Sen. Jeff Stone, R-La Quinta, said Thursday he will be leaving office proud of his accomplishments and looking forward to bringing his experience and skills to bear working as an administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor.
“I wanted to leave on top, and now I’m going to be a special envoy to President Trump to carry out his agenda and to do what I can creating jobs and helping our country keep on winning,” Stone told City News Service.
“I’ll be working to enhance our domestic and international commerce, improve labor laws that protect our citizens and get rid of bad ones that prevent us from competing in the world marketplace.”
Stone will officially resign Friday as representative of the 28th Senate District, where he has served for five years, heading to San Francisco, where he’s due to be sworn in as western regional director for the Department of Labor, overseeing federal regulations and gathering information on labor market metrics in California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Guam.
Stone, who supported Trump in his presidential bid, said he submitted an application to work in the Department of Health & Human Services soon after the 2016 presidential election, and was in line for an administrative post until White House attorneys cited a “conflict of interest” over his ownership of a compounding pharmacy in Temecula.
“Two years later, this position in the Department of Labor came up. They asked me if I wanted it, and I said, `For Heaven’s sakes, yes,”’ Stone said.
According to the longtime Riverside County resident, who in the 1990s served as a Temecula City Council member and on the county Board of Supervisors, he will have to adjust his way of thinking, learning to implement policy instead of “driving” it.
“I will be taking orders from Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and the president,” Stone said. “But I will be suggesting some things that need to be addressed.”
Stone said one of his foremost goals will be advocating ways to blunt or undo the impact of Assembly Bill 5, which Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, introduced during the last legislative session, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in September.
The bill reclassified independent workers under a California Supreme Court ruling in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, imposing requirements on companies to extend health care benefits and other accommodations to people contracting with them.
Supporters characterized the legislation as a worker protection bill; opponents lambasted it as a job killing measure intended to benefit unions.
“It was about unionizing Uber and Lyft drivers,” Stone said. “The effect is to take away the jobs of single moms, seniors and other people trying to make some extra bucks to pay their bills.
“I believe it’s unconstitutional, and I will be making that argument in my new job. Perhaps the administration can look at some legal avenues to make sure we protect workers and businesses and provide a platform for Uber and Lyft to continue to innovate.”
Stone said he looks back at his time in the Senate as productive but often battling unsuccessfully to stand in the way of “bad legislation.”
“Bills can have devastating consequences for ordinary people,” Stone said. “I think if you asked my colleagues on the Republican side, they’d say I stood up and really fought, representing the voices of my constituents, just as much as the majority party represented its people. But because the Republicans are in the minority, there’s not much we can do except raise red flags.”
Stone said legislation like Senate Bill 54, which prohibits virtually any local enforcement of federal immigration law, Senate Bill 1, which raised the gas tax, and other measures have dimmed his outlook on the state’s future.
“I’m not optimistic,” Stone said. “One-third of the people in California live in poverty. We have the highest homeless population in the country, and that includes veterans. Taxes are too high, and there’s a push to make them higher.
“Stupid bills like making it safe for college students to sleep in their cars are approved, but we need to come up with solutions to real problems. Otherwise, the next financial crisis will make the last one look like a mild downturn.”
Stone said he hopes his successor will carry on fighting for the “conservative” voices of Riverside County. Stone is backing Temecula City Councilman Matt Rahn, calling him a “good fit for the district.”
Newsom will call a special election to fill the seat which could coincide with the March 3 statewide primary. Stone said he asked Newsom to consider calling the special election for March 3 to save Riverside County money.
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