An interesting shift in political strategy and policy negotiations was felt through the Capitol on Friday, with news that a rising star in Democratic circles will immediately resign his seat in the state Senate.
Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, cited the need to spend time with his family in a statement announcing his resignation.
"My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, from whom we have learned a great deal," said Rubio in a written statement. "Our youngest child, who has special needs, has given me great perspective as to life's priorities and our eldest has reminded me that the most critical decisions are made at home and not under the Capitol dome."
Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. He was briefly a candidate for a Central Valley congressional seat in 2012, but abandoned the campaign for the same kinds of family concerns mentioned in his Senate resignation.
His statement says he will accept a government relations job with Chevron.
The news came as a complete surprise in the Capitol community. Most notably, it removes the Democratic supermajority in the statehouse before the party's legislators ever got a chance to flex their newly won political muscles.
There are now three vacancies in the Legislature's upper house, all Democrats who have left their elected posts early (the first two were senators who won seats in Congress last fall). That means only 26 Democrats, one short of the supermajority. While Democrats are no doubt favorites to ultimately retain enough seats to resume their supermajority status, the temporary drop in power ends talk of any immediate actions on issues ranging from taxes to urgency measures and beyond.
Rubio's departure also raises interesting questions about the prospects for changes to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The senator has been a key player in those who say the four decade old law, which requires environmental review of development projects, is in need of reform.
Rubio was recently named chair of the Senate committee that was looked to as the focus of the CEQA debate this year. His departure is no doubt a blow to those looking for changes, though Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has also pledged CEQA changes in 2013.
Steinberg's statement on the departure of Rubio is probably proof of how unexpected the 35-year-old charismatic Democrat's departure really was.
"His resignation," said Steinberg, "is a tremendous loss to the Legislature."