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State Senate suspends 3 lawmakers

Posted: March 28, 2014 10:34 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2014 10:34 p.m.

California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D- Sacramento, right, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, confer after a vote introducing a resolution to suspend three Democrats who face charges in criminal cases on the floor of the Senate in Sacramento on Friday.

 

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The California Senate voted Friday to suspend three lawmakers caught up in separate criminal cases after the latest one to be hauled into court refused to step down, the most serious house-cleaning action the chamber has taken in more than a century.

Friday’s 28-1 vote in the 40-member chamber came amid one of the most severe ethical crises in modern times for the Legislature in the nation’s most populous state. Later in the day, Gov. Jerry Brown also called on the three lawmakers to resign.

The Senate leadership said that before Friday, the chamber had never suspended a lawmaker in the institution’s 164-year history, but it has taken the more serious step of expelling lawmakers, the last time in 1905. The Assembly speaker’s office said that chamber has never suspended or expelled a lawmaker.

The resolution prevents Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, who face federal corruption charges, and Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who is awaiting sentencing in a voter fraud case, from exercising any power of their office until the criminal cases against them have been resolved. Even so, they will continue receiving their $95,291 annual salaries.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento acknowledged the public criticism of the chamber, but he defended his leadership and the integrity of the 37 senators who have not run afoul of the law. Nevertheless, he said he has been shocked by having 7 percent of the chamber face felony charges this year, which will be his last as leader.

“One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence. Three? That’s not what this Senate is about,” Steinberg said to lawmakers before the vote.

Yee, who had championed gun-control legislation and bills targeting violent video games sold to minors, is the latest of the three senators to be charged. The San Francisco Democrat was charged in a federal criminal complaint this week with accepting bribes and coordinating an international gun-running operation.

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