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Sen. Tony Mendoza had his leave of absence extended up to 60 days on Thursday.
Sen. Tony Mendoza had his leave of absence extended up to 60 days on Thursday. (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

A state Senate panel voted unanimously Thursday to extend the leave of absence taken by Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) by up to 60 days to allow the completion of an investigation into sexual harassment complaints, even though the senator has not agreed to an extension beyond his planned Feb. 1 return date.

The bipartisan action by the Senate Rules Committee came after the full Senate voted 27-9 following a heated debate to grant the rules panel the power to extend leaves taken by legislators.

Democratic senators said Mendoza should not be allowed to return to work next week before the investigation is completed because it would send the wrong message and be intimidating to women who work in the Capitol who have complained about him.

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An aerial view shows burned-out homes in Ventura County following the Thomas fire.
An aerial view shows burned-out homes in Ventura County following the Thomas fire. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A new task force of scientists and forestry experts will “review thoroughly the way our forests are managed and suggest ways to reduce the threat of devastating fires,” Gov. Jerry Brown announced in his State of the State speech Thursday. 

Brown cited California’s growing severity of wildfires — eight of the state’s most destructive have occurred in the last five years — and the effects of climate change as driving the need to develop new forestry policies.

The governor said the task force also will examine how the state can increase resiliency and carbon storage capacity in forests.

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