SACRAMENTO (CBSLA/AP) – A Bay Area Assemblywoman was forced to bring her newborn daughter to the chamber Monday in person for several critical votes because she was denied the right to vote remotely, prompting an apology from the speaker of the California Assembly.
Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) had been away on maternity leave after recently giving birth but was forced to return to the State Capitol in Sacramento after her request to vote by proxy was denied by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who represents several neighborhoods in South Los Angeles, saying she did not qualify as “high risk” for coronavirus.
She was feeding her daughter when an important housing bill came up for debate, prompting her to rush to the Assembly floor to give a speech — all while bouncing her fussy daughter beneath a blue and white striped blanket.
Senate Bill 1120 – known as the duplex bill — would have allowed subdivisions to be built on what are now considered single-family lots, in an effort to combat the housing crisis.
The remarkable moment prompted applause from some of her colleagues and quickly spread on social media, generating much criticism of Rendon’s decision to deny Wicks’ proxy request.
That prompted an apology from Rendon Tuesday which read:
“I want to make a full apology to Assemblymember Wicks. My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward her, her role as a legislator, or her role as a mother.
“Inclusivity and electing more women into politics are core elements of our Democratic values. Nevertheless, I failed to make sure our process took into account the unique needs of our members. The Assembly needs to do better. I commit to doing better.”
In an interview, Wicks said she wasn’t angry with Rendon denying her request, saying “we’re all dealing with how we manage this new world” and said she hoped her experience would serve as a “teachable moment.”
“I think it touches a chord of what a lot of women are feeling around the country right now, especially with COVID,” Wicks said. “It’s not really about me, it’s about the constraints I think families are feeling across the board.”
The moment even got a response from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“California Assemblymember @buffywicks was told that having recently given birth wasn’t sufficient excuse to cast a vote remotely,” Clinton tweeted. “So she brought her newborn daughter to the floor to weigh in on an important housing bill.”
Meanwhile, the Assembly passed SB-1120 by Monday’s midnight deadline, but ran out of time to get it back before the Senate for a final vote before it would have gone to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
“Absolutely devastated about SB-1120,” Wicks tweeted early Tuesday morning. “Our housing crisis requires us to act, and tonight we failed to do that. But I promise you this: I will always show up for housing — no matter what.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)