SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Responding to a string of scandals, the state Senate voted Tuesday in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to withhold pay from suspended lawmakers.
The bill, SCA17, passed Tuesday on a 31-3 vote, following a stir when a Republican lawmaker blasted the Senate leader's response to the scandals and proposed halting tax collection for the constituents of the suspended lawmakers.
The amendment would go before voters on the November 2014 ballot if two-thirds of the state Assembly approves it.
In March, the Senate voted to suspend Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, who face federal corruption charges, and Sen. Rod Wright, who was convicted for lying about living in his district. All are Democrats and continue to draw their paychecks.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced SCA17 to prevent similar situations in the future, stopping short of expelling lawmakers who are presumed innocent until found guilty.
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, is one of the few lawmakers pushing for the expulsion of all three senators. He described as toothless the various ethics-reforms bills moving through the Legislature to increase campaign donation disclosures and reduce perks for lawmakers. He also blasted SCA17 as "un-American" because he said suspended lawmakers' constituents are being taxed without representation.
"We have millions of Californians right now who are paying taxes and have no representation in the state Senate," Anderson said. "This isn't about punishing members ... this is plain and simple a power grab using a crisis to get there."
Anderson railed against Steinberg's leadership as uncaring to Californians and lawmakers. He pointedly asked whether he would be suspended for his comments.
Before the vote, Steinberg said, "I listen intently to the opposition, and I choose not to respond except to remind the members what the SCA actually says: This SCA would give a future legislature the power and authority to do something punitive that we currently don't have."
The termed-out leader's successor, Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, called for decorum on the floor. "The ad hominem attacks aren't acceptable on any individual, whether we are Republican or Democrat," de Leon said.
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