California has long provided a preview of the nation's future, both good and bad. The swirling demographic shifts taking place across the U.S. began decades ago in this state, and it is an example of how to navigate the policy challenges of building a more inclusive economy. As of 2013, California leads all other states in gross domestic product.
As California's economy has soared, however, its low-income, minority residents have been largely left behind despite overall growth.
"Given the profound changing demographics of California, it is really incumbent on us as policymakers at the federal, but especially more so at the state level, to make the human capital investments for higher education, for education, and especially for economic development," said state Sen. Kevin de Leon, president pro tempore of the California State Senate, on Tuesday at a National Journal event in San Francisco that was underwritten by MasterCard.
One area where he said states can provide more responsive policy solutions than at the federal level is immigration reform.
De León said he's hoping for "bold action" from President Obama on immigration and ultimately a pathway to citizenship, but he would be willing to move ahead with a state solution absent of federal action.