By Jon Coupal – December 23, 2023
Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas announced his changes to the Standing Committees for the next legislative session. The annual tradition is important because it usually portends the agenda for the upcoming year. But while state capitol watchers try to read the tea leaves on the new speaker’s committee appointments, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out what’s going on.
Among the most notable changes, Rivas removed Mia Bonta as the Public Safety Budget chair. Bonta had received criticism for presiding over the office budget of her husband, Attorney General Rob Bonta. Her inability to explain away this seeming conflict of interest amid media scrutiny was an embarrassment to legislative Democrats last session.
Similarly, Reggie Jones-Sawyer is out as the Assembly Public Safety Committee chairman. Jones-Sawyer’s soft-on-crime approach led him to stop a set of fentanyl-related public safety bills and one that would classify child sex trafficking as a serious felony. Intense scrutiny from the media, legislative leaders and even Gov. Gavin Newsom, made him reverse course on many of them but seemingly not before causing enough embarrassment to get him removed.
Perhaps the most shocking change is that Isaac Bryan is no longer majority leader. He was a Rivas stalwart, but media reports suggest he may have overplayed his influence with the speaker. Rivas’ office said that had nothing to do with the decision, but politics is a popularity contest and there had to be a reason for such a stunning demotion.
As for the new chairs, these appointments are nothing more than spoils of war to regime loyalists that backed Rivas during a contentious speaker battle last session. The chairmanship of a powerful committee gives members leverage over their colleagues and influence with powerful donors, but nothing really changes.
That’s because there are no threats to their control. The Democrats have a supermajority, and few legislative districts are competitive beyond intraparty squabbling. That’s why they answer only to themselves and the special interests that could mount a primary challenge against them if crossed.
So, what to expect next year? Much of the same. You don’t need to look at committee assignments to know what’s on the menu. It’s you, the taxpayer. It’s always you.
Cecilia Aguiar-Curry was promoted to majority leader. She’s the author of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1. That’s a direct attack on Proposition 13 that would remove the taxpayer protection of the two-thirds vote of the electorate required to pass local special taxes.
Jon Coupal is President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association