Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to remove two GOP appointees to the California Water Commission sparked a partisan dispute under the dome this morning as Senate Republicans sought to approve the appointees despite Brown's plans to replace them.
Brown said last week that he plans to replace former Republican Sen. Dave Cogdill and former Sonoma County Water Agency Director Paul Kelley on the nine-member panel, but has yet to formally withdraw either appointment, both of which were made by former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Instead, Brown asked Democratic leaders to let the appointments lapse at year's end by not approving them by their confirmation deadline.
Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton today introduced a motion to bypass the Senate Rules Committee, which has not yet considered the nominations, and immediately hold a floor vote on confirming both members.
"I think it sends a bad signal with regards to wanting to come up with true bipartisanship solutions to some of California's most critical problems," Dutton said of Brown's decision to replace the GOP appointees.
The Republicans framed their move around keeping Cogdill, a former GOP Senate leader, on the board. Cogdill, who lost his leadership post after agreeing to a budget package that included tax increases, was instrumental in crafting the 2009 deal to put an $11 billion water bond on a future ballot and gave the panel renewed responsibilities to shape water infrastructure.
"This individual, Senator Cogdill, spent years in the Legislature working on water issues. There is no one in my opinion that is more qualified to deal with the complex issues involving water than Senator Cogdill," Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said on the floor.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he was sympathetic to the opposition to removing Cogdill from the panel, saying he believes his former colleague "put his heart and soul into the water deal that we passed in 2009 and that he would be an outstanding member of the water commission."
But he said forcing a confirmation hearing "is a bit of a Catch 22" because it would likely result in Cogdill's name being immediately withdrawn by the governor. Majority Democrats employed a procedural action to block Dutton's proposed confirmation vote, voting to table the motion.
"We could convene a Rules Committee (hearing), I could call it right now. ... By the time that I call it and walk to the room and bang down the gavel there will be a letter from the administration downstairs withdrawing Mr. Cogdill's name. So there is not a way to accomplish the end here," the Sacramento Democrat said. "I will consider Dave Cogdill for my own appointments to something like this board or commission or something related, but it is a new governor and a new administration, and this is the way it is."
PHOTO CREDIT: Senator Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto speaks at a press conference that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, held at his office on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2009, to announce the passage of water bills by the Senate and Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee.