways. Gonzalez was elected to office in May of 2013 as a working mother of two representing working families in San Diego and across California.
Writing a scholarship essay on the topic in high school, Gonzalez has long been passionate about one day representing her district in the assembly. She stated she has long known that state legislature is, “where it’s at.” Before being elected to the State Assembly, Gonzalez represented labor interests with the position of CEO and Secretary-Treasurer for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Association. In 2013, with the 80th district seat vacant, Gonzalez decided to run with encouragement from Juan Vargas and Ben Hueso – both whom previously held the assembly seat as well as various other positions in California politics. With the 80th district largely made up of women led households, Vargas and Hueso both articulated the need constituents’ need for more female representation. Gonzalez won the special election with 76% of the vote and was reelected during the 2014 midterm elections running unopposed. While Gonzalez recognizes there is a pattern of low voter turnout in her district, she is passionate about representing all voices in her district.
Representing an incredibly diverse area of California, Gonzalez is committed to addressing and tackling the tough issues that affect people’s lives most. In 2014, Gonzalez addressed the issue of paid sick leave for part time employees through Assembly Bill 1522. She acknowledged that too often, part-time employees were forced to make the choice between of jeopardizing their own health or losing wages with the possibility of retribution from their employer. Furthermore, many employees do not only have themselves to consider but the health and wellbeing of their loved ones as well. Through AB 1522, which will be placed into effect July of 2015, part-time employees will be entitled to three days of paid sick leave which can be used for their own health or the health of a loved one. Passing this legislation was not only significant for Gonzalez because it allows part-time employees to make their health a priority but it was mentioned by President Obama in his 2015 State of the Union address. The President not only admired the legislation but encouraged other states in the Union to adopt similar measures using AB 1522 as framework. Gonzalez expressed that this was a meaningful moment for her because the Bill would not only be helping Californians but had the potential to assist millions of Americans.
The Assemblywoman also draws on experiences from her own life to craft meaningful legislation. For example, Assembly Bill 67 which would require employers to pay double-time on holidays, was inspired in part by listening to constituents, in part drawing on her personal experiences. In her hometown of San Diego, Gonzalez’s parents worked hard to provide for her and her brothers though money was tight at times. While Thanksgiving is generally a time to spend with family, her mother would report to her job as a nurse and realizing that their mother working during the holiday and receiving double-pay lead to presents under the Christmas tree a month later, the siblings understood the sacrifice. Years later, Gonzalez draws on that experience seeing as many businesses now require their employees to attend work during holidays. Employees often times cannot request the day off, do not get compensated for their sacrifice, and will likely face retribution if they do not attend. The Assemblywoman is proud to be tackling this issue saying, if employees are faced with working on holidays or losing their source of income altogether, they should “at least be compensated appropriately.”
Gonzalez is committed to addressing topics that many others may shy away from. For example, while diapers may be a less attractive topic to discuss, the high cost of the necessity burdens many families; the cost levied is even higher with the addition of state sales tax. In turn families must make the tough choice between diapers and other necessities. Gonzalez points out that many families with young children would like to have multiple incomes many are unable to in part because of diaper rules. Many childcare facilities require families to provide a month’s worth of diapers per child using diapers. That quantity worth of diapers is often times more than a family can afford to provide barring them from entering any type of childcare leading many families forgo a second income. Through Assembly Bill 717, Gonzalez is looking to move diapers on to California’s list of tax-exempt items not only to assist families in purchasing the necessity but to allow better access to child care and in turn allow families to earn more money. While it is estimated that making diapers tax exempt would save families an estimated $100 a year, it would also allow more families to access child care and better economy opportunities.
When asked about shaking up the norm in Sacramento, Gonzalez said, “I’m not very good at using my inside voice.” Currently the Chair on the Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, Gonzalez also serves on the Assembly Committee on Health, Committee on Insurance, Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, Committee on Local Government and the Committee on Public Safety. Additionally, Gonzalez is working on various pieces of legislation such as establishing rights and benefits for the professional sport of cheerleading. When asked about how she handles adversity and set backs, she advised that you just have to get up and keep trying.
Regarding her long term political goals, Assemblywoman Gonzalez expressed, “I really just want to do the best job I can do right now in representing my district… I represent a very working class district… if I can just be successful in providing a voice for people who for too long just haven’t had their priorities put forward or their voices heard, then I’ll wait for the next opportunity.”
About the Author
Emily Hearton is in her junior year at San Diego State University where she is working towards a degree in Political Science with a minor in Marketing. She is passionate about local and state issues and hopes to make an impact in her community. While the future is unknown, upon graduation she hopes to attend law school. Her career goals include practicing law, teaching, and serving the public. In her free time, Emily enjoys spending time with her family and friends as well as reading, jogging, and attending her university’s various sporting events.
About Future WIG
Women In Government supports women of all ages in leadership roles, and is working hard to ensure that young women are given the resources and mentorship they need in order to achieve their goals. This program takes place at WIG Regional conferences, where WIG asks women state legislators and leaders in the private sector to encourage young women across the country to pursue leadership roles. This program is made possible by Southwest Airlines.