San Diego’s beloved Toni Atkins will step down early next year as Senate president pro tempore, the leader of the state’s upper legislative chamber.
Atkins announced her decision at a press conference on Monday, Aug. 28, and also stated that Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat from the Northern Coastal areas of California, will take her place.
Atkins has termed out and must leave the Senate at the end of 2024. She said the decision was made to make this announcement now, so that the caucus can get on with their duties without distraction before their end of session in September.
“We have a lot of work to get through in the next few weeks,” Atkins said, referring to the chaotic final days of the legislative session when lawmakers will vote on hundreds of bills. “This work does not mix well with internal caucus politics being at the top of everyone’s minds.”
According to the state of California’s Capitol Museum website: “The President pro Tempore is the central figure in the policy-making and politics of the State Senate, elected by a vote of all the Senators as the leader of the Upper House. They are responsible for its administration, policy agenda, and its relationships with the Assembly and the Executive Branch.” As the powerful president pro tempore, Atkins has been responsible for negotiations between the governor and the assembly speaker, with a state operating budget of $300 billion. When she was in the state assembly, Atkins also held the equally powerful speaker position, and is only one of three individuals who have held both top leadership positions in the history of California’s state legislature.
California’s Attorney General released a statement about the announcement on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
“Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins is a barrier-breaker and a California icon,” Attorney General Ron Bonta said in the release. “From our days serving together in the California State Assembly, to now, I’ve always been able to count on her for wisdom, leadership, and stalwart commitment to serving the people of California.”
McGuire was elected to the Senate in 2014, and had high praise for Atkins as a “trailblazer” at the press conference, and emphasized that for now, Atkins was still in charge.
“The pro tem and I, we are unified in our transition,” McGuire said. “And we can make this promise to each and every one of you. The next three weeks, getting these bills off the floor and into the governor’s desk is going to be smooth, successful and focused on the success of the Golden state.”
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