FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2014
CONTACT: Alicia French (Knight) @ 916-651-4021, Nicole Hopkins (Anderson) @ 619-289-8909, Jann Taber (Vidak) @ 916-651-4016
Senate Floor Vote Still Needed on Senate Resolution 29, Expulsion of Sen. Rod Wright: Senate Rules Committee Hearing March 5th
Knight, Anderson & Vidak leading the charge to restore integrity to the Legislature
State Capitol – Senate leadership continues to set new precedent by allowing a Senator found guilty of eight felonies by a jury to serve in the California State Senate. Sen. Rod Wright’s (D-Inglewood) voluntary “leave of absence” has provoked widespread and national media attention, with many calling it a “paid vacation.” Wright’s name is still called when every vote is taken on the Senate Floor. Senate Leadership’s coddling has been met with unwavering protest from rank-n-file Republican members of the Senate, in line with the sentiments their constituents have expressed.
Senators Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley), Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) and Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) brought SR 29 up for a vote last Thursday. The Senate President pro Tempore denied the Senate the vote on SR 29 by offering a substitute motion that passed (21-13) in the 40-member Senate. That motion sent the resolution to the Senate Rules Committee, where it is slated to be heard Wednesday. The pro Tem stated with regards to his substitute motion, “the Rules Committee will determine whether to hear the resolution in committee or re-refer to an appropriate committee.”
Knight said, “I look forward to having an honest discussion regarding the integrity of the house. The hearing by the Rules Committee will afford us an opportunity to have a discussion and I have requested the matter be taken up immediately, as it is in the best public interest for an expedited outcome.” He continued, “It is my sincere hope that the full Senate body shall be given the chance to vote on questions of such high importance.”
While it is in line with historical precedent to send the matter of expelling a member of the Senate to either the Rules Committee or the Senate Ethics Committee, members of the Senate, the press, and the public are concerned that the matter will stall out and effectively die in committee. It will be incumbent upon the pro Tem and Senate leadership to ensure that the matter is heard and dealt with effectively. In the cases of Senators Montoya and Hill, convicted on seven and three felony counts in 1990 and 1994, respectively, the Rules Committee’s threat of a vote to expel proved adequate pressure to force both senators’ resignations.
“The members of the Senate deserve and demand the right to vote,” said Vidak. “The Rules Committee needs to immediately send SR 29 back to the Senate floor to give all senators the chance to show to their constituents where they stand on allowing convicted felons to serve in the Senate.”
On the likely agenda for Thursday’s Senate Floor session are Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff’s Senate Resolutions 30 and 31, which would “suspend” Senators Ron Calderon and Rod Wright, respectively. Neither resolution was brought up during the Floor session on Monday. The pro Tem has stated, “these Republican resolutions will be addressed if they are brought up on the Floor.”
Neither “suspension” nor “leaves of absence,” however, are anywhere addressed in state law. Lacking clear legal or historical precedent on the exact nature of these designations, senators remain concerned by the absence of proper action to restore the integrity of the Legislature, both in the eyes of the people of California and the nation.
“We are a nation of laws, and no Senator is above them,” said Anderson. “There’s no such notion as paid ‘suspension’ or ‘leaves of absence’ in our State Constitution. It’s time for bipartisan Senate Leadership to stop playing word games and hiding behind parliamentary posturing. In the Senate, we have three courses of action: we can ignore the issues at hand, censure the senators, or vote to expel.”
Anderson further stated that he plans to take action on Thursday.
The Rules Committee convenes at 1:30pm on Wednesday, March 5. The next Senate Floor session will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 6 in the historic Senate Chambers of the Capitol.
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