Speaker John A. Pérez: California Must Unite Around Solutions

Speaker John A. Pérez

SACRAMENTO – At his swearing-in as California’s 68th Assembly Speaker at the State Capitol today, Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said his top priority is to get Californians back to work. In his speech, which was delivered before several hundred community and business leaders, working men and women and elected officials, Pérez said he would work to implement innovative ideas around job creation and government reform and he also pledged to work across both sides of the aisle to deliver results for Californians.

Pérez’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

“Thank you all very much.

“To everyone who took part in the ceremony, thank you for making this a truly meaningful and memorable experience.

“Governor Schwarzenegger, though my first months as Speaker overlap your last months as Governor, I hope we will have the time to forge a working relationship that will make a real difference for the people of California.

“Constitutional officers, welcome to the people’s house. I look forward to working with each of you as we do the people’s business.

“To the former speakers who honor us with your presence, thank you for your service, your example and your wise counsel.

“Justice Moreno, you can’t imagine how thrilled I am to be sworn in as Speaker by such a champion of justice and progress.

“I want to acknowledge my partner across the aisle, Republican Leader Martin Garrick, and my partner across the hall, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

“Speaker Bass, I thank you for your leadership, your friendship and for creating a transition that has helped prepare me to accept this great responsibility and all of its challenges.

“I think the only thing smoother than our transition might be the magnificent voices of the chorus we just heard.

“To my family, friends and staff, who add so much to making life memorable and meaningful everyday, this moment would not be the same without each of you.

“Above all, to you, my colleagues in the Assembly who have placed your trust in me, it is with profound gratitude and humility that I assume this office to serve as the 68th Speaker of the California State Assembly.

“You know, the first time I was ever in this chamber I was a 16 year old delegate from the American Legion’s Boys State.  

“I was one of the dozens of kids you see swarming the halls every June.

“As a 16 year old, I stood in awe on the floor of this great chamber. I was overcome by the history of this place, where our very laws are debated and created.  It never occurred to me that I could one day stand here amongst you as a member, much less as the speaker.

“My first trip to the Capitol wasn’t that long ago, but at the time only a handful of Latinos and but one Latina had ever served in this chamber.  And there had never been an openly gay member.

“Today I am still filled with awe when I stand in this chamber, but now I have more certainty about what is really possible in California, for I am but one example of those golden possibilities.

“Possible because of people like Ed Roybal, Phil Soto and Gloria Molina whose leadership carved out a path for generations of Latinos to serve our state.

“Possible because of people like Elaine Noble, Harvey Milk and Sheila James Kuehl who blazed a trail of pride and purpose for gay and lesbian Californians to serve our state.

“Possible because of my parents, whose love, hard work and commitment guided my path.

“I first became politically active as a junior high school student and a few years later, in high school, I fought a proposed prison that was to be built in my community.

“To my young mind, that was the last thing we needed, so I got active. I registered voters. I attended rallies and handed out fliers.

“I even read through my first Environmental Impact Report.  Somehow, they seemed more exciting back then than they do today.

“I learned many lessons from that early effort.  I learned the power of community, the power of organizing and the power of perseverance.

“I learned from the example of a priest I didn’t even know who believed we deserved better and led our community’s opposition to the prison.

“That priest was Father John Moretta, and I am so honored that he could join us today to deliver the invocation.

“As I stand here among my friends, family and colleagues for this momentous occasion, this chamber does feel just a little empty to me.

“Two extraordinary people are missing and I can’t begin to tell you how keenly I feel their absence. This moment would never have been possible but for the love, hard work and support of my mother and father.

“This moment is bittersweet because my parents are no longer with us, but I am heartened by the memory that my mother was actually in this chamber before—twelve years ago, when my cousin was sworn in as Speaker. I remember the pride she felt that day, and I pray she is again filled with pride as she looks down over us.

“Sitting in the seat my mother occupied that day is my dear friend, Lois Williams.  Lois is that wonderful loving mother or grandmother we hope every child has, and her presence and the presence of so many other special people in this room help me fill that void.

“Moments such as this fill us with a sense of vulnerability and emotion that can’t help but cause us to reminisce about our families, our childhoods, and our driving forces – the things that define the very essence of who we are.

“In 1903, my mother’s father came to California with nothing but the hope for a decent life and a better future.

“Today, the second of his grandsons has risen to one of the highest offices in government in the greatest state in our nation.

“Can you imagine what he would have said if someone back then would have suggested that possibility to him?

“In 1951, my father came to California with little more than a sixth-grade education. His opportunities were limited by his circumstances, but he was determined to make a good life.

“He worked as a sheet metal worker by day and a cook by night until an industrial accident left him permanently disabled. He always worked hard, in hard jobs, because he had a vision and an unshakeable dedication and love for his family. And that dedication did not end when he could no longer go to work.

“You don’t need to look far to see where I got my commitment to working people and their families.

“Though my father never went past the sixth grade, I can vividly remember him helping me with my trigonometry homework and challenging my analysis of the Greek classics I was studying.

“In the many generations of my father’s family, his children were the first to go to college — and he instilled in us a deep respect for that opportunity.

“I am proud to say that there are hundreds of UC students from across the state here at the capitol today. They are fighting for the same things I did as a UC student 20 years ago- and they are doing it the right way instead of the way it happened on the streets of Berkeley last Thursday night. They are fighting for the opportunity to partake of the greatest system of higher education in the world.

“I ask each of you to join with me in working to turn around an upside-down system where we demand students pay more every semester for classes they can’t get, to fulfill ever-changing requirements for their education. As Speaker I will fight for all of California’s higher education systems- the UC the CSU AND our community colleges because we need to restore common-sense to higher education and put our students’ needs first.

“Growing up there were many occasions when times were tough and my parents sat at the table talking over the painful choices they’d need to make to see us through. My parents weren’t rich with money, but our home was rich with love, encouragement, hope and opportunity.

“Our California family is going through similar times, and facing similar challenges. Helping solve this dilemma is our paramount concern right now. We don’t have sufficient resources to meet all our needs, but that cannot be an excuse to turn on each other. We must remember that our state is like a big family, and for that family to be strong, every person must have the opportunity to succeed.

“Today — across our state — too many families are sitting around too many tables making too many painful choices.

“These families must be our priority!

“Our number one focus must be to get Californians working again!  Our economic woes and budget deficits will not be fixed until the job market recovers, the unemployment rate falls and the spirit of entrepreneurship is restored across our state.

“Californians are hurting and we’ve all heard the frustration that state government isn’t focusing on the things that will provide real help to get us out of this crisis. 

“We were sent here to do a job. We must roll up our sleeves today and do the job we were elected to do.

“We need to focus on strategies that promote high-paying, high-skilled jobs that restore the essential middle class.

“We must be innovative and seek out new ideas and opportunities. We cannot just rely on old traditional methods of job creation – this is the 21st century. Above all else, we must be open-minded and creative in setting an environment in which our economy can thrive. 

“Each of you knows of innovative success stories.  Let’s share those stories and spread them widely across our state.

“Here’s an example: a community college in Massachusetts recently initiated a public-private partnership that allows students in their Nursing and Allied Health programs to shorten the time spent in school by guaranteeing access to the classes they need to graduate.

“This is a win for the students who move into good-paying jobs sooner…it’s good for the college because they can help more students enter the job market sooner…and it’s good for the state, which gets badly needed health professionals on an accelerated basis.

“In that spirit, I’m pleased to announce that I have been talking  with Chancellor Jack Scott of the Community College System to see how a similar program can be established here in California, and I have introduced AB 2385 to that effect.

“That’s the first innovation I’m personally putting into the mix.

“We need not all embrace the same philosophies to address the same problems; in fact our differences may lead to the most innovative outcomes, as long as we listen to each other and keep our minds open to new ideas.

“We are absolutely capable of setting aside our differences and coming together to produce solutions for the people of California — as we have many times this past year.

“One of my first bills as an Assembly Member was one to clean up the tap water in the City of Maywood.

“When my bill was first heard, more than two dozen of my constituents boarded a bus at midnight to attend the hearing in Sacramento the next day.

“These folks did not hold out great hope as they had long been frustrated by inaction, but in the end, members on both sides of the aisle joined together and my constituents were rewarded with bipartisan support and the Governor’s signature on a bill that will lead to clean water in their city.

“Last year, during the height of the fiscal crisis, our state was forced to give out IOU’s for only the second time since the Great Depression.

“One of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle, Mr. Anderson, felt that people who received IOU’s should be able to use those same IOU’s in lieu of payments they owed to the state.  I thought that was a common sense idea and worked to join Democrats and Republicans in supporting this sensible proposal.

“In both instances, members of this house recognized there was a problem, and we came together to support a solution, without regard to which side’s proposal it was.

“As we confront the enormous challenges facing California in the coming year; that is exactly the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and common purpose we need to embrace if we are to succeed.

“For my part, I want every member of this chamber—Democrat AND Republican—to know that I value you, your service and your dedication to making this place better for all Californians.

“As Speaker, my role must be to enable each of you to be the best representative to your constituents that you can be. To that end, my door will always be open to all of you.

“Let me be clear, this is true for my Republican colleagues as well as for Democrats: I am your Speaker too! Your ideas deserve to be heard and considered, as, do the ideas of the majority. And to my friends in the Minority party, believe me when I tell you, I know what it’s like to be a minority.

“In keeping with my commitment to be a full partner to all members, and because I understand that actions speak louder than words, I want you to know that when I name the new committee leadership in the next few days, I will be appointing two Republicans to serve as Committee Chairs.

“As we embrace this new spirit of working together and hopefully increasing the respect we have for one another, one issue we must absolutely approach together is reform.

“In addition to focusing on solving our budget crisis and creating jobs, I want this to be a year of reform, real reform!

“I envision a three pronged attack.

“There are reforms the people in their wisdom must vote on.

“For example, I believe that California’s budget should be approved by a simple majority, just like 47 other states and the federal government. As history has shown time and again, if the people lose confidence in the majority party, that party will soon find itself in the minority.

“There are reforms the legislature can adopt in a bipartisan, bicameral way—and we will be finalizing some of those proposals in the next couple days.

“However some reforms must be made immediately.

“I’ve already announced that the budget will not be written behind closed doors in Big 5 meetings.  A full budget committee and subcommittee process will ensure all members get to participate and there is time for public input and independent review of the proposals.

“Hearings will be held around the state so that everyday Californians have the opportunity to look us in the eye and tell us how our budget proposals will affect their lives.  And more importantly, they will have the chance to offer new ideas to us.

“We will broadcast our budget hearings and deliberations on the web and where possible on TV. Posting information on the Internet will make it easy for Californians to view the budget, see our proposals for themselves and evaluate the impact on their lives. 

“Now I’m a big believer in technology, but sometimes we need to limit its reach. Another essential reform we must make immediately is to limit the use of certain technology on the floor and in hearings. 

“Starting today, text messages from lobbyists are banned while we’re on this floor or in committee doing the people’s business. Californians expect us to pay full attention to the issues and to each other — and they deserve to know who is involved in the debate. They need not worry that special interest lobbyists are secretly sending messages of opposition or support to us as we deliberate.

“At each of these levels – with the voters, with our Senate colleagues and in our own house, we must work together to produce a package of reforms that each and every one of us can be proud of and that allow us to serve our constituents better.

“We can do much this year if we are creative and open to new ideas and new reforms. This is a unique opportunity to do great things for our golden state, if we rise to the challenge, together.

“Members, I have been privileged to serve with you. 

“You have asked me to be your leader and I intend to lead as you expect me to… boldly, creatively, and decisively.

“And after whatever period of months or years, when it is my turn to step down as Speaker and hand over the gavel, I intend to look back and say that we delivered.

“That we put California to work.  That we fixed the broken budget system and helped restore the trust and the confidence of the people in this great institution.

“That we did the kind of job that an awe-struck and reverent 16 year old kid who stood in this room not daring to dream he could be here would be proud of.  That we simply worked together to do the people’s business.

“This is a huge challenge, a complex challenge, an historic challenge but we are equal to the task. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!”

  5 comments for “Speaker John A. Pérez: California Must Unite Around Solutions

  1. Corby
    March 1, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    This guy’s as worthless as the buzz cut.

  2. oinker
    March 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm


  3. Roger
    March 16, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Kalifornia is crashing and burning and there are millions of us that enjoy your suffering. Kalifornia is a shining example of what is wrong with the USA, have fun going bankrupt! HaHa 🙂

  4. Robert
    March 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I thought we hade a budget issue, but apparently not too bad if this arrogant ass can give our tax money away for someone’s raise. This is a huge slap in the face and needs to be addressed. My wife is a state worker and has to take a pay cut, but this guy can give out a raise to someone who already makes more than most others.

Comments are closed.