When Anthony Rendon was asked to name the biggest issues for the governor and state legislature to address this year, he prefaced his answer with a look back. “Last year was a banner year,” the California assembly speaker said, citing infrastructure, housing, and climate change efforts. Then he added a caveat:
“Some of that was obscured—and rightly so—by the sexual harassment crises that developed in the fall. This year we have to start with that.”
Rendon said the assembly is revising sexual harassment policies and procedures that have not been updated since 1993, and he acknowledged that this is only the start in a larger change needed in the way the institution conducts its business.
Rendon spoke as part of an annual event that brings together California’s legislative leaders from both parties in a conversation with Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. Rendon was the lone leader on stage for much of the event because the state senate was discussing the fate of a colleague accused of sexual harassment. Patricia Bates, Republican state senate leader, and Kevin de León, president pro tem, later joined the assembly speaker on stage.
Bates said her top issue for 2018 is addressing the high cost of living in California. “Affordability affects every socioeconomic level in our state,” she said.
De León referred to California’s resistance to the direction of federal policies in describing his top priority: defending what he called “our incredible gains” in California—a higher minimum wage, gun safety and ammunition regulation, and extension of the Global Warming Solutions Act. He also emphasized protecting the state’s immigrants.
Both senate leaders described a bipartisan approach to addressing sexual harassment. Bates commended de León for quickly turning the investigation of allegations over to outside law firms independent of the senate. The leaders pointed to process changes in the works to address harassment, and both said that changing the culture is a much longer term goal. How does cultural change come about?
“You build in trust with the policies that are there—that they are responsive, they are fair, they give due process, and they have just consequences,” Bates said.