Biography

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Sheila James Kuehl served eight years in the State Senate and six years in the State Assembly, and, in 2008, left the legislature under California's term limits statute.  She is currently running to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky as Los Angeles County Supervisor in 2014.  She is the President of Kuehl Consulting, and serves as Founding Director of the Public Policy Institute at Santa Monica College.  In Spring of 2012, she was appointed Regents' Professor of Public Policy at UCLA, teaching a class on Making Policy Through Laws and Rules in that quarter.   She has produced a series of cable shows for the City of West Hollywood, drafted Model State Codes of Discrimination and Bullying for the Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School and consulted on a variety of public policy issues. During the 1997-98 legislative session, she was the first woman in California history to be named Speaker pro Tempore of the Assembly. She is also the first openly gay or lesbian person to be elected to the California Legislature. A former pioneering civil rights attorney and law professor, Sen. Kuehl represented the 23rd Senate District in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. During her tenure in the Legislature, she served as chair of the Senate Health Committee, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, the Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Water, Resources, and Energy, and the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and sat as a member on virtually every committee in both houses. 

In her fourteen years in the State Legislature, Sen. Kuehl authored 171 bills that were signed into law, including legislation to establish paid family leave, establish the rights contained in Roe vs. Wade in California statute, overhaul California’s child support services system; establish nurse to patient ratios in every hospital; require that housing developments of more than 500 units have identified sources of water; further protect domestic violence victims and their children; prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender and disability in the workplace and sexual orientation in education; increase the rights of crime victims; safeguard the environment and drinking water; and many, many others.  Beginning in 2003, she led the fight in the legislature to achieve true universal health care in California, and, in 2006, and again in 2008, brought SB 840, the California Universal Healthcare Act,  to the Governor’s desk, the first time in U.S. history a single-payer healthcare bill had gone so far. Undaunted by its veto both times, Senator Kuehl is continuing to work with advocates statewide and nationally to bring universal, affordable, quality health care to all Californians.

She was selected to address the 1996 Democratic National Convention on the issue of family violence and the 2000 Democratic National Convention on the issue of diversity.  In 1996, George magazine selected her as one of the 20 most fascinating women in politics and the California Journal named her “Rookie of the Year.”  In 1998 and, again, in 2000, the California Journal chose her as the Assembly member with the greatest intelligence and the most integrity.  In 2006, the Capitol Weekly picked her as the most intelligent member of the California Legislature.

Prior to her election to the Legislature, Senator Kuehl drafted and fought to get into California law more than 40 pieces of legislation relating to children, families, women, and domestic violence.  She was a law professor at Loyola, UCLA and USC Law Schools and co-founded and served as managing attorney of the California Women’s Law Center.

Senator Kuehl graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978 where she was the second woman in the school’s history to win the Moot Court competition.  She served on the Harvard University Board of Overseers from 1998 to 2005.

In her youth, she was known for her portrayal of the irrepressible Zelda Gilroy in the television series, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”