The California Senate voted Tuesday in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to withhold pay from suspended lawmakers. The bill, SCA17, passed Tuesday by a vote of 31-3. The bill is a direct response to several California state lawmakers being indicted (separately in unrelated cases) on federal corruption charges. In March, the Senate voted to suspend Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee (pictured, left), who face federal corruption charges, and Sen. Rod Wright, who was convicted for lying about living in his district. All three are Democrats and continue to draw their paychecks, which was a point of contention amongst Republican lawmakers who criticized the Democratic leadership for not acting more swiftly.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced SCA17 to prevent similar situations in the future, though his bill stopped short of expelling lawmakers who are "presumed innocent until found guilty."
Some lawmakers, like Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), are pushing for the expulsion of all three senators. He described several ethics-reforms bills moving through the Legislature that increase campaign donation disclosures and reduce perks for lawmakers, as toothless. He also called SCA17 "un-American" because he said suspended lawmakers' constituents are being taxed without representation.
"We have millions of Californians right now who are paying taxes and have no representation in the state Senate," Anderson said. "This isn't about punishing members … this is plain and simple a power grab using a crisis to get there."
Before the vote, Steinberg said, "I listen intently to the opposition, and I choose not to respond except to remind the members what the SCA actually says: This SCA would give a future legislature the power and authority to do something punitive that we currently don't have."
The Senate leader's successor, Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) called for decorum on the floor. "The ad hominem attacks aren't acceptable on any individual, whether we are Republican or Democrat," de Leon said.
The amendment would go before voters on the November 2014 ballot if two-thirds of the state Assembly approves it.
Source: Lompo Record