Capitol Alert

Speaker’s office overhauls communications support for Assembly Democrats

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon observes the activity on the floor on the first day back following the holiday break on Jan. 4, 2017.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon observes the activity on the floor on the first day back following the holiday break on Jan. 4, 2017. rpench@sacbee.com

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is dismantling and replacing a unit of his office that assists with communications for members of the Democratic caucus.

The restructuring of the Speaker’s Office of Member Services, which maintains member websites, creates and sends mail on their behalf, and provides video and audio services, is being led by Rendon communications director John Casey, who said Thursday that the plan is still in development.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be bigger, if it’s going to be smaller,” he said. “All I know is it’s going to have a different name and be a different organization. But the functionality is going to be the same.”

Casey said that an overhaul of term limits in 2012, allowing lawmakers to spend up to 12 years in either house of the Legislature, has changed the needs of members as they plan to stick around the Assembly longer. Rendon, he added, also recognized that new technology has changed how people consume their news.

“It’s his right and his desire and his vision that we do things a different way,” Casey said. “We have a basic idea that it will be more nimble. We’re trying to give members more flexibility in how they communicate with their constituents.”

Casey refuted an earlier report in Politico that the Office of Member Services would be split into two: a state-funded outreach unit within the Assembly and a separate, campaign-funded staff to support Democrats in swing districts.

The office was created four decades ago by then-Speaker Willie Brown to help Democrats maintain their Assembly majority, and has come under criticism over the years for supplementing political efforts by allowing members to use public resources to reach potential voters. Casey said its work has always been “entirely above-the-board.”

He also denied that employees of the unit, who number “more than 50,” would be forced to reapply for their jobs. Everyone, he said, “is going to be given every opportunity to be a part of this new organization.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

  Comments