California lawmakers took their oaths of office for the Legislature’s 2018-2019 session Monday at the state Capitol with promises to fight poverty, homelessness and wildfires.
Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego told her colleagues in opening remarks that although lawmakers have accomplished a lot in recent years, they haven’t done enough.
“The gulf between haves and have-nots in this state is as wide as our legendary Central Valley is vast, and it’s only growing,” she said. “I challenge each of you to search within yourselves this session to find the urgency we will need to match the task before us.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood opened his remarks by remembering the victims of California wildfires — and of gun violence.
“Let us all go beyond the usual moment of silence and use this moment to consider what we are here for, which is to make life better for every Californian,” he said. “Let’s think about what we will do in the next two years.”
Rendon then promised the Legislature would fight to make the state’s economy more just and fair — for workers, for homeless people, and for other Californians struggling to get by.
“How can we be proud of our vibrant tech economy — the envy of the world — if the undeniably brilliant minds of that sector are used only to generate huge personal wealth for a few, and misery for others?” he said. “We must use our technological resources to improve the lives of workers as well as investors. For the homeless as well as the tourists and the homeowners who have extra rooms to rent out.”
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye administered the oath of office to the 20 of the 40 senators beginning new terms. Over in the Assembly, all 80 members took the oath administered by Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Democrats now control 60 of 80 Assembly seats and 29 of 40 Senate districts after their victories in California congressional races trickled down to the state Legislature. Republicans promised to work with Democrats on bipartisan challenges from housing affordability to wildfire prevention.
“In a lot of ways, California leads the way on a lot of issues,” said Assemblywoman Marie Waldron of Escondido, who just took over as Assembly Republican Leader in recent weeks. “So we just need to make sure we’re resonating with the residents of California and being active in our districts and working for the people.”
“I like to say that I surfed the blue wave and I landed on the shore,” quipped Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates, who nearly lost her Orange County seat. “And I’m here to continue my work.”
The lieutenant governor always presides over the state Senate’s inaugural session. But this time, it happened to be California’s governor-elect, Gavin Newsom, whose own inauguration comes next month.
“If you’re wondering why I’m here, I’ll remind you, I am the president of the Senate,” Newsom joked as he gaveled in the upper chamber. “Ninety-eight percent of you forgot!”
But the governor-elect may already be trying to tamp down expectations, despite his party’s legislative supermajority.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremonies concluded, Newsom warned backers not to expect immediate gratification when he gets sworn in early next month. Right now, he said, he’s focused on his transition and his first state budget proposal.
“I don’t want to under-promise in just purely political terms, but I do want to suggest, this is a(n) enormous task – a transition – just the personnel issues, the budget,” he said. “Trying to get all of that right in a very short period of time is profoundly difficult. So I don’t want people to feel like we’re coming out of the box with too much, because I think they’ll be left wanting.”
During the campaign, Newsom promised to fight for single-payer health care, universal preschool, and more funding for universities and state welfare grants.