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CA Legislative Leaders Open Session: Defiance, Promises on Transportation

The new California legislative session opened today. Both Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon delivered speeches that celebrated California's diversity and defied the new leadership in Washington. Both also made a point of mentioning transportation funding as a crucial unfinished task that will be at the top of their agendas for the new session.

“This past election was a powerful reaffirmation of our collective work to make California a stronger, safer, more inclusive and prosperous state,” said Senator de León, calling this a “portentous” moment “in our state’s and our nation’s history”

Assemblymember Rendon went further, saying “This is no ordinary time.” The nation, said Rendon, faces a “major existential threat—and a threat to the progress that we have attained [in California]. Californians may accept the lawfulness of the November election, but millions of us do not accept the sentiment delivered by this election.”

The biggest unresolved issues from the just-completed session—transportation and housing— got a shout out by both leaders. De León said:

As powerful as California’s economic engine is, our system doesn’t work if Californians cannot get to work. No matter what else we accomplish together, if we don’t comprehensively address the lack of investment in affordable housing and our crumbling roads, bridges, parks and water resources, it will continue to be a drag on the quality of life of our communities.

Assemblymember Rendon hit a similar note, noting that “home-grown challenges” need attention.

A transportation system that is over-crowded and crumbling. Housing costs so high families can’t make ends meet, employers can’t recruit, and cops and teachers can’t live where they work.

We tried to address these issues in the last session. We made some progress, but we did not succeed.

De León emphasized the need to work together: “I could not care less which side of the aisle you sit on,” he said, “only the quality of your ideas and values that you stand on.” The “aisle” usually refers to the divide between Democrats and Republicans, but with California's current Democratic supermajority that divide is less important—or it may have shifted to a new one that divides groups of Democrats representing very different areas of the state.

California will not be seceding from the union, said de León. He added:

It’s vital we ensure that California continues to be America’s exceptional example, a beacon of hope and opportunity in an uncertain world. That we double down on lifting people up. That we defend our people and our progress. And that we continue to be a world leader on workers’ rights, women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, social justice, economic justice, climate action, environmental protection, and access to health care and public education for everyone.

Rendon sounded a warning note about working with a harmful administration in Washington:

Californians should be wary of the national calls for unity and healing. Unity must be separated from complicity. And we must be defiant whenever justice, fairness, and righteousness require.

Both leaders defined California as a place that embraces its diversity, with Rendon making it part of California's identity as a state. “We too have an identity in California.
An identity of inclusion. And,” he promised, “we will do whatever we can to protect that identity.”

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León's full speech can be found here, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon's here [PDF].

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