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California LegislatureSexual harassment

California lawmakers return to Sacramento today. Three resignations have cost Democrats their supermajority

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Both houses of the California Legislature will convene Wednesday afternoon for the formal beginning of an eight-month session to craft a state budget and consider hundreds of proposed laws.

And they will do so with three fewer lawmakers, two having resigned after being accused of sexual harassment.

The national conversation over sexual misconduct —  including the decision by women in California politics to decry what they call a culture of harassment around the state Capitol —  has taken place during the almost four months in which the Legislature has been in recess.

Two Democrats —  former Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) —  resigned in the wake of allegations by women about incidents during their political campaigns and while in office.

A third legislator, Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), resigned last week, citing serious health issues.

One lawmaker who has been accused of inappropriate contact with women, state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), declined a request to take a leave of absence while a formal investigation is conducted.

The resignations have left Democrats short of what would otherwise be a supermajority of seats in the Assembly, even after the election of Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) last month. The vacancies could complicate any policy efforts to raise new revenue, enact laws quickly or place proposals on the statewide ballot – actions that would all take a two-thirds vote in both houses.

Legislative leaders have promised action on sexual harassment at the statehouse, including new policies for complaints that can be filed either by staff members or lobbyists. The Senate has handed all of its investigations to outside attorneys, as well as establishing a toll-free hotline for complaints.

January is traditionally one of the busiest months on the legislative calendar. Gov. Jerry Brown will submit a state budget plan next week, and lawmakers must take action on some of the remaining 2017 bills by the end of the month.

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