California Assembly speaker issues apology after denying proxy vote to legislator on maternity leave
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California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued an apology on Tuesday after a fellow legislator was forced to attend a session with her newborn baby because leadership denied her request to vote by proxy.
Rendon, a Democrat, was heavily criticized for making Assembly Member Buffy Wicks, a fellow Democrat, attend a session earlier this week after ruling that Wicks, who is on maternity leave, did not meet the requirements for a proxy vote because she was not "at a higher risk" for COVID-19.
Images of the session show Wicks cradling her baby and wearing a facemask while speaking on the assembly floor in Sacramento.
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"I want to make a full apology to Assemblymember Wicks," Rendon said in a statement. “My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward her, her role as a legislator, or her role as a mother.
Rendon added: "Inclusivity and electing more women in politics are core elements of our Democratic values. Nevertheless, I failed to make sure our process took into account the unique needs of our members. The Assembly needs to do better. I commit to doing better."
Rendon’s initial decision to make Wicks attend the session drew a swift backlash throughout the state, with Democratic strategist – and daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – Christine Pelosi questioning the need for the assembly member to be at the statehouse.
“[Wicks] should’ve been home with her baby voting by proxy. That she came to #caleg is a testament to her but it didn’t have to be this way. Expecting + new moms can be 'in the room where it happens' by being in the zoom where it happens. #WeSaidEnough” Pelosi tweeted.
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California Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins praised Wicks, saying she “showed the immense strength of moms. I hope this sparks a meaningful dialogue about America's need for better family leave policies and deep need for affordable housing.”
The news that Wicks had to attend the session with her child even caught the interest of former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Wicks said in a statement to Politico on Tuesday night that she appreciated Rendon's apology and added that she wanted "to create policies that meet working parents' needs, during this health crisis and beyond — not just for the members of the state Legislature but also for the Californians that we serve."
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