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Outgoing Calif. Speaker Discusses Accomplishments, Regrets, And Vetoes

Rich Pedroncelli / AP
 

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will step down on Monday from the chamber's top job. She cites as two top accomplishments the new state earned-income tax credit and middle class scholarships to California universities. But she wasn't able to push through another top priority--affordable housing.

Atkins has called it one of California's biggest challenges.

The state lost a billion dollars in affordable housing funding when lawmakers and the governor eliminated redevelopment agencies during the recession. Atkins says failure to replace that funding is her greatest regret, as she leaves the Speakership.

“It's complicated, it takes courageous votes, it takes a two-thirds majority, and we just haven't had it," Atkins says.

The Speaker pushed legislation last year that would have created a new fund, but it failed to receive those required votes.

Listen to the full exit interview with Speaker Toni Atkins


On bills the Legislature did pass, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed, Atkins continued a tradition of not challenging those vetoes. The last attempt came in 2003.

Atkins says she has not tried overrides, even for bills that passed without opposition, because that would pit Democratic lawmakers against the popular Democratic governor.

“It's quite a step to override a governor's veto. And there could be ramifications,” says Atkins. “It's always better to try to work with a governor than to offend.”

She steps down after two years, because this is her last year in the Assembly due to term limits.

Atkins is campaigning to replace San Diego state Senator Marty Block next year.

The Assembly will swear-in Lakewood Democrat Anthony Rendon as Speaker on Monday.