Calif. State Senate Votes To Suspend 3 Embattled Lawmakers
LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Two Southern California state lawmakers were among a trio of Democratic senators who were suspended Friday over criminal charges.
The decision comes after Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was indicted this week on federal charges that included accepting bribes and coordinating an international gun-running operation.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called for the vote to suspend Yee along with Democratic senators Ron Calderon and Rod Wright.
“One is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Three? That’s not what this Senate is about,” Steinberg said.
Wright (D-Inglewood) was convicted in February of living outside the district he was elected to represent. Calderon (D-Montebello) was indicted on federal corruption charges involving bribes, kickbacks and fraud. He pleaded not guilty last month.
Calderon’s 59-year-old brother, Tom, is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of money laundering for allegedly funneling bribe money through a nonprofit group and consulting company he operates.
Yee was arrested on Wednesday over allegations the lawmaker – who authored gun control legislation – asked for campaign donations in exchange for introducing an undercover FBI agent to an arms trafficker.
The Senate voted 28-1 to suspend all three lawmakers, who will continue to collect their $95,000 salaries but will not be able to cast any votes in the Senate.
“None of the members mentioned in the resolution can service another day in this Senate going forward unless they are exonerated,” Steinberg said.
The lone lawmaker to vote against the resolution was Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine.
“How is it sitting at home, watching TV or doing whatever your pleasure, perhaps playing golf, getting paid by the state Senate and the people, and not having any responsibility to do the work, is acceptable and a punishment in any way, shape or form?” Anderson said.
Anderson argued that all three should be expelled outright and said it was wrong that they should continue receiving their salaries when facing such serious charges.
“I believe that senators are not above the law and that we’re a country of laws. And I also believe that when I was raising my kids, if I rewarded bad behavior, I got more of it, and I think that’s what we’re seeing today. They’re rewarding bad behavior. I don’t understand how it makes sense to give someone their full pay and not require them to work at all,” he said.
Steinberg was expected to seek a constitutional amendment that would deny the legislators pay while suspended.
In a statement issued by the Democratic governor’s office, Jerry Brown called on all three lawmakers to resign.
“Given the extraordinary circumstances of these cases — and today’s unprecedented suspensions — the best way to restore public confidence is for these senators to resign,” he said.
The vote finalizes the Democrats’ loss of their super-majority in Sacramento, dropping the party below the two-thirds supermajority they claimed during the 2012 election.
Jaime Regalado, the professor emeritus of political science at Cal State LA, said the Democrats have not given Republicans a campaign issue and squandered the veto-proof majority in the Senate.
“Democrats are gonna be seen as not knowing how really to use the full power they had,” he said.
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