California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas speaks on stage at the Los Angeles Equality Awards at The Westin Bonaventure Rooftop in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2023. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Equality California)
In preparation for the coming legislative session, California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas advised the Legislature on Nov. 21 about a series of moves and appointments, including the ouster from coveted positions of two top-ranking Democrats embroiled in public controversy this year.
Public outrage ensued after multiple controversial decisions were made this year by the chair of the Public Safety Committee, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who repeatedly said during committee meetings that proposals increasing penalties for crimes would be mostly rejected.
This prompted intervention on at least one occasion from party leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, that led to unprecedented emergency hearings in which the Safety Committee ultimately allowed Sen. Shannon Grove’s (R-Bakersfield) Senate Bill 14, strengthening penalties for child sex traffickers, to pass after it was previously killed by the committee.
Subsequent comments that the assemblyman made in September on the Assembly floor suggesting that his actions blocking the bill allowed it to ultimately pass were met with astonishment from some lawmakers and members of the public.
In the recent moves by the speaker, Mr. Jones-Sawyer was removed from his role as chair and from the Safety Committee, and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) was chosen to succeed him.
“Many topics that this panel covers are top of mind for Californians,” Mr. McCarty wrote in a joint statement with Mr. Rivas on Nov. 21 on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I look forward to moving balanced and common-sense policies next year.”
Citing the need to prioritize safety and improve the quality of life for Californians, the Assembly speaker noted his faith in Mr. McCarty to bring conscientious leadership to the Safety Committee.
“Californians have a right to be safe in their homes and on the streets,” Mr. Rivas wrote in the statement on X. “The Legislature will be closely focused on public safety in this coming session.”
California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer attends the MedMen Red Jacket Preparation launch with Brotherhood Crusade in Culver City, Calif., on Nov. 7, 2019. (Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for MedMen)
One lawmaker said he’s hopeful the moves will allow legislators on both sides of the aisle to collaborate and address public safety matters—suggesting that such hasn’t been the case in the past.
“Balance and common sense have been in very short supply with Democrats on the Public Safety Committee, so I hope Asm. McCarty follows through on his pledge to restore sanity,” Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) told The Epoch Times by email on Nov. 27.
“Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together next year to hold fentanyl dealers accountable, fight rampant theft and curb domestic violence, but it’s up to Democrats to finally stop making excuses for criminals and start looking out for victims.”
California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty. (Courtesy of California State Assembly Democratic Caucus)
Another Safety Committee member, Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan (D-Culver City), was also removed from his role as majority leader and instead given an assignment as chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
“Thank you, Speaker Rivas, for this important appointment,” Mr. Bryan wrote on X on Nov. 22. “It’s important to make sure the communities most impacted by climate change are strongly seated to push for the future we all deserve.”
While no reasoning was announced for the switch, Mr. Bryan recently became entangled in debates regarding a statement he reportedly made when speaking to the Los Angeles County Business Federation in a virtual gathering earlier this year.
A newsletter from the organization sent to members in October described Mr. Bryan as saying he was the “speaker for L.A.,” which reportedly prompted discussions among Democratic Party leadership regarding both the potential for the public to perceive the remarks as a legislative bias toward Los Angeles at the rest of the state’s expense and attempts by the assemblyman to walk back the comment, with the federation video showing that “voice of L.A.” were his actual words.
Mr. Bryan was also involved in decisions as a member of the Assembly Public Safety Committee and in maneuvers on the Assembly floor as majority leader to kill fentanyl distribution and child sex trafficking bills.
He was replaced as majority leader by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters)—who noted her goal of inclusive leadership in a statement thanking the speaker for the new appointment.
“I am proud that Speaker Rivas has honored me with this appointment,” Ms. Aguiar-Curry said in a Nov. 21 statement. “I share the Speaker’s commitment to collaboration with all of our colleagues in the Assembly, and our partners in the Senate and the Newsom Administration.”
The speaker highlighted the importance of the role in building relationships with lawmakers to facilitate the legislative process and achieve mutually desirable objectives, while thanking Mr. Bryan for serving in the role, which he assumed in August.
“The Majority Leader works closely with the Speaker and Speaker Pro Tempore to expedite proceedings and build agreement across our historically large caucus,” Mr. Rivas said in the new majority leader’s statement. “I thank Assemblymember Bryan for his exceptional work during my transition into the office of Speaker and look forward to continuing our collaborative work for many years to come.”
With Ms. Aguiar-Curry relinquishing her role as speaker pro tempore to take on that of majority leader, Mr. Rivas appointed Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) to her prior position.
“This new challenge means a lot to me, and I look forward to doing what I love, bringing my colleagues together to make the best policy decisions for Californians,” Mr. Wood said in a Nov. 22 statement. “I look forward to working alongside the Speaker to make sure the voices of Californians are heard in Sacramento.”
The California state Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The speaker noted the ability of the former dentist, mayor, and assemblymember since 2014 to handle the responsibilities and contribute to an effective legislative session.
“Californians want their Assembly to run with efficiency and transparency, and Assemblymember Wood has the experience, temperament and ability to exceed their expectations,” Mr. Rivas said in Mr. Wood’s statement. “Jim is a strong leader who I know will work collaboratively with our caucus to get this body’s important work done.”
With both Mr. Wood and Mr. McCarty, the appointments are likely temporary, as the former announced he won’t seek reelection in 2024 and the latter is running for mayor of Sacramento.
Mr. Rivas’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.