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Assemblyman called on carpet for hearing dustup

Things got so ugly at Wednesday’s Assembly Labor and Employment Committee hearing that a trip to the principal’s office was required.

During the hearing on SB 3, a bill to raise California’s minimum wage again, chairman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Hills, cut off a witness and then called for a vote despite vice chairman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, wishing to speak. As Harper continued to object, Hernández first switched off his microphone and then ordered a sergeant-at-arms to remove it.

https://youtu.be/5VN6KqrSBiA

Committee members Kansen Chu, D-San Jose; Evan Low, D-Campbell; Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento; and Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, didn’t intervene and voted to approve the bill.

“Blocking discussion in this manner is unfair, undemocratic and soils the decorum of the Assembly. I was sent here to represent the concerns of the voters of my district and chairman Hernández shut down my ability to speak for who I represent,” Harper said in a news release. “Our state’s underemployment rate is overwhelming and the bill being rammed through our committee would make it harder to hire. We are sent here to debate policy that impacts the lives of Californians, not shut down dissenting points of view.”

The Assembly Republican Caucus decried the incident as well, calling Hernández’s behavior “spastic”

“Assemblyman Hernández must have forgot that last session he voted in favor of Assembly Bill 2053, to mandate harassment training,” the caucus jabbed in its statement. “Californians elect their representatives to be their voice in Sacramento, and no other members should ever have the ability to strip them of that duty.”

Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, has met with Hernandez, Harper and the GOP leadership about the incident, spokesman John Casey said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“The Speaker believes that all members of the Assembly have the right to ask questions and voice their opinions on legislative matters while in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “Mr. Hernández acknowledged his oversight to Mr. Harper and expressed regret. The Speaker doesn’t expect any similar incidents to occur going forward.”

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California lawmakers globe-trot to Cuba, Japan

With the Legislature in recess next week, California’s top lawmakers – and a few Bay Area members, too – are leaving Sacramento to do some globe-trotting.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Agriculture Committee Chair Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will lead a trade delegation of legislators, academics, and agriculture industry representatives to Cuba from Monday, March 30 to Friday, April 3.

They’re aiming to build ties with Cuban policymakers, farmers, and businesses, and to explore options for California and Cuba to collaborate not only in agriculture but also in telecommunications, construction and banking.

Toni Atkins“With the federal government moving forward with efforts to normalize diplomatic, economic, and commercial relations, it is important for California to also engage with Cuba and expand economic relationships that create new opportunities for businesses in our state,” Atkins said in a news release. “The Assembly wants to do everything we can to create more jobs and business in California, and this trade delegation is one way to help California companies gain a competitive edge.”

The partner organization for the trade delegation is Californians Building Bridges, a nonprofit with years of experience leading cultural, humanitarian and entrepreneurial exchanges between California and Cuba. No Assembly funds are being spent.

Also in the delegation are Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond; Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Jose Medina, D-Riverside; and Rudy Salas Jr., D-Bakersfield – all Agriculture Committee members, or serving districts with agricultural interests. Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, and Republicans on the Agriculture Committee were invited but declined to attend.

Meanwhile, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, will lead a delegation including Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to Japan from Monday, March 30 through Thursday, April 2. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is going, too.

The lawmakers were invited by the Japanese government, and they’ll be discussing issues including transportation, seismic safety, clean energy, environmental protection and climate change.

Kevin de LeonThey’re scheduled to meet Monday in Tokyo with U.S. Embassy officials and Japanese officials including Issei Kitagawa, the state minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to discuss high-speed rail. They’ll also meet that day with people from Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, the main entity responsible for recovery from the March 2011 earthquake that devastated part of the nation.

On Tuesday, they’re scheduled to visit Japan’s National Diet, the legislature, as well as to tour the High Speed Rail Operation Center and to ride in a new fuel-cell car produced by Toyota.

On Wednesday they’ll travel to Kobe to meet with the mayor and tour a facility memorializing the January 1995 earthquake that killed more than 5,000 and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and the recovery efforts that followed. And on Thursday they’ll start in Osaka and then head for Kyoto, to meet the mayor for a briefing on the city’s economy and history.

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A third U.S. Senator supports Kamala Harris

A third U.S. Senator has lent her support to California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ bid to succeed Barbara Boxer in 2016.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., sent an email to supporters Friday morning saying that if they don’t know Harris yet, they will soon.

“Kamala’s awesome record speaks for itself: She’s been a fierce advocate for women and children, common sense gun safety reform, and equal opportunity for all Americans,” Gillibrand wrote. “She’s exactly the kind of leader we need in the Senate – but she’ll have to fight every single day to get there.”

The email included a fundraising plea, with a goal of $35,000 by midnight Friday to “get Kamala off to the strong start she needs,” Gillibrand added. “Kamala has had a slew of firsts: the first woman, first African American, and first South Asian to be elected as California’s attorney general. I have no doubt she’s up to the challenge ahead. I am truly thrilled Kamala’s in this race – and I hope you’ll join me in supporting her today.”

Gillibrand’s email follows support from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who tweeted out a fundraising plea:

…and from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who did the same:

Harris also Friday rolled out an endorsement from California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. “From her relentless advocacy for California homeowners, to her innovative crime fighting strategies as California’s top cop, Kamala is exactly what California needs to carry on the strong legacy and powerful example set by Barbara Boxer,” Atkins said.

Boxer announced last Thursday that her current, fourth six-year term will be her last. Harris, 50, who was just sworn into her second term as California’s “top cop,” declared her candidacy Tuesday.

Hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, 57, a Democrat from San Francisco, seems likelier than not to enter the race. Others who’ve said they’re considering the race include Democratic former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; and former California Republican Party chairmen Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette and Duf Sundheim of Los Gatos Hills.

UPDATE @ 2:07 P.M.: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is about to email out her own fundraising plea on Harris’ behalf.

“I am proud to tell you that I enthusiastically endorse her candidacy, and will do everything in my power to help her cross the finish line,” Lee wrote in the email, citing Harris’ progressive credentials including her championing a Homeowners’ Bill of Rights; protecting consumers from identify theft and predatory lending; and as district attorney, creating special units to tackle hate crimes and environmental protection. “Kamala is exactly the kind of tough progressive we need fighting for California in Washington.”

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Reactions to Barbara Boxer’s decision not to run

Click here to read our full story on Boxer’s decision.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“It was 22 years ago this week when Barbara became a senator, and she has certainly left her mark. After I spoke with Barbara this morning about her decision, I realized that even though she may leave the Senate, I’m confident she’ll remain a champion on the many issues that defined her public service.

“Barbara took on a lot of challenges in Congress, but I think I’m most grateful for her hard work in support of women and families, the environment, human rights and her tireless efforts to modernize our country’s infrastructure. She has made a real difference for California and the country.

“Barbara and I worked particularly hard on the fight against global warming—I think no one is more engaged on this issue than she. It’s been an uphill battle, but today we’re seeing the success Barbara has had on making climate change a real priority for Americans.

“I always knew I had a partner in Barbara. She is never one to shy away from any challenge, and I can’t thank her enough for being such a resilient collaborator. We blazed many trails together, and now I’m eager to see where her next steps take her. Barbara is so passionate about so many things, I know her work has really just started. I’m sure she’ll continue to be a role model and inspiration to us all.

“Barbara, thank you and best wishes as you take that next step forward. It has been a true honor to serve with you.”

From California Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon:

Harmeet Dhillon“Senator Boxer’s impending retirement at the end of 2016 will bring a long-overdue opportunity for change to California’s representation in the Senate. For far too long Senator Boxer has pushed a liberal agenda that does little to address the challenges facing millions of Californians and Americans alike. Important issues to Californians such as the economy, technology, energy policy, excessive regulation on small businesses, education, and meaningful immigration reform have fallen behind in the wake of her focus to push a strictly partisan agenda at the cost of California citizens. We look forward to a spirited campaign to replace Senator Boxer with someone more in line with the needs and the goals of California voters.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, at her weekly news conference:

Nancy Pelosi“She called me before I came down here. It’s funny, she called me and she said she wanted to talk to me personally. I thought maybe she wanted to have dinner tonight or something. Oh my. Well, her decision is an important one for her and her family. It’s all personal and individual. Senator Boxer has been such a champion for the people of California and, indeed, for our entire country.

“I have always said of Congresswoman Boxer, Senator Boxer – Congresswoman when I came to Congress – Senator Boxer, that she is – this will sound like an oxymoron to you, but she is one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known of. She has always shared her ideas. She has always shared the credit. She has always tried to help people succeed with their ideas. She has reached across the aisle. She has reached across our state, which is a glorious state. And her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, the people of California, and to our country.

“I hope as she goes – I assume that she’s not running, but she’ll be here the next two years – and in the course of that time, there will be real recognition of the difference that she has made for fairness in our economy, protection of our environment, respect for our men and women in uniform. She’s really a great leader for our country – small in size but a giant in terms of her contribution to the country. I didn’t know. As I said, all I had was a call from her, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.

“It’s a real loss, I think. But God bless her, for her decision. And I wish her and Stewart and their family well. Thank you. My granddaughter just took her grandson out for their sixth birthday. They were born a couple months apart. So we are very close, from a family standpoint. Senator Boxer had a shower for my daughter, Christine, five days [before] – that would be six years [ago] – and the next day, her daughter Nicole had the baby, Sawyer. So they are just very close in age. And our family celebrations have been together over time, whether it’s weddings or babies or whatever. So, it’s a close personal friendship.

“Of course, I wish the best for her in that regard personally. Officially, I think it’s a big loss for the country. But she knows her timetable. Thank you very much.”

Much, much more, after the jump…
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5

No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

“It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

“To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”

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Three Bay Area members in Assembly leadership

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced the members of her floor team Tuesday, tapping two Bay Area freshmen and one returning incumbent to top leadership posts for the 2015-16 session.

Atkins, D-San Diego, named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as Speaker pro Tempore; David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as Assistant Speaker pro Tempore; and Evan Low, D-Campbell as Assistant Majority Whip.

She also named Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, as Majority Floor Leader; Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, as Assistant Majority Floor Leader; Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, as Majority Whip; and Jim Cooper, D-Sacramento, as another Assistant Majority Whip.

The Speaker pro Tempore and his assistant fill in for the Speaker when she’s not around, including presiding over meetings of the Assembly. The Majority Floor Leader and his assistant serve as the Speaker’s personal representative on the floor, making motions and points of order as needed to keep things moving. Whips keep track of vote counts and keep caucus members in line for important legislation.

“Monday is the Assembly’s first floor session for the 2015-2016 term, and I believe we should hit the ground running,” Akins said in a news release.

The appointments will take effect when the caucus formally elects Atkins as Speaker at Monday’s organizational session; committee chairs and members will be announced next week.