Lawmakers Convene in Sacramento to Formally Begin the 2021-22 Legislative Session

On Monday, both houses of the California Legislature met to convene the 2021-2022 legislative session. These sessions are ceremonial in nature and begin with swearing in newly elected members and legislative officers into their positions. Usually, these affairs include members and their families on the floor of the respective houses with much fanfare. Given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, however, this year the houses met in different circumstances.

The Senate convened on the floor of their house, but physically distanced, members wearing masks, and with the minimum number of staff in attendance. California’s Lieutenant Governor, and President of the Senate, Eleni Kounalakis presided over the floor ceremonies. Newly appointed State Supreme Court Justice Martin J. Jenkins conducted the swearing-in ceremony for senators, and two additional senators were sworn-in remotely by state judges from their districts. Three senators were unable to attend and will be sworn in at a later date. Of note, the Senate is now governed by an all-female team led by President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Secretary of the Senate Erica Contreras, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Katrina Rodriguez, and Senate Counsel Kara Jenkins.

Senator Atkins tied her opening remarks to Pearl Harbor Day and recognized the sacrifices made by the greatest generation who served during World War II. She then said Californians should meet the current tough times with the same courage, sacrifice, and determination that the silent generation did in the 1940s. Senator Atkins outlined her legislative priorities next year and those will include a comprehensive housing package, emergency preparedness and wildfire response, addressing systemic racism, broadband access, and how to improve Employment Development Department systems providing unemployment insurance.

The Assembly convened its organizational session at the Golden 1 Center in Downtown Sacramento, a venue near the State Capitol with adequate space to accommodate Assembly Members in a physically distanced fashion. Like the Senate, the Assembly session featured the pomp-and-circumstance of swearing in of elected members and legislative officers. Monday’s event was the first time either legislative house met outside of the Capitol chambers since 1981 when the building was being restored.

Assembly Member Anthony Rendon was reelected as Speaker of the Assembly, and Assembly Member Kevin Mullin was named Assembly Speaker pro Tempore. Assembly Member Eloise Gómez Reyes was named the Assembly Majority Leader, and Assembly Member Marie Waldron was named the Republican Leader. During remarks, Speaker Rendon reflected on the collective accomplishments of the Assembly during his time as Speaker and laid out his priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The priorities identified by Rendon included COVID-19 response and relief efforts, police decertification, broadband expansion, addressing housing and homelessness, climate change and environmental justice, and addressing economic inequities.

With the official opening of the legislative session, bill introductions have begun; however, legislative activities will not begin in earnest until they return on Monday, January 4, 2021. CHEAC will continue keeping members apprised of legislative activities of interest to public health and local health departments into the new year.