R. Brian Kidney

Obituary: R. Brian Kidney was key California parliamentary expert

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 - 10:33 am

R. Brian Kidney, a former chief clerk of the California Assembly who was an international expert on parliamentary procedures, died Dec. 22 of injuries he sustained in a recent automobile collision, his family said. He was 82.

Mr. Kidney was a vital part of the institutional memory of the Capitol during almost three decades in the Assembly clerk's office. His tenure spanned major changes in makeup and political tone of the Legislature, from its transition to a full-time body to the introduction of term limits.

He started under Speaker Jesse Unruh in 1963 as an office messenger and became assistant clerk two years later. He served five years as chief clerk and retired in 1991 under Speaker Willie Brown amid an exodus of staff members following passage of Proposition 140, which set term limits and restricted the Legislature's operating budget.

As parliamentarian, Mr. Kidney advised speakers on the Assembly's arcane rules and procedures. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle respected his impartiality, professionalism and expertise on the process for conducting legislative business.

"He really epitomized what a democracy is all about," Assembly Chief Clerk Dotson Wilson said. "He's the one who really taught me about respect for the institution and the process."

In 1989, Mr. Kidney started an internship program to create a pool of trained workers for the Legislature. More than 100 college students have gone through the program, including some who went on to Capitol careers as staff members and lobbyists.

"We'd have him come back after he left and speak to our interns and at alumni luncheons," said Assembly Assistant Chief Clerk Brian Ebbert, a former intern. "I think he was surprised by how successful the program became."

After retiring, Mr. Kidney served as a parliamentary consultant to governments in Hungary, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. He also spent several years as a lobbyist for The Gualco Group.

Robert Brian Kidney was born in 1930 in San Mateo to a nurse and a Standard Oil manager who moved their family to Fairbanks, Alaska. During summers in college, he worked as an airline station manager in Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of the United States.

He earned a bachelor's degree in Russian history from University of Michigan and a master's degree in government from University of San Francisco. He served in the Air Force as a Russian translator in Libya.

A Sacramento resident, Mr. Kidney was active in many community groups. He was parliamentarian of the Renaissance Society of Sacramento and a member of Rotary Club, Knights of the Vine of America and the California Wine Society. He was a Eucharistic minister at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Sacramento.

He traveled on vacation in style, including trips on the Concorde jet and the Orient Express train. Never married, he was a well-read, gregarious man who enjoyed fine food and wine and regular lunches with longtime friends.

"Brian brought out the best in people he was with," lobbyist Jack Gualco said. "It takes a special person to do that. He was very gifted."

R. Brian Kidney

Born: Dec. 15, 1930

Died: Dec. 22, 2012

Survived by: Sister, Brenna Quebbemann of Newport Beach

Services: 12:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, 3235 Arden Way, Sacramento; reception afterward at Campus Commons Clubhouse

Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Mr. Kidney may be made to the Father Leo McAllister Scholarship Fund, in care of the Sacramento Regional Community Foundation, 955 University Ave., Suite A, Sacramento, CA 95825; or any charity.

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