Capitol Alert

California Assembly committee assignments shape power dynamics

In this July 21, 2011, file photo, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, speaks at a news conference in San Francisco.
In this July 21, 2011, file photo, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, speaks at a news conference in San Francisco. AP

The way power gets parceled out always generates plenty of interest in Sacramento, so people are busy dissecting the committee chairmanships Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, handed out on Wednesday.

Committee chairmanships afford a powerful platform from which to legislate and raise campaign funds, with specific interest groups hoping to influence the outcome of bills. Leading a high-profile committee can also help position lawmakers with an eye on leadership, similarly to the floor team lieutenants announced last week.

So picking chairs every two years is a weighty decision, and Atkins’ choices are already being parsed for winners and losers. In some cases, incumbents lost control of powerful committee chairmanships. For example:

▪ Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, called out by Atkins on Monday for being the longest-tenured “dean” of the Assembly, lost his chairmanship of the powerful Appropriations Committee, through which most bills must pass. Gatto will instead head the newly created Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection. Replacing Gatto, who is termed out at the end of 2016, will be Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, one of a few lawmakers often cited as a potential speaker candidate.

▪ Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will no longer head the Insurance Committee and will instead helm the Committee on Agriculture. While the new committee assignment makes some sense given that Perea represents the farm-dominated Central Valley, insurance is generally seen as a desirable “juice” committee providing access to campaign donors. A leading moderate Democrat, Perea defied leadership last year by leading a group of Democrats seeking to delay a key part of California’s cap-and-trade law. The insurance post went to Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim.

Other Democrats took over significant committees:

▪ Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, will play a central role in annual budget negotiations from atop the Assembly Budget Committee.

▪ It will be double duty for Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who in addition to retaining his chairmanship of the Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security and will take over the Assembly Health Committee, an important venue for bills affecting California’s multi-billion dollar health care industry.

Sophomore members will lead a trio of committees of particular interest to industries with money to spend:

▪ Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, will oversee the Committee on Governmental Organization, which has jurisdiction over areas like horse racing, gambling and alcohol.

▪ Taking control of the Committee on Utilities and Commerce – a panel that hears bills governing California’s energy infrastructure – will be Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.

▪ Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Los Encino, will now lead the Committee on Banking and Finance.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.