SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The Latest on the California Legislature’s first session day of 2018 (all times local):
Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza is taking a voluntary month-long leave of absence amid an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct toward young women who worked for him.
Mendoza’s announcement came after four hours of closed door meetings Wednesday by Senate Democrats. He’d steadfastly refused calls to step aside for weeks and reiterated that defiant tone the morning before senators met.
In a brief statement, he didn’t say what changed his mind. He’ll be paid during the month.
Mendoza says he’ll come back Feb. 1 or sooner if the investigation concludes. The Senate has hired outside law firms to look into the allegations against him, but Mendoza says he has no indication the investigation has begun. He says he looks forward to clearing his name.
He’s accused of misconduct including offering a young woman staff member alcohol when she was underage and inviting another to his home. One of his former staff members has filed a formal complaint with the state alleging she was fired for reporting the behavior.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says the California Legislature must build a community of “active protectors” to speak out against sexual harassment and misconduct.
Rendon’s remarks came Wednesday as the full Assembly returned to Sacramento for the 2018 legislative year.
Assembly seats are vacant following the resignations of former Democratic lawmakers Matt Dababneh and Raul Bocanegra over misconduct accusations. Another Democratic lawmaker, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, also resigned due to health concerns.
Rendon did not give a direct answer when asked if he knows of other existing misconduct allegations against sitting lawmakers. He says the body has become more “proactive” in investigating claims of harassment in recent months.
Eyes are on the California Senate’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against one of its members as lawmakers return to Sacramento for the new year.
Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia is resisting pressure to step aside amid an investigation into allegations of misconduct toward young women who worked for him. Republican Sen. Andy Vidak will try to force the issue Wednesday by introducing a resolution to expel him, putting the chamber’s ruling Democrats in a tricky spot.
In the Assembly, meanwhile, resignations over misconduct allegations mean two empty seats for Democrats, and the loss of the party’s two-thirds supermajority.
The session is lawmakers’ first formal gathering since allegations of widespread sexual harassment at the Capitol broke open in October amid a national reckoning on the topic.
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