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Bigelow visits Calaveras and Tuolumne counties
Fifth District state Assemblyman Frank Bigelow visited Calaveras and Tuolumne counties last week, taking some time to visit the district as another legislative year and midterm election ramp up.
“I’ve just been visiting with people,” Bigelow said. “I’ve been listening to my constituents.”
First elected to the Assembly in 2012, Bigelow seeks his fourth term. He previously served for 14 years on the Madera County Board of Supervisors.
On Jan. 26, the California Natural Resources Agency released its draft of the Mokelumne River Wild and Scenic Study Report, which recommends adding 37 miles of the Mokelumne River to the California Wild and Scenic River System. The 2015 passage of Assembly Bill 142, a bill Bigelow authored, mandated the report.
“Everyone put together their efforts,” he said. “All of the involved parties are still trying to digest the information. My job is to help people in the area, but I also want to protect property and water rights. The people asked for it.”
Bigelow then commented on his district’s struggles with unemployment.
“Industries have had to close,” he said. “Retailers have closed. The local economy is having a tough time, so I’ve been focusing on reducing taxes and keeping opportunities open. I’ve been holding the line against more regulations. I’ve been trying to get more dollars for the district and that’s part of the legislation that I’ve done.”
Bigelow also commented on his efforts to improve local education.
“We want to get to students as early as we can,” he said. “Many times they get left behind and I’ve been fighting for career technical education dollars after the governor removed those dollars. But in a good way, the governor recognizes that a lot of students don’t get a lot of help. He understands that now.”
Bigelow recently contributed to the effort to prevent the University of California Board of Regents from increasing tuition.
“I put my signature on a letter opposing those increases and fees,” he said. “I insisted on more transparency, but President (Janet) Napolitano wasn’t forthcoming and they had a hidden fund. This issue was highly taken on by both parties. It was nonpartisan. Both parties were very concerned and we were all asking the same questions.”
Bigelow then pointed to his efforts last year to pass AB 524, which would redirect money paid to the state by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for its negligence in causing the 2015 Butte Fire to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection specifically for local fire prevention and clearing diseased trees.
“It was a way to help local communities,” he said. “It was $8 million that were unanticipated and unappropriated, and I went after all of them. I got them out of both houses without a fight and then the governor vetoed it. That money was going to go to communities to remove dead and dying trees. I was a little disappointed. Well, I was a lot disappointed. That money was going to help communities and instead it went into the general fund, and now it’s gone.”
When asked about his least favorite legislation, Bigelow said, “I certainly didn’t support cap and trade or the gas tax bill. If it included a tax or a fee, I just didn’t support it.”
In response to a question about last season’s record high amount of traffic in Yosemite National Park, Bigelow said, “I work to help make sure dollars get to California highways and I’ve worked and lobbied to help the parks get their fair share. Tourism traffic is a shot in the arm.”
The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors recently voted to ban the commercial cultivation of marijuana. Bigelow represents a district of seven counties and parts of two others, all making independent marijuana regulation decisions.
“I’m not the biggest fan of marijuana,” he said. “I’m an EMT. I’ve seen way too many bad stories and a lot of people coming up with a lot of information. I’d like to see more true and scientific information, some conclusive and irrefutable information about marijuana before you put it out there in the hands of kids. That’s where it’s ending up. The counties get to make their own decisions and they’re doing it.”
In a separate phone interview about his re-election campaign, Bigelow said, “It’s certainly been an honor to represent the district. I think I’ve been doing a good job. I’ve tried to reach out, but it’s hard to be everywhere.”
“I’m there every day,” he added, in reference to his work in Sacramento. “I’m always available for an open discussion and the record shows that I’ve stepped across the aisle to get things done. I’ll be back to work at the Capitol on Monday morning. I’ve never had a free ride.”
View Original Publication: Calaveras Enterprise