The California State Senate has lost a Democratic super majority that took almost a century to build. With state senators Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright taking leave to fight corruption charges, the legislative advantage was lost in less than a year. The major consequences are for relatively rare types of legislation, including taxes, fees, rainy day funds and bonds. According to a Mar. 4 SFGate article, this might lead to an era of political concessions and deal-making that was not necessary before.
According to a Mar. 4 San Jose Mercury News article, a Senate super majority requires 27 state senators from one party. With the suspension of Calderon and Wright, the Senate has a majority of 25 Democrats to 15 Republicans. There are 40 members in total.
In an interesting twist, Calderon and Wright are only suspended with pay and they could return at will for crucial votes. As a result, some are calling for them to be expelled in advance of final ruling on their criminal cases.
Calderon and Wright were moderates who did not always vote with their party, so they might not be missed if they are expelled and replaced. Also, the State Assembly still holds a Democratic super majority.
Ron Calderon is a Democrat from Montebello. He is charged with multiple counts of bribery as the result of an FBI investigation. His family is coming to the end of a decade long dynasty in California politics. Calderon is on bail and pleaded “not guilty.”
Roderick Wright is a Democrat from Inglewood. He was convicted of lying about his place of residence. He was found guilty of eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury in January. He is challenging the conviction on the basis of vague residency definitions.
The most recent use of the State Senate super majority was in January. The state passed a measure that would let voters decide on affirmative action. The measure could overturn an 18-year ban on admissions and hiring at public schools and universities.
There is currently one stalled water bond. Water bond battles are usually more about regional issues than political orientation.
Governor Jerry Brown’s agenda has two major items: Taxing oil and gas companies and creating a rainy day fund that will be loaded with protections against inappropriate withdrawals.
Another highly popular ballot initiative would restrict campaign fundraising for politicians.
Republicans might now be able to extract concessions in a state that has kept their more extreme leanings at bay. At the same time, the Democratic legislators have never been completely unified, so a numerical super majority might not matter that much.