Democrats Maintain Supermajorities and Battle Over Speaker of the Assembly Role

After the election this week there are still a few races close enough not to have a declared winner, but the composition of the California Legislature will remain mostly the same with the Democrats having a “safe” supermajority in both the Senate and Assembly.

Coming into the election there were 63 Democrats, 19 Republicans, and one independent in the Assembly. Once the election is finalized, we may see a slight decrease in the number of Democrats, but it will still be more than the 54 needed for a supermajority.

In the Senate, there were 32 Democrats and eight Republicans. Once again, we could see an increase in Republicans by possibly one but still not enough to change the supermajority of 27 needed in the Senate.

The real drama coming out of the election was around who would be Speaker in the Assembly going forward. Anthony Rendon, an Assemblymember from the Los Angeles area has been Speaker since 2016. He is termed out of the Assembly in 2024. You may recall earlier this year Assemblymember Robert Rivas, from the Salinas area, made an attempt to overtake the Speaker role and called for an election in May. The Democrats caucused for more than six hours with the eventual outcome of Speaker Rendon maintaining his leadership role and some “vague” recognition that Assemblymember Rivas would be the next Speaker. There was no date agreed upon for this transition.

With this setback, Mr. Rivas began recruiting new Democrats who would be running for election in 2022 that would further support him being Speaker instead of the current Speaker Rendon. This led to a small group of Democrats, led by Mr. Rivas, forming their own PAC to funnel money to those new Democratic candidates. Yesterday, the Democrats came to Sacramento for a caucus meeting to discuss who should be Speaker. After more than six hours of discussion, it was announced Speaker Rendon would remain in his role as Speaker until June 30, 2023, and then the Speaker role would transition to Mr. Rivas. Part of this deal is the committee chairs will remain the same and there will be no punishments by Speaker Rendon for those who are supporting Mr. Rivas.

The transition date is somewhat unusual as it is in the middle of the first year of the 2023/2024 session. Many insiders believe this will create some confusion in the Assembly as the transition occurs and committee chairs and other leadership positions within the Assembly are changed. Also, for those who like political drama, this “transition” is not binding and many things can change over the next six to eight months.

For now, the Democrats in the Assembly seem united on this plan, but time will tell if it holds up.