LOS ANGELES TIMES: Ex-Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg heads to Senate with long-term goals

November 22, 2014

The first surprise on a tour of Bob Hertzberg's new house in Van Nuys is the ice cream parlor, with the former state Assembly speaker's nickname on a neon sign: "Huggy's Soda Fountain."

Next is a screening room with hot dog, cotton candy and popcorn machines, and then, in the garage, a shiny green 1958 Chevrolet Apache pickup truck.

Across the yard by his office — "where I smoke my stogies, as you can smell" — he opens a door, reaches into a red box and pushes a button. A rolling metal grille, painted as false French doors, clanks open. Hidden at the edge of the lawn like a speak-easy is Hertzberg's tequila bar, its shelves lined with Don Julio and many other brands of premium Mexican liquor.

To Hertzberg, a Democrat newly elected to the state Senate after a 12-year break from public office, the tequila bar is more than an entertainment venue. He just built a bigger one, the El Norte version, at his row house in Sacramento and plans to use both to gather Democrats, Republicans, insiders and outsiders to trade ideas on the challenges California faces — the "big stuff," he calls it.

"What I'm going to try to do, in everything I do, is try to think longer-term," Hertzberg said over breakfast on a porch at the Van Nuys home.

Four goals drive what he hopes will be an eight-year run in the Senate: expand renewable energy, strengthen California's water system, shift state authority to local government and overhaul the state's boom-and-bust tax structure.

Hertzberg, a large man known for draping his arms around people's shoulders, talks fast, often at high volume. Grand pronouncements abound. The network of alternative fuel stations he envisions will be "phenomenal." Major tax changes are "gigantically important."

At 60, he is well positioned to influence state policy in a way that few other legislators can. Like Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow devotee of the long view, Hertzberg has spent the better part of four decades steeped in California politics. His tenure in the Assembly, from 1996 to 2002, schooled him in the arcane skills of lawmaking.

"I know how to get stuff done," he said.

(Read complete story, including photos, at: http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-hertzberg-20141122-story.html#page=2) michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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