Start Of A Post-Prop. 25 Assembly

DEC. 7, 2010

By KATY GRIMES

Aside from the gaiety and festive mood during the swearing in of the new members of the Assembly on Monday, noticeably absent was acknowledgment of the gravity of California’s precarious financial state. Anyone observing the ceremony would never guess that this was a Legislature with dramatically low approval ratings, and facing the largest fiscal crisis in state history.

As new and old members of the Assembly entered the chambers with husbands, wives, children and friends, some were clearly awestruck with the beautiful surroundings, while others were there already working deals.

The questions on most minds involve conducting state business after passage of Proposition 25, and wondering what the majority party will do about the economic crisis in California.

Described by many during the election as a license to steal, Proposition 25 ends the previous requirement that two-thirds of the members of the Legislature are required to pass the state’s budget. Proposition 25 also requires state legislators to forfeit their pay when they fail to pass a budget in a timely fashion, according to Ballotpedia.

Republicans say they are concerned about having any impact at all on 2010-11 legislation, and wonder if Republican legislators will be able to get bills passed, or be relegated to largely meaningless or local issue bills.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, was easily re-elected. Immediately following the vote and swearing-in, Perez gave a speech that at times, had Assembly members clapping as if it was a pep rally.

“The voters, in their wisdom, passed Proposition 25, which amended the Constitution to require a simple majority to pass the budget,” Pérez said. “I believe they did this for two reasons: to decrease the gridlock and increase accountability.

After telling Assembly members that it is the job of the Assembly to “find decent quality jobs” for out-of-work Californians, Perez said, “I am proud of what we created together.”  Touting green industry credits, and small business support, Perez reiterated “Our mission is to create jobs for California. We must find budget solutions that don’t cause cataclysmic job losses.”

“I am pleased we were able to keep 400,000 teachers, cops, firefighters, health-care workers, private sector workers and small business owners working,” added Perez.

Changing his tone, Perez pointed addressed an ongoing conflict Democrats have with Governor Schwarzenegger over the cuts to the CalWORKS program, and announced that he has introduced a bill to fully restore and fund the program once again, which Schwarzenegger had de-funded during budget talks. “Despite the Governor’s line-item veto, we have stepped up to provide bridge funding to keep this program operational through the holidays by transferring money from our own budget savings.”

Addressing the need for accountability and transparency, Perez said, “Government needs to be held accountable at every level—local, state and federal.” He announced introduction of a bill to dis-incorporate the city of Vernon, after the exposure of Vernon city leaders’ financial abuses of public money.

But the transparency message became an issue almost immediately, as the first order of business was voting to adopt House Rules 1, “with some amendments,” according to Rules Committee Chairwoman, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. But there were no written amendments to the rules available on member’s laptop computers.

Adding some specific requirements to H.R. 1, including mention of a bill due date for stem cell bills,  Skinner included a prohibition on text messaging from Assembly members to lobbyists while in session, amongst other amendments.

Chino Hills Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman, registered objection to the amendments and asked for a “no” vote on H.R. 1. Objection notwithstanding, adoption of the measure with amendments passed, 52 to 28 votes.

H.R. 2 and H.R. 3 were procedural and “routine housekeeping” measures, and passed unopposed, 80-0.

“Let’s get to work,” said Perez, and announced recess until January 3, 2011.

At the very end of the session, as members were leaving the chambers, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco,  bumped into former Assemblyman Dave Jones, now State Insurance Commissioner-elect.”God, you’re free. I hate you!” said Ammiano, laughing.

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