Legislative session begins with Democratic supermajority


Voter registration for Republicans fell below 30 percent this year. So it's no surprise there are so few in the Legislature.

The new session begins with a dramatically reshaped Legislature with Democrats holding Supermajority powers in both houses, giving them authority to raise taxes without Republicans and override gubernatorial vetoes.

Still, newly reappointed Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) vows to listen to the GOP.

"Finding the right solutions facing our state is not the task of one party or one house," said Perez.

Already, though, Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment to make changes to Proposition 13, the landmark initiative that limits how property taxes are assessed and requires a two-thirds vote for any new taxes.

Senator Mark Leno's (D-San Francisco) proposal asks voters to allow local communities to raise parcel taxes for schools with just 55 percent of the vote.

"Allowing a third of the state or the local area to veto what two-thirds wants I don't believe is really a democracy and has really proven to be a too-difficult hurdle," said Leno.

And Assm. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has re-introduced the Trust Act, banning local law enforcement from turning over illegal immigrants to the feds for possible deportation if their crime is relatively minor.

"We must make sure that Secure Communities focuses on violent and hardened criminals, not on day labor workers, not on domestic workers," said Sen. Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles).

Republicans will have little say.

"Our role will be hopefully partnering with the press. We will help shine a light on what's going on in the government," said state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar).

But Democrats believe voters gave them a mandate to get things done.

"I think the biggest danger is that we would move too cautiously and not address the problems that California has been facing. Voters have demanded that we govern and that's what we intend to do," said state Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa).

Lawmakers will also be working for less this session. With a new 5-percent pay cut, the rank and file are making just over $90,000 a year, and they will still get their tax-free $142-a-day per diem for living expenses.

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