Capitol Alert

California Democrats pursue biggest Assembly advantage in 40 years

20070523 America votes
20070523 America votes

Nearly three weeks after the California primary election, there are nearly 300,000 votes to count, but it is becoming clearer which candidates will appear on the November ballot.

And while a lot of attention has been paid to congressional and statewide races, Democrats are hoping to expand their dominance in the 80-member state Assembly.

In San Diego County, Democrats placed first and second in the 76th AD, ending Republican chances of holding onto the seat previously occupied by Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside. If they don't lose any seats they hold in November, Democrats would claim 56 seats — the most Assembly seats the party has held in 40 years , according to Alex Vassar, legislative historian for the California State Library. Vassar said the all-time record for Democratic Assembly seats was 68 in 1854.

To break the 54-vote Democratic supermajority in the Assembly, Republicans would need to hold onto all their current seats and pick up three additional seats now held by Democrats — a tall order.Republicans expect to be competitive in several races but are specifically targeting two Democratic incumbents: Assemblymembers Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.

If Democrats want to strengthen their supermajority in the Assembly, they believe their best shot will be against incumbent Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita. "When Democrats have run women against Republican men, we've been flipping seats nationally," said Bill Wong, political director of Assembly Democrats.

EIGHT CALIFORNIAS?

Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, is presenting a constitutional amendment at the Capitol today to redraw district lines in the state Senate. He acknowledges the plan is unlikely to go anywhere, but he wants to force a dialogue on the issue of conservative representation in California. Under his proposal, the state would be divided into eight regions, and each region would have five districts for a total of 40 members.

"I don't feel like I'm telling them (the Senate) how to operate," Gallagher said. "I think I'm trying to bring a voice to a lot of people that kind of feel like the way things are set up are stacked against them. … When everything is set up so that the raw majority wins, it's very hard for rural parts of California to have any kind of voice. "

The committee analysis notes that his plan likely violates longstanding U.S. Supreme Court rulings that require districts be divided by population.

UPDATE: BODY CAM BILL

On Tuesday, Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, presented a bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would require law enforcement agencies to release body camera footage within 45 days in cases of an officer’s use of force or violation of law, unless the public’s interest in nondisclosure outweighs disclosure. If agencies can successfully articulate why the footage should be withheld, they can receive a 15-day extension. After 60 days, they would be required to reapply for extensions every 15 days.

Ting called his bill "fairly balanced" and disputed criticisms that it would be burdensome on smaller police departments. He also said his bill would promote greater police transparency and improve public trust.

"Like any other government agency, they just need to explain to the public why they're doing something," Ting said. "The current policy is it's almost a case-by-case basis and any chief or any department can say, 'We're not releasing this information just because it's under investigation.'"

A spokeswoman for Ting said the bill won't receive a floor vote before summer recess.

INFLUENCER OF THE DAY

How to solve California's housing crisis? Influencers have plenty to say.

"Better zoning laws could be the difference in making sure that more units are built that more people can afford."

Bill Burton, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker in Los Angeles

MUST-READ: California elected officials get a pay raise

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