California Democrats' State Senate Supermajority in Limbo

Michael Rubio. | Photo: State of CaliforniaFollowing the November 2012 elections, much of the news regarding the California legislative races focused on the fact that Democrats comprised two-thirds of the members of the state senate. Obtaining a supermajority in a legislative house is key in California because a two-thirds vote of both houses is required to raise revenues.

For instance, had Democrats previously comprised two-thirds of the legislators in Sacramento then Governor Jerry Brown likely would not have had to go the ballot to pass his tax proposal, Prop 30 (which passed, however).

Some contained that Democrats were able to gain seats in the senate as a result of the new legislative lines drawn by an independent redistricting commission rather than by the legislature. But whatever the cause, Democrats were widely expected to benefit from the ability to pick up new seats in the state's upper legislative house. There were, for instance, talks of reforming the famous (or infamous) Proposition 13, which cut property taxes.

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But Democratic State Senator Michael J. Rubio may have thrown a wrench in the plans.

Rubio, who has been in office for two years, resigned from the state senate Friday to be closer to his family and work for Chevron in government affairs. He was likely an appealing pick for the company as he has introduced legislation related to the oil industry, some of which would have been favorable. Chevron also also helped to fund a trip that Rubio and a number of legislators took to Brazil to learn more about low-carbon fuel standards. Rubio also received $7,800 from Chevron in his 2010 Senate race.

He is most certainly not the first, nor will he be the last, legislator to move from working for the taxpayers to working for private interests who requested his help while in office. The state's political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, is checking to ensure that Rubio's move from the public to the private sector does not violate any of California's conflict of interest rules.

Now, a special election will be held to fill Rubio's seat in Kern County, a Republican stronghold. Many will be watching to see if this coveted seat changes party hands.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every week. She is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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