Meet the Newbies: Assemblyman Josh Hoover

Capitol Weekly Podcast
By John Howard, Tim Foster, and Assemblyman Josh Hoover

With the results of the November election now finalized, 30% of California legislators are newcomers to their offices. Assemblyman Josh Hoover, (R) turned AD7 red, flipping a Sacramento area seat that had voted for Democrat Ken Cooley for four terms. If Hoover is new to the Assembly, he is no stranger to the capitol: he was chief of staff to former Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who left to take a seat in congress.

We sat down with Hoover to talk about his legislative priorities (one of which is to scale back the renovation of the Capitol Annex, a project spearheaded by his AD 7 predecessor) including his interest in education, and ideas for addressing the homeless crisis. He declined to join us for this week’s Who Had the Worst Week in California Politics, but you can probably guess who we chose.


John Howard: Greetings and welcome to the Capital Weekly Podcast. I'm John Howard and of course I'm joined by Tim Foster. John, our special guest today is Josh Hoover at the seventh Assembly District. Not new to the capitol, though. You were chief of staff to Kevin Kiley. I understand you live in Folsom, been there 20 years or more, and you've been involved in local politics. And here you are now as a newly elected member of the California Legislature. So welcome. Thank you very much for coming.

Assemblyman Josh Hoover: Thanks for having me.

Howard: So we were talking before Tim and I were talking about who we would like to have on the show. We wanted to have you for one reason because of the Capital Restoration Project and your involvement in that and opposition to it in some cases. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Hoover: Sure. So the Capital Annex Project, the goal is redoing the back half of the Capitol where most of the legislative staff and the governor's office is housed. It is an aging building. It's a building that does need renovations. It needs to be fixed in ways that, for example, it's not ADA accessible, which is a huge concern. And so there are certainly things that need to be done with it. But the current version of the project that was actually pushed by, you know, actually my predecessor, Assemblymember Ken Cooley, is a very costly way to solve that problem. And it also completely changes the nature of capital park and the nature of the West Steps and the front of the Capitol that kind of have this iconic, you know, place where people come and petition their government and really speak, you know, protest and hold rallies. And and it changes the Capitol in a major way that I think we could probably do without while still addressing some of the existing issues.

Howard: There is a lawsuit afoot, at least one. I think there's one, though, that is based on CEQA. Yeah. And over the years, in the past few years, CEQA has become the the Environmental Quality Protection Act that people have learned to hate, mainly because of big projects, and it's been exempted before on big projects. What do you think of the chances of this lawsuit prevailing?

Hoover: Well, I think the lawsuit what the judges said in their recent ruling, that was a very positive lawsuit and really kind of put this project on hold, at least in the meantime, was that, you know, there was not enough information provided to the state in the secret review process. They really released the details after all that was supposed to be provided. And when it came out, the public said, well, this is completely, you know, different than the architecture of the Capitol and a number of other things. And I think this lawsuit has a lot of legs. I think we will see some changes. I think the question is, what are the people in this building willing to do? You know, how are they willing to revise that project and really fix that problem?

Tim Foster: Well, then one question I have. So the last lawsuit that went against the people who wanted to do the major renovation in the capital, it went through and they promptly just passed a bill to change the law and move forward. Could they do that with this new ruling?

Hoover: Oh, they certainly could try. You know, you bring up a good point. I mean, they did when they had a legal challenge before, they literally threw some language into the budget that basically just said, that's moot, right? Yeah. And, you know, that actually is to me, even more concerning. One of the biggest concerns for me with this project has been the lack of transparency and the lack of public input. And that kind of demonstrates that that is still going on. So, yes, they could, but I don't know. I mean, look, I think we're in a different context today than we were a year ago. A year ago, we had a huge budget surplus. We had all this extra money. We're now looking at a, you know, 20 plus billion dollar deficit in the new year. Legislators, 30% of the legislature has is new. We need to cut somewhere. This probably isn't going to be the priority for a lot of legislators. And so I think there is a really fair argument to say how do we reduce costs on this project and scale it down? I think that's fair.

Howard: What would happen to the building we're in right now? We're interviewing you right now in what they call the swing space. This building now has Capitol staffers, has a governor in it. It's got a lot of people in it. What happens in this building if the restoration project is halted?

Hoover: Well, we would just be here, you know, longer term, I think I know the current goal was to finish that project by 2025, which is pretty ambitious. But I think that if for any reason this gets delayed, we would probably be here for a longer period of time, which I think is fine. I mean, this building was built for us to conduct our business, and I think it serves that purpose very well. So I don't have any problem with that? It's just a slightly longer walk.

Howard: Just a personal level view. Did you like working over there more than you like here or the same? The view here is just amazing.

Hoover: Yeah, that is true. But you know, I loved being in the capitol. I mean, there's really nothing like being in the capitol where, you know, it's just the history of it and where the business is conducted. I mean, it's very special, but there is no doubt that it is aging. You know, everything in there is very, very old and there is a serious need to renovate it for sure.

Howard: You know, it's hard for me to give up tradition. You know, I like walking to my voting precinct and casting a ballot, you know, and I liked walking into the capitol. It just felt like sometimes it was dark and spooky. We go in there at night when there's nobody around. You don't go in there willy nilly now because of security. But it was just kind of a fun. It looked like it should be a Capitol. When I walk in here [the Swing Space], I just I think of an insurance office or I think of, you know, a modern skyscraper, you know?

Foster: Well, you know, I have to say, John, if I remember right, when you first started covering the capitol, people were in the little almost like mobile home, like temporary offices while they were doing the renovation. So, you know, we'd go back to that. You guys could all just be in mobile homes that were kind of parked on the corner of the lot.

Howard: That's true. Those bungalows were over on the other side on east side of Capitol Park near the goldfish. Yeah, but it was interesting there. They were so small that for the reporters it was sort of a sense of intimacy with the people they were covering. Reporters were allowed to be on the floor in the back. They can't just wander on to the floor where you guys are sitting, although they can put a business card, send it to you through the sergeant that they'd like to interview or something. Sure. But that was kind of cool. It was kind of close. It made me think of the House of Commons. It's kind of intimate and kind of people are close to each other. This place is a bit different right.  

Hoover: Certainly a different feel. Absolutely. Very different feel.

Howard: Your numbers I saw just this morning, I was looking at them again in the assembly, 80 people in the assembly, 62 Democrats, 18 Republicans. Obviously, there's a super majority on the other side. And most well, about 30%, I think, are new if you look at all the numbers in the assembly overall. So now they are a newbie. You're really in a minority party. How's that? Is that a daunting prospect as you go forward?

Hoover: I don't think it's a daunting prospect. I mean, there certainly will be issues that I would like to see changed that I might not be able to get traction on. But I think the reality is there. I still believe there's a lot that we can find common ground on. And as I mentioned before, 30% of the assembly is new. I mean, this is one of the biggest, you know, new classes that we've had. And since, you know, we changed term limits. And so I've been getting to know my new colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I think it's you know, there's a lot of great people in this new class of legislators, and I'm excited to work with all of them on what we agree on, what we can find common ground on and see what we can do to make this a better place for the people.

Foster: Well, on the flip side, your old boss, Kevin Kiley, is now going to Congress where they will have a majority, the Republicans will have a majority. And Kevin McCarthy is making the run for speaker. Do you have any sense of how that's going? I know we're reading in the Washington press, it sure seems like there are some people who are making noise that they're not particularly happy about that. And any inside info you can, you know, don't tell California Politico or, you know, or CalMatters staff tell us.

Hoover: I wish that I did. You know, I've been so focused on my role here at the state level and, you know, I don't have any inside info on what's going on at the congressional level, although I would say I'm sure it's nice for, you know, my former boss to be switching from the super minority to the majority. I mean, that's got to be that's got to be a nice thing. But it does come with its challenges. And this is one of them is, number one, selecting a leader. And that leader is going to whoever it is. You know, my assumption or my guess right at this point would be that it would be McCarthy. But if, you know, whoever it is is going to have that challenge of really, you know, taking the, you know, the wheel of this very, you know, diverse caucus, very fractured, you know, opinions are very large. And so it's it's going to be a challenge for whoever steps into their shoes.

Howard: You know, when I first came here, Willie Brown was actually sworn in. But he had the speakership in California, as we did on a podcast with the late Bruce Young, with 32 Republican votes and nine Democratic votes. I mean, I knew he had Republican votes and that's how he got the speakership. But he didn't have like a couple or three. He had 32, which he promised, you know, in a power sharing thing for a year, I think. And then he went on and did his thing. But just the other day I saw an analysis of the speakership fight now going on in DC. And there have been people that have been approached on the Democratic side of doing on the floor a motion to vacate the chair, which would basically be a vote right there on the speakership. Do you see that happening for the Republicans? You know, and from what you know of and of course, you know. Kiley but is there a chance there that you have Democrats voting for a more moderate Republican speaker to join the vote? Or is that something that's just outrageous?

Hoover: I mean, anything's possible, but it seems in this day of kind of hyper partisanship where, you know, if you know, I just I wonder if that's even possible anymore. And I but I would say that I would like to see us get back to, you know, a more bipartisan nature in this building. You know, I think I've been here many years as a staffer.

Foster: And how long did you have before?

Hoover: So I was here 11 years before I got elected to the to the assembly. And so, you know, I think that I just think that things have kind of changed. You know, we and some of that social media, some of that's you know, I mean, there's many factors. Obviously, the pandemic, the COVID 19 pandemic, you know, heightened a lot of partisanship. But I would love to see, you know, this new crop of legislators kind of take things back to a more you know, I mean, we're obviously can have our disagreements, don't get me wrong. I mean, there's going to be times that I vehemently disagree with a policy and I will certainly voice that opposition, but get back to a time where we can find some common ground on some of the bigger issues, such as homelessness, such as public safety. You know, some of the issues that I think people really care about.

Howard: I know you've got an interest in education. Will you be on the Education Committee if you put in a request for that? Or they said, hey, you know, Josh, we want you on education. There are other issues, education related. You want to get involved?

Hoover: Yeah, I haven't heard on the committee. I would expect that we'll hear in January. I would love to be on the Education Committee. I certainly would be honored to do that. And, you know, there are there are a number of things that I would like to work on. I think one of them being, you know, expanding options for families within the traditional public school system. And so I actually have a piece of legislation being drafted right now that I'll be introducing that would basically say if your child's in an underperforming school, you know, what you can do is you can actually enroll your child in a different public school district and they can accept your child so that the home district where your neighborhood is where you live, has veto power on you leaving the school district. So they they actually have to sign off on any child that decides to go to a public school in a different district. And so my bills.

Howard: So you can go to another school in your district, right?

Hoover: In most cases. But again, that depends on availability and things like that. That generally is more accepted by the district. But if you actually want to let's say you live near a different district and you want to go to a school in a different district, you know, often times the home district will veto that. And so my bill would basically say, if your child attends an under performing school and we define that, that you could actually enroll in a different school, in a different district without that veto power.

Howard: So you would need the permission of your home district and kind of move around some districts. I don't know much about Folsom Cordova District. I do have a friend whose wife teaches there. Would I understand there's something of a split there in the district, at least economically, between the Folsom piece of it and the Cordova piece? How was that? How do you reconcile that?

Hoover: I think it's actually one of the most challenging school districts in the state to govern because of that dynamic. You have very significant socioeconomic challenges in Rancho Cordova. And so we spent a lot of time focusing our attention on how do we, you know, improve academic outcomes in Rancho Cordova, how do we serve these kids? How do we meet them where they are? And that was, you know, honestly, most of my time on the board that wasn't distracted by the pandemic, which was another, you know, two plus years. You know, I pushed for full day kindergarten. So we actually developed a full day kindergarten program that launched in Rancho Cordova and will ultimately eventually be district wide to help get kids a better baseline for literacy and reading. And then we also pushed for expanding the educational minutes for second and third, first and second graders as well. And so I spent a lot of my time on how do we help these kids really get a better, you know, baseline so that they can succeed later in their educational career.  

Howard: So education is one area of interest of yours. What are some of the others that you're interested in?

Hoover: Yeah. You know, I mean, there's a number of of bills that I've already kind of put forward. I think, you know, I'm pretty excited. I would like to work on the homelessness issue. I think this is an issue, especially when I was campaigning, but also just any time I go to a community meeting, I mean, this is the number one issue that we hear about. I know my county supervisors very well. They're hearing about this daily, you know, from their constituents. How do we, you know, basically allow our publics paces to, you know, kind of restore our public spaces while at the same time, you know, addressing the needs of the people that need help, the mental health, the substance abuse. And so I'm really looking forward to to working on those issues as well.

Foster: What do you think about the governor's CARE Courts proposal?

Hoover: I think I honestly think it's a decent start, but I am I'm skeptical on that. How big of an impact it's actually going to have. And so I'm actually looking forward to seeing it implemented because I do want to see how it works. But my fear is that it's just not going to be enough to make a huge scale change. And so I am certainly encouraged by it. It's something from the governor that I was glad to see that he's actually putting some, you know, moving in this direction where we're going to really try to help get people into treatment and make it easier to get people into treatment. But, you know, the devil is always in the details. And one thing I've noticed about the governor is his announcements are generally very, very good. His implementation isn't always quite as good as the announcement. And so I would look, you know, I hope that it works and I hope that it's successful. But at the end of the day, I think we need to wait and see what happens.

Howard: I think the biggest controversy and that we covered in depth, one of our reporters followed this from day one was the notion of involuntary treatment for someone who needed it and yet didn't want to participate in the program. It's that notion of someone who's so in need of that care. Can you put that person into a situation where they have to have that care? There are a number of safeguards, as I understand it, in the plan, but that it came down to that. Involuntary treatment. Do you have any thought about that or notion about.

Hoover: Well, certainly. I mean, that's that's the biggest you know, that's the biggest challenge with any any policy to address this issue is how do you get people that don't want care or that refuse care? And I think this is something we're going to have to wrestle with as a legislature, as a state. You know, for, the next couple of years and figure this out. But I think at the end of the day, we have to be able to do something. We have to be able to you know, there has to be some sort of, you know, way to get people into treatment or, you know, I mean, so, for example, I've introduced a bill and this is not a a bill that's going to solve all of our problems. But what it does is it actually prohibits homeless encampments within 500 feet of a school, a daycare center or a park. And, you know, again, the goal is this has to be paired with treatment, right? We have to be able to offer them something. We have to be able to offer them somewhere to go. We have to be able to offer them a treatment program. But the idea being that if they don't accept that treatment, there has to be somewhere to go and that the law enforcement must be empowered to, for example, send them to a short jail term or something like that. And so, you know, I think there has to be a way to motivate people into treatment. And the unfortunate part of Proposition 47, which I'm sure you guys have talked about on your podcast over the years, was we had the drug courts that really provided that carrot and stick approach. You know, you could either go to treatment or you could serve, you know, your sentence for whatever crime that you committed. And what has happened now with 47 is that has completely gone away. So that that jail time is no longer sitting there. So nobody chooses to go to treatment. And I think we need to bring that carrot and stick approach back.

Howard: You know, another issue that came up and specifically on this topic is the notion of local discretion versus the state, especially in housing, where zoning locals are loathe to give up zoning authority and in effect, it diminishes the attempt to put in subsidized housing to put in low income housing. Any thoughts about that?

Hoover: Well, look, I am a a younger member of the legislature. I'm someone that, you know, was fortunate enough to be able to buy a house, my wife and I. But it was very difficult to do. It's becoming more and more difficult to do. To me, owning a home is kind of the epitome of the American dream, and it is becoming harder and harder to attain here in California. So I say that we need more housing. I mean, we have to find ways to increase our housing supply. And, you know, obviously, we want to work with local governments and we want local governments to be the ones that approve that housing. But you've seen, you know, a lot of bills introduced over the last few years to really have more of the state kind of pushing certain directions. I've introduced a bill that would try to go the more incentivized approach. So incentivize local governments. I'm sorry, I'm about to introduce a bill. I'm drafting a bill. And basically what it would say is there's a certain pot of money that we get from housing fees, and it would basically redirect a certain amount where cities would get, you know, a chunk of money per house that they approve. And so it would really be kind of almost an incentive, you know, incentivizing local governments to make the right decision and approve those housing projects. I would love to see that proposal move forward. But the reality is, is that at the end of the day, we need more housing in our state.

Foster: That legislation. Is that something you crafted out of whole cloth or are you basing that on the experience of of other maybe other states or other places where housing is not?

Hoover: It's kind of yeah, it's kind of unique to California. I mean, it's a bill that we wrote, you know, just and we're going to float, you know, and talk to our colleagues about it and hope to get some traction on. But I do think there's a lot of folks. The thing about the housing issues, it's not a partisan one. You know, I think there's folks on both sides of the aisle that agree that we need more housing. You know, maybe we agree on what that housing should look like or disagree on what the housing should look like. But I think we all agree we need more housing. And then there's folks in districts where, you know, certainly would like not to see growth in their communities and might be more resistant to it.

Foster: But it's not, therefore, their very important mountain lion habitat.

Hoover: Sure. Exactly. Yeah. I mean, it's not a clearly partisan issue. Right. Like some other issues are. So I think I think there's a lot of opportunities there to to make things better.

Howard: Another big issue right now, of course, is the price of gasoline went way up and now it's going down again. But the issue of the question of whether to penalize companies for that fluctuation in. You have any thought about that?

Hoover: Yeah. You know, I think the last thing that we need in the state is another tax, another penalty. Time and time again, we see this happen and it gets passed along to the consumer and the price goes up even more. And I just think it's it's wrong headed. It's not the right direction to go. And I would I hope that we reject that proposal as a legislative body. I really think it's just going to lead to more costs for Californians.

Foster: You know, one question I do have is watching this from outside this building, you know, not having any say in this, the governor has proposed to end the sale of internal combustion engines in 12 years. That seems to me like lightning speed, to move from where we are currently totally reliant on the internal combustion engine and gasoline powered cars to not really having new ones available. 12 years seems like lightning speed. So do you have any sense of how we're going to make that mandate, how that's going to happen? I don't know. Is it going to.

Hoover: I don't think this is a super hot take, but that's not going to happen. I mean, I just don't think there's a world where that happens, where we meet that deadline.  You know, to me, it's one of those things where it gives the governor an opportunity today to sound very forward thinking. But in five, ten years, as we get close to that deadline, we're going to see very quickly there's no way we're going to meet that deadline and it'll probably get delayed is probably is my guess on what will ultimately happen.

Howard: It's not a legislative right. It's an executive order. So another governor could rescind.

Hoover: That, too. And I just think that's the most likely because the reality is, is we're just not there yet. I actually drive an electric car. I have nothing against electric cars. I think they're fantastic. But the reality is, is that they're cost prohibitive for many, many families. You know, currently they're, you know, the market. They're a very tiny percentage of the market as it sits today. And our grid is simply not ready. We have so much work to do to make our electric grid ready for the clean energy future. And we're just not there yet. And so all of those factors combined, I just don't see a world where that happens.

Foster: So what what do you drive?

Hoover: I drive a Hyundai IONIQ 5.

Foster: And you like it?

Hoover: I love it. Yeah, it's great. My wife has a 4-Runner, so, you know, but I like having both.

Howard: Josh Hoover, thank you very much.

Hoover: Thank you.

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