Assemblyman Devon J. Mathis Named Vice Chair of Committee on Veterans Affairs

Devon Mathis
Devon Mathis

Assemblyman Devon J. Mathis (R-Visalia), veteran and Purple Heart recipient, announced his appointment as vice chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs for the 2015-2016 legislative session by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

“I am glad that Assembly Speaker Atkins recognized the need for an actual veteran to serve as vice chair of the committee which directly impacts nearly 2 million Californians and their families,” said Mathis. “As a veteran who also was wounded in combat, I know the struggles and issues my brothers and sisters in arms and their families face when they return home. I look forward to being a strong voice to ensure the California Legislature is reminded of the obligation it has to those who have protected our liberties.”

“As a proud combat veteran himself, Devon truly understands the challenges that face our veterans today and will be a wonderful advocate on their behalf,” said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, regarding the appointment of the freshman assembly member.

The Committee on Veterans Affairs oversees programs that include the Cal-Vet Loan Program, the California Department of Veterans Affairs, and the California National Guard. As a veteran and now as vice chair, Assembly Member Mathis vows to review legislation affecting millions of his fellow veterans in California who have been disenfranchised under previous leadership. Within minutes of receiving his committee appointment, Mathis wasted no time in scheduling meetings with the leadership of the California National Guard.

Mathis will be serving under Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), also a freshman assembly member, but not a veteran. Though authentically concerned with veterans affairs, her assignment has more to do with politics than reason. Because the Democrats control the Assembly, House Speaker Atkins makes the committee assignments and appoints all the chairs. As a result, all the appointed chairs are Democrats and all the vice-chairs are Republicans. The only exception is the committee on local government, where Atkins appointed Republican and fellow San Diego representative Brian Maienschein as the chair. There are 44 committees in the Assembly, the largest being the budget committee, which comprises one third of the Assembly.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “Committee assignments, and particularly committee chairmanships, matter for a variety of reasons. Committee leaders have substantial sway over which bills get hearings and which bills perish quietly. Most significant bills must pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, for instance, and the Budget Committee chair has a key role in shaping the annual budget bill. Campaign contributions often flow to members who sit on committees overseeing powerful industries. And with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, in office only through 2016, committee assignments are sure to prompt speculation about who is in position to next seek the leadership mantle.”

In addition to the Veterans Affairs Committee, Mathis has also been appointed to serve on the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, the Committee on Agriculture, and the Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care. Mathis said he is very pleased with these appointments, as they give him the ability to directly impact important issues affecting Tulare, Inyo and Kern counties.
Assembly Member Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) is chair of the Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, while Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) chairs the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

Mathis will be serving with local Assembly Member Henry Perea (D-Fresno), who was appointed chair of the Committee on Agriculture. When first appointed, speculation arose whether this assignment was a promotion for Perea, or if it was a punishment. According to the Sacramento Bee, “There was a time when chairing the Assembly’s agriculture committee was a coveted post, but the position no longer has the star power associated with committees such as appropriations, governmental operations — or insurance.” Perea was the chair of the Committee on Insurance last session.

Seen as a high-profile chairmanship that could bolster a member’s campaign account, Atkins may not have wanted to waste the assignment of insurance chair on an assembly member who is going to be termed out like Perea. Conversely, Mathis and Perea–because they hail from the Valley–can accomplish much, and are a perfect fit for, the Committee on Agriculture.

Mathis’ assignment to the Water, Parks and Wildlife committee could end up being a more coveted placement than the agriculture committee. According to the Fresno Bee, “Lehman, Quinn and others said the agriculture committee isn’t what it used to be. Quinn noted that the water, parks and wildlife committee — not agriculture — has say over water, a critical issue of statewide importance.”

To contact the office of Assembly Member Devon Mathis, call (916) 319-2026 or write: Office of Assemblyman Devon J. Mathis, California’s 26th Assembly District, State Capitol Room 5126, Sacramento, CA 94249-0026.

The main staff in Mathis’ local office starts work January 5 in the Bank of Sierra Building, Suite 505, in Visalia. You can contact them by telephone at 636-3440.

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