Moving to designate a leader with just days remaining in this year’s legislative session, Assembly Democrats on Thursday voted unanimously to make Assemblyman Anthony Rendon their next speaker.
Speculation about a leadership change spiked last week when Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, circulated a pledge asking members to not hold a vote until next January. Term limits require Atkins to give up her Assembly seat in 2016.
“When it became clear to me that Mr. Rendon had the support of his colleagues to be the speaker-designee, it seemed logical to me that we move forward, that we not hesitate, because we need to be focused on the work we have to get done,” Atkins said.
Caucus members will formally vote to make Rendon the leader in January, Atkins said, and will designate a transition timeline. That means she will remain in charge down the home stretch of a session in which Democrats are trying to pass a far-reaching climate change measure and increase funding for health care and transportation infrastructure.
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“The speaker is Ms. Atkins,” Rendon said. “I anticipate we’ll take a vote on SB 350,” the climate bill, “before Sept. 11, and that will be while she’s speaker.”
Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat, was first elected in 2012. He said he arrived in Sacramento with a particular interest in the environment and early childhood education, two issues he pursued during previous roles with nonprofit organizations. Under new term limits rules, he is eligible to serve until 2024.
“In the extended term-limited era, we have the opportunity to accomplish a vast array of different things,” Rendon said.
Earlier this year, Atkins tapped Rendon to lead the powerful Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce, where he has dealt with utility companies seeking to shape Senate Bill 350’s mandate that half of California’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. She said he has served on the caucus campaign team.
“Mr. Rendon has already had a role” in fundraising, Atkins said.
When Rendon assumes power, both houses of the California Legislature will be controlled by Latino, Los Angeles-area lawmakers. His Senate counterpart, Kevin de León of Los Angeles, can remain in office through 2018. A thin strip of freeway separates their districts.
Rendon’s selection caps a tumultuous week of leadership maneuvering. Senate Republicans unexpectedly voted last week to install Jean Fuller of Bakersfield as their new leader. Days later, Assembly Republicans tapped Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley to take over next year.
Title: Assembly speaker
Résumé highlights: Executive director, Plaza de la Raza Child Development Services; interim executive director, California League of Conservation Voters; received Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside; and worked as adjunct professor of political science at California State University, Fullerton.