Capitol Alert

August 18, 2014

November ballot won’t ask Californians about yanking pay of suspended lawmakers

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg’s effort to ask voters whether the Legislature should be able to yank the pay of lawmakers who are suspended for allegations of dishonorable behavior will not make it onto the November ballot, marking a setback for the Sacramento Democrat who proposed the constitutional amendment in response to criminal allegations this year against a trio of senators.

Capitol Alert

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Senate leader Darrell Steinberg’s effort to ask voters whether the Legislature should be able to yank the pay of lawmakers who are suspended for allegations of dishonorable behavior will not make it onto the November ballot, marking a setback for the Sacramento Democrat who proposed the constitutional amendment in response to criminal allegations this year against a trio of senators.

The California Senate passed Steinberg’s Senate Constitutional Amendment 17 in May. But the Assembly has not taken the measure up for a vote, and the deadline has now passed to put measures on the November ballot.

“The pro tem still wishes the bill to be considered before the end of session, and that would put the constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot,” said Steinberg spokesman Rhys Williams.

Steinberg proposed the measure after the upper house took the unprecedented step in March of suspending three of its members while maintaining their pay. Democratic Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco and Ron Calderon of Montebello face federal bribery charges in separate cases resulting from undercover FBI stings. Sen. Rod Wright of Baldwin Hills was found guilty of perjury and voter fraud by a Los Angeles jury in a case that charged him with lying about his address when he ran for office representing the Inglewood area.

In pushing for suspending the three but maintaining their pay, Steinberg said the California Constitution doesn’t allow the Legislature to stop paying its members unless they are permanently ousted from office. Steinberg said it would be inappropriate to permanently expel the three senators in question because Calderon and Yee have been charged, but not convicted, and Wright’s jury verdict has not yet been upheld by a judge.

Steinberg, who leaves the Legislature at the end of the year, said he would work to change the handling of future cases of bad behavior by asking voters to change the Constitution to allow the Legislature to revoke the pay of suspended lawmakers.

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