Under fire from the public for providing pay to three suspended state senators, a Senate panel recommended Tuesday that voters be asked to approve a measure allowing future suspensions to be without compensation.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the Senate can suspend or expel a member but that the state Constitution requires pay be provided to those suspended. He has proposed State Constitutional Amendment 17, which would allow suspensions without pay.
“I won’t belabor the unfortunate genesis of this bill,” Steinberg told the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.
The Senate has suspended Democratic Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ronald Calderon of Montebello and Roderick Wright of the Inglewood area. Wright was found guilty by a jury of eight felonies including perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his Senate district.
Yee and Calderon have been hit with federal indictments alleging corruption by accepting payments for favors.
State Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona), the committee chairwoman, said police officers and firefighters are often suspended with pay, but added “Our conversations in the Democratic Caucus is we are above that and we wanted to do something different because we felt the taxpayers deserved something different.”
The vote was 4-1, with Republican state Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego opposed. He has argued that suspensions deprive residents of representation and the trio of suspended senators should be expelled instead.
Constituents, he said, “pay for the senator or Assembly member to represent them. They don’t pay for us to to send them home without representation.”