Policy and Politics in California: Annual Class Trip to Sacramento

By: Garrett Jensen, ‘20 MPP/MA POLS

On a brisk Thursday morning in February at 6:00 am, 25 students, two teaching assistants (TAs), two instructors, and one staff member boarded a bus to Sacramento. The instructors, Former Assemblymember Joe Nation, and Govern For California President and Advisor to Arnold (“Governator”) Schwarzenegger, David Crane set up a jam packed day of meetings, panels and hallway run-ins with elected officials, staff, lobbyists, media, and governmental departments as part of the Policy and Politics in California course.

After a conversation with Assemblymember Chad Mayes from Coachella Valley, the only NPP (No Party Preference) and former Republican member, we headed into the famed “Horseshoe.” In these quarters resides the Governor’s offices and staff. We had been told before arriving that Governor Gavin Newsom, who had delivered his 2020 State of the State the previous night, was in Los Angeles. But as we continued down a narrow hallway, one student pointed saying, “Is that the Governor?” Professor Nation sprung into action and with some help from Newsom's Chief of Staff we spoke with the Governor for 45 minutes. From leading in difficult times, to homelessness and housing, Governor Newsom covered a variety of student driven topics. 

After a tour of the Assembly floor from Assemblymember Rob Rivas and the Senate by Senator Tom Umberg, a student began a conversation with Senator Umberg about modifying teacher tenure probation periods in California. The Senator appreciated the comment and committed to discussing it with his policy team. Students learned that state representatives are accessible and encourage ideas and feedback.

At lunch, we spoke with Assemblymember Luz Rivas, whose policy priorities focus on STEM education and underserved minorities. Following lunch, we spoke to the heads of Medi-Cal, Department of Finance and professionals from the LAO (Legislative Analyst's Office), media (Politico, CalMatters), and the Office of Legislative Counsel.

Students were afforded the ability to network and ask pressing questions about issues facing Californians. By interacting with a multitude of stakeholders we learned about the ways in which leaders, policymakers, lobbyists, and the media in Sacramento interact to shape California’s future. With extraordinary opportunities like this, you just might see more Stanford Public Policy alumni leading in Sacramento.


For more information about the Stanford Public Policy Program visit: publicpolicy.stanford.edu.