The Assembly swore in 38 new members to replace nearly half that legislative body. Most of the newbies are Democrats who gave their party the two-thirds majority needed to pass taxes without Republican votes.
Directly after members took the oath of office, Assembly Speaker John Perez tried to reassure the minority party.
“For those Republican members that are new to the Assembly, I want to state clearly that your voice is welcome, your contributions are desired, and your act of service is needed.” Perez said.
But incoming Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Riverside County says she harbors no illusions about the challenges ahead.
“Clearly there’s a bit of disparity between the numbers in each party. That’s the big white elephant in the room. And that’s fine. But I think as Republicans our job is to stand up for our constituents and not betray our party policies but not be obstructionist, and come to it with an open mind.”
Melendez - a former mayor of Lake Elsinore, U. S. Navy veteran and mother of 5 - plans to look for common ground with Democrats. She might find it around the goal of lowering her district’s 12 percent unemployment rate - one of the highest in the state. Democrats have said they’ll also focus this year on getting Californians back to work.