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Wiggins loses key committee posts

State Sen. Pat Wiggins was removed from several more committee posts Wednesday and no longer is working in her district or in Sacramento, except on an as-needed basis, according to her staff.

The developments are the latest indications of the 69-year-old senator's failing health, further fueling speculation that she is suffering a serious mental decline that has included several troubling outbursts in public settings.

Wiggins has refused to publicly address her health but on March 2 informed Senate Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, in a private meeting that she has no plans to step down. Her term ends Dec. 1.

But since that meeting, Wiggins' staff said doctors advised the senator to reduce her workload further, so that her only job duties are attending occasional Senate floor sessions when her vote is needed.

"For now, she will concentrate on working from home but will travel to Sacramento for floor sessions on an as-needed basis," said David Miller, the senator's press secretary.

On Wednesday, Wiggins lost her seats on the influential Local Government and Veterans Affairs committees, a particular blow for the senator who has championed those causes.

She also was removed from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, a month after the senator's outburst at a Feb. 17 hearing of that bipartisan group drew renewed attention to her health problems.

At that hearing, Wiggins, enraged about an unfilled water canister, interrupted the proceedings by yelling repeatedly. At one point she charged toward committee staff members, before another state senator and a Wiggins aide intervened.

The senator has rebuffed numerous media requests to talk publicly about her illness. Her staff and supporters argue that she is due some measure of privacy despite her public role.

Steinberg, who does not have the authority to unilaterally remove Wiggins but brings influence to bear on Senate business in his role as pro-tem, again suggested through a spokeswoman on Wednesday that the decisions about Wiggins' work performance are being left to her.

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