SACRAMENTO – State lawmakers kicked off the new legislative session Monday, pledging to continue bipartisan cooperation while tackling health care reform, redistricting and infrastructure spending in the new year. This year’s crop of freshman lawmakers is the largest since the Legislature became full time, with 36 new Assembly members and 12 new senators. Democratic lawmakers said their top priorities for the 2007-08 session will involve education, health care and the environment. Republicans said they would focus on closing the budget deficit, redistricting reform and fighting efforts to weaken the workers’ compensation overhaul approved two years ago. But for the newcomers, Monday was a day for learning their way around the hallways of the Capitol building. Some were settling into new offices, meeting colleagues and navigating the corridors and stairwells of a complex building. Many legislators hosted small receptions in their offices for their family and supporters. Among the minutiae of learning their new job, new Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, said one of the things he had to figure out was how to get recognized to speak on the floor of the Senate. As a Los Angeles City Council member, Padilla would push an electronic button to indicate to the council president that he wished to speak. In the California state Senate, they have no such sophisticated system. Instead, senators tilt the long-neck microphones at their desks to face upward, indicating to the Senate president pro tem they have something to say. “We had some electeds in from out of town. I wanted to make sure they were properly recognized,” Padilla said. “I just didn’t know what the exact protocol was. It’s not like we had a training session for new senators.” Padilla was welcoming friends and supporters to his new office with a reception, as a line formed of people wishing him to autograph a program for the swearing-in ceremony. Padilla was hardly settled in to his new office, however. He said it is temporary, as his permanent office will depend on committee assignments that have yet to be made. [email protected] (916) 446-6723 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’Both parties also said they would focus on overseeing the spending of the $42 billion infrastructure bond package approved by voters last month. While some of those funds are allocated through normal state bureaucratic procedures and formulas, much of the first dip into the money is expected to be decided during state budget deliberations in the spring. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to make health care reform his top priority in 2007, along with education accountability. In a display of the increased friendship between the governor and Democratic legislators, Schwarzenegger was given the unusual opportunity Monday to address the new legislators from the podium of the Assembly after the swearing-in. “I just wanted to say to all of you, I hope we continue on that path (of cooperation),” Schwarzenegger said. The first day of session is typically an opportunity for established legislators to introduce a few key bills in preliminary form, indicating some of their top priorities for the coming year. The legislators do not return to session until Jan. 3.
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