As deadline looms, Steinberg summons ailing Senators

With the Legislature facing a key deadline to pass legislation this week, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is relying on votes from two ailing members to help several bills out of his house.

Senators Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, and Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, are expected to return to the Senate after prolonged absences due to illness. Sources in both senators’ offices confirmed they are scheduled to return to vote on bills on the floor Thursday.

According to a review of Senate records by Capitol Weekly, Wiggins has been absent from floor sessions since mid-March. On March 24, her office announced Wiggins would be taking a partial leave from her legislative duties. The Senator is suffering from an undisclosed illness and has announced she will not seek reelection this year.

“Senator Wiggins will be here to cast the important votes as the session proceeds,” Steinberg said at the time. “But other than that, she needs some time to deal with some medical issues. So that’s what she is doing.”

Oropeza is recovering from a blood clot in her abdomen. She has been on blood thinning medication for the last couple of weeks and has not been to the Senate since.

“Our understanding is that Senator Wiggins is expected to be on the floor (Thursday) afternoon,” said her spokesman David Miller. “Ultimately, it will depend on how well she is feeling, but as of right now, that is my understanding.”

Sources in Oropeza’s office also confirmed she will be back in the Capitol Thursday.

Senate sources tell Capitol Weekly that Steinberg gathered members of his caucus Tuesday and suggested that some members cast “courtesy votes” on behalf of their ailing colleagues. But sources on all sides say Steinberg did not explicitly ask any members to cast votes for bills they might otherwise not support simply in the name of camaraderie.

There are more than a dozen bills that moderate Senators have taken issue with. Losing their support could jeopardize the fate of those bills on the Senate floor this week.

Bringing in ailing members for key votes is not without precedent. Former Sen. Ed Vincent, D-Inglewood, was called back to Sacramento to cast votes on key bills at the end of a legislative session two years ago. In the past, ailing Sens. Ralph Dills and William Craven were summoned to cast deciding votes on state budgets, even though it meant flying the ailing members to the Capitol from southern California.

This week is the deadline for all bills to pass the legislative house in which they were introduced. Support from Oropeza and Wiggins may be crucial to more than a dozen bills, some of which are listed below.
SB 933 (Oropeza) – Would extend protections offered to credit card users to anyone using a debit card.
SB 920 (Yee) – Would prohibit phone companies from delivering telephone directories to people who opt not to have them delivered to their homes.
SB 1475 (Simitian) – Would extend the ban on talking on a cell phone while driving to include text messaging and emailing on a mobile device while driving.
SB 1178 (Corbett) – Would give borrowers protection from a deficiency judgment when home loans are refinanced.
SB 885 (Corbett) – Would allow gift cards that have a value of less than $10 to be redeemed for cash.
SB 1275 (Leno) – Would make new requirements before lenders can record a notice of default.
SB 1399 (Leno) – Establishes a new medical parole program for certain prison inmates.
SB 1470 (Leno) – Enacts new restrictions on outdoor advertising.
SB 1113 (Wolk) – Makes changes to the state’s tax appeal process that could earn the state as much as $25 million annually.

Contact Anthony York at

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: