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Toni_Atkins.JPGThough she was chosen as the next Assembly Speaker in January and formally elected in March, Toni Atkins will finally take over the lower house today. Among those in attendance for her swearing-in ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers will be Gov. Jerry Brown.

Atkins, a former San Diego city councilwoman who was elected to the Legislature in 2010, will be the 69th Speaker of the Assembly. She is only the third woman, and the first openly gay woman, to lead the house.

An "unabashed progressive Democrat," as one former colleague called her, Atkins is a major supporter of gay rights, affordable housing and reproductive health. Read more about her rise from a humble upbringing in rural Virginia to the head of California politics in Jeremy B. White's profile of Atkins.

VIDEO: Should California fund new jail construction or rehabilitation programs to address prison overcrowding? A small but important budget battle is underway, Dan Walters says.

POLITICAL REFORM: In a year plagued with scandal, a number of different efforts to address the influence of money on the Capitol are winding their way through the Legislature. A package of bills from state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, which would institute a fundraising blackout period at the end of the legislative session among other reforms, goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee at 10 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. As amendments to the Political Reform Act, the legislation faces an uphill climb: The bills will require a two-thirds vote from both houses. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg seems to already have a back-up plan in place, announcing a series of new rules last Friday that address some of the issues raised by Padilla's bills and other current legislation.

POWERFUL WOMEN: Political development group California Women Lead hosts Women's Empowerment Day at the Capitol, an all-day leadership conference beginning at 10 a.m. at the Residence Inn Sacramento Downtown on 15th Street. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, are slated to participate in a morning panel on leadership style and Karen Skelton, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Shriver Report, will deliver the lunchtime keynote. More than 40 members of the Legislature are scheduled to attend a reception at 5 p.m.

NURSES RALLY: As part of its annual advocacy day, the California Nurses Association will march from the Sacramento Convention Center to the Capitol at 11:30 a.m. to support bills that would mandate workplace violence prevention programs, require uniform standards for reporting charity care at hospitals and limit higher out-of-pocket costs for patients seeking care outside their provider networks.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, who turns 63 today and to state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who turns 68. And a belated happy Mother's Day to all of the moms in the Capitol community.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego on Jan. 23, 2014 at her office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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