Conducted on January 15, 2021 by Molly Morrison and Anna DiStefano
“There’s a lot to do.” – Senator Limón
Despite having 2020 now behind us, new challenges and opportunities await elected officials globally. The California Senate session already began turbulently with FBI security warnings at the time of the presidential transition, but California State Senator Monique Limón is hitting the ground running. Despite being elected in a year unlike any other, Senator Limón relayed that open communication and clean handoffs, coupled with a majority of Limón’s State Assembly team transitioning with her, resulted in a smooth transition into her Senate seat, formerly held by Hannah-Beth Jackson.
“One of the things that I’ve learned is that you respond to the needs of the community”, said Limón, who is looking at the current legislative session through the lens of a broad range of continuing challenges presented by the pandemic, including vaccine distribution, unemployment, and re-opening the economy and schools. Additionally, public safety, criminal justice, and wildfire emergency preparation and management continue to be top of mind.
This year, Limón is serving on the Natural Resources, Health, Emergency Response and Pandemic committees. Perhaps most impressive, and despite being a freshman Senator, Limón is the first Latina named Chair of the Banking & Finance Committee. This was a result of her four years in the Assembly and the impressive wealth of experience and expertise that she brings to the state Senate.
The focus on racial equality is understandably tied to last year’s events and beyond, as said Limón, “these health disparities don’t just happen on their own. They’re related to environmental [and] housing policy.” A highlighted example of this are farm workers being considered part of the essential workforce, and disproportionately affected by COVID. Through working directly with the affected communities and public health officials, Limón and her colleagues successfully prioritized agricultural workers in the vaccine rollout. Another notable effort is Project Roomkey, an initiative where economically disadvantaged individuals with little or no choice but to live in close quarters with others, and who may be hesitant to seek help due to documentation issues, are provided hotel rooms in which to quarantine if diagnosed with COVID-19, thus mitigating the possibility of spreading the disease.
The fight for criminal justice is an ongoing one; despite the fact that California does not have any private prisons, there is still a disparity in the justice system. Limón relayed optimism for new local oversight committees. Looking at the state-wide level, the “biggest criminal justice reform bill” for California is the Decertification Bill, legislation that would bring the largest amount of peace officer reform to date.
Gender equality is another significant focus for Limón. Last year, women left the workforce at disproportionate rates to their male counterparts. Limón iterated an insight from business leaders across the state that “you cannot reopen an economy without childcare and schools reopening”, and that the burden of childcare has fallen mostly to women. Looking forward, Limón will invest her efforts to identify ways that women can re-enter the workforce safely, and with the assurance that their children will be cared for sufficiently. Having recently become a mother, Limón now has a deepening understanding of this and other policy issues. She says she is fortunate to have a partner and parents who support her, and that she sees more than ever the importance of family leave, which elected officials do not formally receive.
Environmental policy is a matter that is time sensitive and meaningful to Limón. She will be focusing her sights on environmental and economic impact policy related to the oil industry, as well as on sea level rise issues. However, a topic that is becoming increasingly prevalent is climate adaptation for the agricultural industry. Senator Limón intends to help the industry “find the technology and tools to help them deal with climate change” in response to a dramatic increase in irregular weather patterns.
When asked about gun safety, Senator Limón said that although California is the state with the highest number of gun safety laws, it is hard to say what impact recent events have had on gun ownership and safety, especially because there is a lack of data. One issue, which has led to signed legislation, AB 2061, is the lack of effective security at large-scale gun shows in California, many held at major state fairgrounds.
As the former Vice-Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, Limón is committed to mentoring women, making herself as accessible as possible despite a lack of face-to-face opportunities. This includes campaign fundraising and community outreach support for women running for office. “It’s kind of a pay it forward issue,” Limón said, referencing her approach to the professional and political development of female staff. Limón encourages her team to participate in leadership programs and has most recently supported her current staff member, Vianey Lopez, to successfully run for a seat on the Oxnard City Council.
Her commitment to her team is displayed in her hiring as well; Senator Limón is proud to have a diverse staff from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, including LGBTQ+, and age and ethnic representation. She sees the diversity of her staff as both a “natural and intentional” outcome of the way she works.
When asked how SBWPC might contribute, Limón cited two key tasks: firstly, Senator Limón has encouraged the Committee to feel welcome to ask her about her stance on legislature, noting that sometimes “the devil is in the details”, and that she may not feel confident casting a vote until the bill is positioned to be of most benefit. Additionally, Limón mentioned the “Unseen Latina Initiative” of the Latino Caucus, which will hold hearings on Zoom. Limón encourages SBWPC to tune into these hearings to support under-represented communities. You can view the first informational hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities, held on January 28, here: https://www.assembly.ca.gov/media/assembly-latin-inequities-20210128/video.