Madam Speaker

Comments Off

That title has only been used once before in the California Assembly (and then only under unusual circumstances), but it'll be the buzz word for today when Karen Bass is sworn in as the 67th speaker of the lower house.

Bass hooked the top job several weeks ago, but today formally assumes the title and the power. The 53-year-old Los Angeles Democrat replaces Fabian Nunez at the helm, three months after Nunez's gambit to modify the existing term limits law was rejected by voters.

Speaker Bass spent some time with several Capitol reporters over the past few days, including a brief interview with me late last week.

In such a setting, it quickly becomes clear that she's much more succinct than the often verbose Nunez. That truncated communication style may be the perfect fit for her similarly slim agenda as leader of the Assembly. In almost every recent interview, including ours, Bass has said that there are only three things on her to do list: solving this year's budget mess, examining systemic reform of the state tax code, and strengthening California's overburdened and often neglected foster care system.

Click below to hear my profile of Bass that aired this morning on The California Report.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Aside from the big items on her agenda, a few other comments on recent issues from my interview with the new "Madam Speaker":

Redistricting: Bass says she supports an effort to remove political map drawing duties from the hands of the Legislature... but she's stopping short of an endorsement of the proposal that appears headed for the ballot thanks to the work of Governor Schwarzenegger and government reform groups. In fact, she expressed reservations about the proposal, and a desire to see what might come out of a new effort on the issue pledged by the outgoing Speaker Nunez.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Health care reform: Bass also said she'd like to return to last year's discussion on changes to the state's health care system... and dismisses any speculation that legislative efforts on the issue are all but dead in the near future.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Foster care reform: And back on her pet issue, Bass explained her interest in a future ballot initiative to find a new way of paying for the state's troubled foster care system... and why the needs are so great.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Today's big ceremony in the Assembly chambers will feature a who's who of VIPs, including many of the politicos who once held the job of speaker. And then it's back to work... and Bass' greatest challenger... as Governor Schwarzenegger unveils his much anticipated revised budget tomorrow afternoon.

RSS Subscribe

About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

Comments are closed.