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Wednesday, Oct 03 2012 11:00 PM

MICHAEL KENNEDY: Valadao's corn ethanol reboot a big victory for bipartisanship

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    Michael Kennedy

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The nation is clearly divided this election year between the two mainstream political parties. Consequently, few political figures are willing to set aside the debates that surround partisan politics and carefully evaluate the needs of the constituents that they have been elected to serve. Election campaigns call for bipartisanship and candidates promise that they will serve as "moderates" within their political party, if they are elected. Unfortunately, history reveals that a limited number will truly govern in this manner, unless they are using the "bipartisan card" to gain support for their personal agenda and political soapbox. This is the mentality that has scarred the face of the existing political system. As George Washington warned, it is this divisiveness that "serves always to distract the public councils. ... It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another. ... It opens the door to ... corruption."

However, there are those few who have faithfully fulfilled their promise to fight for the needs of the people over party politics, and it is this faithful minority who should be commended for their desire to cross party lines, embrace reasonable policies and write legislation that meets a common need.

I was reminded of this political anomaly, and these faithful few, while reading about the recent passing of AB 523, which will eliminate all future funding for corn-based ethanol. This California Assembly bill was signed into law with bipartisan support after being initiated by Assemblyman David Valadao. This should come as no surprise, as Valadao has consistently supported the will of the people since his election, and he has also stood firmly against any legislation that will harm the Central Valley.

One great example: His efforts throughout his district to hold public forums to help inform citizens about the enormity of damage California high-speed rail will cause throughout both Kings and Kern counties. Now, his work on AB 523 will again help those who live within the boundary of the 30th Assembly District, and it will also help every citizen in California. As noted in the language of the bill, Valadao authored this legislation because he had a desire to "bridge the budget deficit" and because subsidies for corn-based ethanol were "negatively impacting the food supply and price." He also noted that there are "little if any positive environmental benefits" derived from corn-based ethanol. Nevertheless, more than 40 percent of corn in the United States is being wasted to produce this commodity.

The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in late August, prevents corn ethanol projects within the state from being eligible for funding under California's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. AB 523, which becomes effective in July 2013, redirects state funding away from corn ethanol and toward other forms of renewable energy, including ethanol not derived from corn.

Valadao's willingness to take a stand on this issue has brought together not only political leaders, but also fiscal conservatives, political activists, environmental groups and agricultural associations. Such support is evidenced by numerous letters from myriad organizations, including the Sierra Club, the California Cattlemen's Association, and the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association.

Some believe that bipartisanship is dead, given the current political situation, but there are still those few elected leaders who are willing to put partisan issues aside. This mentality, when coupled with a strong desire to wholeheartedly represent the view of constituents, is what separates a political representative from a self-serving politician. Therefore, the passing of AB 523 should set an example for other elected officials. Assembly members and state senators alike must learn to work together for the common good of the communities they have taken an oath to serve, or this great state will fail to prosper and maintain its rightful place as the Golden State. The citizens who have voted to elect these leader must remember the words of John Dickinson, later quoted by Patrick Henry: "Join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!"

Michael Kennedy of Bakersfield is the principal of Bethel Christian School. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words.

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