If there’s one lawmaker who appreciates the rules and traditions of the California Legislature, it’s Assemblyman Ken Cooley.
The Rancho Cordova Democrat has spent years steeped in the culture of Sacramento, having served as a staffer for more than a decade before winning his seat in 2012. His knowledge of the Capitol’s architectural history runs so deep that he gives tours of the building, and he commonly invokes legislative history and procedure during floor speeches.
All of which puts Cooley’s newest appointment in context. He has been tapped by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to lead the Assembly Rules Committee. He replaces outgoing Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who was pushed aside by term limits.
In that capacity Cooley will oversee decisions that keep the house functioning smoothly, including matters of staffing and bill referrals. The latter can have a significant bearing on a bill’s fate, depending on how many committees it must pass and whether it will go before a panel with sympathetic members.
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He’ll be there as efforts to renovate the Capitol annex unfold. Cooley said his focus will be on bolstering functions, like legislative oversight, that have eroded in the era of term limits. Voter-approved changes to term limits allow Assembly members to stay in the lower house for up to 12 years, twice as long as before.
“With longer-tern members it’s all about how we re-establish institutional capacity as a coequal branch of government,” Cooley said. “I feel I have the potential to be a particularly energetic Rules chair,” he added, “just because I bring so much experience.”