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California Assembly Inducts Anthony Rendon As New Speaker

SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — The state Assembly inducted a new Assembly speaker on Monday, ushering in a new era for a body that could see its leader hold office longer than any since the 1990s.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Lakewood could remain in office until 2024 under extended term limits voters approved in 2012. If he hangs on to his leadership post, that could make him the longest-serving speaker since the era without term limits.

"During the short term-limited era, I think a tremendous amount of power sort of receded from the Assembly, from the Legislature, and the executive branch became more powerful," Rendon told reporters after the Capitol ceremony.

Voters approved California's first term limits in 1990, which limited lawmakers to serving six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

"Once this class now, in November, terms out, all of us will be here for 12 years, so it's an opportunity for us to do the things we've talked about," Rendon said in an interview last week.

He said lawmakers of both parties who are eligible to serve long terms until the 12-year limits want to perform more of an oversight role, spending time questioning state agencies about their operations and budgets.

David Townsend, a Sacramento political consultant, said the 12-year term limits change the dynamic of elections to the statehouse and within it.

"Before, it didn't matter if you pissed off the speaker because in two years he or she wouldn't be the speaker anymore," Townsend said. "That's not the case anymore. I don't see why Anthony Rendon wouldn't be the speaker for eight years."

In a speech Monday, Rendon said he will not author bills this year in an effort to help his colleagues achieve their own legislative goals. He wants to focus on helping California's poor and increasing voter participation.

"Neither Annie nor I was born with much, but we worked hard, and somehow we ended up here," Rendon said of his wife, Annie Lam, after taking the oath. "But we also had a lot of help."

Rendon said he and his wife benefited from food stamps, free meal programs, English-as-a-second-language and diversity programs, unemployment assistance, affirmative action, public schools and public lands.

He was integral in negotiating a $7.5 billion water bond that voters passed in 2014, but Rendon is best known for his positions on education and the environment, some of which put him at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat. Rendon supports expanded funding for pre-kindergarten, taxes on oil extraction and decreased fracking in urban areas, all of which contradict the governor's views.

Brown vetoed his three bills last year that would have required greater disclosure from California's Public Utilities Commission.

Rendon said he has "serious questions" about the costs and science behind Brown's plan to divert water to Southern California using two massive water tunnels. Rendon also expressed concerns about the Brown administration's revised plan for a $64 billion high-speed rail system, which is now planned to head to the San Francisco Bay Area before heading to Southern California.

Rendon's oath of office marks the first time both chambers of the California Legislature have been led by Latinos.

Before running for office, he led a child development program in Southern California and directed the California League of Conservation Voters. Rendon attended Cerritos Community College before transferring to California State University, Fullerton, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Riverside and returned to his alma mater in Fullerton to teach for seven years as an adjunct professor.

He succeeds Speaker Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who has had the post since May 2014. She is termed out of the Assembly this year and gunning for a seat in the state Senate.

© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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