California Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton to step down in January
By Kevin Yamamura
The Sacramento Bee Published: Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
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Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton said Friday that he will step down in January, and Sen. Bob Huff expects to replace him as the legislative session kicks back into gear.
Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said Friday morning that the minority caucus must still vote but that he has enough commitments from colleagues to take over the job.
"I have the signatures for that, which signifies intent, so I anticipate that happening," Huff said in a phone interview.
Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, officially assumed the post in October 2010 and served as Senate GOP leader during Gov. Jerry Brown's first year back in office. In a departure from recent Capitol protocol, Brown negotiated mostly with five members of Dutton's caucus rather than with the GOP leader on the budget.
"It makes sense that we have a new leader in place before the governor announces the new budget, so he or she can begin to negotiate immediately with the majority party on a budget solution that ends California's fiscal crisis and the state's economic uncertainty," Dutton said in a statement.
But Brown has shown little desire to reopen budget talks with Republicans.
Under a law voters approved last year, Democrats can pass the budget on their own.
The governor, who is going straight to the voters to ask for higher taxes, said recently that he'd be willing to talk with Republicans over drinks – if they buy, he mused – but that he didn't expect serious negotiations to take place.
Huff, who served as his caucus's point man on the budget, said, "There's always a role, even if we're outside the door banging on it. We're willing to work with him if he's willing to."