Editor’s note: On Oct. 24, Assemblyman Brian Nestande and current candidate for the U.S. House of Representative California District 36 seat spoke to the Town Crier on a variety of issues from the campaign.
When asked if he was surprised by the Press-Enterprise’s Oct. 17 endorsement of him, Nestande replied, “Happily. I did well in the interview and it was a long discussion going in-depth on the issues.”
Describing both the discussion with the PE’s editorial board and the early October debate with Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, Nestande said, “It’s tough to draw him in a discussion of the issues. There’s a lot of platitudes and not much specifics. I’d prefer more details and a healthy debate about our differences.”
The economy suffers from too much government taxes and regulations, according to Nestande. “There’s a balance. Our highest tax rates are driving investments to other places, such as Ireland. Lower the tax rates and we’ll see investment come back to America.”
In his opinion, special interests are partially responsible because they urge the legislatures to enact special tax rates or breaks. “Eliminate these and flatten the rate for all firms. Then small businesses will compete with big ones,” Nestande recommended.
As an example of the different views he and Ruiz have, Nestande mentioned the Keystone pipeline project. “This could provide thousands of middle-class jobs,” he argued. He’s concerned that China has already offered to help pay for constructing from the oil fields to Canada’s West Coast if the Keystone pipeline is rejected.
Nestande recognizes the interrelationship between the economy and energy policy. His advocacy of the Keystone pipeline also comes from his concerns about the country’s energy supply and his memories, as a child, of waiting in gas lines to fill his family’s car tank.
“The Middle East has us over a barrel. We need responsible exploration of oil,” he urged. Then he described the development and progress of Senate Bill 4, which addressed the fracking issue in California.
Nestande was one of six state legislators, three Democrats and three Republicans, who went to North Dakota to study the issue and talk to oil engineers and the public. Eventually the bill was enacted with bipartisan support and signed by the governor in September 2013.
Nestande supports many of the issues, such as pre-existing conditions, addressed in the Affordable Care Act. But he argues that a bill as comprehensive as the ACA should have been several bills so the details were clearer and more easily analyzed.
His primary concern is the potential effect it will have on limiting access to health care. “It limits care by limiting choices,” he said. “We need to make changes to the law. Fix the flaws, but don’t throw it out.”
One of the fixes Nestande favors is to permit health insurance to be sold across state lines just like auto insurance is. “That would bring competition,” he said.
He also advocated more visibility for health savings accounts. “These make the consumer more conscious of their health-care decisions,” he stated.
Nestande had several ideas about the immigration issues. First, he favors devoting more resources to protecting and shielding our borders. “This is not an engineering problem, but one of political will,” he stated. “I’m not advocating a Chinese wall either. The secretary of Homeland Security should certify when the borders are controlled and let Congress review that.”
Individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children should have a different status from people who come as adults, he opined. “These kids were brought here at a young age and went through our school systems,” he acknowledged.
For these individuals, he favors a pathway to citizenship. “For all purposes, they are American citizens,” he said. “We should assess their standing and pursue it.
“Adults came illegally and that’s different to me,” he stated. Placing them ahead of individuals who waited and came legally seems unfair to him. These individuals should be in good standing and formally apply with no special attention, he said.
“The biggest problem is the influence of interest groups, not individual donations, whose maximum is $2,600,” Nestande asserted. “They come in with deep pockets.”
Millions of independent expenditures have gone toward supporting Ruiz and opposing Nestande, who argues that is how candidates lose control of their campaigns and consequently lose accountability to the voters.
“I prefer money go directly to the candidate with immediate disclosure,” Nestande said. “Then you’re totally responsible for your campaign. No more hiding behind super PACs without limits.”
Nestande believes in the role of local school districts and is concerned that national programs such as Common Core will erode the position of local boards. California has already lowered its mathematics standards to accommodate Common Core, according to him.
“The federal government is creeping further and further into policy and we lose local control,” he said.
As an example, he believes national efforts place more priority on college-bound students at the expense of individuals who lack that interest or ability. He favors more emphasis on career technical programs.
“Many kids start to drop out of school in ninth and 10th grades. We need a pathway other than to college. This could be a light for them and not drop out,” he urged.
While he would ban travel to the countries where Ebola is spreading, Nestande feels we need to fight the chain of infection there. He worries about it entering the U.S. from Central American countries. “When it spreads, it will be very hard to contain,” he said.