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New LA City Councilman Once Dubbed ‘Worst Legislator In California’

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A former state assemblyman once dubbed “Worst Legislator in California” by LA Weekly was elected to the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday night.

Felipe Fuentes garnered 51.3 percent of the vote in his quest to represent District 7, which covers much of the San Fernando Valley.

Both the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News endorsed Fuentes in the race.

Two years ago, however, LA Weekly described Fuentes as a bad legislator after an investigative report concluded that nearly half of the bills Fuentes introduced in the state Assembly during the 2007-2008 session were written by lobbyists or a special interest. In other words, they were ghostwritten.

KCAL9’s Dave Bryan pressed Fuentes about his not-so-favorable nickname.

“That’s a question for the LA Weekly. I was able to get the support of the Daily News, the Los Angeles Times. I’m very excited about the support I got. And ultimately, the support of my district,” Fuentes said.

Bryan said ghostwriting is not an uncommon practice in Sacramento, but Fuentes reportedly had the most bills written by someone else.

The councilman didn’t deny the allegations, but didn’t back down on the legitimacy of the bills.

“I’ve had more than 50 bills signed into law. Each of the bills made its way through the committee process, through both houses of the legislature, and ultimately, to a governor’s desk. Along the way, there are plenty of checks and balances to make sure the legislation is appropriate and it’s actually serving the constituency. I’m very excited and proud for all the things we were able to do,” said Fuentes.

Dan Schnur, the director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of Fuentes’ ghostwritten bills, but said the practice raises serious questions.

“Whether they write the bill or tell your staff how to write it… is probably not as important as the access they got that gave them that influence. If you have legislators who are operating at the beck and call of special interests on either side of the aisle, the way to solve that is probably not to worry about whose word processor the bill came from, but whose checkbook the money came from that financed that relationship to begin with,” Schnur said.

Fuentes reaped tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money from bill sponsors, won reelection and snagged plum appointments to key committees in the state legislature in connection to 10 ghostwritten bills in 2007, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Fuentes assured Angelenos he will write his own bills as part of the council.

“When I asked voters for their vote, their support, I told them I learned an awful lot in the legislature. That experience, the ability to make sure that we’re going to be accomplishing the goals people need filled, I think is going to prevent any sort of concern people may have about bills being authored by lobbyists. I will do all the work myself,” he said.

The councilman said hopes to bring the lessons he learned in Sacramento back home to City Hall.

“There’s a real need to move the city forward. If I can be a part of that, that gives me a really good feeling,” Fuentes said.

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