• Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023


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A Conversation With Anthony Rendon After a Leadership Challenge

On Tuesday afternoon, the area surrounding the State Capitol in Sacramento was blanketed in a kind of hush, typical of the first day back after a holiday weekend. It was warm, sunny and breezy.

When people spoke, one thing dominated the conversation: What is going on with the Assembly speakership?

For six hours on Tuesday, the Assembly Democratic Caucus deliberated privately about whether Anthony Rendon would stay on as Assembly speaker or be replaced by Robert Rivas, a lawmaker from California’s Central Coast. Unlike recent speaker transitions, this one appeared to be hostile, with Rivas claiming he had the votes to become Assembly leader without Rendon’s acknowledgment.

It was an unusually dramatic bit of palace intrigue for a legislature that is dominated by Democrats who largely agree with one another. Late Tuesday night after the caucus broke, Rendon and Rivas issued a joint statement, acknowledging that Rivas had the support to become Rendon’s successor, but indicating they were both happy with the status quo — for now.

The next day, I caught up with Rendon in his office overlooking the Capitol dome. I asked him about what happened, and about other big issues confronting the state’s leaders.

Here’s our conversation, lightly edited and condensed:

So what happened in that meeting? Did you come up with a plan to transition Rivas into the speaker’s role, or will you call another vote after the November election, once a new crop of caucus members has been elected?

Well, the California Constitution requires us to call a vote. We elect all of our constitutional officers every first Monday in December and we’ll do it again as the State Constitution tells us we must.

How long do you think you want to be speaker? You’re termed out in 2024.

(Laughs.) I don’t want to comment on that. The timing’s bad. I don’t want to poke any bears.

OK, fair enough. Let’s move on to some pressing issues before the Legislature. Talk to me about how quickly you’re trying to move forward new gun control bills.

Super quickly. We passed about a dozen bills out of our house in the last couple of weeks on everything from gun storage to gun sales on state property. We sent all those gun bills over to the Senate, and there’s a group that the governor asked us to expedite. And likewise, there’s a group of bills the Senate passed out of their house that have come to us. We’ve expedited those.

How soon is that?

I would expect them to be coming up in the next couple of weeks. And if they get 54 votes and have an urgency clause, the governor can sign them right away, so they’d go into effect right away rather than at the end of the year.

And there’s broad, broad Democratic consensus and we’ve been able to get a few Republican votes as well.

What are some of the top priorities? And it seems like you’re pretty aligned with the governor on those?

Yes. Restricting ghost guns is one bill. Gun storage is another. I know there was a bill to make it more difficult for folks who’ve committed elder and child abuse in the past to have access to guns.

Let’s talk about water. Did you think the Metropolitan Water District’s lawn-watering restrictions for many Southern Californians were appropriate? Do you think there should be more statewide water restrictions?

Yes, I think we have to take these crises seriously. If you choose to live in California, you choose to deal with the centuries-old drama that is water. I’m glad the M.W.D. is doing those things and I think they need to be more widespread across the state.

What, specifically, do you think should be more widespread? Just lawn-watering restrictions?

Yes, lawn-watering restrictions, but also commercial watering restrictions. It can’t all be residential.

We’ve learned a lot from other countries about conservation on the agricultural end. And we’re still not using the most advanced agricultural water techniques. So we can do things like mandate recycling water for irrigation and using drip irrigation in agriculture.

What role do you think the Legislature should play in addressing the water shortage?

We have the most elaborate, complicated water conveyance system in the world. And there’s a federal component, but the water system is ours to manage. There’s also governance. I think there are over 1,000 water districts in California. You have my city of Maywood, for example. It’s a city of 2.3 square miles and four different water districts there.

So the governance system is complicated, and the state can’t depend on 1,000 agencies to do the right thing.

You represent the Los Angeles area. Would you tell your constituents that it’s time to get rid of their lawns?

I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter who’s really smart, really ahead of everything and she didn’t know what an umbrella was for.

I don’t know that you need to get rid of your lawn permanently. But I think the M.W.D. requirements are fair. We’re in a crisis and people need to respond accordingly.

A jury in Virginia found that Amber Heard damaged the reputation of her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, with an op-ed in which she identified herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” The verdict has ramifications for the #MeToo movement.

Chickpea tagine with chicken and apricots.

Today’s tip comes from Gina Leiva, who lives in Palo Alto. Gina recommends Truckee, “a jewel located in the Sierra Nevada”:

“Truckee is home to Donner Memorial State Park with its rich history — including a towering monument — in memory of the Donner Party tragedy. The lake is a blue gem, a fraction of the size of Tahoe, which means there are less crowds, more intimate settings and a beautiful balance of nature’s offerings from springtime to wintertime. The small western town offers two main streets — Donner Pass and River — with loads of shopping, eateries and bars, including a few local micro breweries. There’s even a train station in the heart of downtown if a visitor would prefer to relax and take the Amtrak through the Sierra. The state park offers a wide range of lake sports from paddle boarding to canoeing, along with campgrounds, hiking trails and a rich informative interpretive trail/path for all levels and ages and a lovely gift shop at the visitor center. In the wintertime, snowshoeing allows access to the entire park.

But, the most beautiful sensory experiences in the town of Truckee are the rush of the breeze through the Jeffrey, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines, the soft scent of vanilla in the air and the train’s whistle as it hisses and rumbles through the mountain pass.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

They look like paintings of iconic California wildlife — deer, bobcats, mountain lions — set against stunning, colorful backdrops.