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Rookie Lawmakers Get Crash Course On First Day Of Session

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California state Assembly members take the oath of office at the Capitol on Monday, December 5, 2016.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

It was a little like the first day of school for the newly-inaugurated members of the California Legislature Monday.

As California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar administered the oath of office to 80 people at once, Ash Kalra had a little trouble keeping up.

“It was very emotional, because I was holding my father’s hand as he was sitting next to me,“ Kalra said later. “And so you think about your personal journey.”

With that oath, the San Jose Democrat became the first Indian American to ever serve in the California Legislature.

“It was hard for me to say the words in the beginning of the oath,“ Kalra said. “So I calmed down a little bit and was able to recite them all.”

And then came the crash course in how-to-be-a-legislator, as the Assembly and Senate immediately jumped into partisan debates over legislative rules and a nonbinding resolution on immigration.

“It's certainly fast-paced,“ said Republican Asm. Vince Fong of Bakersfield. “You got to pay attention.”

Fong has worked for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. This time, he was the one casting the votes.

“A number of people have just said, take a breath, take it all in, it’s gonna be a blur,“ Fong said. “And so it’s certainly lived up to that.”

San Bernardino Democrat Eloise Reyes spoke with reporters in two languages after being sworn into the Assembly.

“Well, I am part of the freshman class, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been a freshman,“ she told Capital Public Radio in English following an interview with Univision. “I’m absolutely enjoying this.”

She proudly showed off her first bill “and I already have some co-authors!” she added.

And then, she was off, as her busy first day as a California lawmaker continued.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio