Convicted lawmaker resigns, highlighting need for ethical legislators

img SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

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BY LORI ARNOLD, RESEARCH ANALYST

Suspended state Sen. Roderick Wright, who was convicted in January of felony voter fraud and perjury, announced Monday he will resign his seat on Sept. 22.

His announcement came three days after he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and banned from public office for life. Wright delayed his departure, the Los Angeles Times reported, so he could say goodbye to his staff and constituents.

Wright’s sentencing, which followed numerous delays because he was seeking an appeal, also included a $2,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.

The Los Angeles-area legislator was convicted in January for lying about his residency in order to run for his 35th district seat. The jury found that he actually lived in Baldwin Hills and not in Inglewood as he asserted.

Despite the conviction, Wright refused to resign his seat earlier this year prompting Senate leadership to suspend him—with pay—in March. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) shunned calls to expel Wright early this year, saying the matter was not final until a judge upheld the jury’s verdict.

“Unless and until there is a final conviction for a felony I do not believe it is appropriate or necessary to expel Senator Wright or ask him to resign,” Steinberg told The Sacramento Bee in late January.

On Friday, however, immediately after Wright was sentenced, Steinberg asked the convicted senator—both publicly and privately—to resign his seat. Wright did so by submitting a letter to the Senate secretary.

Wright is one of three California Senate Democrats who ran afoul of the law this year. Not long after Wright’s conviction, state Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) was indicted on 24 felony charges related to the acceptance of nearly $100,000 in bribes and other crimes. Calderon had been under investigation for months.
In March federal officials raided the legislative offices of Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). The gun control advocate was arrested in connection with arms trafficking, including the proposed purchase of shoulder-fired missiles, and taking bribes from undercover FBI agents.

Calderon and Yee were also suspended without pay. They will both be termed out of office in November.

All three cases have tainted public perception of the Legislature, with the latest Field poll showing that support for lawmakers has dropped to just 34 percent, another point from June and nine points since April.

In addition to giving the legislative body a black eye, the three high-profile suspensions denied Senate Democrats the coveted super-majority that enabled them to take sweeping action without support of Republicans.

The scandals have underscored the importance of electing candidates with impeccable integrity and a strong value system. It is naïve to think that all pro-family candidates will be above reproach, as blaring headlines have previously shown. But chances certainly improve when we elect lawmakers who base their worldview on Judeo-Christian values.

Craig Huey, a former Assembly and Congressional candidate who monitors candidates statewide races through his Election Forum website, has created a district-by-district list for the November election, ranking contenders by their commitment to pro-family causes. He’s identified just 11 running for the Assembly and, in a sad commentary for California residents, none in the state Senate races.

Because of district demographics, many of these candidates face tough odds in getting elected. But thankfully, faith-based voters know the outcomes are ultimately not only in our hands.

Election Forum pro-family picks
(all are Republicans)
* designates incumbent

Assembly
District 3 — James Gallagher
District 6 — Beth B. Gaines*
District 32 — Pedro A. Rios
District 34 — Shannon Grove*
District 43 — Todd Royal
District 44 — Rob McCoy
District 62 — Ted J. Grose
District 65 — Young Kim
District 68 — Donald P. “Don” Wagner*
District 71 — Brian W. Jones*
District 74 — Matthew Harper

Senate
No candidate has earned the profamily ranking from Election Forum

 

Sample messages for bills before the governor

Below are sample communications that you may send to Gov. Jerry Brown on two key bills awaiting either his signature or a veto. Please contact him immediately to let him know you expect his veto of AB 1444. The second letter urges his signature on AB 2350. Click here to contact the governor.

Oppose AB 1444 (Buchanan D-San Ramon) Elementary education: kindergarten.

  • Dear Gov. Jerry Brown,
    The Legislature will soon be sending to your desk AB 1444, which will make kindergarten mandatory for all California children. I respectfully request that you veto AB 1444. Despite good intentions, it is an ill-conceived plan that forces early education on all children without regard to individual readiness. Research shows that this one-size-fit-all approach is harmful to children and strips parents of their fundamental right to determine what is best for their children.
    Even the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this fundamental right of parents in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, Wisconsin v. Yoder, and Troxel v. Granville (530 U.S. 57 2000).
    Please stand with parents and veto AB 1444.

 

Support AB 2350 (Bonilla D-Concord) Postsecondary education: Equity in Higher Education Act: prevention of pregnancy discrimination.

  • Dear Gov. Jerry Brown,
    After successfully advancing through the Legislature, you will soon see AB 2350 on your desk, awaiting your signature. I wholeheartedly urge you to sign AB 2350, which prohibits universities from discriminating against pregnant graduate students.
    The common-sense measure allows pregnant students to essentially take maternal leave without jeopardizing their placement in a graduate school program. The law is needed to protect graduate students from having to choose between continuing their education or terminating their pregnancy.
    As you may know, the NCAA re-evaluated its own policies several years ago after reports surfaced that student athletes were being pressured into abortions by coaches and school advisers. In several cases, university staff threatened to cancel a young woman’s scholarship if she refused to comply.
    AB 2350 is so vital that we would not only like to see it become law, but also eventually expanded to include all California undergraduates.
    Thank you in advance for your support of AB 2350.

 

Bill signed by the governor

AB 1951 (Gomez D-Los Angeles) Vital records: birth certificates.

CFA’s assessment: Oppose. This bill takes yet another step toward undermining the traditional roles of mother and father by offering a generic “parent” option on birth certificates.

Summary: This bill would require the State Registrar, with regard to identification of the parents, to modify the certificate of live birth to contain 2 lines that both read “Name of Parent” and contain, next to each parent's name, 3 check boxes with the options of mother, father, and parent to describe the parent’s relationship to the child. The bill would also require that all local registrars, deputy registrars, and subregistrars use the modified certificate of live birth, update all forms to incorporate the modification, and discard all forms in use before the modification.

Passed Assembly, 53-14
Passed Senate, as amended, 26-4
Passed Assembly concurrence, 58-15
Signed by governor

 

Other “bad” bills before the governor

AB 1577 (Atkins D-San Diego) Certificates of death: gender identity

CFA’s assessment: Oppose. Ignores biological gender at birth on official death documentation.

Summary: This bill would require a person completing the certificate of death to record the decedent’s gender as that reported by the informant, unless the person completing the certificate is presented with a legal document that memorializes the decedent’s gender transition, in which case the document would control. The bill would grant immunity from liability for costs or damages arising from any claims based upon a person entering a decedent’s gender as required by this bill.

Passed Assembly, 62-5
Passed Senate, 26-6
Passed Assembly concurrence, as amended, 67-4

 

AB 1678 (Gordon D-Los Altos) Women, minority, disabled veteran, and LGBT business enterprise procurement.

CFA’s assessment: Oppose. Further expands protected-class status to homosexuals by adding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business into a program that provides preferential contracting awards for public utility projects. The program already includes women-, minority- and disabled-veteran-owned businesses.

Summary: Existing law directs the Public Utilities Commission to require every electrical, gas, water, wireless telecommunications service provider, and telephone corporation with annual gross revenues exceeding $25 million, and their regulated subsidiaries and affiliates, to implement a program developed by the commission to encourage, recruit, and utilize minority-, women-, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprises, as defined, in the procurement of contracts from those corporations or from their regulated subsidiaries and affiliates, and to require the reporting of certain information.

Existing law requires the commission to recommend a program and legislation for carrying out the policy of aiding the interests of women, minority, and disabled veteran business enterprises.

This bill would extend these provisions to LGBT business enterprises, as defined. Also provides for criminal penalties for anyone who falsely represents as a LGBT business enterprise.

Passed Assembly, 54-20
Passed Senate, as amended, 22-9
Passed Assembly concurrence, 54-22

 

AB 2344 (Ammiano D-San Francisco) Family law: parentage.

CFA’s assessment: Oppose. Known as the Modern Family Act, this bill establishes three separate standardized forms to clarify parental intent for assisted reproduction: Married spouses or registered domestic partners using assisted reproduction to conceive a child; unmarried, intended parents using intended parent's sperm to conceive a child; and intended parents conceiving a child using eggs from one parent and the other parent will give birth, including the possibility of creating three-parent families by allowing sperm or ova donors to retain parental rights. The forms undermine the well-established roles of mother and father, by nixing those titles for gender-neutral terms Parent 1 and Parent 2.

Summary: Under existing law the donor of semen provided to a licensed physician and surgeon or to a licensed sperm bank for use in assisted reproduction of a woman other than the donor's spouse is treated at law as if he were not the natural parent of the child thereby conceived unless otherwise agreed to in writing and signed by the donor and the woman prior to the conception of the child.

This bill would establish three distinct statutory forms for assisted reproduction to provide clarity regarding a person's intent to be a legal parent if he or she is using assisted reproduction at the time of conception. The bill would state that the forms satisfy the writing requirement described above, but would state that use of the forms would not be required to satisfy that writing requirement.

The bill also streamlines the stipulated stepparent adoption process, under which the child of a marriage or domestic partnership may be adopted by the parties to that marriage or domestic partnership. It does so by eliminating examination by the court or any other court proceedings, or a background check, home study, or any related fees.

 

Other “good” bills before the governor

SB 1177 (Steinberg D-Sacramento) Privacy: students.

CFA’s assessment: Support. Closes loopholes that allow online vendors to data mine information collected on children through online services provided for students.

Summary: This bill would prohibit an operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application with actual knowledge that the site, service, or application is used for K-12 school purposes and was designed and marketed for K-12 school purposes from using, sharing, disclosing, or compiling personal information about a K-12 student for commercial purposes.

This bill would prohibit an operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application with actual knowledge that the site, service, or application is used for K-12 school purposes, as defined, and was designed and marketed for K-12 school purposes from using, sharing, disclosing, or compiling personal information about a K-12 student for commercial purposes. This bill would require an operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application with actual knowledge that the site, service, or application is used for K-12 school purposes and was designed and marketed for K-12 school purposes to ensure that specified encryption processes are used and to delete a student’s personal information under specified circumstances.

 

AB 1432 (Gatto D-Burbank) Mandated child abuse reporting: school employees: training

CFA’s assessment: Support. Requires the state to develop and disseminate reporting guidelines for detecting child abuse and neglect to all schools, and further requires that all school employees be trained annually on the mandatory reporting requirements.

Summary: Similar in scope to AB 2560, this bill would require the State Department of Education, in consultation with the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in the State Department of Social Services, to develop and disseminate information to all school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools, and their school personnel in California, regarding the detection and reporting of child abuse, to provide statewide guidelines on the reporting requirements for child abuse and the responsibilities of mandated reporters, and to develop appropriate means of instructing school personnel in the detection of child abuse and neglect and the proper action that school personnel should take in suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.

The bill would further require school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to annually train school personnel on the mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect, as specified, and would require these employees to submit proof of completing this training to the applicable governing board or body of the school district, county office of education, or charter school within the first 6 weeks of each school year.

Passed Assembly, 66-5
Passed Senate, 31-3
Passed Assembly concurrence, 61-13

 

AB 1585 (Alejo D-Salinas) Human trafficking.

CFA’s assessment: Support. Expunges prostitution records for victims whose convictions were related to human trafficking. We like the provision requiring that the defendant complete probation prior to being eligible because it shows a commitment to restoration.

Summary: Similar in scope to AB 1887 (Campos D-San Jose), which was held in committee, the bill now carries the name of Campos as a co-author. AB 1585 provides that if a defendant has been convicted of solicitation or prostitution and has completed any term of probation for that conviction, the defendant may petition the court for relief if the defendant can establish by clear and convincing evidence that the conviction was the result of his or her status as a victim of human trafficking, and would authorize a court to issue an order that (1) sets forth a finding that the defendant was a victim of human trafficking, as specified, (2) dismisses the accusation or information against the defendant, or orders other relief, and (3) notifies the department that the defendant was a victim of human trafficking when he or she committed the crime and the relief that has been ordered.

The bill would also exclude records of conviction for which the relief described above has been granted from the criminal records that may be disseminated for various purposes, including the full criminal record obtained in connection with an adoption application.

Passed Assembly, 79-0
Passed Senate, as amended, 35-0
Passed Assembly concurrence, 79-0

 

AB 1791 (Maienschein R-San Diego) Prostitution: minors.

CFA’s assessment: Support. Originally introduced as a human trafficking bill, AB 1791, has been amended to the more narrow focus of engaging minors in prostitution. The bill would double both the jail time and fines—up to one year and/or $2,000—for solicitation or prostitution involving a minor.

Summary: Existing law makes it a crime to engage in specified forms of disorderly conduct, including soliciting or agreeing to engage in, or engaging in, any act of prostitution and makes that crime a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

This bill would make that crime punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment, if the person who was solicited by, or who agreed to engage in or engaged in any act of prostitution with, the person who committed that crime was a minor at the time of the offense.

 

SB 838 (Beall D-Campbell) Juveniles: Sex Offenses.

CFA’s assessment: Support. Under existing law, juveniles who commit sex crimes against incapacitated victims are protected in private juvenile court hearings because of a lack of “force” in their crimes. In addition, this bill closes that loophole allowing the juveniles to be tried as adults, where all hearings are public. In addition to enhanced penalties, new amendments require minors to complete a sex offender program as determined by the court.

Summary: Allows juveniles to be tried as an adult when various sex offenses are perpetrated against a victim who was unable to resist due to being rendered unconscious by any intoxicating, anesthetizing, or controlled substance, or when the victim is incapable of giving consent because of a disability.

Passed Senate, 35-0
Passed Assembly, 79-0
Passed Senate concurrence, as amended, 36-0

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