Spokesman says ailing lawmaker was needed to pass or defeat key bills

  • Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, listens to Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento as he asked for votes from members that were absent as they worked on bill on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Wiggins has been on leave and was brought to the Capitol to cast her vote.

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.

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