Biography

Senate Majority Leader Robert M. Hertzberg

Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1996.  He then served as the 64th Speaker of the California State Assembly, unanimously elected by both parties in 2000 and 2001. After his tenure as Speaker, Hertzberg set out to the private sector as a clean energy entrepreneur and in 2014, he returned to state government when he was again elected to represent nearly 1 million people in the San Fernando Valley in the California State Senate. This made Hertzberg one of only six lawmakers in California history to serve as Assembly Speaker and subsequently win a seat in the Senate, where he now serves as Majority Leader.

Hertzberg is known for taking on the biggest and most challenging issues facing California, and for brokering some of the toughest negotiations. In the words of one veteran Sacramento columnist, he is “an intense bundle of energy, an all-night negotiator.” The Los Angeles Daily News has said he, “has relentless dedication and indefatigable energy...he has a reputation for integrity and perseverance.” The Los Angeles Times said this about Hertzberg: “He is a high velocity wonk; he loves big ideas and will flesh out every one of them if you give him a chance.”

As an Assembly member, Hertzberg negotiated a compromise that allowed the Legislature to break a decade-long logjam regarding building and repairing schools, resulting in the voters supporting   the largest school construction program in US History in 1998, 2000 and 2002.

He also helped shape and pass legislation that hammered nearly seven decades of California/Colorado River water disputes, and in 2000 co-authored the bill that expanded the state's existing Cal-Grant program, guaranteeing funding for every qualified student who applied.

Among his many legislative efforts during his time in the Assembly that have lasting impacts to this day, Hertzberg was instrumental in making the University of California’s 10th campus in Merced a reality. He also authored the Women's Contraceptive Equity Act, which required health care service plan contracts to cover contraception, and the Hertzberg-Leslie Witness Protection Act, which established a Witness Protection Program in California.

A champion for the Valley, he launched  Metro’s Orange Line and the construction of the CSU Northridge Valley Performing Arts Center. He also helped fund the construction and modernization of 38 new Valley schools, as well as the construction of more than 200 million dollars of sound walls throughout the Valley.

After he termed out of the Assembly in 2002, Hertzberg became a global clean-energy entrepreneur. He helped create one of the first solar manufacturing companies in Los Angeles, and co-launched a company that produced inexpensive, lightweight solar panels for use around the world. In recognition of his clean energy efforts in Rwanda, he received the “World Bank Award for Lighting Africa,” and the United Kingdom-based Guardian Magazine named him one of the “50 People Who Could Save the Planet.”

During this time, he maintained his passion for problem solving and he continued his public policy activism through participation in bipartisan groups like The Think Long Committee. The Committee’s work included reform of the California budget process, rethinking the initiative system, term limits, and redistricting – to name a few.

Both Hertzberg’s environmental expertise and his penchant for problem solving played a key role in the accomplishments of his first term in the Senate. As Chair of the Committee on Natural Resources & Water, Hertzberg championed resource conservation standards that will guide our state for generations: he oversaw the passage of a parks bond to improve and safeguard our state and local parks, as well as the most significant changes to forestry protection laws in a generation. He also authored legislation to avoid future drought by establishing, for the first time, permanent water efficiency standards and goals across the state, making water efficiency a way of life for Californians.

Hertzberg’s areas of public policy interest know no limit. He is characterized as a legislator who fears nothing and takes on everything. From criminal justice (his California Money Bail Reform Act eliminated the unfair and unjust cash bail system in California) to technology related issues (in 2018 he negotiated the passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act, enacting the strongest data privacy protections in the nation), Hertzberg approaches every problem through a lens of governing for the next generation, not the next election.

As such, he has taken on many other tough issues. For years he has been a vocal critic of California’s volatile tax structure, introducing proposals each year with innovative ideas to broaden the state’s tax base and ease the burden on working Californians. He has also been a warrior for “paying common sense”, whether it be making traffic fines and fees more fair, or eliminating the practice of school lunch shaming with his Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017.

Named “One of the Most Influential People in Southern California” by the Los Angeles Times, Hertzberg remains active in civic life throughout the community. He is deeply committed to delivering results for the San Fernando Valley, including his fight in recent years to secure funding for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor and CSU Northridge; build additional sound walls in Sherman Oaks; and raise funds for the Skirball Cultural Center. He also serves on the boards of the USC Price School of Public Policy, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, and the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, among dozens of other civic and public policy boards.

In addition to being former Chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water, Hertzberg serves on the Senate Committees on Governance and Finance; Elections and Constitutional Amendments; and Energy, Utilities and Communications; along with the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and Joint Legislative Rules Committee.

In 1979, Hertzberg earned his law degree from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and became a member of the California Bar. The Los Angeles Business Journal named him one of the top ten lawyers in Los Angeles, and The Daily Journal has repeatedly named him one of the top 100 lawyers in California.

Hertzberg has two grown sons. David is a classical music composer and a Juilliard graduate, and Daniel graduated from Goucher College and, like his father, loves politics and public policy.

Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district.  After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.