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New California Legislature Sworn In

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

Members of the California State Assembly take the oath of office on Monday, December 01, 2014.

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

There was a festive feeling in the state Capitol as lawmakers were sworn into office with family and friends looking on. In the Senate a mariachi band set the mood. But while the atmosphere was celebratory, Senate President Kevin de Leon stressed to his fellow Senators the importance of their job.

"The work we do here on this red carpet, on this Senate floor matters," he says. "When we have heated debate on this floor it moves public policy that helps improve the human condition for all individuals."

De Leon's message was closely aligned with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins' speech. She told her chamber that California is in a better economic situation because of the legislature's work.

"And that was made possible, I really want people to feel this, that was made possible by hard choices, difficult votes a forward thinking that took place in this very chamber," she says. "Those were not easy moments."

The importance of the job was not lost on newly-elected Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey. He became emotional after being sworn into office.

"Representing has always meant a lot to me. And I’m one of the common guys that actually rose to a very prominent position," he says. "And it’s a testament that this country still allows opportunity for plain people."

Lackey is part of a more diverse group of Republican lawmakers now in Sacramento. Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen says this is the most diverse the Assembly GOP caucus has ever been.

"This is a proud moment for us. We’re reflecting the diversity of California," she says. "We’re reflecting the strength of our communities and our caucus through our diverse, hardworking members."

Olsen balked at calling the caucus "moderate." She says the group will work with Democrats, but is interested in moving conservative ideas forward in California.