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  • Hector Amezcua /

    Newly sworn-in Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Sherman Oaks, joins his colleagues in the Pledge of Allegiance as the Assembly opens its session Monday.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Embroiled in a bribery investigation, state Sen. Ron Calderon sits by himself at his reassigned desk as the new Senate session gets underway Monday.<252,1>

  • Hector Amezcua /

    State Sen. Holly Mitchell covers her ears jokingly as Sen. Roderick Wright talks to her and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson during the first session of the California Senate on Monday. Mitchell is seen as a likely candidate for Senate president pro tem when Darrell Steinberg leaves the post.

California 2014 legislative session kicks off with new faces, old scandal

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 - 12:13 am

Lawmakers welcomed new members and cautiously reunited with a scandal-marred incumbent during the first day of the 2014 legislative session.

During the normally quiet fall recess, the publication of a leaked FBI affidavit alleging that state Sen. Ron Calderon took bribes enthralled the world of California politics. The Montebello Democrat lost committee assignments and campaign donors as a result. And in another sign of his precarious situation, on Monday he also lost his longtime desk.

When senators entered the chamber, Calderon found himself assigned to a seat in the corner rather than the more centrally located desk he occupied last year. He sat all by himself, at a desk with a seat left vacant by the Dec. 1 resignation of state Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

“I’m doing what I think is in the best interest of the house,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told reporters.

Calderon has not been charged with a crime in connection with the FBI investigation. He told reporters that “I don’t have a problem sitting there, as long as I have a microphone and I can present my bills and vote.”

“I have done nothing wrong. That will come out in the wash,” Calderon said. “It makes it difficult to do my work, but I’m managing.”

In the Assembly, a trio of fresh faces and a deluge of eulogies occupied returning members.

Democrats boasted a two-thirds majority at the start of 2013, with a windfall of newly won seats allowing them to advance their agenda without Republican votes.

It didn’t last long. A cascade of members departing the Assembly for other public offices left seats vacant, depriving Democrats of their supermajority and leading to a long string of special elections.

Now, as the 2014 session begins, the Assembly is back at full capacity. Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, on Monday administered the oath of office to three new members: Sebastian Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, Matt Dababneh of Sherman Oaks and Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona, all Democrats.

After that ceremony, homages to the late South African leader Nelson Mandela filled out the agenda. A dozen lawmakers rose to honor the civil rights icon, who died during the legislative recess. Several legislators noted California’s leading role in pushing for divestment from South Africa to protest the apartheid system that operated until the early 1990s.

New legislative proposals also began circulating on Monday. Lawmakers introduced measures to, among other things, restrict the use of antibiotics on livestock; bolster brain research; exempt Californians who have lost homes to natural disasters from paying a state fire fee; and improve reporting of sexual assault and child abuse in schools.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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