When voters weigh candidates for legislative office every two years, they make decisions based primarily on how they believe the candidates will vote on key issues. They review campaign brochures, position papers, websites, and talk to friends and co-workers within their networks.
However, South Bay constituents only have a 2 in 3 chance of their current state senator even casting a vote! The Sacramento Bee reported December 7th on the California legislators’ absence & abstention records, and Senator Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, topped all 120 state legislators, missing 931 votes so far this session – about one-third of possible votes.
“Oropeza said she missed most of those votes while caring for her mother, who lives alone in Southern California and became ill earlier this year."
“Oropeza said she herself came down with the flu at one point during the session, and she had planned a Mediterranean cruise for November, when the Senate typically is not in session. When the Senate was called backed to deal with water issues, Oropeza said she couldn't cancel without losing $6,000. And, anyway, she was already aboard her ship.”
‘"It's very important to be there for votes," Oropeza acknowledged, adding that she kept in contact with her staff and was prepared to do whatever it took to get to Sacramento if a bill hinged on her vote.”
One question that will be on South Bay voters’ minds is “What if I had experienced the same situations at my job? Would my job still pay me for basically missing a third of my work hours?”
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In the entitlement world that Oropeza lives in, along with the SEIU and the CTA, excuses for “reasonable absences” are supposed to be accepted on the backs of taxpayers. Legislators like Oropeza have worked in this entitlement world for most of their adult careers, either as elected officials or government worker.
In the private sector, we don’t get such luxury. We have what’s called “Personal Time-Off (PTO)”, and we are allotted a certain amount of paid hours each year, with an approved amount of carryover to the next calendar year. If we use more than we are allotted, the time becomes “unpaid leave”. With exceptions for bereavement & jury duty, the system encourages personal time management and personal responsibility.
The more important issue brought up by the Sacramento Bee article is the practice by legislators to “check in” at morning roll call, and then be absent for significant portions of the legislative day. The article continues:
“Oropeza was counted as present during roll call on days where she missed about half of the 931 votes, according to a Bee review of Senate daily journals. Her absences tended to come at the beginning or end of the week. In addition, her office said roll call often is taken early in the day and she would sometimes leave later to attend to her mother or official business.”
Again, voters in the South Bay need to ask themselves in 2010 whether they would receive similar privileged treatment at their place of employment. How would most businesses run if all their employees had to do was “check in” at the beginning of the day and be paid for a full day’s work?
It appears Senator Oropeza has been living in the entitlement world of Sacramento politics and only performing as a part-time legislator. She has shown what can be accomplished by legislators only participating one-third of the time.
Could this be an indirect endorsement by Senator Oropeza for the Part-Time Legislature Amendment? Are the pundits arguing how legislators need the hours allotted to full-time status going to reconcile Senator Oropeza’s “part-time” status?
What is certain is that South Bay voters need a state senator who is truly “present”, not just marked down as such, when the State Senate is in session. Senator Oropeza has not met that need, and South Bay voters will hopefully hold her & other legislators accountable next November.