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Robert Hertzberg photographed by Christopher Michel in 2014
|Member of the California State Senate|
from the 18th district
|Assumed office |
December 1, 2014
|Preceded by||Alex Padilla (redistricted)|
|64th Speaker of the California State Assembly|
April 13, 2000 – February 6, 2002
|Preceded by||Antonio Villaraigosa|
|Succeeded by||Herb Wesson|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 40th district
|Preceded by||Barbara Friedman|
|Succeeded by||Lloyd Levine|
|Born||November 19, 1954|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Residence||Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California|
|Alma mater||University of Redlands (BA)|
UC Hastings College of the Law (JD)
Robert Myles "Bob" Hertzberg (born November 19, 1954) is an American politician currently serving in the California State Senate. He is a Democrat representing the 18th Senate District, encompassing parts of the San Fernando Valley.
Prior to being elected to the State Senate in 2014, he served as the 64th Speaker of the Assembly, representing the 40th Assembly District. He is one of six former Speakers in California history to also serve in the State Senate. He is a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Legal career and early political work
- 3 Election to State Assembly
- 4 Speaker of the Assembly – 2000–2002
- 5 State Senate (2014–Present)
- 6 Private law practice and alternative energy ventures, 2002 to current
- 7 2005 Campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles
- 8 Workplace misconduct accusations
- 9 Political advisory roles
- 10 Civic affairs/public policy activism
- 11 Political vision/ideals
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Hertzberg was born in Los Angeles, California to Harrison W. Hertzberg and Antoinette "Bunny" Taussig Hertzberg. He was a graduate of Palm Springs High School. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Redlands in 1976 with a bachelor of arts in history and English. While in college, he wrote a 400-page handbook, A Commonsense Approach to English. Three years later Hertzberg earned his Juris Doctor from Hastings College of the Law. He has been an active member of the California State Bar since 1979.
Legal career and early political work
After graduating from law school in 1979, Hertzberg was an associate at the Beverly Hills law firm of Fulop, Rolston, Burns, & McKittrick. In 1983, he coauthored a manual on real estate law, California Lis Pendens Practice, published by the University of California, with a second edition in 1994. He was then a full partner in several small Los Angeles-area law firms until running for the State Assembly in 1996.
Hertzberg's first political job was a driver for Lt. Governor Mervyn Dymally in 1973 and 1974, which ended in Dymally's election as the first African-American Lt. Governor in California history. He then did a part-time stint as an advance man in the White House under President Jimmy Carter in 1977–80. From the 1970s through the 1990s, he worked for numerous California Democrats, including LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, U.S. Representatives Dennis Cardoza (campaign chair), Brad Sherman, Julian Dixon, Xavier Becerra (campaign co-chair), Lucy Roybal-Allard and Hilda Solis, LA City Council Members Mike Hernandez (co-chair) and Herb Wesson (chair), and State Assembly members Antonio Villaraigosa (campaign treasurer), Hersh Rosenthal, and Richard Alatorre, among others.
Election to State Assembly
In 1996, Democratic Assemblywoman Barbara Friedman of the 40th Assembly District encompassing North Hollywood, Studio City, Van Nuys and Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles was forced to retire due to term limits. Hertzberg ran for the seat and was opposed in the Democratic primary in March 1996 by Fran Oschin, an aide to Los Angeles Councilman Hal Bernson. According to the California Political Almanac, Hertzberg "racked up a sheaf of endorsements and raised well over $200,000 for the primary." He won the primary with 72% of the vote. In the November general election, Hertzberg had a 59–31% victory over Republican Ron Culver. In 1998 and 2000, Hertzberg was reelected by successively greater margins, 69% and 70%, respectively.
Speaker of the Assembly – 2000–2002
On April 13, 2000, Hertzberg was unanimously elected by a voice vote as the 64th Speaker of the California State Assembly. In 1996, when Hertzberg first ran for the Assembly, the Democrats had 38 of 80 seats. By November 2000, when Hertzberg was directing the Assembly Democratic campaigns, his party was up to 50 seats and he was the last Speaker to gain seats until the Obama landslide of 2008. As Speaker, his principal priorities were:
- Passing bills on alternative energy and protecting the environment
- Public safety as with anti-gang efforts such as the CLEAR program
- Improving the integrity of the legislative process through new ethics rules
- Enhancing legislative oversight, which helped lead to the investigation that caused the resignation of Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush on misconduct charges
- Passing bonds, including AB16 in 2002, to spend billions of dollars to rebuild California's infrastructure, especially elementary schools.
- Establishing the Capitol Institute to better train legislators and their employees.
The nonpartisan California Journal rated Hertzberg the best Member in the Assembly for being a successful coalition-builder, for working the hardest and having "serious brain wattage."
During his time in the Assembly, Hertzberg helped open up discussion with local business leaders, sponsored legislation to make state government more accessible to the public via the Internet, to make it easier to vote, to create more "Criminal Scene Investigations (CSI) laboratories, to cut $1.5 billion in taxes, and worked with Senate President Pro Tem John Burton and State Senator Deborah Ortiz to increase funds to revamp public education through the "Cal-Grant" Program. The Cal-Grants Program was "hailed by educators as a turning point that will give poor students unprecedented access to California's colleges and universities" and Hertzberg commented upon the bill's passage, "California is back." (Hertzberg believed deeply in community colleges, seeing them as the key to growth in "New Economy"). Under Hertzberg's speakership, the state also began to rebuild public transportation, and Hertzberg co-sponsored the legislation creating CLEAR, an anti-gang program, which Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley called "the most successful gang prevention program in California history."
Two years before September 11, 2001, Hertzberg was issuing warnings and sponsoring legislation to thwart terrorism. After the attacks, Hertzberg temporarily shut down the State Assembly and created the bipartisan Legislative Task Force on Terrorism to combat potential threats to California's food and water supplies.
Hertzberg supported successful legislation to reduce greenhouse gases from motor vehicles by requiring low-carbon fuels, a bill passed by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley as AB1493.
He was the architect of a compromise that allowed numerous school bond measures to go forward. His negotiations with State Senator Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) allowed the State Legislature to break a decade-long legislative logjam and place school bonds on the 1998 and 2000 ballots. In 2002, he sponsored another school bond, AB16, to place an additional $25.35 billion of school bonds on the ballot in November 2002 and then successfully campaigned to pass the bond. Using the framework Hertzberg designed, California was able to pass over $70 billion in school bonds. For nearly two decades, California state government had been deadlocked with a Democratic State Legislature facing Republican Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. Hertzberg and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton broke the gridlock to pass the most progressive social legislation since the 1960s.
Warm and outgoing, Hertzberg has been given the nicknames "Huggy" and "Hugsberg" for his habit of offering embraces to colleagues, employees, voters and even opponents. Republican consultant Tony Quinn described Hertzberg as the "Energizer Bunny with a 150 I.Q. – always willing to discuss policy." His media outreach while Speaker was largely managed by former L.A. Daily News reporter Paul Hefner, whom Hertzberg brought to Sacramento in 2008 as his press secretary, communications director and head speechwriter.
Legacy as Speaker
With Republican Assemblyman Bill Leonard, Hertzberg worked to create the Robert M. Hertzberg Capital Institute to train new legislators and employees in state ethics rules and computer systems. After his tenure as Speaker ended, the Legislature under successor Speaker Herb Wesson named the Capitol Institute after Hertzberg. Hertzberg also created the Speaker's Office of International Relations and Protocol. The nonpartisan magazine California Journal gave Hertzberg high marks for working hard, being intelligent, having high ethical standards and being a successful coalition-builder.
Criticism of Hertzberg as Speaker
Veteran Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton said of Hertzberg's tenure as Speaker: "Reviews are mixed. Hertzberg is an intense bundle of energy, an all-night negotiator, an affable, incessant hugger. But critics contend there's often more motion than forward movement." However, Skelton noted Hertzberg's string of legislative accomplishments and ended the column with "Hertzberg cared. He tried. And he's leaving the house in better shape than he found it." In the California Journal, Sherry Jeffe criticized what she called Hertzberg's "micro-management" and giving Republicans "porky bribes" to ensure passage of the budget. She also complained that he was "rolled on redistricting by Senate pro tem John Burton" and commented that "the low point for this speaker – with his penchant for organization, structure and fastidious to detail – came the last night of the 2000 legislative session when, argued one Capitol insider, 'as a result of disorganization, a great number of bills which would have been enacted fell through the cracks'." Conservative Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters said Hertzberg's promise of legislative oversight of the executive branch "faded, particularly when the subjects were the energy crisis and the performance of his fellow Democrat, Governor Gray Davis."
Assembly Legislative Accomplishments (1996–2002)
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AB206 – "Citizens' Complaint Act." (1997) Requires state agencies, with web sites, to provide a form on the web site for individuals to register complaints or comments regarding the agency's performance.
AB513 – Meth Sentence Enhancement (1997) increases criminal penalties for selling methamphetamine.
AB853 – Gang Prevention Programs (1997) establishes the Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) Demonstration Project to combat gangs in Los Angeles County.
AB856 – CA Witness Protection Program (1997) creates a state witness protection program run by the Attorney General.
AB880 – Elder Financial Abuse (1998) expands criminal penalties for financial abuse of the elderly and dependent populations.
AB2011 – Gun control (1998) requires that a serial number must be on a non-antique modern gun as a condition for transfer of ownership and requires law enforcement tracing of all seized guns.
AB2351 – Electronic threats (1998) adds threats made by electric communications, such as the Internet, to the list of prohibitions.
AB39 – Contraceptives (1999) Requires health care plans to pay for contraceptive services.
AB140 – Anti-Terrorism (1999) makes illegal the possession, use, manufacture, attempt or threat to use weapons of mass destruction.
AB185 – San Fernando Valley re-organization (1999) allows the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles to request a citywide vote on secession.
AB187 – Grant Information (1999) allows state agencies to make available on their web sites a list of all grants administered by that agency.
AB925 – Conservators (1999) creates a Statewide Registry for conservators and guardians.
AB1094 – Voter Registration (2000) reduces the deadline for registering to vote from 29 to 14 days before the election.
AB1391 – Forensic Laboratories (1999) authorizes the construction and remodeling of forensic laboratories. This bill eventually led to the creation of the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center of Los Angeles in 2007.
AB1473 – Infrastructure plans (1999) requires the Governor to submit annual five-year construction spending plans.
AB1665 – Cal-OSHA Funding (1999) extends the funding for the California Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration inspection program.
AB1717 – Gun Control (2000) requires the Department of Justice to evaluate ballistic identification systems and report back to the Legislature.
ACR181 – California History Month (2000) designates September as "California History Month.
AB16 – Education Bonds (2002) authorized spending of $25.35 billion in future education bond funds. Voters passed school bonds in 2002 and 2004.
AB56 – Voting Modernization Bonds (2001) authorizes a $200 million bond to update and repair California's voting equipment.
AB423 – Farm Labor Contracts (2001) enhances enforcement of farm labor contracts and the payment of back wages owed.
AB669 – State Non-emergency phone number (2001) authorizes local public agencies to establish a "311" non-emergency phone number.
AB865 – Credit Cards (2001) requires credit card companies to detail the time and cost of paying off credit card debts by only making the monthly minimum payments.
AB935 – Public Interest Attorneys (2001) helps lawyers who work in the public interest or indigent defendant field to pay off their student loans.
AB1657 – LA County Healthcare (2001) requires the State Auditor to evaluate the financial capacity of the LA County Department of Health Services to meet its responsibilities.
AB1781 – Instructional materials funding (2002) provides funding for school districts to purchase instructional materials.
AB1838 – Terrorism – W.M.D. (2002) makes use of weapons of mass destruction murder in the first degree and a capital crime.
AB2321 – Court claims (2002) creates rules for personal injury claims against California State and local courts.
AB2717 – Water Desalination (2002) requires the Department of Water Resources to report to the Legislature by 2004 on the possibility of seawater desalination in California.
State Senate (2014–Present)
In 2014, Hertzberg ran to represent the 18th District in the California State Senate. He won the June primary with 63.1% of the vote and the general election with 70.2% of the vote. The 18th District covers the eastern half of the San Fernando Valley, from Burbank and Sun Valley in the east to Northridge in the west and from Sherman Oaks and Studio City in the south to Sylmar in the north.
Under the state's term limits, Hertzberg is eligible to run for reelection in 2018 but can serve only one more Senate term.
After being sworn in, Hertzberg was appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León to the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, where he was also made chairman; the Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments; the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications; the Committee on the Judiciary; and the Committee on Natural Resources and Water.
For the 2017–18 legislative session, Hertzberg kept the same committee assignments but was appointed chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water and no longer served as chairman of the Committee on Governance and Finance.
Hertzberg has focused his legislative efforts on criminal justice reform, renewable energy, social justice issues, tax reform and water management.
State Senate Legislation Signed into Law (2015–2016)
SB 134 (2015) – Encouraging Lawyers to Practice Public-Interest Law. SB 134 helps attorneys pay off student loans (on average ranging between $85,000 and $125,000 per law school graduate) if they agree to practice in key areas of public-interest law. There is often little incentive to work in public-interest areas of law since the pay often is substantially lower than in private practice. Funding comes from donations to a special fund. 
SB 272 (2015) – Local Government Data. SB 272 requires local government agencies to conduct system-wide inventories of collected data and make the inventories publicly available under the California Public Records Act. Specifically, SB 272 requires California local government agencies at the city and county level to inventory the information they collect and make the inventories accessible to the public. These inventories include who maintains the information and how often that data is collected. The goal for SB 272 is to better harness the power of locally generated data to help spur economic growth, tackle major infrastructure issues and set millions of Californians on a path toward upward mobility. Properly gathered and clearly understood, data could also help empower local agencies and encourage the agencies to work together more effectively and to intelligently allocate resources to better deliver public services. 
SB 405 (2015) – Amnesty for Traffic Fines. This bill helped establish a traffic amnesty program for Californians who owed fines and fees for minor traffic offenses prior to 2013. The program returned suspended driver's licenses to anyone with debt from prior to 2013 who entered a payment plan and made a commitment to pay agreed-upon fines. The program only applied to minor violations such as expired tags, failure to report a change of address, etc. The amnesty program took effect Oct. 1, 2015 and expired on April 3, 2017. Through the program, more than 205,000 Californians were able to get their fines and fees reduced and more than 190,000 received their suspended driver's licenses back.
SB 540 (2015) – Taxpayer Advocacy. Created a taxpayer advocate at the state Franchise Tax Board. The advocate ensures that taxpayers who are overcharged or otherwise penalized for administrative mistakes made by the FTB can receive assistance and refunds. The measure became law on Jan. 1, 2016.
SB 621 (2015) – Providing Care for the Mentally Ill. Allows counties to apply for funds from the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) Grant program to be used in diversion programs in an effort to provide a cost-effective strategy to reduce the rate of recidivism and re-incarceration of mentally ill offenders. This grants an alternative treatment option for offenders with a mental illness and it also furthers prison realignment efforts. The measure became law on Jan. 1, 2016.
SB 380 (2016) – Requiring Testing of the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility. Co-authored with Sen. Fran Pavley, this measure requires all wells to undergo testing before new injections of gas are made into the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility. A gas leak from the facility began on Oct. 23, 2015 and continued for almost four months, sickening thousands of residents of Porter Ranch and surrounding communities.
SB 450 (2016) – Expanding Voting Periods for Elections. Co-authored with Sen. Ben Allen, this measure requires every voter to be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot, establishes vote centers to replace neighborhood polling places and mandates that voting for an election take place for 10 days, which covers two weekends, preceding the election date.
SB 494 (2016) – Moving Ahead with Creating an Early Earthquake Warning System. Co-authored with Sen. Jerry Hill, this measure created the California Earthquake Safety Fund to be used for the state to fund seismic safety and the early warning system. Separately, Gov. Jerry Brown directed $10 million to the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services in 2016 to further expand the state's earthquake early warning system prototype, known as ShakeAlert.
SB 820 (2016) – Pushing Cleanup of Hazardous Waste Sites. This allows purchasers of contaminated properties to negotiate a cleanup plan with the state in exchange for liability protection from damages due to the original contamination that they had no role in. The legislation is expected to help local governments attract developers willing to take over hazardous waste properties.
SB 881 (2016) – Speeding Up Traffic Amnesty Claims. Requires courts to respond within 90 days to claims made under the traffic amnesty program established by SB 405 of 2015.
SB 936 (2016) – Expanding Small Business Loans. Expands loans available through California's Small Business Loan Guarantee Program by adopting the federal standard for leveraging the financing. That means less state money is needed to guarantee the loans which in turn means the state can back more private loans with the money it has.
SB 1137 (2016) – Punishing Ransomware as a Serious Crime. Clarifies that infecting computers with ransomware is a form of extortion and that a person engaged in the activity could be convicted of a felony and imprisoned up to four years.
SB 1349 (2016) – Upgrading California's Website Providing Campaign Finance and Lobbying Information. Overhauls state's online portal providing campaign finance and lobbying information to the public to make it modern and quick and easy to use.
SB 1476 (2016) – Requiring Greater Accountability and Oversight of Tax Checkoffs. Improves accountability and transparency of tax checkoff contributions. The legislation requires the tax donations to be continuously appropriated to the administering agency and that the administering agency post online the process for awarding the money, how program funds are awarded and how much is spent on administration.
State Senate Legislation Signed into Law (2017–2018)
SB 61 (2017) – Tax Checkoff for Food Banks. The measure extended a tax checkoff for food banks, which would have been scheduled to disappear from state tax returns in 2019, through 2026.
SB 231 (2017) – Stormwater Capture. The legislation adds a missing definition of "sewer service" to state law to include stormwater, which was long considered to be part of that definition until a court decision cast doubt on that interpretation 15 years ago. The measure will allow local governments to finance and build projects that capture and clean stormwater just as easily as they can finance and build needed sewer facilities.
SB 250 (2017) – Preventing School Lunch Shaming. The legislation stops schools from publicly shaming or embarrassing students by denying them lunch or providing a snack instead because their parents haven't paid lunch fees. The measure would also direct schools to establish a process for notifying their families about unpaid fees and collecting them.
SB 306 (2017) – Whistleblower Protection. The measure would add protections for whistleblowers so they can keep their jobs while retaliation complaints against their employers are being investigated.
SB 606 (2017–18) – Water Efficiency as a Way of Life. This measure, along with AB 1668 (Friedman) establish guidelines for efficient water use and a framework for the implementation and oversight of the new standards, which must be in place by 2022. The two bills strengthen the state's water resiliency in the face of future droughts. 
SB 10 (2017–18) – Bail Reform. The legislation has won widespread praise, with editorials in support written by the Los Angeles Times, Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union-Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle.
AB 375 (2018) – California Consumer Privacy Act. Co-authored by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park).
SB 237 (2018) – Direct Access.
SB 838 (2018) – Blockchain. 
SB 913 (2018) – Graffiti Busters.
SB 931 (2018) – Conservatorship Proceedings.
SB 1001 (2018) – The B.O.T Act of 2018. 
SB 1007 (2018) – Veteran's Reinvestment Tax Exemption.
SB 1147 (2018) – Oil Bankruptcies.
SB 1215 (2018) – Safe & Sustainable Wastewater Management.
Private law practice and alternative energy ventures, 2002 to current
After retiring from the State Assembly in 2002, Hertzberg joined Mayer Brown LLP, formerly Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw as a full partner. At the firm, Hertzberg has specialized in government affairs, providing strategic advice to companies doing business in California and nationally. He has been particularly interested in the fields of the environment, climate-change, energy, water and Indian related issues.
Green Energy Sector
Besides his law practice, Hertzberg has been active in the alternative energy business. During his Speakership in the legislature, Hertzberg was critical in passing the Low Carbon Fuel standards. The Pavley law has now become the law across the nation.
He co-founded Solar Integrated Technology in 2003, which was the first solar manufacturing facility ever in Los Angeles. (He sold his interests to run for Mayor of Los Angeles while the company won the Wall Street Journal Award for Innovation and went on the public market in the United Kingdom).
After the Mayor's race, he co-founded Renewable Capital in 2006 to do research and development of electronic vehicle in the U.K. and co-founded G24 Innovations Limited in 2006, an innovative flexible low light solar company in Cardiff, Wales. G24i became a well-regarded award-winning company.
G24 produces a new type of lightweight and flexible solar cell that generates power in low, ambient and even indoor conditions. G24 has won numerous awards in recent years: in January 2008, CNBC European Business chose the company as one of its "Top 100 Low-Carbon Pioneers and The Guardian (UK) named Hertzberg as one of the "50 People Who Could Save the Planet." G24 is also the recipient of the "NESTA Rushlight Award" (for leading British achievement in the environmental field) as well as winning the World Bank's "Award for Lighting Africa."
Most recently, G24 won the prestigious "Business Commitment to the Environment Leadership Award" and Prince Charles invited CEO Hertzberg to join the "Business Leader's Group on Climate Change." Additional awards include: "Welsh Innovative Company of the Year 2008," and Heidrick & Struggles "Force for Good Pioneers" Award. In 2012, G24 won the "Green Manufacturer of the Year Award" at the Insider Made in Wales Awards.
On the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric stated in a news profile that Hertzberg knew "the difference between talking about global warming and actually doing something about it."
Hertzberg traveled the world as a "green-tech" innovator lecturing and working in many countries, all while he often returned to California to pursue his deep interest in public policy. He has been interviewed by the BBC, CNN and CBS on his work in alternative energy.
Public Policy Activism after Leaving the State Assembly
He continued to teach each year new members of the California State Legislature, both inside and outside the Hertzberg Institute.
With the Late Nancy Daly Riordan (the Former First Lady of Los Angeles) and Hollywood Director Rob Reiner, Hertzberg co-chaired for two years the First 5 preschool program to bring pre-school programs to the 150,000 4 year-olds in LA County without pre-school.
He also currently serves on the Board of Advisors at former Governor Schwarzenegger's Institute for State and Global at U.S.C. along with former Mexican President Vicente Fox, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, former San Antonio Mayor and Housing & Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, who is the Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
California Forward/Think Long Committee
In 2009, Hertzberg replaced future Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as the Chair of California Forward whose self-declared mission is "to work with Californians to help create a "smart" government – one that's small enough to listen, big enough to tackle real problems, smart enough to spend our money wisely in good times and bad, and honest enough to be held accountable for results." 
The web site of California Forward states that they are seeking "A Comprehensive Solution" to California's problems, including:
1) Fiscal reforms (performance-based budgeting, a more rational tax system and pay-as-you-go rules.
2) Structural reforms where more power is returned from Sacramento to local governments, pension reforms and a revitalized education system.
3) Democracy reforms, including non-partisan redistricting and voting systems.
While at California Forward, Hertzberg strongly supported the redistricting reforms that assigned the decennial task of re-drawing legislative district lines to an independent Citizen's Commission and the "Open Primary" initiative (where voters can choose candidates regardless of partisan registration), all of which California voters passed via the ballot box in 2008 and 2010.
In conjunction with Chairing California Forward, Hertzberg has also been a member of the Think Long Committee of California since 2009. This Committee is a non-partisan civic group focused on fixing California's dysfunctional state and local government structures. The Think Long Committee promotes a vision of 21st Century government in California that is more efficient and "user-friendly" to ordinary California citizens.
Hertzberg completed his service at California Forward in October 2012.
Think Long Committee of California
In 2009, Hertzberg joined the Think Long Committee of California, a bi-partisan collection of public and private sector leaders, including former Secretaries of State George Schultz & Condi Rice, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, businessmen Eli Broad & David Bonderman, and former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George. The Committee describes its mission to "Advocate a comprehensive approach to repairing California's broken system of governance while proposing policies and institutions vital for the state's long-term future."
The Think Long Committee's platform to "Re-boot California's Democracy" includes:
- Tax Reform to reduce the income while extending the sales tax to services.
- Creating a "Rainy Day" fund for the state budget.
- Full public transparency on initiative funding.
- Creating a two-year legislative session where one year is dedicated to oversight of previous laws and programs to ensure effective government.
- Aligning the skills and educational outcomes of California's master plan institutions with the needs of our cutting edge industry
- Speeding up regulatory approvals to spur job creation.
- Realigning, where appropriate, government functions from Sacramento to regional and local governments, thus saving money and increasing accountability.
- Creating a non-partisan Citizens Council for Government Accountability, which would be empowered to place initiatives directly on the ballot for public approval, will ensure that the public's priorities are protected.
Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation
Hertzberg has twice served as Chair of the L.A.E.D.C., in 2004 and 2011, the largest economic development agency in the country. As Chair, Hertzberg lead successful trade missions to China, Japan, and Korea among other nations, helping to create bi-lateral investments and trade.
During his first term as LAEDC Chair, he co-founded the Southern California Leadership Council, which includes former California Governors Deukmejian, Wilson and Davis, to work on consumer goods movement and infrastructure, among other issues.
2005 Campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles
Hertzberg retired from the Assembly in 2002. At the time, he said he had no plans to run for any other office, expressing a desire to "take care of my kids."
But a steady series of fundraising scandals where members of Mayor James Hahn's Administration were investigated by a grand jury for allegedly awarding city contracts to campaign contributors and the general drift of Hahn (some critics called him "Mayor Yawn") created an opening. In a LA Times poll, only 48% of voters considered Hahn honest.
Antonio Villaraigosa, who lost to Mayor Hahn in 2001, had been elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2003 while promising not to run for mayor, something he quickly reconsidered when Hahn proved vulnerable. Bernard Parks, the African-American City Councilman who had not been rehired as Police Chief by Hahn and State Senator Richard Alarcon also jumped in, as did a number of minor candidates. Hertzberg's allies convinced him to run, and in 2004, he started a web site ChangeLA.com to promote his candidacy.
Hertzberg advocated a "boroughs" system to make city government smaller, more efficient and more accountable to the grassroots, plus giving the Mayor's office more power, especially over the school system. He also opposed raising taxes, while favoring synchronizing traffic lights to ease congestion. Hertzberg's campaign platform consisted of four main planks:
- Break up the Los Angeles Unified School District to make it smaller, more responsive and more efficient. (Hertzberg called the District's 50% dropout rate the biggest threat to the city's future).
- A "Commuters' Bill of Rights" to help ease traffic woes.
- Using 25% of new revenue to upgrade the Los Angeles Police Department.
- Using revenue bond money to build "green" infrastructure immediately.
He told the LA Times that it was more than ambition that caused him to run, but a sense of duty as well:
"Could I go out and make a ton of money in my businesses and law firm? Sure. But when I'm 70 years old, I look in the mirror and I watched this place crumble and knew I could have done something about it. I just couldn't let that happen. Believe me; otherwise I wouldn't have done it. The sacrifices to me and to my family are extraordinary."
Over half of LA city voters did not know much about Hertzberg. To boost his public standing, he launched a TV campaign that featured a giant image of him towering over a city full of problems. He also unveiled an endorsement from former Mayor Richard Riordan. The LA Times expressed a preference for a Villaraigosa-Hertzberg run-off, while the Los Angeles Daily News endorsed Hertzberg. The African-American newspaper, The Los Angeles Sentinel, also endorsed Hertzberg, the first time they had ever endorsed a white candidate against a serious black candidate.
Analysis by the LA Times showed that Hertzberg ran best in the San Fernando Valley and West LA, among white middle class voters and Jews. Hertzberg also won twice as many precincts as Hahn, but fell short when Hahn's negative ads decreased his support in the Valley. A switch of just 3,278 votes would have put Hertzberg in the run-off with Villaraigosa. A lead editorial after the primary election in the LA Times, "Paging Bob Hertzberg," claimed a dull debate between Hahn and Villaraigosa made them "miss Bob Hertzberg and his outsized ideas."
After just missing the run-off, Hertzberg endorsed the eventual winner Villaraigosa, helping the first Latino Mayor in the San Fernando Valley, plus the Jewish and business communities where Hertzberg had run particularly strong in the primary. Villaraigosa ended up winning the run-off by 59–41%.
Workplace misconduct accusations
In the context of serious sexual misconduct allegations in the California State Legislature, Hertzberg came under public scrutiny for his lingering embraces as two female lawmakers and a former female legislator complained that the intimate embraces made them uncomfortable according to an interview by the Sacramento Bee. Two of the women said that Hertzberg hugged them again even after they had asked him to stop.
A former California Assemblywoman said that after she told Hertzberg she wasn't a hugger, he grabbed her anyway. "It was like dirty dancing. It was gross," she told the Sacramento Bee. "I was really just kind of horrified, because you don't do that. You just don't do that. It was so out of context and inappropriate." The Assemblywoman also described Hertzberg's actions in one hug as "clearly a sexual thing, rather than a friendly thing." The Assemblywoman told Hertzberg: "Don't touch me." Hertzberg responded by grabbing the Assemblywoman, pinning her arms by her side and thrusting his groin against her pelvis. Hertzberg then restricted the Assemblywoman from moving away, forcing prolonged torso-to-torso contact despite her shouting at him to let her go.
The former California Assemblywoman declined to meet with lawyers hired by the California Senate to investigate her allegation concerning Hertzberg in stating that "I don't want any involvement with these people," and "I don't respect how they've handled it." While the California Senate ordered him to stop hugging co-workers after an investigation determined that his behavior made two female legislators and a male sergeant-at-arms uncomfortable, the summary report of the investigation released by outside lawyers concluded that Hertzberg's hugs were "not sexual in nature." According to the Los Angeles Times report detailing the conclusion of the investigation, the report found that Hertzberg likely hugged the Former Assemblywoman on one occasion, but it said "the record did not support her assertion that he hugged her on multiple occasions or that he did so after she asked him to stop."
The issue came up in the media again when a man connected to the bail industry set up a "Victims Hotline" website and video in December aimed at collecting stories about the Senator – just days after the allegations surfaced. A video circulating on Facebook was found to be produced by backers of California's bail industry; an industry Hertzberg is trying to reform. Adama Iwu, one of the founders of the We Said Enough movement in the Sacramento Capitol, added that it appeared that the bail agent was taking advantage of the situation "for some kind of political gain."
Another California lawmaker, who is Latino, and who had been suspended amid a sexual misconduct investigation sued the California Senate. The Latino lawmaker argued that race was playing a role in his treatment, noting that Hertzberg, who is white, had not been asked to step aside despite allegations he inappropriately hugged people. The former California Assemblywoman who complained about Hertzberg's conduct also questioned why Hertzberg had been able to continue his work as a lawmaker during the investigation of his conduct when the other California lawmaker (who is Latino) was barred from showing up in the building as allegations against him were being investigated.
Political advisory roles
After Arnold Schwarzenegger's election as California governor in the 2003 recall election, Hertzberg served as both a formal and informal advisor to Schwarzenegger. In 2003, Schwarzenegger appointed him to his Transition Committee and Hertzberg helped guide the passage of the new governor's "Economic Recovery Package" through the Legislature that allowed the state to weather the financial crisis of 2003–04. According to The People's Machine by Joe Matthews, Schwarzenegger then offered Hertzberg the position of Chief of Staff, nicknaming him "Hertzie." Hertzberg chose to stay in the private sector, but did advise Schwarzegger to "build a thoroughly bipartisan government." Hertzberg wrote in the LA Daily News that his advice was: "Take the initiative to go and meet with members of the Legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike. Sit in their offices, meet with them as human beings, and learn to work with them."
Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg commented on Hertzberg's role as a link between Schwarzenegger and the State Legislature, saying that Hertzberg would report "what the Democratic legislative line was — where we couldn't go and where we were willing to go. And he had the trust of the principals on both sides, which helped quite a bit."
After finishing a close third in the 2005 mayoral election, Hertzberg also served as the Chair of Mayor-elect Villaraigosa's Transition Team. In 2009, Hertzberg also served as the co-chair of the Transition Team for newly elected Los Angeles City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich. Despite being out of office for a decade, the journal Capitol Weekly has repeatedly named him one of the Top 100 influential people in Sacramento, writing in 2011: "Bob Hertzberg is one of those hyper-kinetic, Type-A personalities who love politics for its own sake. He's a former Assembly speaker, an L.A. lawyer and a go-to guy for his ideas on political reform. Amazingly, he was a sort of adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he continues to be an insider Democrat with his fingers in lots of pies."
Civic affairs/public policy activism
Hertzberg has stayed involved in policy debates and formulation through his service on numerous boards of public policy committees and several universities, including:
- Board Member, 2005 to 2011, Town Hall Los Angeles
- Member, University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Board on History and Culture, 2005 to 2009.
- Fellow, USC Keston Institute for Infrastructure
- USC Price School of Public Policy, Board of Councilors
- Board of Visitors for Pepperdine School of Public Policy, Member
- California Historical Society, Trustee to 2007
- National Speaker's Conference, Honorary Member, Executive Committee
- Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), Board of Directors to 2007
- Board Member, Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College
- Century Housing Corporation, Board of Directors, 2003–2008
- Member, Executive Committee, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
- Member, Council on Foreign Relations
- Center for Governmental Studies, Board Member
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Board Member to 2008
- Southern California Leadership Council, Board Member.
- California Center For Regional Leadership, Board Member, 2005 to 2009.
- Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, Chairman 2004 and 2011.
- Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Board Member 2008 to 2011.
- California Forward, Leadership Council co-chair 2009 to 2012 (see above).
- Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Board Member
- Nominated by Governor Schwarzenegger to serve on Climate Change Strategy Panel 2010.
- Metropolitan Water Committee, Blue Ribbon Committee, 2010–2011.
- Member, Think Long Committee of California, 2010 to present (see above).
- Elected member of the Board of Directors to The China-US Energy Efficiency Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to combat global climate change by promoting industrial energy efficiency in China, 2012 to present.
- Board of Advisors, Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California.
Hertzberg calls himself a "New Democrat" in the mold of Bill Clinton, who is both pro-business and pro-labor. He told the Los Angeles Business Journal that education is the key to the future and "we're trying to pave the way for what's coming next in California; intellectual property, not low-wage jobs." And Hertzberg told the Speaker's Commission on Regional Government: "The winners in the New Economy will be the regions that learn to work together to relieve traffic congestion, build affordable housing, preserve open space and promote economic development. If government is going to be effective in this new age, it is going to have to start thinking regionally. This Commission is an important first step."
In his autobiography Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger relates how he went to meet with Speaker Hertzberg in 2002 to seek support for his successful "After-school" initiative:
"One of my first stops was Bob Hertzberg, the Speaker of the Assembly. Bob is a smart, ebullient from the San Fernando Valley, about the same age as Maria.
He's so friendly that his nickname is Huggy. Within two minutes, we were swapping jokes. 'What's not to like?' he said about our ballot proposition. But he warned me not to expect support from the Democratic Party itself. 'God forbid we should endorse a Republican initiative,' he wisecracked."
When he was running for mayor, Hertzberg told the LA Weekly: "Get it done or get the heck out of the way is my philosophy. I start out as a holistic thinker. I'm the big picture, holistic thinker... It really boils down to the issue of getting the work done. I am sick and tired of the noise. Sick and tired of the empty promises."
In 2018, Hertzberg introduced a bill to identify automated social media accounts as bots with full disclosure. This bill, SB-1001, is the first of its kind. The bill has flaws as it is a California state bill attempting to regulate a global internet.
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