SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Republican and Democratic leaders of the state Senate on Monday said a law that ensnared a legislator on perjury and voter-fraud charges is ambiguous and might need to be changed.
Sen. Roderick Wright is awaiting sentencing in May after he was convicted last month of lying about his true residence, which a Los Angeles County jury determined was outside his Senate district.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in separate comments to reporters that current state law is so ambiguous that other lawmakers also could be in violation of a requirement that they live in the district they represent while running for office.
"One DA (district attorney) prosecutes, another DA doesn't," Steinberg said.
For instance, Sacramento County prosecutors said last month they will not pursue charges against state Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, despite reports by The Sacramento Bee that he appeared to be living outside his district. Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, received the Senate's permission to move outside his district after he was elected.
"I think when the dust settles, that there should be a review of the law and make sure it's black and white going forward, so every DA can interpret and can prosecute in a judicious manner that makes sense, that's uniform and not a hit-and-miss approach as there appears to be now," Huff said in separate comments outside the Senate chamber.
Huff said there is sympathy for Wright even among Republicans.
"Many people were conducting themselves according to how they felt court precedents in the past or different district attorneys have interpreted it, and a jury found otherwise," Huff said.
Both leaders' comments came as Senate Democrats gave an ultimatum to another senator, Democrat Ron Calderon, to step down by next week after he was indicted on federal corruption charges. Calderon pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Democrats, who control the Senate, have said Wright will be allowed to keep his office until his sentencing in May.
Four Republican senators have called for Wright's immediate ouster, but Steinberg would not say if he would allow a Senate vote to expel him.
One of the four, Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, said Monday that it does not make sense to let Wright stay after his conviction but force Calderon out when he has simply been charged.
"We ought to go alphabetically — conviction before indictment," Anderson said.