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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Brown calls for resignations after state Senate votes to suspend Yee, Calderon, Wright (Updated)

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The California state Senate voted Friday to suspend three of its members who are in legal trouble. The vote was 28-1.

Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Roderick Wright of Inglewood have lost their voting privileges but, according to the state constitution, will still be paid.

Update: Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday afternoon called on all three senators to step down, issuing a statement that said: “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.”

Brown joins a chorus of prominent elected officials calling for the trio to resign, including U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Yee was indicted this week on federal charges of public corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons. Calderon was indicted earlier this year on public corruption charges. Wright is awaiting sentencing after being convicted on perjury charges for lying about whether he lived in the district he represents, as is required by state law.

RELATED: Leland Yee investigation: 8 shocking details from the affidavit

Calderon and Wright had previously been granted leaves of absence. Legally, they could have still voted under those rules.

Democratic Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said Wednesday's arrest of Yee changed his mind about whether to suspend members who are facing criminal allegations.

"One is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Three? That's not what this Senate is about," Steinberg said.

"An affirmative suspension puts this house on formal record that we unequivocally distance ourselves and the Senate from the unfathomable allegations contained in the Yee indictment as well as the other case."

The Senate's April 7 session will be canceled so every officeholder and staff member can undergo a mandatory ethics review and have a forum to confidentially discuss conflicts or problems they observe, Steinberg said.  

Yee, Calderon and Wright were not present for the vote. Two senators from Southern California did not vote. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) was absent for medical reasons. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) was present but did not vote. Late Friday, she issued this statement: "I felt strongly that, in fairness, it was appropriate for the grounds for each member's suspension to be considered separately, on their individual merits."

Several Democrats have argued that Wright is the victim of judicial zeal. One month ago, when Republican senators introduced a resolution to suspend him,  Steinberg quoted the bible, telling his colleagues, "Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone." Indeed, Steinberg said the Rules Committee would also investigate whether other senators live in their district.

The lone dissenter of Friday's resolution to suspend the senators was Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from San Diego. He called Steinberg's stance disingenuous, noting that it was just a few weeks ago that the Senate leader believed a paid leave, rather than a formal suspension, was sufficient.

"How is it, sitting at home, watching TV or doing whatever your please — perhaps playing golf —  getting paid by the state Senate and the people and not having any responsibility to do the work is acceptable as a punishment in any way, shape or form?" Anderson said.  

But Steinberg said Yee and Calderon still have the presumption of innocence. In Wright's case, Steinberg says he wants to see if a judge upholds the conviction and proceeds with sentencing.

The three suspended senators will continue to receive their annual salary of $95,291. They will not, however, receive the $163 in per diem given while the Senate is in session.   

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