Lawmakers Weigh Revoking Salaries Of Suspended Senators
Send a link to a friend
[May 07, 2014]
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) -
California state senators, embarrassed by not being able to more harshly
punish state legislators facing criminal charges, moved forward on
Tuesday on a measure that would allow them to suspend their pay in the
Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg introduced the measure
in response to criticism that three senate Democrats suspended in
March following a series of scandals have been able to collect their
salaries while off the job.
"I will not seek to belabor the unfortunate genesis of this bill,"
Steinberg told the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments
Committee, which passed it by a vote of 4-1. The bill, in the form
of a constitutional amendment, must be passed by two-thirds of the
legislature and voters before it can go into effect.
The bill's sole opposition came from Republican Senator Joel
Anderson, who has called for the expulsion of the three senators, an
action that would eliminate the need to change the law and would by
its nature strip the three of their pay.
Anderson said he opposed the proposed constitutional amendment
because it would grant more power to legislative leaders while
leaving voters unserved in the districts where their representatives
were stuck on leave.
The three suspended senators, Ron Calderon, Roderick Wright and
Leland Yee, have faced criminal charges in a spate of ethics
scandals that have damaged the public approval ratings of California
lawmakers in general and cost Democrats a cherished two-thirds
legislative majority in the Senate during an election year.
Wright was convicted in January of lying about living in a district
he sought to represent, Calderon was indicted in February on
corruption charges, and Yee was arrested in March on bribery and
gun-trafficking conspiracy charges.
[to top of second column]
The Senate voted on March 28 to suspend the three with pay in a
rebuke that, while unprecedented in state history, was criticized by
Republicans as tantamount to a paid holiday for bad behavior.
Under the state constitution, the responsibility for lawmakers'
salaries lies with the California Citizens Compensation Commission,
which means that lawmakers cannot withhold pay from colleagues even
if they are suspended, Steinberg said.
Even if the amendment passes, it will not affect the three senators
currently under suspension, Steinberg said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Additional reporting
and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia
Johnston, Grant McCool and Steve Orlofsky)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.