Senator Don Perata

President & Chief Executive Officer

Don Richard Perata , born April 30, 1945 is a former  California Democratic politician, who was President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate from 2004 to 2008. Perata worked with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to gain passage of five infrastructure related bond measures in 2006. Prior to serving in the State Senate, Perata served in the California State Assembly, as a member of the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County, and as a high school teacher.

Background: Born in Alameda, California, Perata is the son of Italian immigrants. During his childhood, he helped his father, Dick, to deliver milk door-to-door for the Lakehurst Creamery in Alameda. Perata graduated from Saint Joseph High School and earned his degree from Saint Mary’s College of California. He taught English, History, and Civics from 1966 to 1981 in Alameda County schools. Perata has a daughter and a son.

Alameda County: In 1986 he was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and was re-elected to a second term. As Supervisor, Perata worked to shut down problematic liquor stores, ban cigarette advertising, and lobbied the state legislature for an assault weapons ban and funding for the mentally ill.

Rise to the California State Senate: Having served eight years representing Oakland as an Alameda County Supervisor,  Perata served as a staff assistant for then Senate Pro Tem Bill Lockyer. In 1996. Perata was elected as a California State Assemblyman for the Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont district. In 1998, Perata ran for the State Senate for the 9th District which currently includes Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Dublin, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Livermore, Oakland, Piedmont, Richmond, and San Pablo. Perata’s run (and election) to the State Senate in 1998 was part of a series of five special elections that were held in the East Bay within less than 12 months, as Perata and other East Bay politicians vied for different political offices. For a detailed account of events, see Special election musical chairs.

Don Perata was selected by his peers in the California Democratic Caucus to lead the party in the California State Senate in 2004, becoming the California State Senate President Pro Tempore and leader of Senate. The position is the highest-ranking leader and most powerful member of the Senate.  The state Democratic Party re-elected Perata as President pro Tem until his retirement from the State Senate in 2008.

California State Senate: Perata is a staunch advocate of gun control. In 1999, Perata successfully drove legislation that updated the California “assault weapons” ban by adding a ban of generically described semi-automatic firearms. He obtained a concealed weapons permit to legally carry a loaded handgun in public. He claimed this was necessary for self-defense due to threats on his life and the well-being of his family from some individual opponents of his pro- gun control legislative activity. Perata has been an advocate for the rights of the elderly, the mentally ill, and the disabled. He supported legislation to create a discount drug program and legislation to require HMOs to pay for mental health treatment. He supported legislation that secured $27 million annually for ovarian and prostate cancer and legislation that increase access to breast cancer screening for low-income women.

He has authored legislation requiring California utilities companies to contract for cleaner energy sources and supported tougher penalties on oil refinery emissions. In early 2005, Perata introduced a bill to repair California’s flagging infrastructure including highway improvements, housing reform and levee repairs. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger began to speak out in favor of improving state infrastructure after Schawarzenegger’s November 2005 special election ballot initiatives were defeated. While Schwarzenegger’s plan included fixing transportation problems, his infrastructure plan was drastically more costly and advocated more prisons and did not address the housing problem. In a rare occurrence for Sacramento politicians, in early 2006 Perata and Schwarzenegger began to work together to piece together a bipartisan infrastructure plan that both sides of the legislature could embrace. They were successful and five bond measures were approved by California voters on the November 2006 ballot. These measures are aimed at improving roads, mass transit, affordable housing, levee repair, and upgrading educational facilities.

Since retiring from political office, Don has remained active and an important leader in the California Democratic  Party, as well as lending his time and efforts to a number of important issues affecting millions of Californians, including cancer research and adults  with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Don has a personal and family connection with the issue of lack of resources, understanding and support for the families of those living with Intellectual and Develomental Disabilities (IDD) tracing back to when he was 11 years old and lost a 16 year old cousin to factors related to a lack of trained and compassionate professionals.