In the five months since he’s taken over as president pro tem of the California Senate, Kevin de León said he’s been working to change the culture of the institution. By broadcasting Senate proceedings online and increasing the number of oversight hearings, de León said he’s making state government more transparent.
Those were points the Los Angeles Democrat emphasized during a wide-ranging interview with The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Bureau. He also weighed in on some controversial policy debates in the Legislature, and said he hasn’t decided whether to endorse Attorney General Kamala Harris in her 2016 race for U.S. Senate. Below are excerpts from the conversation:
Q:When you say “oversight,” how is that different from a regular informational hearing?
A:We are trying to change a culture. It’s not a semantic change or window dressing when I say more oversight hearings. You will see as a result of the oversight hearings, you will most likely see legislation that will be moved forward.
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Q:Since all the problems last year with the Senate sergeants and human resources offices, have there been changes to the Senate’s nepotism policy or the sergeant-at-arms code of conduct?
A:It’s not completed as of yet, but it’s something we’re going through. You reported extensively on the misconduct of one of the sergeants. It’s my goal to make sure that just doesn’t happen again, or at least, that if it does, we have the protocols in place so that we can deal with it immediately – as opposed to something that just simmered for a very, very long time. It’s almost like everyone knew except the people who were supposed to know about the situation.
Q:You were raised Catholic. How do your religious beliefs shape your view on the effort (SB 128) to let terminally ill Californians end their own lives?
A:I simply don’t believe that either government or a religion should dictate what you do with your body, the decisions that you make with regards to termination of your life. I think that’s a very individual, personal decision.
Q:Almost the same arguments are coming up in the vaccine debate, where people who oppose Sen. Richard Pan’s SB 277 are saying “the government shouldn’t have the right to tell me what I do with my body, or how I raise my children.” Where are you on that?
A:That situation is a little different because you have children who are not vaccinated in a classroom, oftentimes an overcrowded classroom, where they can put other children in peril. It’s a different dynamic than someone who is in hospice care at home … and it’s not impacting, healthwise, other individuals.
Q:Has Harris asked for your endorsement in the U.S. Senate race?
A:She has asked for my endorsement, yes … . I told her that it’s too early right now. I have a lot of respect for her, I like her a lot, but it’s early.
Q:You were a witness when the Ron Calderon (public corruption) case was in the grand jury process. When it goes to trial in open court in August, do you expect to be called as a witness?
A:I don’t know. I haven’t had any conversations with them in quite a while. I think it’s one of those “stay tuned” kind of things.
Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.