Capitol Alert

Assembly passes constitutional amendment to suspend lawmaker pay

The Assembly on Wednesday deferred for two years the public’s vote on a constitutional amendment empowering lawmakers to strip wayward colleagues of their salaries.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 17 emerged from the Assembly on a 64-1 vote. But because lawmakers waited until mid-August to act, voters will not decide on the proposed amendment until the 2016 election. It will not appear on the Nov. 4 ballot already featuring two measures trumpeted by both parties and by Gov. Jerry Brown – a rainy-day fund and a new water bond.

Assemblymembers passed the measure without any debate on a 64-1 vote. Only Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, voted no. Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, initially appeared to vote against the measure but ultimately did not cast a vote.

In the aftermath of criminal cases ensnaring Democratic Sens. Rod Wright, Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, the Senate voted to suspend all three. But they have continued to receive pay because the constitution does not allow a legislator’s salary to be withheld unless he or she is expelled from office.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has resisted expelling the senators until they are convicted. A jury found Wright guilty but sentencing has been delayed multiple times as Wright’s lawyers seek to reverse that outcome.

The measure that will go before voters would place the suspension process in the constitution, allowing the Assembly or Senate – with a two-thirds vote – to suspend a member without pay.

Steinberg acknowledged on Monday the amendment would not make the 2014 ballot but urged his Assembly counterparts to take up the bill, which the Senate passed on a 31-3 vote in late May. Steinberg’s office had prepared legislation that would have tweaked election law deadlines and allowed the amendment to appear on the 2014 ballot.