A man undergoes a field sobriety test before being detained at a Los Angeles Police Department DUI checkpoint in Reseda, Calif., on April 13, 2018. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
A resolution that would amend state law to prevent lawmakers convicted of drunk driving from accessing government-issued vehicles while working in Sacramento was killed by the Assembly Rules Committee last week when a motion to move it forward failed to receive a second vote, leaving the author stunned by the outcome.
“There used to be a time when [driving under the influence] would disqualify you from public office,” Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) told The Epoch Times Sept. 8. “Now it seems to qualify you for a promotion.”
Recent incidents involving candidates and lawmakers have brought the matter to the attention of the public. Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) was arrested in May for DUI, reportedly with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
And Assembly candidate and Riverside City Councilwoman Clarissa Cervantes also was arrested in July for her second DUI offense.
The bill initially stalled after being introduced July 13, with the item “held at the desk,” a phrase used to describe items that are still under consideration while some say such is a way to kill a bill without votes being recorded.
Mr. Essayli, a member of the committee—which is composed of 13 assemblymembers, and had eight members present when the issue was discussed—made a motion to immediately consider the measure Sept. 7 but it did not receive a second vote for consideration, even from fellow committee member and Republican Heath Flora (R-Ripon).
In a matter of 26 seconds, the issue was dismissed by the chair.
Assemblyman Bill Essayli speaks to the California Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento, Calif., on March 21, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
“I find it to be very problematic with how cavalier we’ve become with a serious crime like DUI, especially with elected officials who are supposed to be held to a higher standard,” Mr. Essayli told The Epoch Times. “They’re supposed to set an example for the public.”
Mr. Flora did not respond to a request for comment.
Proponents of the resolution noted the need for responsible leadership and the impact drunk driving has on families in California as reasons why the measure should be approved.
When announcing the resolution last summer, Mr. Essayli, a former prosecutor in Riverside County wrote in a press release that over 1,000 Californians died last year as a result of drunk drivers.
“I fought to keep our roads safe by prosecuting and convicting drunk drivers,” Mr. Essayli said in the press release. “Now as a Member of the Assembly, I am troubled by recent incidents of legislators and candidates drinking and driving. Public officials must be held to the highest standards given the public trust placed in us.”
Supporters of the resolution urging lawmakers to act include the nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving, better known as MADD.
“Limiting access to state pool vehicles … for all drunk driving offenders will not only hold elected officials accountable but will lead to much-needed change in driving behavior and decision-making that endangers California residents and visitors every day,” Patricia Rillera, California executive director of MADD, said in a July letter (pdf
) of support for the resolution. “Driving while impaired by alcohol and/or other drugs is a choice, and we must hold accountable every person who makes that choice.”
Though no path forward exists for the resolution, the issue could be reintroduced in next year’s legislative agenda.