By Eloise Gómez Reyes – Asssemblymember 47th District
The end of another Legislative Session and, as always, there was some excitement as we worked to vote on all the bills from both the Assembly and the Senate. We had social distancing and mask wearing; Senators in quarantine; and members of both Houses trying to jockey their bills through the houses. When all was said and done, there were judgments, praises and complaints relating to the conclusion of the people’s business in the Legislature. In the end it is the leaders who are held accountable and take ownership over the outcomes. Yet, in the days since the Legislative session ended Speaker Anthony Rendon, a man that introduces himself to people as just “Anthony,” has been the subject of unnecessary personal attacks for allegedly not showing empathy to one of his colleagues, by refusing to allow the use of remote voting, an approach that while embraced by the Senate was rightly viewed as a last resort for the Assembly.
I was shocked because the description in no way reflected the man I know, nor the man whose actions since becoming Speaker of the California State Assembly have positively impacted both the Legislature and the State of California.
Needless to say, the characterization of Speaker Rendon, (the man I helped re-elect to be Speaker of the Assembly) whether by design, or due to distance from what actually happened, could not be further from reality. While he has been condemned for the perception that he forced a new mom to return to the Capitol to vote, the reality is that Speaker Rendon has used his time as leader of the Assembly to correct decades of wrongs inside the State Capitol by instituting policies to empower and elevate women leaders and fight for the rights of families. The concept of proxy voting was changed to meet the changing times while finding balance with legal challenges. Maybe we didn’t get it right, but we have a leader and members ready to look at better ways to ensure the Legislature operates safely for members, staff and the public.
As a woman and as a mother I am deeply sympathetic to the challenges of working families attempting to balance career with parenting. That is why I have spent my time in the Assembly advocating for more childcare funding and expanded early childhood education opportunities as a member of the Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education (ECE) created by Speaker Rendon to develop proposals to ease the childcare burden on working families.
In addition to his work to expand childcare and ECE opportunities, Speaker Rendon, has built his speakership on empowering more women than any Assembly Speaker before him.
Due to his leadership and effective campaigning we have the largest cadre of women elected in the Assembly ever. When he was elected Speaker, he identified that pay parity between female and male staff was inequitable and went about changing Assembly policy to correct this wrong.
He changed Monday sessions from a start time of noon to 1 p.m. Why is that important? Because the parents in the Assembly wanted to drop off their children at school on Monday morning and still get to Sacramento on time for Floor Session.
He ensured passage of the ITINs CalEITC tax credit that specifically benefits low-income working Californians with children, to enable them to keep working.
His tenure has resulted in the implementation of fully paid leave for Assemblymembers with newborn children, something that rarely exists in the business world.
In an unprecedented move he has named women to fill each of the four top Assembly non-elected positions: Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Clerk, Chief Sergeant at Arms and the Speaker’s Chief of Staff. He further ensured women electeds had power within the Assembly by doubling the number of committees chaired by women. I am a beneficiary of that progressive policy change as I currently Chair the Human Services Committee.
In response to the clear failures of the Legislature’s previous approach toward sexual harassment claims, Speaker Rendon created The Legislative Workplace Conduct Unit to fairly investigate allegations, intentionally firewalled away from the Speaker’s control.
I think these facts are important enough, in and of themselves. However, they don’t begin to capture the character of Speaker Anthony Rendon. He is a man who spends time listening to all people because he cares and actually hears what they say and incorporates it into decisions. He has accommodated new parents, the mother of triplets and the mothers-to-be. And he is a man who, recognizing the hurt to Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, issued a full apology -no excuses.
In the end, although Speaker Rendon has been a great leader, empowering those around him, pushing progressive policies and protecting staff and members, there will always be someone on the outside looking for a reason to criticize or to elevate the politics of division over the needs of California.
Any leader is subjected to negative comments and criticisms, but recent tweets and columns have turned into an all-out assault on his character as well as attempting to assign to him motives for his actions that have no basis in reality.
Those of us in the Assembly, those of us who elected him Speaker, know him better than that.
I would like you to know that, too.