Perez picked as new Assembly speaker

December 10, 2009 7:46:29 PM PST
Democrats in Sacramento came to an agreement on who should be the next Speaker of the Assembly. Their pick is John Perez, and if approved by the entire Assembly next month, he'll become the state's first openly gay speaker.

One by one, Democratic lawmakers filed into their meeting determined to end their fractured caucus, which has been fighting for weeks over a new leader.

They emerged united, unanimously selecting freshman Perez as the next Assembly Speaker. The Los Angeles Democrat will become the first openly gay lawmaker to hold that position.

"I think it says more about California than about me. It means California is a place that everybody has a seat at the table," said Perez.

"More than ever, we do need to be unified. We do need to come together. The challenges are unlike anything we've ever seen before," said former speaker candidate Kevin DeLeon.

Bass's term isn't up for another year and some Democrats haven't been happy with her leadership. She insists she's not being forced out and welcomes the early transition.

"Mr. Perez and I will sit down over the next couple of weeks and work out when the transition will actually take place," said Bass.

There will be no honeymoon for Perez because the state is already facing another $21 billion deficit. The former labor organizer will help hammer out major policy deals behind closed doors, including finances.

That won't be easy in an era of term limits, which some say limits major accomplishments.

"Whether or not it's a new speaker or whether it's Karen Bass, it's clear that job has not produced that result in a long time," said former assembly speaker Willie Brown.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says no matter who is at the Assembly helm, he's ready to roll up his sleeves.

"In this building, it's all about working together and finding solutions together," said the governor.

Democrats rallied behind the freshman, partly because he's able to be Assembly Speaker for as much as five years. The floor vote will likely take place after the new year. But that's just a formality, considering Perez has more than the minimum votes without Republicans.


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