State lawmakers are sworn in Monday, with Democrats holding historic two-thirds supermajorities in both houses. The party’s leaders call for investment in education and infrastructure after years of retrenchment.

By Michael J. Mishak and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
December 3, 2012, 9:45 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers were sworn in to a reshaped Legislature on Monday, with Democrats holding historic two-thirds supermajorities in both houses and the party’s leaders calling for investment in public education and infrastructure after years of fiscal retrenchment.

Arguing that California had turned the page on its perpetual budget crisis, leaders ticked off a list of priorities, saying they would use their new powers to help restore spending to popular social services and curb tuition at public colleges. Lawmakers also introduced proposals to relax immigration enforcement, bolster campaign finance disclosures and tweak Proposition 13, which contains the state’s landmark property-tax limits.

“I really believe this is the end of one very difficult era in California and the beginning of a new and better era,” said state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

The new class is the embodiment of a new election system with independently drawn voting districts and nonpartisan primaries intended to foster moderation and compromise. Nearly half the Assembly is freshmen, the most since 1934. Able to serve longer in one house under revamped term limits, Democratic leaders said the newly elected would bring stability to the Legislature and have time to develop expertise.

Surrounded by friends and family on the Assembly floor, freshmen eagerly responded to the first mentions of their names in the roll call and inserted their keys into their voting machines.

Although the new supermajorities give Democrats the ability to sidestep Republicans on tax votes and in placing measures on the statewide ballot, party leaders reached out to GOP members and urged them to participate in the coming debates.

“Finding the right solutions to the challenges facing California is not the task of one party or one house,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). “It is work that each of us have chosen to take up by putting our name on a ballot.”

The note of bipartisanship, however, was fleeting. Assembly Republicans banded together to oppose the first measure of the legislative session, a procedural vote on the rules of the house.

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