Interview with Monique Limon

Monique is the representative of CA district 37, which extends from Santa Ynez to Santa Paula and includes both red and blue regions. District 37 is also 40% Latino and contains a lot of heavily agricultural areas.

1. Please describe your activities or involvement in mentoring women to participate in the political process. (Examples: appointments to boards or commissions, encouragement to run for office)

Monique Limón
California Assembly, District 37

Monique is the representative of CA district 37, which extends from Santa Ynez to Santa Paula and includes both red and blue regions. District 37 is also 40% Latino and contains a lot of heavily agricultural areas.

Some of Monique’s first events after she took office were two appointments workshops in Santa Barbara and Ventura, where representatives from the Legislative and Executive Branch described the political appointments process for their branch. Monique also wrote recommendation letters for attendees who reached out to her office after the workshop and continues to follow up with those seeking her advice.

As the first woman of color to be elected to the District 37 Assembly seat, Monique also works with local schools and community organizations to give presentations, host panels, and do one-on-one meetings. Her goal was to teach women about the process of running, as well as informing them about the other ways to be leaders, i.e. nonprofit boards and state, county, and local appointments. Monique is the chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector, where she works to improve diversity in non-profits leadership. Her goals include increasing the representation of women and women of color on leadership positions and making these positions more available to people working fulltime.

2. In what ways is diversity reflected in your staff? Please include how many people serve on your staff, how many are women, and what are their roles.

Monique’s staff includes ten people: a chief of staff, a legislative director, two legislative aides in Sacramento, four field representatives, one district director, and one scheduler. Of those ten, nine are women, five are underrepresented minorities (Latina), and one is LGBTQ. Monique and her staff have found that being 90% women has resulted in them being looked at differently since women are now filling many roles traditionally held by men.
Monique’s offices also have interns from local colleges, including UCSB, SBCC and Sacramento State. Interns and staff all have room to grow and chances to get promoted, hopefully contributing to more diversity in the broader political climate.

3. Please tell us about your efforts toward addressing gender and other inequities and imbalances regarding women, race, people of color, immigrants, etc. Please include your efforts to protect/defend our Latinx and African-American communities.

Before Monique ran for office, she spent fourteen years in higher education, finding grants and funding for underrepresented students.

Now in Sacramento, she is one of two Latinos representing majority-white districts. She is a member of the Women’s Caucus on the subcommittee for elections, looking at statewide elections for opportunities for female candidates. She is also on the executive board of the Latino Caucus. The role of both of these caucuses is to identify, vet, and push priority bills. For the Women’s Caucus, this meant bills that increase assistance for early childhood costs, prohibit employers from seeking salary history from job applicants, and increase unpaid leave for new parents. For the Latino Caucus, this includes bills that increase funding for immigration services by $50 million, bolster tenants’ rights, and help university students to get work experience.

4. What is your position on single payer medical coverage and what work have you done in this area? Please include your thoughts on how funding would be provided.

Monique has always been a supporter of single payer Medicare. However there have been a lot of issues with passing single payer healthcare in California; it has passed the legislature and through a ballot initiative a total of seven times and has failed (due to education funding, Prop. 98) or the governor’s desk each time. The current single payer bill, SB 562, currently has no funding mechanism. Funding it would require an estimated 15-20% increase in personal tax and a successful ballot initiative.

Further controversy over SB 562 also exists over finer details of the policy as well as the feasibility of obtaining federal permission to use California’s Medicare budget. The State Assembly has three hearings this month in which single payer experts from around the world will be sharing their expertise.

This bill also differs from Bernie Sander’s Medicare for All, which just expands the Medicare system while still utilizing private insurance companies. This would theoretically be much easier to implement but would be at the federal level.

[Public perception about the legislature’s handling of the single payer bill has been very negative. Monique had a hit piece on her in August, which went to several thousand homes, criticizing her handling of the issue. However, no real solutions to the issues mentioned above currently exist.

5. What new patterns, trends, and challenges do you see ahead in CA and its legislature? What role can SBWPC play to help meet them?

Responding to the actions of the federal government and containing damage (i.e., immigration, healthcare) is a new trend in CA’s legislature. This includes addressing issues like the loss of Title IX protections, access to reproductive healthcare, and UC funding.

Another new trend is addressing issues with how environmental policy affects people of color. This is not a prominent conversation in SB, but has been seen throughout District 37. There is a coastal power plant in Oxnard that was harming the nearby community, primarily people of color. The California Energy Commission finally decided not to renew the plant recently after leading efforts from local residents and environmental groups. Further, the East side air quality in Santa Barbara is poor due to recycling and trash processing, harming the largely POC residents. This is something that Das Williams is currently working on.

SBWPC could contribute by continuing these conversations with elected officials and staying in contact with their offices to see in what way SBWPC could be most useful. It would also be very helpful for SBWPC to continue sharing opportunities to support or oppose important legislative with members.

6. SBWPC has submitted letters of support for bills you have authored. Please comment on to what extent you find these effective and how SBWPC might help going forward.

The letters are effective, and SBWPC should continue them. It would also potentially be helpful to encourage our members to use the online portal to demonstrate support or opposition to any particular bills. The best way to communicate support for bills at the State legislature level would be to use the online portal, which gives immediate results. Calls are slower and can lead to big delays in receiving feedback, especially over weekends. This may not be true of Congress, which has a system for counting all calls. It would also be helpful for SBWPC to hold a workshop on how best to advocate on local, state, and federal level (likely with input from elected officials).

7. What actions are you taking within your staff and beyond regarding the burgeoning issue of sexual misconduct? Also, please update us on actions that your legislative body is taking on this issue.

Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, resigned from office after several sexual misconduct allegations. Monique worked with a group behind the scenes to encourage his immediate resignation and actually received the news during our interview on Monday, November 27th.

The Assembly is currently working with the Rules committee to determine how best to address this issue. Some behavior doesn’t break rules but breaks ethics, requiring a better code of conduct. They would like to implement in-house regulation and an independent investigation to address these issues. However, regulation and education would be only part of the issue; the basis of this behavior is the power structure.

Monique has been very active on this issue. She wrote an article for Medium.com and has made public statements. She’s also working with the Women’s Caucus, which wants a bipartisan approach to addressing the sexual misconduct issues that occur in every field, not just Hollywood or the state house. As the Assistant Majority Whip of the Assembly, she is also working with the Speaker on these issues.

8. What else would you like to share with the SBWPC? (e.g., bills of which you are especially proud, contributions you have made or foresee making in the future)

Monique has had a very active first year. She has had nine bills signed into law and has joined the party leadership team as a freshman. She is proud of her thoughtful approach to legislation in which she carefully examines the exact language of the bill, considers feedback from constituents, and works with her staff to consider the pros and cons (similar to her work on the school board). She has also been very active in her district, holding open houses, forums, and workshops (including her Appointments workshop and SBWPC’s Run Like a Woman next year).

The most challenging aspects of this past year included the fast-paced environment of the California legislature, which allowed for fast responses, but also required very fast decisions on important issues. Another challenge was being a public servant 24/7, Monday-Thursday in Sacramento and Friday-Sunday in District 37. Another frustration was misinformation in the media; people can read a summary of a bill in six minutes and assume that is the whole story (e.g., the gas tax in a transportation bill).

Monique is very excited about connecting with the community and is open to hearing in what ways she can help SBWPC.