California Forum

Rendon: ‘Supermajority’ doesn’t change Democratic Party’s goals

The California State Capitol.
The California State Capitol. Los Angeles Times/TNS

A supermajority, like an age, is nothing but a number.

Yes, you can drive at 16, vote at 18 (please do), drink at 21 and be president at 35.

But once the novelty has worn off, few people spend time thinking about having crossed these thresholds — nobody says, “I’m 35, I can drive!”

Similarly, the Democratic Party’s continued growth in the State Assembly doesn’t concern me as much as having obtained the majority.

I’m focused on other questions:

  • What is our next step to tackle the shortage of affordable housing?

  • How can we improve early childhood education while addressing childhood poverty?

  • Is there more we can do to reduce gun violence?

  • What is the best way to exercise our oversight responsibilities to make California run stronger, and more efficiently?

None of those should require veto overrides or the other powers that come with holding two-thirds of Assembly seats, despite pundits’ fixation on the party’s supermajority. A supermajority is rarely needed to put forth good policy.

Opinion

Following the November elections, Democrats hold 60 or 61 out of 80 members (some votes are still being counted).

What do we call that three-fourths threshold? Gigamajority?

Rendon.jpg

Whatever it is called, those numbers haven’t been reached by Democrats in more than 100 years, and those were times we wouldn’t want to repeat. Democrats of the 1800s were pro-slavery.

Still, there is no doubt that numbers have their advantages. Age, theoretically, brings wisdom. And we now have more brainpower for better policy-making.

The gigamajority is all Democrats, but the new additions contribute a broad range of experience, perspectives and ethnicities — and there are more women than ever. There are now nearly twice as many women in my caucus as when I became speaker.

Experience is growing too. In December we will swear in the first class of assembly members — myself included — to serve more than six years, under term limits that were expanded in 2012.

It is humbling to be speaker of the State Assembly at this time of unprecedented Democratic leadership in California.

I will have to do things to unite a diverse caucus that previous speakers never had to think of.

Meeting with and listening to other members of my caucus is key. I have been doing that and will continue to do that in order to find out what their goals are, and how we can get there, because I believe I can lead by listening.

I cannot appoint everyone to lead policy committees, but I can empower the chairs to make their own decisions, and urge them to empower their committee members to be policy leaders alongside them.

I hope, too, that this unusual division of my house is only a division in the mathematical sense. I don’t seek the rancorous divide we see at the national level.

I have worked well with Republican leaders in the past, and will continue dialogue with the new leader, Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, to see how we can turn my party’s electoral success into everyone’s legislative success.

What we’ve been discovering in the last six years, including in the most recent election, is that when Democrats in the Legislature have focused on doing right for Californians, Californians have focused on Democrats at the polls.

Success for everyone is our goal, but maybe that goal is the reason for the number, whatever you choose to call it.

Anthony Rendon is speaker of the California State Assembly and represents the 63rd Assembly District in Southeast Los Angeles County.
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