California

Harsh exchange with Democrat lands a California Republican in the Capitol ‘dog house’

Kevin Kiley aggressively questions Democratic colleague at education hearing

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, gets into heated exchange with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, over a plan that would have prevented Teach for America volunteers from working in California's poorest schools.
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Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, gets into heated exchange with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, over a plan that would have prevented Teach for America volunteers from working in California's poorest schools.

Go to the fifth floor of the Capitol, turn left at the elevators and make another left until you hit Room 5126.

Walk inside, locate a tiny two-person cubicle and take a few steps to enter an intimate room barely able to fit a conference table. That concludes your tour of the most desolate space a California lawmaker could have.

The cramped corner office dubbed “the dog house” is now home to a Republican who offended the top Democrat in the California Assembly.

During a March 27 education hearing, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, lashed out over a Democratic proposal to prevent Teach for America members from working in the state’s poorest schools.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, proposed the bill because she worried that Teach for America does more harm than good by enabling schools to cycle inexperienced educators into classrooms. Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that recruits college graduates for two-year positions in public schools.

A Teach for America alum himself, Kiley grilled Garcia, for 20 minutes, accusing her of drafting an unconstitutional bill that would discourage aspiring teachers from entering the workforce.

“We have 7,000 TFA alums in California who know better than anyone that our public education system is failing our kids,” Kiley said at the hearing. “We have a committee here and a Legislature that is not focused on kids and that operates a default mode of policymaking that’s anti-student, anti-teacher and anti-equity.”

Garcia’s responses seemed to irk Kiley.

“I’m not (going to) commit to completely changing my bill to please you today,” Garcia replied at one point.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, also chided Kiley during the hearing.

“This line of questioning is continuing on forever and going nowhere,” O’Donnell, the committee’s chairman, said.

After the hearing, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon used his leadership powers to reassign the Republican to the “dog house.”

“No Assembly member is guaranteed a particular office,” Rendon’s office said of the decision to move Kiley, adding that Rendon has no position on Garcia’s bill.

Kiley said he doesn’t care where he works, though he’s frustrated he’ll no longer have enough space to accommodate an intern who had been scheduled to start work very soon. He accused Rendon of dismissing his larger concerns about the state’s education system.

“Rendon would rather people not talk about the fact that we’re failing kids in low-income communities in California,” Kiley said.

Garcia didn’t comment directly on Rendon’s decision but said in a statement that “all stakeholders and members must share our viewpoints with respect and dignity.”

The “dog house” is a must-avoid spot that is all-too-familiar for incoming Republicans and those who frustrate Democratic leadership. There is no person more happy with Rendon’s decision than Assemblyman Tyler Diep, a Republican from Westminster who had been in the office since he was sworn in on December 2018.

Diep said he got a call Sunday notifying him that he’d been relocated. While he initially feared he’d been kicked out of the Capitol Building, he was relieved when he showed up to work on Monday with a fourth floor office that allowed him to stretch his arms without crashing them into a wall.

“The first quarter of 2019 was definitely daunting,” Diep said. “But every time I walk in and out of the office, people always tease me, ‘How much longer are you gonna be there?’ My response was, ‘Not long because someone else is likely to piss off the speaker.’”

Kiley, who is running neck-and-neck for an open senate seat against fellow Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle, could find himself out of Rendon’s clutches if he wins in June. If not, his dog days could be far from over.

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