A rainbow flag hung next to the state and U.S. flags in California’s capitol when state Sen. Toni Atkins (D) was formally elected as Senate pro tempore and took the oath of office.
What’s the story?
On Wednesday, Atkins, 55, became the first woman and first LGBT person to lead the California Senate, the Associated Press reported.
“It’s the first time. And it’s about time,” Atkins, who is a lesbian, said. But, “I came to the Senate to make progress, not history.”
She is taking over at a time when the legislature has faced criticism for the way it has handled sexual misconduct, budget negotiations, and the 2018 elections.
Democrats lost supermajorities in the Senate and the state Assembly after three lawmakers resigned following sexual misconduct allegations.
Some have accused the Legislature of fostering a culture where women are hesitant to report sexual harassment.
“To some extent, we bear the burden of past sins too often swept under the rug,” Atkins said. “We can’t change the past. But we can and we should be judged on how we shape the future.”
Last year, Atkins pushed legislation that led to a third “non-binary” gender option on California driver’s licenses, as well as a $75 fee on some real estate transactions documents that would help pay for affordable housing.
Atkins said she plans to focus on managing internal affairs at the Senate and will be strategic about picking fights with the Trump administration.
“Clearly when we have to stand our ground for the right reasons and the right purposes, we do it,” she said. “But when we don’t need to, I don’t need to antagonize my Republican colleagues.”