California’s state Senate voted to suspend three Democratic lawmakers convicted or accused of separate crimes, including one charged with conspiracy in firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire and drug distribution.
The Senate, controlled by Democrats, voted 28-1 yesterday to prevent Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright from voting or participating in the chamber’s business. All three will still receive their $95,291 salaries.
Yee, of San Francisco, was arrested March 26 after an undercover operation by federal agents. Calderon, of Los Angeles, was accused of taking kickbacks in February, while Wright, of Inglewood, was convicted of voter fraud in January. Governor Jerry Brown said all three should step down.
“Given the extraordinary circumstances of these cases -– and today’s unprecedented suspensions -– the best way to restore public confidence is for these senators to resign,” the 75-year-old Democrat said yesterday in a statement.
The loss of the three Democratic votes ends the party’s two-thirds supermajority in the Senate that allowed it to pass tax increases and override gubernatorial vetoes. Democrats were counting on it to rewrite an $11 billion bond measure on the November ballot and to seek voter approval for a constitutional amendment to stockpile unpredictable capital-gains taxes.
Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate and a two-thirds majority in the Assembly.
Yee, 65, who represents San Mateo County and part of San Francisco, was accused of six counts of conspiracy to traffic in firearms and one count of defrauding citizens of honest service. He was also accused of taking bribes from undercover agents looking to meet with gunrunners that Yee said he knew. Prosecutors also say he took payoffs to connect agents posing as medical marijuana dealers and other lawmakers.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg ordered mandatory ethics training for all members and their staff next month. Even so, he said, “I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality and danger of gunrunning.”
Calderon was charged in February with taking kickbacks from a hospital owner and an independent film studio to do their bidding in the legislature. The 56-year-old was accused of fraud, bribery and money laundering.
In January, Wright was found guilty of voter fraud. He claimed he lived in Inglewood, in the Senate district for which he won election, while in fact he lived in another district, prosecutors said.