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Inventory of the Dominic Cortese Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • State Assembly, 1981-1996
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Dominic Cortese Papers
    Dates: 1981-1996
    Collection number: LP365
    Creator: Dominic Cortese, California Legislator
    Collection Size: 22.5 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: Dominic Cortese, Democrat, served the California Legislature as a State Assembly Member from 1981-1996. The Dominic Cortese Papers consist of 22.5 cubic feet of records reflecting Cortese's legislative activities during his 16-year legislative career. The records consist of Bill Files, Correspondence, Hearing Files, Press Releases, special Interest Letters, Subject Files, and Committee Files.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Dominic Cortese Papers, LP365:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition and Custodial History

    The California State Archives acquired the Dominic Cortese Papers following his final term in the State Legislature.


    Dominic Cortese, Democrat, was a California State Assembly Member from 1981-1996. In November 1980, Cortese was elected to represent California's 24th Assembly District, which covered the southern and eastern regions of Santa Clara County and downtown San Jose. Following redistricting in 1992 the 24th Assembly District encompassed the eastern half of Santa Clara County and greater San Jose while the downtown portion of the city was incorporated into the 23rd Assembly District. In November 1992, Cortese ran for the 23rd Assembly District seat, which he held through 1996.
    Dominic Cortese was born September 27, 1932 in San Jose, California. He was one of five children of an Italian immigrant farm laborer. Growing up during the Great Depression, he picked apricots and cherries with his siblings while his father worked for the Works Progress Administration. In 1950, Cortese graduated from Bellarmine College Preparatory High School. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from the University of Santa Clara in 1954. Between 1954 and 1956, Cortese served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army. He and his wife Suzanne had five children: David, Rosanne, Mary Elizabeth, Thomas, and James. Dominic Cortese established himself as a successful farmer and businessman before pursuing a career in public office. Cortese began his political career in local government, serving on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors from 1968 to 1980. In addition, Cortese served as chairman for the Santa Clara County Transit District, the Regional Criminal Justice Planning Board, and the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). He also chaired the Executive Board of the California Association of LAFCOs from 1972-1973.
    Cortese's peers recognized his accomplishments in public service on many occasions. In 1982, Cortese received the Center for Employment Training Award for his leadership in job training and welfare reform. The League of California Cities selected him Legislator of the Year in 1983 for his "ability in solving complex problems facing local governments." The American Planning Association named Cortese Legislator of the Year in 1984. Cortese also received the El Matador Fellowship Award from the California Contract Cities Association and the President's Award from Counties in 1984. In 1986, he received the Santa Clara County Fair Association Blue Ribbon Award. The California Chapter of American Planning Associations named him Legislator of the Year in 1989, as did the California Council of the American Institute of Architects in 1990. In 1991, Cortese received the Mountain Lion Federation Outstanding Service Award, and in 1992 he received the Safari Club Recognition Award and the Sierra Club Commendation for Environmental Leadership.
    In 1995, Dominic Cortese switched political party affiliation, leaving the Democratic Party in favor of the then newly established Reform Party. Due to term limits imposed in 1990 allowing for a maximum service of three, two-year terms in the State Assembly, Cortese was required to run for a different political office. By switching to the Reform Party, Cortese avoided a primary contest against Democrat John Vasconcellos in the 1996 campaign for the 13th Senate District. However, he did lose the general election to Vasconcellos and left public office at the end of the 1995-1996 legislative session. In August 1996, Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle, Republican introduced House Resolution 79 to honor Dominic Cortese for diligent work in public service and for his faithful representation of his constituents, district, and the State. Dominic Cortese was an integral figure in the creation of the Santa Clara County Transit District. He also contributed to the formation of county commissions on Alcoholism, Consumer Affairs, Drug Abuse, Human Relations, Status of Women, and the Mobile Home Owners Task Force.
    Throughout his legislative career, Cortese served on the following committees:

    State Assembly, 1981-1996

    • Standing Committees
    • Agriculture, 1983-1984, 1987-1992, 1996
    • Economic Development and New Technologies, 1989-1990
    • Economic Development and Planning, 1981-1982
    • Elections, Reapportionment, and Constitutional Amendments, 1996
    • Governmental Organization, 1981-1984, 1987-1996
    • Health, 1989-1990
    • Housing and Community Development, 1991-1994
    • Intergovernmental Relations, 1985-1986
    • Local Government, 1981-1990
    • *Chair, 1983-1990
    • *Vice Chair, 1981-1982
    • Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security, 1995-1996
    • Public Investments, Finance, and Bonded Indebtedness, 1985-1986
    • Revenue and Taxation, 1981-1988, 1993-1994
    • Transportation, 1995
    • Utilities and Commerce, 1996
    • Water, Parks, and Wildlife, 1991-1996
    • *Chair, 1991-1996
    • Subcommittees
    • (Agriculture) Fairs and Expositions, 1989
    • (Health) Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, 1990
    • (Local Government) State-Local Relations, 1990
    • Select Committees (General Research Committees)
    • Auburn Dam, 1984-1985
    • Aviation, 1984
    • California Wine Production and Economy, 1988-1996
    • *Chair, 1989-1996
    • Child Abuse, 1986, 1987-1989
    • Child Care, 1987-1989
    • Child Care and Child Abuse, 1990
    • Common Interest Subdivisions, 1990
    • Earthquake Preparedness, 1990
    • Regional Government, 1990
    • Small Business, 1990
    • Joint Committees
    • California 1992 Joint Legislative Committee on the Quincentennial of the Voyages of Columbus, 1989-1992
    • Legislative Audit, 1983-1993
    • Organized Crime and Gang Violence, 1989-1990
    • Refugee Resettlement and Immigration, 1984-1988
    • Refugee Resettlement, International Migration, and Cooperative Development, 1989-1991

    Scope and Content

    The Dominic Cortese Papers consist of 22.5 cubic feet of records reflecting Cortese's activities during his 16-year legislative career. The records contain Bill Files, 1981-1996; Chronological Correspondence, 1982-1986, 1990-1996; Hearing Files, 1988-1996; Press Releases, 1981-1985, 1988-1995; Special Interest Letters, 1981-1985; Subject Files, 1981-1992; and Committee Files, 1988-1996.
    The bill files document his legislative activity during his term as a member of the California State Assembly. The bills introduced by Dominic Cortese include a wide array of subjects. He regularly introduced and supported legislation dealing with the functions of local governments. In 1984, he authored legislation to stabilize local government finances (AB2468, AB2469, ACA54-ACA56). Cortese also played an active role in supporting legislation geared towards water and the environment. In 1986, he authored AB3750 (Chapter 1048) that culminated in Government Code section 65962.5, commonly referred to as the Cortese List. The Cortese List mandates the public availability of documents relating to all waste facilities subject to corrective action, all hazardous waste property or border zone property designations, all information received on hazardous waste disposals on public land, all hazardous substance release sites listed pursuant to section 25356, and all sites that were included in the former Abandoned Site Assessment Program.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Cortese, Dominic
    Environmental policy
    Santa Clara County (Calif.)