In a career spanning more than four decades, Art Torres has distinguished himself as a public servant determined to tackle complex policy issues and stand up for those without a voice. He has led crucial bipartisan initiatives in the fields of healthcare, education, the environment, and human rights and has been a leader in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
Torres served twenty years in the California Legislature, eight as a member of the State Assembly and twelve as a State Senator. He chaired the Assembly Health Committee, the Senate Insurance Committee, the Senate Joint Committee on Science and Technology, and the Joint Committee on Refugees. He also founded the Senate Toxics Committee and authored the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, known as Proposition 65. The proposition was intended to protect the State’s drinking-water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. His passion for deterring pesticide poisoning came from working closely with Cesar Chavez in the early 1970s as the National Legislative Director of the United Farm Workers Union. As Chairman of the Senate Toxics Committee, he created the sole toxic reporting repository that helps scientists determine environmental and health impacts. He secured direct funding for university research programs as well as structural support for industry-sponsored work and funded early HIV/AIDS research in conjunction with Dr. Marcus Conant, before most public officials recognized the severity of the epidemic. He also advocated for insurance reimbursement for breast cancer treatments.
Through his legislation, Torres helped create the only national Japanese American Museum located in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and co-authored legislation to create the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. He led international delegations to release Vietnamese "prisoners from education camps” in Hanoi, Vietnam and to assist Soviet Jewish refuseniks’ efforts in the former Soviet Union. In 1989, he assisted in drafting Pope John Paul II’s environmental message and, along with Nobel Laureates and international environmental leaders, presented their document to the Holy Father in the Vatican before it was delivered in St. Peter’s Square on New Year’s Day, 1990. In addition, Torres was also appointed by the United States Senate, by the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, to the Commission on International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development, which presented its recommendations on immigration reform to then-President George Bush in 1990. Torres also served as President of the Kaitz Foundation, dedicated to bringing more diversity into management within the cable television industry.
Art Torres holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Santa Cruz and a Juris Doctor degree from UC Davis School of Law. He has served as a John F. Kennedy teaching fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and recently as a University of San Francisco’s Diversity Scholar Visiting Professor.