The Brief Reign of Governor Tom

The Acting Governor

It won’t last long, but Tom Torlakson‘s brief term as Acting Governor next week will be one for the record books.

As mentioned in a previous article, in the late 1950s, the State Assembly’s Subcommittee on Impact of Enemy Attack extended the Governor’s line of succession from just the Lieutenant Governor and Senate President Pro Tempore to include all of the partisan constitutional offices that then existed.

In 2007, Senate Fellow Chris Nguyen (assigned to the office of Senator George Runner) had an idea for a bill. The idea was to add the three constitutional offices to the Governor’s line of succession that were not already on the list. He quickly recruited the help of two other Senate Fellows (Greg Sperla and I) to the effort.

Chris met with Legislative Counsel and had the bill drafted (the order was set as Superintendent of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Equalization based on the order each office was created). It was time to find an author.

Chris met with his Chief of Staff and asked if Senator Runner would author the bill. Runner declined. I met with Senator Bob Dutton and tried my best to convince him. He declined as well.

Finally, Greg met with his boss, Senator Dennis Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth was definitely not convinced on the merits of the bill, but agreed to introduce the bill as slightly-larger-than-usual spot bill (which could be amended to contain “real bill language” at some point in the future).

Two months after introduction, the bill was presented for the first and last time in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. Hollingsworth presented the bill, which passed on a 10-0 vote and was sent to the Senate Floor. Shortly after passing Senate G.O., an short article in Capitol Weekly referred to the legislation as an “alien abduction bill,” noting that (short of an abduction of the state’s leaders by extraterrestrials) it was unlikely that a line of succession longer than seven members would ever be necessary. Hollingsworth, who had agreed to introduce the bill as a learning experience for a junior staffer, decided to let the bill die.

However, since the bill had passed the Governmental Organization Committee without a no vote, it was placed on the Consent Calendar and passed the Senate without opposition a week later. In the Assembly, it was referred to Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, whose consultants (noting that it had received no opposition in the Senate) placed the bill on consent there. It passed out of committee without discussion in late June, and the Assembly Floor (also without debate or discussion) on July 3rd. A week later, it was sent to Governor Schwarzenegger, who signed it into law on July 22nd.

July 2016

Alan Lafaso, Sean Wallentine, Joel Angeles, Mike Gipson, Richard Zeiger, James M. Humes, Dave Stirling, Steve Coony, Collin Wong-Martinusen, Bill Bagley, Evan L. Goldberge, Chris Garland, Earl Smittcamp

The Line of Succession for California’s constitutional offices

The line of succession gets flexed occasionally, with power most frequently devolving to the Lieutenant Governor, occasionally to the President Pro Tem, and occasionally even lower than that. In July 2016, it was announced that Governor Brown would be attending the DNC with the next eight constitutional officers in the line. For the first time in state history, the line of succession will go into SB 1530 territory.

At some point late on July 24th, an airplane carrying the higher constitutional officers will leave California airspace, and the reign of Acting Governor (and Superintendent of Public Instruction) Tom Torlakson will begin. Will he sign legislation? Appoint judges? Issue a proclamation declaring July 19th (his birthday) as “Tom Torlakson Day in California” from now on? Probably not, but it will be an interesting moment in California history.

Finally, for the record, in case Governor Tom leaves the state between July 25th-28th, the state will pass into the hands of Acting Governors Kevin Mullin or Diane Harkey (with Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expected to attend the DNC and Equalization Chair Fiona Ma definitely going to serve as Vice Chair of the DNC Credentials Committee).

Footnote: California has never had a Governor Tom before. Somehow, although we’ve had four named John and four named George (and even had a Goodwin, Culbert, Romualdo and a Hiram) we’ve never had a Tom before.

Sharon Runner (1954-2016)

Senator Sharon Runner

Senator Runner

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, Senator Sharon Runner has died. Runner, the 99th woman to serve in the California State Legislature, served in the Assembly from 2002-2008 and in the State Senate from 2011-2012 and 2015-2016. Sharon Runner held an interesting spot in California history, being the first person elected to the State Senate twice in Special Elections and only the 5th Republican woman to serve in both houses.

One of the most enduring memories that I will carry of Senator Runner was the closeness of her office. Many legislative offices are close (at least on Legislative Bowling Night) but few have the sustained strong connection that I saw with her staff. Few things communicated this more than a note included in her final newsletter from her 2011-12 term in Senate;

“I have been honored to be served by my wonderful staff. They truly are more like family, they have given their hard work ethic, values and loyalty to the Runner Team for many, many years. It will be difficult for me to not see them regularly. They have done an outstanding job for the constituents throughout the district.”

The best way to sum up Senator Runner is to paraphrase the epitaph of 1950s Assemblyman Edwin S. Bulen;

“She Loved People”

Best Parody Twitter Accounts of the Capitol

Humans are human. It’s because of this that life in and around the California capitol has inspired some great comedy over the years. In recent years, some of the best comedy has come in the form of real-time tweets from a handful of parody accounts by people in and around the Building. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should give you some ideas about who you should be following.

Unruly Unruh

Unruly Unruh
Joined Twitter: April 2013
Followers: 1,560 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: This Month
Why Should You Follow? Unruly Unruh, named after former Speaker Jesse Unruh, dispenses wisdom and occasionally crude (but expertly timed) humor on Floor activities, the personal lives of legislators, and general California politics.

Vanity Caucus

Vanity Caucus
Joined Twitter: May 2013
Followers: 1,868 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: This Month
Why Should You Follow? Although the account describes itself, “always sarcastic, never intentionally mean” it was the focus (allegedly) of an several-month investigation by Assembly leadership (allegedly) after a comment critical of one legislators appearance.

Bacteria Bear

Bacteria Bear
Joined Twitter: April 2011
Followers: 1,752 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: October 2015
Why Should You Follow? This bear (scientific classification: Ursus schwarzeneggerus) has been hibernating for nearly a year now, but in it’s day was one of the more prolific parody twitter accounts. Named for a truck-proof security barrier that was installed outside the Governor’s office in the late 2000s, BB retweeted photos taken with visitors and regularly harassed the reporters who congregated near it while waiting on press conferences.

Assemblyman Chewie

Assemblyman Chewie
Joined Twitter: September 2015
Followers: 325 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: Last Month
Why Should You Follow? Who can resist insider humor mixed with Star Wars references like “Has anyone found funding for a clone army in the budget bill?” Certainly not I.

Rotunda Reagan

Rotunda Reagan
Joined Twitter: June 2015
Followers: 182 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: Six Months Ago
Why Should You Follow? This twitter account is as active as the statue in the basement. Maybe getting a few more followers would entice the author to bring it back? Never hurts to ask.

Bronze Gipper

Bronze Gipper
Joined Twitter: June 2015
Followers: 133 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: This Month
Why Should You Follow? The longer-lasting of the two parody accounts based on the grinning robot in the basement, the Gip is clearly someone who enjoys connecting with elected officials and other parody accounts in tweets. I see great things to come from this account. Follow now and you never know how far those coat-tails will take you.

Leland Yee’s Gun

Leland Yee’s Gun
Joined Twitter: March 2014
Followers: 290 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: A Few Months Ago
Why Should You Follow? The FBI raid on Senator Yee’s office came as a big surprise for most Capitol staffers. What shouldn’t have come as a surprise was the nearly-instantaneous rise of the wise-cracking “Leland Yee’s Gun.”

Roger Dodger

Roger Dodger
Joined Twitter: June 2011
Followers: 361 Followers
Most Recent Tweet: A Few Months Ago
Why Should You Follow? Created just months after the real Roger was sworn into his first term in the Assembly, Roger Dodger has had the time to follow the full arc of his career from young legislator to the Roger we know today. Looking back on the tweets from this account, it can be painful to see just how prescient they were. From the very first tweet (“Roger Hernandez for Congress Twitter Kickoff! It will be hard to write just how truly awesome I am in 140 characters or less.”) it seems like these tweets were written in the past week.