Out CA state senators take on key leadership roles

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday February 8, 2024
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Gay state Senators Scott Wiener, left, and Steve Padilla were given high-profile leadership roles as the upper chamber retools under new President Pro Tempore Senator Mike McGuire. Photos: Courtesy the senators' offices
Gay state Senators Scott Wiener, left, and Steve Padilla were given high-profile leadership roles as the upper chamber retools under new President Pro Tempore Senator Mike McGuire. Photos: Courtesy the senators' offices

Days after he took over the gavel as president pro tempore of California's state Senate, Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) has named a number of his out colleagues to powerful posts either in his leadership team or as committee chairs. In particular, gay Senators Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) have been elevated to high-profile roles this year.

McGuire succeeded lesbian Senator Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) as leader of the Legislature's upper chamber on February 5. Termed out of office later this year, Atkins is now running for governor in the 2026 race to succeed Governor Gavin Newsom, who will be termed out of office in early January 2027.

Padilla, now in his second year of his first term, will serve as assistant majority whip. He is the only LGBTQ senator that McGuire named to one of the seven Senate Democratic Leadership positions he appoints.

Wiener, running this year for reelection to another four-year term, is now chair of the Senate Budget Committee. It comes as state leaders grapple with a $68 billion budget deficit in fiscal year 2024-25.

"I'm deeply honored Pro Tem McGuire asked me to serve in this role, particularly during these challenging budget times. Our state has made real progress on critical priorities in recent years, and it's vital we protect that progress," stated Wiener.

He is switching gavels with Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who had been chairing the budget committee and is termed out this year. She will now chair the Senate Housing Committee, which Wiener had led for the last six years.

"Luckily, we have laid the groundwork to navigate these challenges thanks to the leadership of Senator Skinner, Senator Atkins, Pro Tem McGuire, and many others," stated Wiener. "I look forward to working hand in hand with our new Pro Tem to tackle the challenges ahead."

Serving alongside Wiener as members of the budget committee, whose full name is Budget and Fiscal Review, are lesbian Senators Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley). Padilla and gay Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) are also members of the committee.

Wiener will also chair the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Among its members are Eggman and Padilla. McGuire elevated Laird to vice chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, on which Eggman is remaining as a member.

Meanwhile, Laird remains chair of the Senate's Budget Subcommittee #1 on Education and Menjivar as chair of the chamber's Budget Subcommittee #3 on Health and Human Services, on which Eggman remains a member.

Laird and Eggman are also serving as members of the important Rules Committee, which McGuire will chair. Continuing to be vice chair of the Joint Committee on Rules will be Laird, with Wiener among its members.

Padilla is also serving as a member of the Agriculture; Governmental Organization; Natural Resources and Water; and Revenue and Taxation committees. He also is a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies.

With the lack of affordable homes a critical issue in the state, Padilla will help craft legislative responses to addressing it as a member of the Housing Committee alongside Eggman and Menjivar.

Eggman, who is also termed out this year, is remaining as a member of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, on which Menjivar will now join as a member. Other committees Eggman is a member of are Energy; Utilities and Communications; Natural Resources and Water; Legislative Ethics; and the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management.

Menjivar's other committee assignments are Elections and Constitutional Amendments; Environmental Quality; Health; Human Services; and Military and Veterans Affairs.

Wiener will also serve as a member of the Health, Local Government, Public Safety, and Legislative Ethics committees. Meanwhile, Laird will also serve as a member of the Judiciary; Labor, Public Employment and Retirement; and Natural Resources and Water committees.

Statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California congratulated Wiener on his appointment as budget chair in a Facebook post.

"We are excited to continue partnering with him on ways to positively impact the lives of LGBTQ+ Californians, and look forward to his new role in larger Senate leadership," stated EQCA in its post.

It also praised McGuire "for elevating members of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and pro-equality champions to his leadership team."

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