SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued Assemblymember Buffy Wicks an apology on Tuesday, after his denial of her request to vote by proxy while on maternity leave caused national outrage.
Wicks (D-Oakland) brought her newborn to the Assembly floor during Monday's final day of session, after she said Assembly leadership determined that she was ineligible to have someone vote on her behalf because she is not "at a higher risk" for Covid-19.
Footage of Wicks, legislating until midnight in California's state capitol with a swaddled one-month-old, went viral, with Hillary Clinton — whose presidential campaign Wicks worked on — weighing in on Twitter.
"California Assemblymember @buffywicks was told that having recently given birth wasn’t sufficient excuse to cast a vote remotely. So she brought her newborn daughter to the floor to weigh in on an important housing bill," Clinton said in a tweet Tuesday , paired with a flexing muscle emoji.
The apology from Rendon came after he at first stood by the decision, saying in an interview earlier Tuesday that Wicks was denied that right because she didn’t meet the terms of a proxy vote system that was written as narrowly as possible to avoid legal challenges, and that he was concerned about the constitutionality of such votes. According to Assembly rules adopted Aug. 3 in response to the pandemic, Rendon had to approve all proxy voting, and eligible members “shall be at a higher risk from the COVID-19 virus.”
But on Tuesday night, he said he would "commit to doing better.”
"My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward her, her role as a legislator, or her role as a mother," Rendon said in a statement. "Inclusivity and electing more women into 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."
While the Senate allowed Republicans possibly exposed to the virus to vote remotely after a state senator tested positive last week, the Assembly only allowed a vote-by-proxy system. A spokesperson for Rendon said Monday that no members have used that option since the pandemic hit.
Wicks said in a statement Tuesday night that she appreciated Rendon's apology and looks forward to working with him "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."