Calif. Senate proposes new 'Standards of Conduct' after scandals

Calif. Senate proposes new 'Standards of Conduct' after scandals
State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), left, speaks on a bill beside Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) in March, before the two were arrested in separate cases. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Rocked by scandals that have left three members on suspension, the leadership of the state Senate has drafted new "Standards of Conduct" to be considered by the Rules Committee on Wednesday.

The 12 standards are fairly common-sense, led off by: "Each Senator shall conduct himself or herself so as to justify the high trust reposed in him or her by the people and to promote public confidence in the integrity of the Senate."

Another rule states senators and staffers "shall not seek or accept anything from anyone that would interfere with the exercise of his or her independent judgment."

Senators and aides are not to accept outside employment "inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his or her duties."

The new rules were drafted by Senate leaders after criminal charges were filed against Demoratic Sens. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello, Leland Yee of San Francisco and Roderick Wright of Los Angeles County. All three were suspended in March.

Wright was found guilty of perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his district, while Yee and Calderon are accused in federal indictments of accepting payments in exchange for official favors. In addition, Chief Sgt. at Arms Tony Beard stepped down this month after admitting he delayed notifying the Senate that one of his employees had tested positive for cocaine use.

One provision of the newly released standards goes right to the Yee and Calderon cases.

"A Senator shall not use the prestige  of his or her office, and an officer or employee of the Senate shall not use the status of his or her position, for material or financial gain or private benefit."

The standards require anyone aware of a violation to report it to a newly proposed ombudsman, which is also being considered by the Senate.