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Assembly's Democrats could briefly lose supermajority

It's possible that upcoming vacancies could complicate some budget action, but no major upheavals are expected.

March 10, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO — State Assemblyman Robert Blumenfield's election to the Los Angeles City Council last week won't keep him from helping to push a state budget through by June 15. But it could complicate things later for his fellow Democrats in the lower house.

Blumenfield, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, won't leave state office until July 1. But his planned departure is among a handful of resignations in both houses that have set off a round of musical chairs for the Democrats who dominate the Legislature.

Their numbers in the Assembly will dip below the supermajority threshold they achieved in November if two members move to the Senate in special elections that start Tuesday. The numbers will fall again when Blumenfield leaves.

That could hamper Democrats' ability to approve tax increases or other measures that require a two-thirds vote — though not for long, experts say.

"The supermajority will be back in the Assembly for the fall,'' predicted Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP strategist who handicaps political contests.

Lawmakers are not expected to try to raise taxes this summer. Gov. Jerry Brown won tax hikes in November and has said he would not support more in the near term. And it no longer takes a two-thirds vote to pass the state budget, though having one makes it easier for Democrats to propose changes on the ballot, among other possibilities.

In the Assembly, the new vacancies would cause more special elections. Those would also be largely in Democratic districts. In the end, Democrats will retain their two-thirds threshold, Hoffenblum predicted.

The same is expected in the state Senate, where last month's abrupt resignation by Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) put the Democrats' numbers below the supermajority line. On Friday, Brown called a May 21 election to fill Rubio's seat, with a possible runoff in July.

But the supermajority may be regained before then.

Two Senate vacancies opened up in January, after Democrats Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino and Juan Vargas of San Diego went off to Congress. Those seats, both in comfortably Democratic districts, will be filled in Tuesday's special elections, or in May 14 runoffs if no candidate wins outright.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) is confident the special elections will reconstitute the two-thirds majority in his house, according to a spokesman. That would hold even if Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) wins a runoff election for the Los Angeles City Council in May.

"We are prudently optimistic that the supermajority will soon be restored," said Jason Kinney, a consultant for the Senate Democrats.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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