John Pérez

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John Pérez
John Pérez 2011.jpg
68th Speaker of the California State Assembly
In office
March 1, 2010 – May 12, 2014
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jerry Brown
Preceded by Karen Bass
Succeeded by Toni Atkins
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 53rd district
46th district (2008–2012)
In office
December 1, 2008 – November 30, 2014
Preceded by Fabian Núñez
Succeeded by Miguel Santiago
Personal details
Born John A. Pérez
(1969-09-28) September 28, 1969 (age 46)
Political party Democratic
Residence Los Angeles, California

John A. Pérez (born September 28, 1969) is a union organizer and politician from Los Angeles, California, who was the Speaker of the California State Assembly from March 1, 2010 to May 12, 2014. A Democrat, he represented the 53rd district in the California State Assembly. On October 9, 2013, Pérez announced his candidacy for State Controller.[1] Pérez finished third in the election, trailing Betty Yee by 481 votes. After initially calling for a recount in 15 California counties, Pérez ultimately conceded to Yee more than a month after the election.[2][3] After the election, in late 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Perez as a University of California Regent.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Pérez grew up in El Sereno and Highland Park before attending the University of California, Berkeley. He did not graduate from Berkeley but dropped out after his junior year citing family medical reasons in mid-1990. Early biographies of Pérez dating back to the 1990s called him a Berkeley graduate, a misstatement that was repeated in several press releases issued by Los Angeles mayors and in 2004 remarks inserted by Congresswoman Hilda Solis into the Congressional Record. When the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about these inconsistencies in May 2011, Pérez's office verified that he was not a Berkeley graduate.[5]

Pérez is the cousin of Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and has spent seven years handling political matters for the United Food and Commercial Workers, a union representing supermarket workers.[6] He has also served as political director of the California Labor Federation.[7] He was a member of the board of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency until 2008, when he resigned to run for the Assembly.

Election to the Assembly and rise to the speakership[edit]

Background in politics[edit]

Long active in the labor movement, Pérez is a member of the Democratic National Committee, which named him a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.[8][9] He endorsed Barack Obama on June 3, 2008, the day of the final primaries in the Democratic presidential nominating calendar.[10]

Election to the Assembly[edit]

The 46th district includes the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, Westlake, Vernon and part of South Los Angeles. Pérez succeeded Fabian Núñez, the former Assembly speaker who was forced out by term limits as the district's assemblyman. Pérez faced only a little-known primary challenger in the race to succeed Núñez,[11] winning convincingly.[12] In the general election held on November 4, 2008, he won 85% of the vote.

In 2010, he ran uncontested and received 100% of the vote.[13] In the 2012 election Pérez won the Assembly’s 53rd district with 82.8% of the vote.[14]

In 2011, after constitutionally mandated redistricting by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission most of the areas belonging to the 46th district became the 53rd.

Election as Speaker[edit]

Pérez had planned to run for the California Senate in 2010 with Kevin de León slated to be elected speaker. An agreement had apparently been reached by Los Angeles power brokers that would have seen Pérez support de León for speaker while Pérez would run unopposed in the 22nd senate district, the seat being vacated by term-limited Gil Cedillo. Cedillo, in turn, would seek Pérez's seat in the Assembly.[6]

The deal appears to have been derailed by opposition among certain Assembly Democrats to de León becoming Speaker and by a desire to elect a Speaker who could serve longer than two years. (De León, unlike Pérez, could not serve beyond 2012.)[6] The leadership battle came to a head on December 3, 2009, when Assembly Speaker Karen Bass announced that Pérez had enough support to succeed her.[15] On December 10, the Assembly Democratic caucus met to select the next speaker. During the meeting, de León threw his support to Pérez, who was elected unopposed.[16] He was formally elected by a 48–26 vote of the full Assembly on January 7, 2010 and replaced Bass on March 1, 2010.[17]

Speaker of the California Assembly[edit]

Pérez took office as California’s 68th Speaker March 1, 2010 and was subsequently reelected in 2010 and 2012, making him one of the longest serving Speakers in the era of term limits.

Major initiatives[edit]

Middle Class Scholarship Act[edit]

Pérez introduced Assembly Bill 1500[18] and 1501[19] in January 2012, together known as the Middle Class Scholarship Act. These bills were double-joined and were crafted to lower the cost of tuition at state colleges and universities for middle-class families by up to 2/3rds. It also would have provided up to $150 million to California community colleges.[20] As tax measures they were required to achieve a 2/3rds supermajority in order to pass as the California Constitution requires due to Proposition 13. AB 1500 and 1501 passed in the Assembly with 54 votes in favor and 25 votes against with 1 not voting; in the Senate the bills failed to pass, receiving 15 votes in favor and 22 votes against with 3 not voting. Pérez has pledged to introduce another measure directed at college affordability during the 2013-2014 legislative sessions.

Governor's Office of Business Development (GoBiz)[edit]

In December 2010 Pérez introduced AB 29 to create the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GoBiz) establishing a centralized location for all business resources. AB 29 eased access to the multitude of programs designed to assist businesses looking to move or incorporate in California. AB 29 passed the Assembly with 72 votes in favor and 6 votes against with 2 not voting; in the Senate the bills passed with 31 votes in favor and 3 votes against with 6 not voting.[21] GoBiz is planning to open satellite offices in China and Mexico as a key function of their mission of attracting investment and businesses to California.

Disincorporation of Vernon, CA[edit]

Vernon is an industrial city located in the County of Los Angeles that is home to fewer than 150 residents but acts as a business hub with more than 50,000 employees. Vernon has had a long history of corrupt public officials, official corruption, and voter intimidation. In December 2010, Perez introduced AB 46 to dis-incorporate the city and make it part of unincorporated Los Angeles County. There was broad support from the surrounding communities which have been plagued by the pollution and ill-effects of Vernon’s businesses but resistance met with from organized labor. After passing the assembly with 62 votes in favor, 7 votes against, and 10 not voting, the bill was defeated in the Senate with 13 votes in favor, 17 votes against, and 10 not voting. Following the bill’s defeat, Vernon has continued to have serious issues with their elections and public officials, including allegation of voter fraud and disenfranchisement.[22] Additionally, the local power authority, cited frequently as a reason to keep Vernon as an independent, business-focused city, announced significant rate increases.[23] Audits also determined that the city was millions in debt, causing some businesses to announce they were considering moving elsewhere.

Healthcare exchange (Covered California)[edit]

Following the passage of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pérez introduced AB 1602 in January 2010 which created the California Health Benefit Exchange, the first such state based program in the nation created to assist with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. This gives individuals and small businesses access to a broad range of insurance products and cost saving options. AB 1602 passed in the Assembly with 51 votes in favor and 27 votes against with 0 not voting; in the Senate the bills passed with 21 votes in favor and 13 votes against with 5 not voting.[24] States across the nation have used AB 1602 as a model for their own programs.

In January 2013 Governor Jerry Brown called a special legislative session to address California health care costs and solutions. During this session, Pérez introduced AB1X1. This bill is designed to allow implementation of the health care coverage expansion envisioned in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. AB1X1 makes Medi-Cal available to 1,000,000 Californians who earn at or below 120 percent of the federal poverty limit.[25]

Farmer’s Field[edit]

In 2011 Pérez was instrumental in the passage of SB-292, which speeds construction of the Farmers Field Project in Los Angeles. This will create tens of thousands of jobs in construction and operation of a stadium which will set the national standard for green construction and sustainable use. The bill he passed later served as the basis of a statewide law that speeds approval of major construction projects without compromising the environmental standards Californians value.[26]

California State Budget[edit]

In the first year Pérez served as an Assemblymember, the state faced a budget deficit totaling 64 billion dollars out of a total $110 billion. In his time as Speaker, California's structural deficit has been eliminated, resulting in an estimated 1 billion dollar reserve for the 2013/14 fiscal year and the first across-the-board increase in the state’s credit rating since November, 2004.[27]

In 2010, he successfully blocked former Governor Schwarzenegger’s final budget proposal, which would have wiped out 430,000 jobs for police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and their support personnel. His California Jobs Budget¸ which balanced the budget and created a ten billion dollar private sector job creation fund, forced Gov. Schwarzenegger to back down and agree to a compromise which protected virtually every job eliminated by the initial proposal.[28]

California’s budget was frequently passed after the constitutionally-mandated deadline, as the Legislature and Governors negotiated to close multi-billion dollar deficits under the requirement that budget votes have a two-thirds majority to pass. With the 2010 voter approval of Proposition 25, which lowered the threshold necessary to approve a budget to a simple majority, the Legislature adopted two consecutive, balanced and on-time budgets.[29][30]

Management of the Assembly[edit]

The Speaker is charged with the overall management and supervision of the Assembly. She or he appoints members to all committees and subcommittees of the Assembly, allocates funds, staffing, and other resources for the effective operation of the House, and establishes committee schedules.

Operating budget[edit]

Under Pérez’s leadership, the California Assembly has made a practice of redirecting savings from cutting their operating costs to save fund other state programs.[citation needed] Between 2010 and 2012, millions were transferred from Assembly operating accounts to save or supplement programs benefitting veterans, families and women.[citation needed]

  • California Commission on the Status of Women — The Commission on the Status of Women is a non-partisan agency which acts as a public policy body for proposals to address women’s issues in the public domain. In April 2012, Pérez transferred money from the Assembly operating budget to the commission to ensure it will continue its vital mission. Along with the transfer of money, the Speaker was able to announce that Academy Award-Winning actor Geena Davis would serve as Chair of the commission.[31]
  • California National Guard Work for Warriors program — In April 2012, Pérez announced that the Assembly would contribute $500,000 to establish the National Guard “Work for Warriors” Program.[32] This program places National Guard members with jobs, striving to reduce the unemployment rate in California while ensuring that California’s veterans have access to jobs, healthcare, and support service they deserve. Additionally, The Speaker also provided two $300,000 grants to the California Military Department for mental health services which provides resources to better support their members. For his work for Veterans and Military personnel, he was named the California Assembly Legislator of the Year by the Vietnam Veterans of America and was honored with the National Guard Associations of the United States’ Charles Dick Medal of Merit Award.[33]
  • Restoration of Stage III Child Care — In the 2010 budget Governor Schwarzenegger line item vetoed child care which provided subsidized child care for over 81,000 children in 60,0000 working families. In response, Pérez authorized that $6 million from the Assembly operating budget be shifted to provide bridge funding for those child care programs.[34]

Bipartisan Committee Chair Appointments[edit]

In each of his terms as Speaker, Pérez has appointed Assemblymembers from the minority Republican Party to chair committees. Then-Assemblymember Col. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) served as Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, before being elected to the United States House of Representatives. The Committee on Local Government was chaired by Assemblymember Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita), who termed-out of office in 2012, and is now chaired by Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-Arroyo Grande).

International Relations[edit]

According to the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, if California’s GDP were compared to those of leading nations, it would rank as the ninth largest economy in the world.[35] Pérez has led bipartisan delegations of Assembly members on official visits to some of California’s most important trading partners, including Mexico, the Republic of Korea, and the State of Israel. Those visits have been reciprocated by a number of foreign leaders, including Israeli President Shimon Peres, and a delegation of federal Senators from Mexico.[citation needed]

Pérez has also met with officials from Australia, Chile, and Afghanistan to help strengthen ties with those nations, greeted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their trip to California, and worked closely with the California Travel & Tourism Commission to promote foreign tourism in California, traveling to London with Commission Members to launch the Dreamland Campaign.[citation needed]


Pérez is openly gay[36] and the first openly LGBT Speaker of the California State Assembly.[16] After Minnesota's Allan Spear, he is the second LGBT person elected to lead a state legislative chamber. His election as speaker preceded the February 2010 election of Gordon D. Fox, an openly gay Democrat, to be speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, though Fox took office immediately and Pérez did not take office until March 1.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed Pérez for election.[37] He is a member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.


  1. ^ "Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announces bid for state controller". Retrieved 7 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Megerian, Chris (6 July 2014). "John Pérez calls for recount in tight race for state controller". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Wildermuth, John. "John Pérez concedes in California controller's race". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Assembly Speaker John Pérez a Cal dropout, not grad". San Francisco Chronicle. 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-05-23. 
  6. ^ a b c "Villaraigosa's cousin vies for Assembly seat". Los Angeles Times. 2008-02-23. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-04-10.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "latimes" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Pérez for Assembly - candidate biography". Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  9. ^ "Political Notes: Gay Latino labor activist set to make history". Bay Area Reporter. 2008-04-10. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  10. ^ "Supers:Obama gets six so far". NBC News. June 3, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Filing deadline leads to candidate hokey-pokey". Capitol Weekly. March 13, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Mervyn Dymally one victim in series of tough California races". Los Angeles Times. June 4, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved June 4, 2008. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Los Angeles lawmaker lines up votes for speaker". San Francisco Chronicle. 2009-12-02. Retrieved 2009-12-05. [dead link]
  16. ^ a b "Calif. picks 1st openly gay Assembly speaker". The Associated Press. December 10, 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Pérez set to take Assembly reins on March 1". Los Angeles Times. January 25, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Bill Text — AB-1500 Corporation taxes: apportionment: single sales factor: Middle Class Scholarship Fund.". California Legislative Information Portal. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  19. ^ "Bill Text — AB-1501 Student financial aid: Middle Class Scholarship Program.". California Legislative Information Portal. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  20. ^ California Assembly Democratic Caucus. "Making College Affordable Once Again". Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  21. ^ "Bill Info — AB-29 Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.(2011-2012)". California Legislative Information Portal. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  22. ^ Allen, Sam (10 Oct 2012). "Voter fraud found in Vernon election, new winner named". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "The 2013-2014 Budget: Overview of the Governor's BUdget", Legislative Analyst's Office report, retrieved 2013-02-21 
  28. ^ Kuehl, Sheila (28 December 2010). "2010 Budget Fixes, Part Six: Using Oil to Ignite the Lamp of Jobs". California Progress Report. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  29. ^ Marois, Michael B. (28 June 2012). "Brown Closes $16 Billion Budget Gap With Tax Increase". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  30. ^ York, Anthony (3 November 2010). "Voters pass Prop. 25, allowing legislative majority vote to pass California budget". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  31. ^ Van Oot, Torey (24 April 2012). "Commission headed by Geena Davis gets last-minute funding from Assembly". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  32. ^ Taylor, Barbara (2 April 2012). "California Lawmakers Helping Battle Unemployment Among National Guard". KCBS. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  33. ^ The National Guard Association of the United States. "About NGAUS: Past Award Recipients". Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  34. ^ First 5 L.A. "FIRST 5 LA MOVES TO AVERT LOCAL CHILD CARE CRISIS". Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  35. ^ "2011 California Economy Rankings" (PDF). Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy: Numbers in the News. Sep 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  36. ^ Lagos, Marisa (11 December 2009). "Gay Latino man chosen to lead state Assembly". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  37. ^ Okonkwo, Joe (September 30, 2008). "More LGBT Candidates Than Ever Receive Victory Fund Endorsement". The Advocate. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Betsy Butler
California State Assemblymember, 53rd District
Succeeded by
Miguel Santiago
Preceded by
Fabian Núñez
California State Assemblymember, 46th District
Succeeded by
Adrin Nazarian
Political offices
Preceded by
Karen Bass
Speaker of the California Assembly
Succeeded by
Toni Atkins
Honorary titles
Title last held by
Karen Bass
Speaker Emeritus of the California Assembly