California Democrats Temporarily Lose Assembly Supermajority

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — California Democrats will be without a supermajority in the Assembly for months and risk losing the two-thirds edge needed to pass tax and fee increases in the Senate.

When lawmakers return in January, they will have two vacant Assembly seats that won’t be filled until at least April after Los Angeles members resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. In the Senate, a member in a competitive district is facing a recall over his support for a gas tax increase and another could face pressure to resign depending on the results of a misconduct allegation.

“It will certainly affect votes,” said Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley, chairman of the rules committee.

Supermajorities were needed this year to pass the gas tax increase and reauthorize the cap-and-trade program. Passing a budget only requires a simple majority.

Although the changes cut into the Democrats’ legislative power, tax and fee increases are less likely to come up for votes in election years because they can be unpopular with voters.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday set an April 3 primary date for a special election to replace former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, who resigned last month amid sexual misconduct allegations. If no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, a general election will take place June 5, the same day as the statewide primary.

A date hasn’t been set to replace Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, another San Fernando Valley Democrat, who plans to resign Jan. 1. He denies a lobbyist’s allegation that he assaulted her in a bar bathroom last year.

Sen. Tony Mendoza also could face pressure to resign depending on the results of an investigation into sexual misconduct claims. He denies improper behavior.

A date hasn’t been set for a recall election against Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton. Newman’s district spans parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties and is highly competitive.

Democrats jammed a new set of recall rules through the Legislature this year — including one that requires the state to estimate how much a recall will cost.

The state Department of Finance said Monday that it would be cheaper for the state to hold the Newman recall on the same day as the statewide primary. That would cost the three counties an estimated $931,000. If the recall is held on a different day, it could cost more than $2.6 million, the department estimated.

Newman may have a better chance of survival the higher the voter turnout.

Barring no other resignations, Democrats have a strong chance of winning both Assembly seats back.