California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León had harsh words on Monday for his former housemate Sen. Tony Mendoza, who has continued to attend and host events during his voluntary leave as the house investigates sexual harassment allegations against the Artesia Democrat.
“He’s proving he does not have an understanding of the gravity of the situation with no decency and little respect for the institution,” de León said. The Senate leader wrote the statement on a piece of paper during the floor session Monday in response to an interview request.
Mendoza posted pictures of himself hosting a boat tour of the Port of Long Beach for dozens of high school seniors over the weekend. Mendoza offers a “32nd District Young Democrats Leadership Program” to teach students about government and the legislative process through civic engagement.
After meeting privately with Senate Democrats for several hours, Mendoza agreed earlier this month to temporarily step down with pay as the Senate investigates sexual harassment and misconduct allegations involving three women who previously worked in his offices, including an intern and Sacramento State fellow.
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Mendoza has refuted most of the allegations and committed to cooperating in the investigation to clear his name. He previously said his Senate colleagues set a “dangerous precedent” by forcing him to step down without giving him an opportunity to present his side of the story. On Monday, he publicized a letter he sent de León asking for more information about the Senate investigation and process to resolve complaints.
The senator has continued to remain active in his district – something the pro tem’s office said the Senate cannot restrict – throughout his leave and returned to the Capitol in Sacramento the week after he went on leave. He refused at least two requests to leave the building and eventually complied after a phone conversation with the pro tem.
The event prompted Secretary of the Senate Danny Alvarez to send Mendoza a letter Jan. 12 that said he “should not be in the State Capitol” and will not be “afforded travel, Senate Special Services, or any other Senate resources” during his leave.
The following week de León’s office asked Mendoza to pull an advertisement for interns from his Senate website.
It’s unclear if the Senate investigation will conclude before the senator’s voluntary leave ends on Friday.
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LET THE BUDGET TUG-OF-WAR BEGIN: Democrats heaped praise on Gov. Jerry Brown’s $190.3 billion budget proposal when he released it earlier this month, commending him for socking away money for a recession while boosting funding for education.
Today, we’ll start to understand whether they meant it.
Lawmakers are holding their first hearing on Brown’s 2018-19 budget proposal. The meeting will unfold at 10 a.m. at the Assembly Budget Committee and include testimony from Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor.
Brown set aside $5 billion in his budget proposal to fill up the state’s so-called “rainy day fund,” the money lawmakers can’t touch unless the governor declares a fiscal emergency.
That deposit would give the state $13.5 billion in savings as of July 1, 2019. Brown argues the next governor will need the money when a recession hits, a date that he says grows closer every day.
But lawmakers might have other priorities.
Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, outlined some of them in December when he described a spending blueprint his caucus planned to advocate. It included making preschool available to all 4-year-old children, expanding a tax-credit for low income households, extending health care coverage to undocumented immigrants and making a balloon payment toward the state’s two primary public pension plans.
In an interview earlier this month, Ting said the plan he floated in December was not that far from Brown’s proposal.
“What the governor did was put money into existing programs, but he also left a significant amount of room for discussion, so we believe over the next few months there’s an opportunity to discuss universal health care, universal pre-K,” he said.
Lawmakers might get some extra wiggle room if Taylor’s economic projections prove true. His office’s fiscal outlook predicts the state will collect an additional $3 billion in revenue by July 2019 beyond what Brown’s office foresees.
IS IT REALLY ONLY JANUARY? Incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her upstart challenger, state Sen. Kevin de León, will make their case today in front of state government’s largest union. Service Employees International Union Local 1000 is holding a closed event for the two powerhouses. The union represents some 95,000 public employees and can be a heavyweight in state politics.
MCCLINTOCK’S HEADACHES: The three Democrats angling for a shot to unseat Republican Rep. Tom McClintock are scheduled to debate at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the North Lake Tahoe Events Center in King’s Beach. Former foreign service officer Regina Bateson, single-payer health care advocate Roza Calderon and former civilian military adviser Jessica Morse are trying to impress a group of four left-leaning Sierra Nevada political organizations. The debate is scheduled to be broadcast online at http://ttctv.org.
WORTH REPEATING: “This shutdown was an embarrassment. It didn’t need to happen. It should have never happened. And it will not happen again.” – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield