Assembly speaker strips 3 Democrats of committee chairmanships


Like a military commander busting down insubordinate troops, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) has stripped committee chairmanships from a trio of wayward lawmakers after they refused to join fellow Democrats in support of a key budget provision.

The three assemblymen -- Sandre Swanson of Alameda, Warren Furutani of Gardena and Tony Mendoza of Artesia -- voted last month against a measure to cap state spending, which will appear on a special statewide ballot this spring.

That proposed limit on the growth of state government was a critical part of a 27-bill budget package that squeaked through the Legislature Feb. 19 as California teetered at the brink of insolvency.


By removing the three lawmakers from their posts, Bass takes away key staff assistance, clout on policy issues and potential fundraising power.

A spokeswoman for Bass on Tuesday tiptoed away from any connection between the lawmakers’ defection on the spending cap vote and the loss of their chairmanships.

“Having now had a couple months to see this class in action,” the speaker felt changes were needed “to ensure the Assembly can continue to do the best job for the people of California,” said spokeswoman Shannon Murphy.

She declined to elaborate, calling the changes “an internal caucus matter.”

Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Monterey) replaces Swanson as head of the labor panel. “This was about voting on principle,” Swanson said of his opposition to a strict limit on state spending. He argued that such restrictions are inconsistent with current federal stimulus efforts to help recession-wracked working families that see government as “a resource of last resort.”

Organized labor opposes the spending cap, and the discipline drew a sharp rebuke from the union representing California State University faculty and other staff.

Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Assn., wrote Bass to express “profound disappointment” and a belief that lawmakers should not be disciplined for representing labor’s interests.


Furutani, who declined comment through a spokesman, is being replaced as chairman of the elections and redistricting committee by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino). Mendoza, who did not return a call for comment, loses his housing committee chairmanship to Assemblywoman Norma Torres (D-Pomona).