California lawmakers return to State Capitol after holiday hiatus

Inside California Politics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) – Between COVID-19 and a big departure, it was a busy first day back at the State Capitol for California lawmakers.

For the second year in a row, California lawmakers returned to the State Capitol amid a COVID-19 surge.

“Happy New Year. Let’s get to work,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.

Just before the start of the session, Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, announced he tested positive for COVID-19 and is asymptomatic.

Wilk said he was vaccinated and set to get a booster shot this week. In a statement, he said, “If you are considering vaccination, I urge you to take that precaution.”

Addressing the pandemic and its fallout remained at the top of the priority list for state policymakers. Labor groups called for the state to reinstate COVID-19 supplemental paid sick time and expand access to testing.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest labor advocates and powerful appropriations chair, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, announced her resignation so she can lead the California Labor Federation.

“The most amount of good for the most amount of people, I hope we accomplish that and I expect this institution will continue to seek to accomplish that,” Gonzalez said.

Her departure shook up the legislature, which is expected to see even more changes with redistricting and this year’s election.

Ahead of the election, state lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom will have to figure out how to spend the state’s projected $31 billion surplus.

Some lawmakers proposed to use it to boost funding for schools.

“This is a time for K-12 to be front and center in the budget conversation going forward,” said State Senator Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada.

Leaders acknowledged that, overall, challenges are ahead.

“There will be some rough patches of course, though hopefully not as rough as some that we have faced these last couple of years,” said State Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

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