Jeff Stone (Republican) is the incumbent state senator representing the 28th District, which includes all of the Hill communities. He is a former Riverside County supervisor, whose 3rd District also encompassed the Hill.
In June 2004, Stone defeated the incumbent supervisor. He was reelected in 2008 and 2012 with more than 65 percent of the vote each campaign.
In 2014, he set out to fill the vacant state senate seat and succeeded. He was the top vote getter in the June primary and defeated fellow Republican Bonnie Garcia in the November general election.
With the enactment of Proposition 28 in 2012, Stone may serve a combination of 12 years in the state Senate or Assembly. He is currently finishing his fourth year and reelection would give him a total of eight years.
Stone was not the only candidate to express some dismay with the current election season. “It’s a tough time to be a politician,” he said. “People can be extremely mean spirited. You can’t have a different opinion without being vilified.”
While he feels the hearings on the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court were a “circus,” he doesn’t find that to be a prominent issue among district voters.
Stone stated that healthcare is the important issue of the campaign. And its complexity — healthcare, taxes, jobs and other aspects — make it hard to simplify.
With the Democrats are likely to maintain control of the California Legislature, he expects legislation, such as single-payer health insurance, to be on the agenda next year.
“Government-sponsored healthcare imposes burdens,” he opined. “What about the cost, which is estimated to be $400 billion? No one has identified where that revenue will come from. How will we pay for it?”
He listed the numerous steps necessary to implement a new system, such as new software technology, connectivity for hospital and patient records, new rules. Lowering physician and surgical costs will increase demand without adequate resources to respond, he noted.
If income taxes are the source to finance single-payer healthcare, Stone’s research suggests they will have to go up 17 percent. Current health insurers, such as Kaiser, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, will no longer exist.
“People won’t be able to live in the state anymore,” he fears. “It will become a healthcare crisis.” But an alternative healthcare plan, which is affordable, is very challenging, he added.
Stone’s legislative focus will be public safety. He feels many of the recent propositions and laws are “putting criminals back on the street.”
The state has a very ambitious spending policy for education, from kindergarten through community college, Stone said. Prop 98, approved in 1988, sets several tests for the level of funding.
In general, the minimum has been 40 percent and often reaches 50 percent of the annual General Fund appropriation, especially during strong revenue years.
“Education is seeing more money this decade,” Stone noted. “But [achievement] is not always about money. It has as much to do about what goes on in the classroom.”
Stone praised the work of local school boards and their efforts to provide quality education to a diverse student body. The number of students who speak and read English as a second language has an effect on the standardized scores, he added.
Smaller class sizes are Stone’s objectives. Besides funding for more teachers, he realizes that more people need to be encouraged to become teachers to satisfy a higher demand.
“Teachers are one of the most important members of the community,” he said. “They have to prepare the next generation to compete globally. They’ve got to be bright.” Consequently, he is disappointed that teacher starting salaries can be as low as $35,000 annually.
He wants teachers dedicated to the students, but also sees the need for greater parental involvement in school activities. This, to him, explains the movement toward charter schools, where parents’ involvement tends to be greater.
Finally, Stone advocates for a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine what California is doing right and what other states are spending and compare the scores looking for improvement, while saving funds.
This summer, in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s request that it consider new wildfire legislation and modifying existing laws, the Legislature created a joint committee composed of senators and assembly members. Stone was one of the five senators chosen for this committee.
While he was the swing vote ensuring the bills did get to the Senate floor, he felt some of the new legislation did not go far enough to address the problems associated with wildfires.
For example, he argued that the five-year time frame was not adequate. Complying with state and local regulations, including environmental rules, can take several years. “It needed to last 10 years,” he said.
But he is proud that the bills will make it easier for citizens to clear brush and dead trees from their property, thus reducing fire risk for some. But he also advocated for more institutional responsibility.
“The relationship between Cal Fire and the [Public Utilities Commission] needs to change,” he stated. “The PUC is in charge of ensuring miles of power line are appropriately out of every tree and brush so sparks can’t ignite fires. This relationship needs to become more formal. The fire and utility profession need to work together.”
When he came to the Hill during the Cranston Fire, Stone took his own photographs of the burned areas, especially along the highways.
“I sent them to [Southern California Edison] because there wasn’t adequate trimming,” he stated. “Homes and lives are at stake! Do your part and make it safe from fires and in case of high winds!”