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California Legislature's 2018 Priorities: Addressing Sexual Harassment, Housing, Federal Tax Law

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Speaker Anthony Rendon presides over the first California Assembly session of 2018 on Wednesday, January 3rd at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California legislative leaders have finally agreed to address perhaps the most overarching goal of activists pushing to end sexual harassment at the state Capitol: Create a uniform process to handle complaints and investigations.

As the Legislature reconvened Wednesday for the 2018 session, Senate and Assembly leaders announced a joint committee that will hold hearings starting later this month.

“It’s important that we have one set of policies and procedures, and one avenue for people to follow when they’re faced with these types of problems,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said.

The committee’s creation comes more than two months after nearly 150 women signed the “We Said Enough” letter decrying a pervasive culture of sexual harassment in and around the state Capitol.

Since the letter’s release, women have come forward to publicly accuse several California lawmakers of sexual misconduct. Two Assembly members have resigned. Senator Tony Mendoza has resisted calls to do the same but finally agreed Wednesday to take a temporary leave of absence this month while an investigation proceeds.

Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders are also laying out their priorities for this election year.

A big one for Rendon is the state’s lack of housing affordability – even though lawmakers passed a package of housing bills last year.

“We’re obviously going to continue to work on the housing crisis, which took over a generation for us to get into and will take some significant efforts for us to properly address,” the speaker told reporters Wednesday.

But Rendon declined to lay out specifics. And he said he believes the California Environmental Quality Act is “a good piece of legislation” – even though critics, including Gov. Jerry Brown, say it’s often used to slow or kill new housing projects.

Rendon and Senate leader Kevin de León are also looking at ways to offset the changes in the new federal tax law that could hurt California taxpayers. De León, who's running for U.S. Senate this year against incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, discussed his proposal with NPR's All Things Considered Wednesday.

And there’s an expectation that the governor and Democratic lawmakers will seek to overhaul California’s cash bail system.

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 

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