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California Has New Senate Leader

Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon says as the new leader of the Senate he wants the legislature to focus on climate change, the economy, and improving public schools.

The Senate’s top Democrat made history during his swearing in ceremony at Los Angeles Music Center, becoming the first Latino to hold the position in more than a century.

"I think Latinos like any other group want the same thing." says de Leon. "Given that we’re the most diverse state not in the country but on planet earth speaks to who we are as Californians and I’m blessed and deeply honored by my colleagues who have selected me to be their leader.”

He says the legislature will continue to battle over water issues. But he says climate change is one of the key issues facing the state.

“We’re going to have to deal with climate change, no doubt about it. It’s before us," he says. "We’ve moved forward with very good policy with regards to carbon reduction and meeting certain goals, but we have to convert that into actual real jobs that are tangible and real for everyday Californians so that’s going to be a big challenge,” says de Leon.

De Leon says the legislature also needs to invest in public education while still reducing the state’s debt.

De Leon replaces outgoing President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, who held the position for six years. 

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In this Oct. 23, 2003, file photo, the Walt Disney Concert Hall opens with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in "The Rite of Spring," in Los Angeles. An unsual and elaborate swearing-in ceremony for the incoming leader of the California state Senate, Kevin de Leon is planned Wednesday night, Oct. 16. 2014, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. File / Nam Y. Huh / AP

Amy Quinton

Environment Reporter

Amy came to Sacramento from New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) where she was Environment Reporter. Amy has also reported for NPR member stations WFAE in Charlotte, WAMU in Washington D.C. and American Public Media's "Marketplace."  Read Full Bio