Lawmakers usher in new era at the Capitol

December 4, 2012 12:26:38 AM PST
Lawmakers ushered in their new era at the Capitol Monday. The new session began with a dramatically reshaped Legislature with Democrats holding supermajority powers in both houses, giving them the authority to raise taxes without Republicans and override gubernatorial vetoes.

Still, newly-reappointed Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) vows to listen to the GOP. "Finding the right solutions for the challenges facing our state is not the task of one party or one house," he said.

Already, though, Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment to make changes to Proposition 13, the landmark initiative that limits how property taxes are assessed and requires a two-thirds vote for any new taxes.

State Senator Mark Leno's (D-San Francisco) proposal asks voters to allow local communities to raise parcel taxes for schools with just 55% of the vote. "Allowing a third of the state, or the local area, to veto what the two-thirds wants, I don't believe is really a democracy and has proven to be too difficult hurdle," he said.

And Assm. Tom Ammiano and several co-sponsors have reintroduced the Trust Act, banning local law enforcement from turning over illegal immigrants to the feds for possible deportation if their crime is relatively minor.

"We must make sure that Secure Communities focuses on violent and hardened criminals, not on day laborers, not domestic workers," said State Senator Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles).

Republicans will have little say. "Our role will be, hopefully, partnering with the press. We will help shine a light on what's going on in the government," said California Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar).

But Democrats believe voters gave them a mandate to get things done. Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) says: "I think the biggest danger is that we would move too cautiously and not address the problems that California has been facing. California voters have demanded that we govern and that's what we intend to do."

Lawmakers will also be making less this session. A new 5% pay cut means rank-and-file will earn just over $90,000 a year, but they get their $142-a-day tax-free per diem for living expenses.


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