Country Girl Fuller Back From Harvard & Oxford To Serve Rural 16th District

(October 8) Embracing her identity as “just a small town girl” Jean Fuller said she is running for a second and last term as state senator in the 16th District to offer her rural constituents the benefit of her experience and education.
The 16th Senatorial District covers 50 percent of the populated areas of Tulare County, including Tulare and Visalia,  65 percent of the populated areas of Kern County, including  Tehachapi and Ridgecrest and 7.3 percent of the populated area of San Bernardino County within a  substantial swath of San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert, including  Barstow, Needles, 29 Palms, Yucca Valley.
Fuller was raised in Shaster, attending and graduating from Shaster High School. After she availed herself of the curriculum at Bakersfield Community College, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in education and social science from Fresno State, a degree in public administration from Cal State Los Angeles and a doctorate in educational leadership and organization from U.C. Santa Barbara. She went on to do post doctorate study at Harvard and Oxford.
She took a job as an educator, working first as a teacher, then a school principal and finally as a superintendent  with a district in Los Angeles County before becoming the superintendent of Bakersfield City Schools, overseeing the education of roughly 30,000 students from kindergarten to the eighth grade.
It was through her role with the school district that she gravitated toward politics because of issues impacting on scholastics, most notably in the Congressional Campaign of Bill Thomas, one of her professors.
“My political activity always had something to do with schools,” she said. She successfully ran for the California Assembly in 2006 and after four years in the lower house ran for the California Senate in 2010. If re-elected, she will be termed out of the legislature under California’s term limits after 2018.
In sizing up her accomplishments in office, Fuller said, “The  biggest issues were water, energy, education and jobs” and she said she was responsible for “a lot of water legislation. Now I am involved in energy legislation. What I have been doing basically is trying to bring the cost of energy down to the inland area. I had a bill this year  requiring that when we go to  time of use rates [i.e., ones that differentiate the amount charged for energy consumed during peak usage hours as opposed to other times of day] that the California Public Utility Commission give consumers notice of how much it will cost prior to adopting the change.  Under my bill as a consumer you can openly question the rates and you can opt out of the time of use rate structure. My bill made it so you will know how much it would cost, whether it is more or less under the old or new rate. We felt it is the right thing to have the consumers know where we are going with our pricing structure ahead of time.”
Fuller continued. “I’m the vice chair of the energy utilities and communications committee,” she said. “A big area of my jurisdiction is getting sufficient power at an affordable price. I think that if we are going to power California we have to be sure as we continue to broaden our community portfolio and increase the supply we do so at a rate the inland area consumers can afford to pay. We need to increase our supply efficiently and as we move forward on cleaning our energy, which is very important, we have to do it in a way that does not cripple the economy.  Coupled with my responsibility is that for oversight of the railroads. We need to keep our railroads safe and move freight in a more efficient way. Also falling under my jurisdiction in the committee is telephone and wireless regulations. We have to modernize our communications, lay down fiber optic and wireless systems, if we are going to compete with the rest of world.”
With regard to the state’s water policy and her role in it, Fuller said that at present, “It is important to see how the water bond does,” in reference to the bond issue on the ballot statewide on November 4. “Once we see how the vote goes, a major challenge in the next legislative year will center around our water policy. We need increases in our above ground storage capacity. I believe if we capture the excess rainwater from our mountain system and hold that excess water for low water years and low water months, the system will work better.  Our aqueduct system was built when the state had 17 million people. We have 38 million now.  Between 60 percent and 70 percent of  our rainwater water runs out to sea. By capturing it and holding and letting it out slowly during drought months we will do a better job of helping everybody.”
With regard to the potential of havoc to the estuaries and fisheries within the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento Delta if water is redirected from there to the farmlands of the Central Valley, Fuller downplayed the impact of the alteration of the natural waterways.
“We are in this situation because we have held off on building the infrastructure for so long,” she said. “We need to finish the environmental impact reports, the studies for the National Environmental Protection Act so action isn’t delayed and what gets moved out of the legislature is how we are going to come up with a way to conserve more water and see how we can use newer technology to assist the ecosystem and the fisheries. We can’t do any one thing to the exclusion of all the others. We need to do better planning to capture excess water in above ground and underground water storage and preserve the ecosystem in the Delta. It is a huge undertaking and we have to do this all together.”
With regard to education, Fuller said, “An important issue is providing a quality education for every child and giving our schools and universities the support they need.  I am the vice chairman of the Rules Committee which confirms the governor’s appointments to all top level positions in state government. We need to look at what is the proper balance between our out-of-state and out-of-country students and our own students. How do we keep the price of tuition down while keeping a quality education environment?”
The state needs to take efforts to maintain its vital economic lifeblood flowing, Fuller aid. “We need to try to find a way to regulate businesses and business people in such a way that our businesses will stay in California, especially our small businesses and family businesses,” she said. “I truly believe freedom is the most important asset we have to protect. Unless people engage and participate we will lose those freedoms. I am a fiscal conservative who believes in entrepreneurial participation. Small businesses are the backbone of our rural communities.”
Fuller, a Republican, is opposed by Ruth Musser Lopez, a Democrat. Fuller said she was not campaigning against Musser-Lopez as much as she was seeking to promote herself.
“I don’t know a lot about my opponent,” Fuller said. “I am asking everyone for their vote because I have spent eight years learning the system and figuring out how I could help my district, which in my case spans four counties, survive and thrive. I am on committees where the work is very important. The agriculture committee is very important for my district. I have positioned myself well to work for the people of the 16th District. I have sponsored over 30 bills, mostly local bills. People in my district have all types of problems and I went to work on those. I take calls at my office from individuals who need help, and I try to assist everybody who lives in my district. My years in education have given me a good lens to look through. I had to balance a very large budget of over $100 million at the time.”
Fuller, who was the California Superintendent of the year in 1995, pointed to her accomplishments before she entered politics as an indicator of why she is qualified to remain as a lawmaker.
“Look at what I did before I got into politics,” she said. “I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was trying to do. I was trying to help all of our students become whatever they wanted  to be and keep the teachers engaged with those students.”
Of her political career, Fuller said, her time in office is “an open book. Let the voters judge for themselves.”

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