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California state senators draw six-figure salaries plus gold-plated pensions, plus an impressive array of benefits that includes a car allowance. Some of those senators like to get drunk, and when they do, California taxpayers will now be footing the bill to drive them home. As Alexei Koseff and Jim Miller observe in the Sacramento Bee, the Senate “hired two part-time employees to provide late-night and early-morning rides for members while they are in Sacramento, a 24-hour service that follows high-profile drunken driving arrests involving lawmakers in recent years.”
The “special services assistants,” hired in February, work in the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office and get paid $2532 a month to provide “ground transportation” for senators. Senate bosses say it’s a “security issue,” but a man who turned down the job told the Bee reporters that the service was to give senators rides “just if they were drinking too much,” and a senate staffer confirmed that the intent of the service was to prevent drunk driving. Apparently these legislators lack the restraint to refrain from getting drunk in the first place. Once plastered, these politicians are apparently unable to call a cab or tap a non-drunk friend for a ride home.
As Koseff and Miller note, new Senate boss Kevin De Leon cut 39 administrative jobs last November, but apparently the needs of Senate drunks took precedent over further cuts. In recent years, four legislators have been busted for drunk driving, three on streets near the state capitol. One of those arrested on DUI charges was Senator Roy Ashburn, a Bakersfield Republican. The problem, however, goes beyond legislators.
In 2011, police arrested state Director of Finance Ana Matosantos for driving under the influence, and with her registration expired. “My decision to drive last night was reckless and irresponsible,” she said in a statement. “I accept full responsibility and there is no excuse for my actions.” Likewise, the decision to hire drivers for drunken senators is reckless and irresponsible. There is no excuse for it.