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Senate to decide action on Sen. Rod Wright

  • Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Wright was convicted of eight counts of perjury and voter fraud by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

State Sen. Rod Wright, the Inglewood Democrat convicted by a Superior Court jury of eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury, now faces a jury of his peers — in the Senate.

The question is whether Wright should be expelled and, if so, when?

“This is certainly unprecedented in my 10 years in elected office,” said Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. “We must have a process that respects the institution and respects my colleague Rod Wright.”

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he is consulting with senators and attorneys to decide the next step. No decision has yet been reached, Steinberg’s aide said.

Timing is critical, since Wright intends to appeal the conviction. A question before the Senate is whether Wright should be expelled before the appeal is completed.

The Senate Ethics Committee has not been asked to take any action, said Sen. Richard D. Roth, D-Riverside, who heads the committee.

“The process is not complete until the appeal period has expired or the appellate process is exhausted,” Roth said in a statement.

The Ethics Committee will play an important role in deciding Wright’s fate because it is likely to offer a recommendation that will be considered by the entire house.

“I think it’s important to be very careful that we have a process that respects the gravity of the issue,” Wolk said. “We have an excellent committee and a good chair, and I’m looking forward to a discussion with him and his recommendation.”

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, was not available to comment, her office said.

The last time a senator was expelled was in 1905, when four legislators were removed for bribery, according to Senate records. Expulsion requires a two-thirds vote of the house. In 1850, a member was expelled who was absent for more than 10 days, which violated a Senate rule. Citizens in a lawmaker’s district also can petition for a recall, which can lead to a legislator’s removal.

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