Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Updated: Assembly reject’s Maldonado, gov renominates his Lt. Gov pick

He has two weeks to go before being sworn-in as the state’s first openly gay Assembly Speaker, but already John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) finds himself and his Democratic brood in the Legislature’s lower house under attack by newspaper editorialists and in a constitutional battle with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The hornet’s nest Perez (pictured at left) and his Democratic colleagues find themselves mired in stems from their rejection Thursday of state Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) as GOP Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick for the vacant lieutenant governor position.

Although the Senate confirmed Maldonado to the post yesterday, the Assembly twice voted on the nomination Thursday and both times it failed to receive the necessary 41 votes needed for confirmation.

The vote brings to an end, for now, former gay Assemblyman John Laird’s  (D-Santa Cruz) plans to run for Maldonado’s Senate seat in a bid to return to the Capitol.

[Update: After this was posted to the blog, the governor withdrew his threats to confirm Maldonado despite the Assembly’s rejection yesterday. Instead, he renominated the Central Coast senator to the post, giving state lawmakers another 90 days to act on the nomination or allow it to automatically move forward.]

The Assembly Democrats’ decision to block Maldonado from being given the state’s mainly nominal second-in-command political position was met by near unanimous derision from the state’s major newspaper editorial boards. The Sacramento Bee labeled its editorial in today’s paper “Assembly heaps shame on itself” and wrote that:

“Legislators had a simple task – to confirm a moderate Republican senator for the largely meaningless job of lieutenant governor.

It should have been a quick vote. Once it was done, they could have moved on to truly important tasks, such as finding budget solutions and crafting a bipartisan approach to creating jobs.

But not this Assembly. 

Partisan and infantile, this Assembly demonstrated Thursday that it was void of leadership even before Speaker Karen Bass passed the torch to incoming Speaker John A. Pérez. Both joined colleagues in abstaining from the first vote on Maldonado.”

Writing on the Orange County Register’s Orange Punch Blog, Brian Calle wrote, “The politics being played in Sacramento on this are juvenile at best and disgraceful at worst.”

While the San Francisco Chronicle called it “another example of the petty partisanship that pervades Sacramento.”

Needless to say, an infuriated Schwarzenegger not only lashed out at Assembly members for their refusal to seat his nominee, he pledged to swear Maldonado in to the post anyway.

“Based on the votes taken today, Senator Abel Maldonado will be sworn in as the next Lieutenant Governor. Senator Maldonado is a terrific leader who has put the interests of Californians ahead of his own and works in a bipartisan manner to improve the lives of all Californians. This is great news for California and it is time now to focus on creating jobs and solving our budget crisis,” stated the governor, whose press office emailed reporters snippets of the scathing editorials.

Because the Assembly vote did not meet the 41 vote majority either for or against the confirmation – it was 37 in favor and 35 opposed, with 8 members not voting – Schwarzenegger’s legal counsel is arguing that the Assembly failed to meet its constitutional duty in acting on the confirmation and that the governor can ignore its decision.

“The California Constitution is clear: if the legislature does not act to refuse to confirm the Governor’s nominee, his appointment moves forward. The Constitution only speaks to ‘refusal’ of confirmation … Based on the Assembly vote, Senator Maldonado will be sworn in as Lieutenant Governor,” stated Legal Secretary Andrea Lynn Hoch.

Perez lashed out at the governor for playing legal tricks with the constitution while at an event in Oakland Thursday night. In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, he said he opposed seating Maldonado as lieutenant governor because it would mean giving approval to “a backroom deal.”

“His nomination reflects the worst of what happens in government,” said Perez. “We shouldn’t reward that kind of behavior by ratifying the worst back room dealing.”

He added that he didn’t believe it was appropriate to give the seat to a Republican when it had been held by a Democrat; John Garamendi resigned from the post after he won election to Congress.

Perez said the governor has the right to nominate another person and could even re-nominate Maldonado if he wanted.

“The governor’s response is to move froward and swear him in anyway regardless of the constitution,” Perez said at the event. “It doesn’t give him that power.”

The matter will likely end up in the courts should the governor swear Maldonado into the office.

As for Perez’s desire to see Laird return to public office, he said it can’t overrule his concerns about the appointment of Maldonado.

“I love John Laird. He is one of the best legislators to have served Californians in generations,” said Perez. “But that can’t trump the underlying issues of how Maldonado gets nominated.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 12, 2010 @ 2:56 pm PST
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