After months of jockeying, Assembly member Robert Rivas will replace Anthony Rendon as the Assembly speaker.

Rivas first tried to become the speaker back in May, but lawmakers ultimately decided Rendon would continue being speaker until the end of the legislative session.

What You Need To Know

  • Robert Rivas will Succeed Anthony Rendon as Assembly Speaker after June 30

  • The speaker is a powerful position in the California Legislature, having control over committee assignments

  • Civil rights activist and close friend Dolores Huerta inspires Rivas

  • Rivas is the first Assembly Speaker from a rural California area in modern history

On Nov. 10, the Democratic Caucus met again, and in a meeting that lasted six hours, members decided Rivas would succeed Rendon as speaker on June 30, 2023.

The speaker is one of the most influential roles in the California Legislature. The speaker appoints members to different committees and decides who chairs those committees. They also have significant influence over the state budget, along with the governor and president of the State Senate.

“This is not a position that I sought. This is something that my colleagues asked me to step up and to serve. I’m very humbled by their support and I’m certainly not going to let them down. I’m excited for the opportunity to unify our caucus,” Rivas said.

Rivas, the grandson of an immigrant farmworker, grew up in crowded farmworker housing in the community of Paicines in San Benito County. He will be the first legislator from rural California in modern history to hold the powerful position.

“If I was told as a kid that I would one day represent my home, this region, in the state Legislature, I wouldn’t have thought it’d be possible because I grew up in poverty,” Rivas said.

Rivas credits his late grandfather, Servando Flores, for showing him the value of hard work.

“He provided for our family to make sure we didn’t have to work in the field and he wanted us to make the most of these opportunities,” Rivas said.

His grandfather also showed him the importance of standing up for your community. Flores advocated for farmworkers’ rights alongside civil rights icons, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Huerta, who helped negotiate Rivas’ grandfather’s first labor contract, is now a strong supporter of his.

“When you have somebody that comes from the grassroots that comes from a farmworker family and then ascends to be a leader in the state assembly — we talk about the American dream, this is the American dream,” Huerta said.

During Rivas’ first four years in the Assembly, he served as chair of the Agriculture Committee and vice-chair of the Latino Caucus.

Rivas worked on legislation focused on improving the living conditions of farmworkers, including AB 1654, which increased funding for farmworker housing. He’s also worked on legislation to increase access to clean water, fight climate change, and improve equity in education.

“He’s the kind of speaker that we need. Someone that really has the courage to fight for everybody in the state of California,” Huerta said.

Rivas represents the 30th District, which includes the cities of Gilroy, Hollister, Salinas and Watsonville. Before being elected to the Assembly, he served on the San Benito Board of Supervisors.

“Having spent my 8 years in local government, bringing people together is something I do well — always looking to build consensus on any number of issues,” Rivas said.

The Central Coast lawmaker also has overcome a speech impediment that he’s had since he was a kid. He credits therapy and having patience as the reasons he’s been able to get to the place he is in life.

“I work very hard to overcome those challenges that exist when I speak and that’s why I never anticipated this would be a career path for me just because of my fear of public speaking but certainly this has been the most rewarding experience of my life,” Rivas said.

Now deemed Assembly speaker designee, Rivas said he is looking forward to working with his colleges to unify the party and help all Californians.

Rendon, who’s been the speaker since 2016, issued a statement saying he is focused on serving out his role before handing it off to Rivas.

“I will continue working for the Californians who need it most, and keep putting power in the hands of my members, especially those who are underrepresented. I look forward to working with Assembly member Rivas in anticipation of a smooth transition in 2023. Now, it is time to work together for California,” Rendon said.

The formal vote for Rivas to become Assembly speaker will be held during an Organizational Session on Dec. 5, at the beginning of the next legislative session.

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