10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Friday capped an eye-raising few months in the seating assignments of Assembly members Tim Donnelly and Gil Cedillo.

“I just wanted to wish him a happy birthday and it’s an honor to have him as a seatmate,” Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, told colleagues before he and Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, embraced.

It’s unusual for lawmakers from different parties to sit together. There are just two other sets of bipartisan seatmates in the 120-member Legislature. But the Donnelly-Cedillo pairing stands out.

Donnelly, a conservative freshman from the San Bernardino mountains, is a strong supporter of the tea party movement. He also is a former leader of the Minutemen, whose members, many of them armed, patrol the Mexican border to deter illegal immigrants.

Cedillo, a former union organizer and among the Legislature’s most senior members, has spent much of his career working to expand immigrant rights. He has repeatedly carried legislation to allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

Assembly Speaker John Perez paired the two on the first day of the legislative session.

Yet instead of icy tension, Cedillo and Donnelly have become friends. They have had dinner and their families have met, even as they vote against each other’s bills.

“We respect each other. The thing that’s most important to me is that he’s sincere,” said Cedillo, adding jokingly, “It’s something that every day tests my desire to be a diplomat.”

Donnelly said neither he nor Cedillo has changed the other’s point of view. Both have learned that the other doesn’t match stereotypes, he said.

“Because we’re seatmates, we’re forced to deal with each other as human beings,” Donnelly said, adding that Cedillo has helped show him the ropes.

“There’s a great deal to be learned from someone who’s accomplished a lot,” Donnelly said.

Big Spender?

A new report on congressional spending placed Inland Rep. Ken Calvert among the top House members in terms of the amount of cash they shelled out last year for things such as staff salaries, travel expenses and official mailers.

Calvert’s 2010 expenditures through his “Member Representational Allowance” totaled $1,474,444.48 — more than the vast majority of the House’s 435 members, according to the report issued by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that promotes transparency in government.

Rebecca Rudman, a spokeswoman for Calvert, R-Corona, attributed the number to multiple factors. She noted that Calvert’s district, which includes Corona, Riverside, Norco and part of Orange County, has grown faster than all but one California district since representational lines were last drawn 10 years ago.

The growth has left the district with roughly 140,000 too many people, which has resulted in “intensive constituent outreach,” Rudman said. Also, she said, Calvert travels from Washington to the district virtually every week, racking up plenty of travel expenses. The long distance is one reason why several California lawmakers are near the top of the list.

Calvert has trimmed his office’s budget by 5 percent, and he hasn’t given his staff a raise in 2010 or 2011, Rudman said.

Consulting split

The Banning-based political-consulting duo Floyd & Lucsko has split, the two confirmed last week.

Joe Lucsko moved to Pittsburgh, where he grew up, and in early January, Brian Floyd started a new consulting company, Brian Floyd & Associates.

“I moved back home. This is where I was born and raised,” Lucsko said in a telephone interview from Pennsylvania. “I wish him all the best.”

Floyd also confirmed the split in a brief email.

Floyd & Lucsko has been a fixture of Riverside County politics for years. The company was one of the few Inland-based consulting firms focused on local and state races. The firm was known for its hard-hitting — some said negative — campaign mailers and tactics.

The firm’s clients have included Riverside County supervisors and council members from across the region, including in Riverside, Moreno Valley and Banning.

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