His caucus having indefinitely lost two members to ongoing court cases, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, pledged on Monday to put weeks of strife behind him and press on with legislative work.
Amid a federal corruption case alleging that he accepted bribes in exchange for political favors, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, announced on Sunday he would accept a paid leave. Calderon followed Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, who has also taken a leave while he awaits a judge's final decision on eight felony counts spurred by living outside the district he represents.
"I'm ready to move forward here," Steinberg told reporters on Monday. "Both of the members are on indefinite leaves of absence, they're not going to come back to the Senate until they're cleared."
Steinberg has resisted Republican calls to expel Wright, arguing that the senator's legal case has yet to be fully resolved. The Democratic leader again defended that decision on Monday, noting that an expulsion vote would be irreversible.
Both senators will continue to draw pay while on leave, and Steinberg cited a Legislative Counsel opinion stating that the Senate can't suspend a senator's salary.
"We have two choices: expulsion or a leave of absence," Steinberg said, noting that Calderon has not been tried and that Wright "has a potentially viable claim before the trial judge within just a couple of months."
The loss of Calderon and Wright drops Democrats beneath the two-thirds majority threshold, rendering the party unable to pass taxes or move urgency measures without Republican assent, but Steinberg said the Senate's reputation takes priority over Democratic dominance.
"The supermajority is important but not nearly as important as the Senate itself," Steinberg said.
PHOTO: President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento during session in the Senate chambers on Monday, March 11, 2013.