CA installs 1st black female top legislator in US
by Samantha Young
California on Tuesday installed the nation’s first black female legislative leader, swearing in Los Angeles Democrat Karen Bass as speaker of the state Assembly.
Bass said at the ceremony that she feels the weight of history on her shoulders.
“If we could only harness the power of our common humanity, I don’t think there’s anything we couldn’t do for the people of this state,” she said.
The 54-year-old becomes the 67th speaker, succeeding fellow Los Angeles Democrat Fabian Nunez. He is relinquishing the post at the end of the year because of term limits.
Bass was a physician’s assistant before being elected to the Assembly in 2004 and is known for writing legislation on child welfare and social justice issues. As speaker, she will hold what is regarded as the second most powerful post in state government behind the governor.
Bass takes over the 80-member house as lawmakers are turning their attention to the state budget. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will release his revised spending plan for the coming fiscal year on Wednesday and has estimated a deficit as high as $20 billion.
Bass will be among leaders who try to broker agreements on the budget and other major policy issues. She will appoint chairs to legislative committees, set staff budgets and largely control what legislation reaches the Assembly floor.
California’s Assembly is the first state legislative body in the nation to be led by a black woman, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Washington state, Rosa Franklin holds the largely honorary title of Senate president pro tem.