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Convicted State Lawmaker Takes Indefinite Leave

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A state senator convicted of perjury and voter fraud took an indefinite leave of absence Tuesday as he awaits sentencing in May.

Sen. Roderick Wright, a Democrat who represents a Los Angeles-area district, requested the leave during a meeting with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

“I’ve accepted his request and wish him well going forward,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a two-sentence statement.

The Senate leader had recommended letting Wright remain in office until his sentencing, which has been delayed until May 16.

“I have decided to take a leave of absence from the state Senate, so that I may devote my full attention to pending legal matters,” Wright said in a statement. “I remain hopeful that – through due process – I will once again have the opportunity to fight for laws that strengthen our communities and support those most in need.”

Wright’s lawyer has said he intends to ask a judge to set aside the jury verdict involving his client.

By taking leave, Wright will continue receiving his $95,291 annual salary but will not receive the $163 daily expense payment he would receive if he were traveling to Sacramento.

Steinberg faced increasing pressure from Republicans after Senate Democrats demanded on Monday that another Democratic state senator, Ron Calderon of Montebello, resign or take an indefinite leave after he was indicted last week on federal corruption charges.

Calderon pleaded not guilty and has not said whether he will leave the Senate.

The departure of Wright and Calderon would drop Senate Democrats below the 27-vote, two-thirds margin they need in the 40-member chamber to raise taxes, pass emergency legislation, override gubernatorial vetoes and put constitutional amendments before voters without Republican cooperation.

Steinberg and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said the power shift is part of the debate over the future of the two lawmakers but their primary concern is protecting the integrity of the Legislature.

Both said they were sympathetic to Wright, who was convicted last month of lying about his primary residence and violating a law that requires state lawmakers to live in the district they seek to represent. Both Senate leaders said the law is ambiguous, and Huff said it might need to be clarified.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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