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Karen Bass (born October 3, 1953) is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. She has represented the 47th district since she was first elected in 2004. She is the second woman and third African American to serve as Speaker.


Bass was raised in the Venice/Fairfax neighborhood and went to Hamilton High School. She graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hillsmarker (1990, B.S. Health Sciences) and from the University of Southern California Medical School – Physician Assistant Certificate, where she has been a faculty member for more than a decade. Bass worked as a Physician Assistant in the nation’s largest trauma center, Los Angeles County/USC Medical Centermarker. Bass founded the Community Coalition, an organization in South Los Angeles.


As the Assemblymember for the 47th District, Bass serves the cities and communities of Culver Citymarker, West Los Angeles, Westwoodmarker, Cheviot Hillsmarker, Leimert Park, Baldwin Hillsmarker, View Park-Windsor Hillsmarker, Ladera Heightsmarker, the Crenshaw District, Little Ethiopiamarker and portions of Koreatown and South Los Angelesmarker. Bass is the second consecutive Assemblymember from the 47th District to become Speaker, as her predecessor in the 47th District seat, Herb Wesson, was Núñez's predecessor as Speaker.

Leadership roles

Speaker Fabian Núñez selected Bass as the Majority Floor Leader for the California State Assembly during the 2007-2008 legislative session. During the 2005-2006 legislative session, Bass served as the Majority Whip. Bass also serves as the chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care and as vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. Bass succeeded Núñez as Speaker on May 13, 2008, as Núñez was scheduled to be termed out of the Assembly on November 30, 2008.


Bass considers Foster Care Reform to be one of her top priorities. She has helped secure $82 million in the 2006-2007 state budget for Foster Care Reform, which is the largest increased allocation in more than a decade and develop new laws to help improve the System. Healthy Families Insurance Coverage, is another bill of Bass's that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed to help prevent children from going without health insurance.

Bass, who is the vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, commissioned a report to research the basic demographic profile of Black Californians including the basic social and economic conditions. The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.

Schwarzenegger has signed 17 of Bass's bills into law focusing on Foster Care reform; Healthy Families Insurance Coverage to help prevent children from going without health insurance; a small business policy that removes red tape by preventing businesses from filling out duplicate certification forms for the city and state; and a measure that expands the Baldwin Hills Conservancy. She has also secured more than $2.3 million to help revitalize the historic Vision Theater in Los Angeles; and more than $600 million for Los Angeles Unified School District.

Assembly Speaker

With the defeat of Proposition 93, Speaker Fabian Núñez was termed out of the Assembly at the end of the 2007-2008 session. As the next-highest ranking Democrat in the Assembly, Bass was well-positioned to take the post. After consolidating the support of a number of Legislators who had previously also been seeking the Speakership, Bass was elected Speaker on February 28, 2008 and then sworn in as Speaker on May 13.

Bass was criticized for the following statement to Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison: "The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: 'You vote for revenue and your career is over.' I don't know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it's about free speech, but it's extremely unfair." In response, KFImarker hosts John and Ken dubs Bass as Karen "Buzz Cut" Bass.

Other service

In addition to her leadership of California African Americans for Obama and her post on Barack Obama's national African American Leadership Council, Bass has served as a California Co-chair of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.


Bass lives in the Baldwin Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles County. She suffered the loss of her only child, daughter Emilia Wright and son-in-law Michael Wright, in a car accident in 2006.



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