BY JIM MILLER | The Press-Enterprise
Richard Roth is a month into his first term as a state senator, one of a few firsts linked to the Riverside Democrat.
The 31st Senate District is Roth's first elective office. He's the first senator who can serve 12 years under the revised term limits law voters approved in June.
And after a campaign that could rank as the most expensive legislative contest of the 2012 cycle, Roth's election helped Democrats achieve two-thirds supermajorities in both houses for the first time since the 1880's.
Roth, a self-described moderate on fiscal issues, said Democrats should not abuse their new Capitol powers.
"This is an opportunity to demonstrate to the voters that the Legislature can work in a reasoned matter to improve the fiscal situation in California," said Roth, an attorney and retired Air Force general. "I don’t think this is a time to spend every state dollar."
The 31st District takes in Corona, Riverside and Moreno Valley. More than any member of the Inland delegation, Roth represents a district that is almost most evenly divided between the parties; Democrats have a 1.5-percentage-point edge over Republicans.
Roth, 62, also will get the Republican perspective at home -- his wife, Cindy, is a Republican and president/CEO of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce.
Roth said he has spent the past weeks setting up his Capitol and district offices and preparing his legislative agenda.
He said his main priority in the coming term will be helping constituents navigate the state bureaucracy and getting the state to commit $15 million annually to UC Riverside's school of medicine, the subject of Roth's first bill last month.
As chairman of the budget subcommittee that oversees veterans programs, Roth also plans to work on veterans issues.
"We’ve got a homeless veterans situation that needs to be addressed in California," Roth said. By some estimates, he said, as many as 19,000 veterans are homeless in the state.
"I think that’s an issue that needs to be addressed in coordination with the federal government," he said.
Roth also said he expects to be part of efforts to revamp the California Environmental Quality Act. Skeptics say the law hampers construction projects, but supporters contend that the rules prevent damage to the environment.
What needs to be done, Roth said, "is to balance environmental protection with the need for jobs." Job creation, he added, "should be the No. 1 thing in our windscreen."
Roth's district includes Eastvale and Jurupa Valley, two of the four Riverside County cities hit hardest by the 2011 budget's shifting of vehicle license-fee money to pay for local public-safety grants. The other two are Wildomar and Menifee.
The shift cost Jurupa Valley close to one-half of its general-fund revenue and officials have warned that it might have to disincorporate. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure last September to restore the money for the four cities.
Roth said he is trying to craft a fix that can survive the governor's desk in 2013.