Politics & Government

To colleagues, California assemblyman is a stand-up guy

Don't expect Assemblyman Tom Ammiano to celebrate by puffing a joint if he succeeds in legalizing marijuana for recreational use in California.

He says he's "basically a martini guy."

To a stuffed-shirt, suit-and-tie Legislature, Ammiano is the saucy-spouting jester with a no-nonsense political agenda.

The openly gay, first-year lawmaker with the gold stud in his left ear is just as likely to dance in salsa steps through the political aisle as reach across it.

A stand-up comedian, Ammiano has chided opponents to "walk a mile in my pumps" and last year said that he and San Francisco Democrat Fiona Ma — who is not necessarily a political ally — "cannot wait to be in the Assembly together with matching outfits."

When the Assembly was locked into all-night budget talks last winter, Ammiano broke the tension while joining colleagues for a brief nap in the lounge.

"He said he hadn't slept with that many people since the '70s," recalled Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles.

Behind the wisecracks is a San Francisco Democrat whose proposals this year ranged from a resolution opposing a ban on same-sex marriage to legislation that would restrict bank fees for overdraft protection programs.

Responding to a fatal New Year's Eve shooting in which a former Bay Area Rapid Transit District police officer has since been charged, Ammiano proposed that BART create an agency to investigate police misconduct.

"It's easy to look at the humor and not look at the substance," Perez said of Ammiano, who chairs the influential Assembly Public Safety Committee.

"Whether you agree with him or not, what people admire is someone willing to speak their mind," said Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara. "He speaks his mind."

Shouts it, in fact. Ammiano erupted last month during Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance at a Democratic fundraiser after slashing core Democratic programs this year.

"You lie!" Ammiano screamed at the GOP governor, parroting words yelled by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., at President Barack Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress.

Published reports say Ammiano went even further, shouting at Schwarzenegger to "kiss my gay ass," a comment he says he doesn't remember making.

Read more at SacBee.com