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  • Shreya Nara, AIT

A new Senator

After her victory in the 2020 Presidential Election, Vice President Harris left the Senate in order to take on her role as the Vice President of the United States. This raised the question of who would replace her. It has been revealed that California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, will step in to serve in the Vice President’s final two terms.

Several people had been considered for this position, before Governor Gavin Newsom announced the decision. According to a New York Times article written by Shawn Hubbler, Governor Newsom felt pressured to replace Vice President Harris with a black woman, as Harris is the only black woman currently in the U.S. Senate. Additionally, progressives in California pushed him to appoint someone similar to Representative Barbra Lee, a democrat and a U.S. Representative in California. During Lee’s college days, she was the president of the Black Students Union, where she got Shirley Chrisholm to come and speak. Progressives were also pushing for Representative Karen Bass. Representative Bass served on the Congressional Black Caucus from 2019-2020. She currently serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile, the L.G.B.T.Q. community pushed for Robert Garcia, the mayor of Long Beach. Mayor Garcia is a strong supporter of the community and strengthened protections for its people, such as offering its city employees trans inclusive health coverage. Black Women United, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and some Black elected officials pushed for Representative Bass or Representative Lee. On the other hand, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus pushed for Padilla, and their demands were met.

Alex Padilla is the son of Mexican-born immigrants and will be the first Latino Senator of California. Latinos make up 40% of the California population. Alex Padilla helped with voting accessibility in California, working to ensure that eligible adults are automatically registered to vote when they apply for their drivers license. People who are 16 and 17 years old can also pre-register to vote, so that they are automatically registered by the time they are of the voting age. While it became a statewide practice during the pandemic, more than twelve counties in California had already been issuing universal mail-in ballots to eligible voters. This was all because of the legislation sponsored by Padilla.

Padilla currently serves as the Secretary of State in California. He was sworn in in 2015, and this is where he modernized California, working to increase voting rights and voter participation, according to the website for the California Secretary of State. This same website also declares that from 2006-2015, Padilla served in the California State Senate, as the chairman of the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. While in this position, he worked to achieve a sustainable economy by pursuing an ambitious agenda in renewable energy, smart grid, broadband development, and energy efficiency.

While serving in California’s State Senate, Padilla created a law requiring chain restaurants in California to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. The Secretary of State website explains that he did this to address the growing rates of obesity and diabetes within the country. Right now, menu labeling is mandatory in all fifty states and is a national policy under the Affordable Care Act.

In California public schools, one in four K-12 students speak English as a second language. Unfortunately, only eleven percent of English learners receive the help they need and achieve english proficiency. Padilla advocated for funding reform and declared that schools and school districts should be held accountable for providing necessary resources if they have a large number of English learners. This is not the only education issue Padilla has taken on as Secretary of State. Padilla wrote a law that created a clear pathway and a better transition system for people to switch from community college into the California State University system. He also came up with the law that mandates California’s high class athletic programs offer alternate scholarships to student athletes who lost their scholarships due to an injury.

Climate change is another issue Padilla took on, writing a bill discouraging grocery stores from using plastic bags. After much debate, the governor passed the bill in 2014. Overall, Alex Padilla has implemented several regulations with the goal of improving voter turnout, making California more sustainable, and working to help the next generation achieve greater success in the classroom. Finally, he addressed the issue of obesity and diabetes by working to make it mandatory for chain restaurants in California to put the number of calories that are in the dishes on the menu. His term has just begun as junior United States Senator of California, and while it’s not clear what his platform will be in this role right now, it will be clear as he finishes the Vice President’s senate term.

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