The first Latino elected President pro Tempore of the California State Senate in more than 130 years, Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is setting a bold agenda to give every kid a fair shot at a higher education, and to combat climate change while building a new, low-carbon economy with opportunities for all Californians. Leading the Senate of the largest state in the union, Senator de León takes on challenging issues that strengthen the national reach of California’s policy-making.
As co-chair of Proposition 39 – the California Clean Energy Jobs Act — Senator De León convinced voters to close a corporate tax loophole to generate billions of dollars and fund more than 40,000 California jobs that improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools.
This year, Senator De León’s Democratic caucus has introduced legislation to strengthen California’s climate leadership by pursuing standards that will reduce petroleum use by 50 percent, set a 50 percent renewable energy standard for the state’s utilities and increase building energy efficiency by 50 percent, all by 2030. Senator De León also has introduced a bill to require the state’s public employee pension funds to divest from coal and, by 2050, increase the state’s overall climate pollution reduction target to 80 percent below 1990 levels.
Senator De León was elected to the State Assembly in 2006 and elected to the State Senate in 2010. In 2012, Senator De León authored Senate Bill 1234 “Secure Choice Act” which created a first-in-the-nation retirement savings program for over 6.3 million workers in California’s private sector. The New York Times called his efforts to provide retirement security to millions of low-income workers “a model for addressing a national problem.”
Other legislative accomplishments include trailblazing authorship of the 'Yes Means Yes' bill to protect college students against violence and sexual abuse; Assembly Bill 31 which allocated local park assistance funds to communities lacking parks and green space, resulting in 126 park projects across the state; Workers’ Compensation reform that lowered insurance costs for businesses, while increasing workers’ benefits; and lead negotiator for the expansion of California’s Film and Television Tax Credit to keep Hollywood’s production jobs at home in the Golden State.
Long before being arriving at the Legislature, de León dedicated himself to public service and served immigrant communities through teaching U.S. citizenship courses. The work led him to community organizing and taking a stand against 1994’s Proposition 187, a voter-approved statewide initiative that denied government services to undocumented immigrants. In response, Senator de León organized the largest civil rights march in California history.
Twenty years later, Senator De León continues to fight for immigrants’ rights. He authored Senate Bill 396 erased the language of Prop 187 from California law in addition to first-in-the-nation legislation to prevent the unnecessary separation of families, protecting them from legal complications due to differences in immigration status. In 2013, he brokered a compromise with Governor Jerry Brown to ensure signage of Assembly Bill 60, a law which allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses so they could drive to work, maintain insurance and step out of the shadow economy.
De Leon credits his immigrant mother for teaching him the nobility of a hard day’s work and our shared obligation to build a brighter future for the next generation. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, later earning a degree with Honors from Pitzer College. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California. His daughter is a student in college.