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Civics & Democracy

We Looked At How Well California Lawmakers Are Representing You. Here’s What We Found

The detailed, carved, marble white dome and exterior of the California state Capitol building in Sacramento.
The dome and exterior of the State Capitol building in Sacramento.
George Rose
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It can’t be easy to be a Republican in predominantly blue California.

But Kelly Donivan, of El Cajon, said she believes she is well represented by her state senator, Brian Jones. He represents her values, she said, but also, his legislative director has “moved mountains” for her to solve problems she’s had with state agencies, such as getting an ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Donivan appears to be in the minority: less than half of likely voters say they approve of the Legislature’s performance, according to a February poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

And as the Legislature returns to work — with key deadlines to pass bills and approve the state budget in the next three months — Californians of all political persuasions are looking to lawmakers to represent them.

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But what does doing a good job as a state lawmaker look like?

CalMatters set out to explore that question. In the first story in an occasional series, we dug into the specific tasks — or rather, the lack thereof — of legislators.

We also talked to more than a dozen members of the largest new class of lawmakers in California’s history about the lessons they learned after their first year. And we explored why lawmakers introduce bills — especially the ones that seem like longshots.

But legislators aren’t the only ones who represent constituents. We also explored how state agencies — part of the executive branch — often fail to complete one of the key tasks aimed at ensuring accountability.

And as the state continues to navigate another year of a budget deficit, CalMatters will continue to explore the ways the three branches of state government respond to the demands and needs of 39 million residents.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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