By Katherine Geyer
Signal Staff Writer
Thursday June 7, 2007
Although the State Capitol is still new territory for Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, he has been getting a little guidance from a veteran assemblyman who has been assigned as his “seatmate” on the Assembly floor.
To help the freshmen members learn the ropes of Sacramento politics, the Republican Caucus paired the 11 freshmen Assembly members with veteran members in the seats beside them.
Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, was first elected to office in the fall and was paired with George Plescia, the former leader of the Republican Caucus serving his third and last term in the Assembly.
“I’m teaching him not to make mistakes I made as a freshman,” said Plescia, R-San Diego. “We’re both relatively young, and it is a big adjustment.”
Smyth said that during weeks like this one when the Assembly spends more than 12 hours a day hearing hundreds of bills, it helps to have someone to turn to.
“It’s been invaluable sitting with him on the floor, when you’re going through hundreds of bills in a very short period of time,” he said. “He serves as a guide. I see how he’s going to vote, and that helps me make my decision as well. Many of these bills have come down before, and he has been able to help me get up to speed by telling me ‘we’ve heard this bill before in previous years,’ and he’ll give me some background on it.”
Plescia said he has been teaching Smyth to listen to both sides of the arguments to make the best decision he can make, even if it means not voting the way the Republican Caucus recommends.
“He’s helping me with the politics of Sacramento,” Smyth said. “What people you can trust, what people you can’t.”
Plescia has also given Smyth advice beyond just politics.
An excited and ambitious staff is a good thing, but Plescia said that ultimately the Assembly member controls his own schedule.
“They can keep you busy 12 hours a day if they wanted,” he said, “and when you’re gone four days a week, you really have to balance the family situation when you go home because that’s what’s most important.”
Smyth said that there are always events going on in Sacramento, so it’s OK for him to go home or just take a break.
“There will always be another event, there will always be something going on, so it’s important to put your home life and your family first,” Smyth said.
“As a freshman, you just get besieged with appointments of people just wanting to meet you,” Plescia said. “It’s a grind – literally every 15 minutes all day, every day for the first two months you’re in office. You could run yourself ragged.”
But Plescia said Smyth has adjusted well to Sacramento.
“He stands out among freshmen,” he said. “He’s a smart guy. He doesn’t really need me.”