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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Democratic Supermajority in CA Legislature

California Democrat leaders now have new power in both the state Senate and the Assembly.

Democrats have gained a "supermajority" in both houses of the California Legislature after the Assembly reached the two-thirds threshold on Wednesday.

This type of majority is the first of its kind since 1933, when Republicans were in control, that one party gained simultaneous supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature. The last time Democrats held supermajorities in both houses was in 1883.

The party now has complete dominance of state politics and began their takeover in last week's election where they secured a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

The party will now also hold 54 seats in the 80-member Assembly.

A supermajority in both houses grants Democrats the power to approve tax increases, pass emergency legislation, override gubernatorial vetoes, place constitutional amendments before voters and change legislative rules without the support of Republicans.

Democratic leaders have promised to use their newly gained power wisely, and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown also pledged to hold back any excessive spending that could potentially upset the state's recovering budget.

Brown said Wednesday, before it was known that the Assembly achieve two-thirds of the seats, that it will be his job to rein in spending by Democrats and also to ensure that the state uses fiscal discipline and saves up for a "rainy day" fund.

"There are fat years and there are lean years," Brown told reporters. "And my guide here is Joseph's recommendation to Pharaoh: 'Put your grain in your granary against the tough times that are coming.'"

Republicans though, have said they are already anticipating Democratic efforts to eliminate tax exemptions, broaden the tax base and try to boost revenue in an attempt to reverse or reduce the state's recent large budget cuts.

"Now we're going on an unprecedented spending and taxing binge," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, the Assembly Republicans' budget point person.

A "supermajority" will give Democrats "a blank check, a ticket to spend whatever they want," said Nielsen, who also is the front-runner for a vacant Republican Senate seat.

However, Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said he would not use the new supermajority to raise taxes or other revenue, and he also downplayed the two-thirds threshold, calling it "just a number."

While the legislative leaders also downplayed the possibility of gubernatorial overrides, Democrats now have the power to override Brown's vetoes.

According to the Office of the Chief Clerk of the Assembly, there have been no gubernatorial overrides since 1979-- when Brown was governor the first time.

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