Capitol Alert: New year, new faces: California Assembly is majority-freshman

jwhite@sacbee.comJanuary 8, 2014 

At the launch of the 2014 legislative year, the state Assembly is making history: For the first time in well over a century, a majority of members are freshman.

Three new members took the oath of office on Monday with little fanfare beyond some applause from their legislative colleagues. But the pageantry obscured a milestone, with a majority of lawmakers on the 80-member Assembly floor serving their first terms.

This is the first time since the 19th century more than 40 Assembly members have been on their first go-around, according to Chief Clerk of the Assembly E. Dotson Wilson.

The 2012 election cycle was not momentous just for propelling Democrats to a two-thirds supermajority. It also inaugurated one of the largest freshman classes in history, with 38 of those neophytes taking Assembly seats.

Their ranks grew as 2013 progressed, with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, scooping up the seat Ben Hueso left as he graduated to the Senate.

Add to that new members Sebastian Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, Matt Dababneh of Sherman Oaks and Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona, all three elevated by special elections during the latter part of 2013.

With the addition of that trio, 42 of the Assembly members casting votes and submitting bills this year will have taken their desks since the start of the 2013-14 session.

The influx of newcomers could play a role in the leadership transition set to occur some time this session, with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, termed out at the end of the year. The names of a few freshman members recur during the who-will-be-next guessing game, reflecting a push to award the next speakership to a member entitled to a full twelve years in the lower house.

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