Assemblyman Perea to step down

Assemblyman Henry Perea, a power among the Legislature’s business-friendly Democrats, will resign his seat effective Dec. 31, a year before he will be forced from office by term limits.

Perea, 38, said he has no immediate plans for his future. “I am currently exploring these options and I expect to make a decision soon,” Perea, D-Fresno, said in a prepared statement.

Assemblymember Henry Perea, D-Fresno

Assemblymember Henry Perea, D-Fresno

Hours before the lawmaker made his announcement, rumors swirled in the Capitol that he intended to step down.

Perea, elected to the Assembly in 2010, is serving his third term in the Legislature and chairs the Agriculture Committee, a key post for a Central Valley lawmaker.  He earns $91,197 annually.

He gained statewide attention for his opposition to portions of legislation backed by environmentalists that would have expanded the state’s law regulating climate-changing greenhouse gases. That bill, SB 350 by Senate Leader Kevin De Leon, was signed by Gov. Brown, but not before Perea and his allies forced changes in the legislation, including the deletion of language to sharply cut gasoline use.

At the time the negotiations were going on in the Capitol, the petroleum industry was running a fierce ad and lobbying campaign against the legislation. Perea, like the petroleum industry, sought limits in the authority of the California Air Resources Board.

A Sacramento lobbyist, noting Perea’s ability in helping to block legislation sought by liberal Democrats, once described Perea as “the second most powerful person in the Assembly after the speaker.”

Perea’s announcement is reminiscent of the departure of former Sen. Michael Rubio, a Bakersfield Democrat, who abruptly resigned his seat amid an intense political fight over the California Environmental Quality Act. Rubio, who pushed for changes in CEQA – as did petroleum interests — now works as an advocate for Chevron in Sacramento.

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