SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A state legislator who received thousands of constituent thank you letters, dozens of Legislator of the Year awards, and top ranking on several organizations’ legislative scorecards is coming to the end of his legislative service.
California state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) is terming out in November after 12 years in the legislature, and constituents, friends, and fellow lawmakers are reflecting on his remarkable career.
Before he stepped away, Anderson made sure to honor others. He held his last “California Heroes Month” ceremony in El Cajon, California on Oct. 13. Some 50 community members received Certificates of Recognition for their community service work. Since 2007, Anderson has given out 164,025 Certificates of Recognition.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Aug. 28, Anderson reflected on his job as a legislator, “I can’t think of a job that I’ve enjoyed more. I had the opportunities to reach out to the community, to lift people who needed help.”
Stephen Frank, a political and public policy activist and editor of California Political Review, has known Anderson for 30 years. He said, “Joel is one in a million. He not only says [what] he believes in, but by his actions, he lives it.
“He is open and honest. He doesn’t hide where he stands. Whether you agree with him or not, at least he is honest with you. And what more should we expect from a legislator but honesty?”
The ‘Anderson Caucus’ and a Constitutionalist
During the 4-year period from 2012 to 2015, Anderson did not caucus with anyone, hence the formation of the “Anderson Caucus.”
“I talked to Joel about that a couple of years ago,” Frank said. “He said that he likes to vote the way his constituents want him to vote, that he presents bills that help his constituents and the state. He was elected by his constituents, they are the ones who can tell him what to do, not a bunch of other elected officials. I respect that.”
Regardless of who Anderson caucuses with, he has been independent in his ideology and actions. When it comes to bipartisan issues, Anderson very often reached across the aisle and co-authored bills and resolutions with Democrats.
As Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) puts it, “Anderson is known as an independent and strong voice for his constituents… He is prolific, and very energetic.”
During his 12-year tenure in the California Legislature, Anderson authored 183 bills, and co-authored 418 bills with Democrats and over 160 bills with fellow Republicans.
In 2016, Anderson was the first and only state legislator to endorse Trump before the primary. He introduced Trump at the California Republican Convention in 2016.
“Anderson is a guy who is philosophically based to begin with,” Frank said. “He did not learn his ideology by getting involved. He already had an ideology, which was the reason he got involved.”
Anderson is “a constitutionalist, a believer in limited government,” Frank said. “He believes the people are smarter than the government. His voting record shows that. The bills he has introduced show that.”
Constituent Services Vital to Government Accountability
Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) pointed out that “Sen. Anderson very often writes letters to judges, DAs, the governor, regarding individuals, his constituents, that need someone to intervene on their behalf to have their side of the story to be seriously heard.”
Whether it is helping constituents reunite with unclaimed properties held by the State Controller’s Office, or helping small business owners with tax issues, or building more housing for the developmentally disabled, or helping a young boy’s family through complicated health insurance claim procedures, Anderson regards “providing constituent services as vital as it promotes government accountability and allows citizens to make their government work for them.”
According to his website, his office has responded to 133,388 constituent contacts, resolved 9,607 constituent casework, and held 50 town hall meetings for a recorded total of 2,308 attendees.
Anderson in turn has received over 1,500 thank you letters from the community, 26 Legislator of the Year awards, and the highest ratings on legislative scorecards from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Republican Assembly, American Conservative Union, and California Taxpayers Association.
Divesting Billions Away from Iran’s Terror Machine
In his first year in the legislature, Anderson authored AB 221 of 2007, divesting California’s public pensions from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Anderson said: “Money is the mother’s milk of terrorism. AB 221 will stop California’s investments from being used to fund Iran’s terror machine.”
Frank recalled: “I remember that one, because it created a lot of controversy even among conservatives who hadn’t thought about it that deep. People say it was [the issue of the] federal government, foreign policy. But Anderson’s point was, it is foreign policy, it’s the role of federal government, but the State is using vendors that are helping a terrorist nation. We have a responsibility to do our part to say ‘no.’”
Condemning the Chinese Regime’s Human Rights Violations
In 2008, Anderson authored a letter demanding that the mother of a San Diego resident, a practitioner of Falun Gong in China, be released after she was illegally detained by the Chinese regime.
Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline consisting of moral teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and a set of meditative exercises. In 1999, a Chinese state survey reported that 70 million Chinese had taken up Falun Gong, a number greater than the membership of the ruling Communist Party. This scared then-Party leader Jiang Zemin, who started a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, which continues today.
On July 20, 2017, Anderson introduced Senate Joint Resolution 10 denouncing the regime’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. The resolution passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. But two weeks before the Senate session ended, SJR 10 was tabled by then-Senate President pro tempore Kevin de León after the Chinese Consulate intervened.
In the last week of the Senate session, Anderson tried 18 times to bring SJR 10 to a floor vote, with the last attempt at 1 a.m. on the last day of session. Each time, he would give a speech on the Senate floor reminding his fellow lawmakers that human rights is a fundamental building block of the country and the state, and that the issue should be given a chance to be voted on the floor, “so that your constituents have a chance to know where you stand on this human rights matter.”
The measure was never voted on. However, it left a lasting impression on the members of the legislature. Sen. Jean Fuller spoke about it at Anderson’s Member Recognition event in the Senate: “Who can forget his impassioned stance in support of Falun Gong? I think we all will remember that.”