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Speaker-elect John Perez (A-46)
The Next Speaker
In January 2010, Assemblyman John Perez will officially join the men and women who have led the California State Assembly as the Speaker and put his legislative signature on the office.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
The office of the Speaker of the California Assembly is traditionally defined as the second most powerful position in state government and Assemblyman John Perez will inherit that office as the next Speaker of the Assembly in January 2010. Recently, he was voted unanimously to succeed the current speaker, Karen Bass by the Assembly Democratic Caucus and it seems most assuredly that he will be voted in when the assembly reconvenes in January.
During an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel, Assemblyman Perez was very humble in explaining his rise to the top. "Here's what happened," he started. "The Democratic Caucus met and voted last week and now the vote has to be ratified on the floor in the first week of January, and the current Speaker and I will work out a transition time." He was very easygoing and cordial. "The tradition is once you have the votes, then the floor vote is a formality."
As for his future plans as Speaker, "Right now, the primary focus is the immediate budget crisis and focusing on broader economic recovery for the state," he said. "It's important for us to close the budget gap and it's equally important for us to spur the economy on and start creating new jobs because the rate of unemployment in our state is staggering." With his main focus on the economy, Perez said that it would also be his only focus because it would not be a quick job. "You don't dig yourself out of the kind of economic morass that we're in quickly; you've got to have a consistent approach and it's going to take cooperation with folks in the business community and the labor community, and with our friends in Washington."Â
In commenting about Perez, Speaker Karen Bass said, "He will be a great Speaker for many, many reasons and one of the reasons is because he will be able to serve as Speaker for four to five years. One of the things I didn't want to do is what speakers traditionally do--they never want to leave and they hold on to the office 'til the bitter end; I really didn't want to do that." By allowing Perez a smooth and orderly transition as Bass put it, "I wanted to step down and allow a new person to come in and start the year off right."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former speaker himself, voiced his praise about Perez's ascension to the speaker-ship on the day it was announced. He issued the following statement: "Today, the Democratic Assembly Members elected Assembly-member John Perez to be the next Speaker of the California State Assembly. I add my voice to the many, in congratulating John Perez for earning the unanimous support of his colleagues. John's impressive career as labor leader, environmentalist and civil rights activist has prepared him for the challenges he will face in leading California to brighter days."
Bass continued explaining the process by which Perez was selected, "We voted within out caucus and I will remain as Speaker for some time. We have not decided on a transition period as yet but I'm talking to Assembly-member Perez about that now. There are two more steps before he actually becomes speaker: a vote on the floor and after that a date when he will be sworn in as the 68th Speaker."
It is important to note that this is Perez's first term in the assembly and the first office that he has ever been elected to, and he has risen to the top. Accordingly, he is eligible to serve about five more years--before hers is termed out--and would possibly be the Speaker for a great deal of that time. Perez continued, "I'm getting pointers (advice about the new job) from several former speakers including Mayor Villaraigosa, and the most comes from Speaker Bass who I work with very closely. We have a wonderful relationship."
As someone who Speaker Bass said has some of the same set of values as she, Perez was given the heads-up about her periodic conference calls with the African American press.