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Assembly Democrats taking 3 days off

August 23, 2008|Michael Rothfeld and Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — With the end of the legislative session approaching, no budget in place and a $15.2-billion deficit hanging over their heads, the Assembly's Democrats on Friday unveiled their plans for the next week: a three-day vacation from the Capitol.

Their scheduled time away coincides with the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where 31 members of the Legislature are expected as delegates. But that has nothing to do with the decision not to hold sessions Tuesday through Thursday, a spokesman said.

"If we had work to do, we'd be here," said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). "It's literally silly for some of them to sit around in Sacramento."

Maviglio said the Assembly finished this week voting on most of the legislation sent over by the Senate, and new bills have not arrived. And it's legislative leaders, not the rank and file, who are negotiating the budget, he said.

Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento, said lawmakers shouldn't go anywhere until they pass a budget.

"It's poor judgment on their part and only fuels the fire of the public's animus toward the Legislature," she said. "It looks immature and childish."

In the state Senate, half a dozen members said Friday that they had canceled their convention plans. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), who had intended to go, told his members to stay in town.

It is unclear how many of the Assembly members will attend the convention. Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda), a delegate, said Friday that he could not attend "in good conscience." Bass, also a delegate, canceled her plans. But she has not forbidden anyone to go.

"I don't know who is going to the convention from my caucus," Bass said. "What I do know is that our No. 1 priority is to settle the budget . . . and none of us would sacrifice that to go to a convention."

Even though many will not be in Sacramento, Assembly members will still get paid more than $1,000 in tax-free living expenses for the next six days because they scheduled a Monday afternoon meeting on water bond legislation and other matters, Maviglio said. Under Assembly rules, they can collect their allowance as long as they don't go four days without a meeting.

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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