Ailing state Sen. Pat Wiggins made a rare trip to Sacramento on Thursday to vote on a number of bills before a key deadline today.
The Santa Rosa Democrat, who has been on partial leave from her duties since March 24, appeared in the Senate chambers briefly at the end of the six-hour session to cast votes on a dozen pieces of legislation, spokesman David Miller said.
Wiggins, 69, suffers from an undisclosed illness and is not seeking re-election this year.
Today is the last day for the Senate to approve bills initiated by its members. Two ailing members of the Senate -- Wiggins and Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach -- agreed to attend Thursday's floor session, casting crucial votes in an effort to move Senate legislation to the Assembly before today's deadline.
After spending most of the day in her office watching the proceedings on television as her Senate colleagues debated various bills, Wiggins appeared with aides around 3:15 p.m. to cast votes on several bills whose outcomes were in doubt, Miller said.
"It's not inaccurate to say that there were some bills that she helped push over the edge and there were some that needed her vote and she voted no," he said.
Bills that Wiggins helped pass included one requiring gift cards under $10 to be redeemable for cash and another that would ban drivers from texting or e-mailing while behind the wheel.
She also voted in favor of a bill she wrote, SB1418, allowing local agencies to increase from $1 to $2 an annual fee on vehicles to fund more emergency call boxes on state highways and in parks.
She voted against just one proposal, a plan to shrink from 20 miles to 15 miles the protective zone around off-track betting facilities, Miller said.
She did not attend an hour-long Democratic caucus in the afternoon, he said.
Wiggins' illness, which she has refused to discuss publicly, has forced her to give up committee posts and limit her travel to Sacramento, appearing at the Capitol on an as-needed basis. In May, Wiggins attended just one Senate vote, Miller said.
Her leave followed instances of erratic behavior during committee meetings, actions that caused some to speculate she is in serious mental decline.
Wiggins and Oropeza were needed on the floor Thursday because the votes on several bills were expected to be very close, said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
"Without their votes, some bills will die," Trost said.
The two senators were not ordered to return, but did so voluntarily in support of colleagues who had worked hard on bills that needed their support, Trost said.
"No one was summoned. No one was forced to be here," Trost said.
Senate leadership allowed the voting on several bills to remain open until the end of the session to allow Wiggins to avoid sitting through the lengthy floor debates, Trost said.
Steinberg remains "absolutely" confident that Wiggins is competent to carry out her voting responsibilities, Trost said.
Wiggins was elected to the Assembly in 1998, and after being termed out in 2004, was elected to the 2nd Senate District, which includes portions of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt and Solano counties.
She continues to earn an annual salary of $95,291, as well as receiving health care benefits.