Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 25, 2014
Jerry Brown appoints former reporter Greg Lucas as state librarian

20130404_HA_LIBRARY_COURTS0314.JPG

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he has appointed Greg Lucas, a former San Francisco Chronicle political reporter who has, most recently, been a political blogger and host of a television interview show, as the state librarian.

Lucas, son of former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, is also the husband of Donna Lucas, who runs a political public relations firm in Sacramento and is a former adviser to Republican governors.

The new librarian, who will earn $142,968 a year, is a Democrat. He left the Chronicle in 2007 after 19 years with the newspaper and has been an editor for the Capitol Weekly newspaper in recent years. He also hosted an informal political discussion program for the California Channel.

In his new job, Lucas will manage the California State Library, which is located near the Capitol. It houses historical books and documents, provides research to the governor and Legislature and acts as a liaison with local libraries.

PHOTO: The renovated Stanley Mosk Library & Courts Building. (The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 21, 2014
Jerry Brown taps aide to lead Employment Development Department

EDDOffice.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has named one of his top aides to head California's Employment Development Department.

Patrick Henning, 41, becomes department director after serving as Brown's chief deputy appointments secretary since 2011. Henning's father, Patrick W. Henning, led the department for several years under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Before joining the Brown administration, Henning lobbied for the California State Council of Laborers and held positions at the state Labor and Workforce Agency (which oversees the employment department) and the Department of Industrial Relations.

Henning's résumé also includes four years in Washington, D.C. as a legislative assistant for former Congressman Vic Fazio and as congressional liaison and special advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Brown's appointment ends a 14-month stretch that Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard served as the department's acting director. During that time the EDD has endured deep federal funding cuts, a computer system snafu and a recent revelation that a former EDD official brushed aside federal assistance that would have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in benefit overpayments.

Henning, a Democrat, will earn $150,112 annually as director.

PHOTO: Binders full of resources at the Employment Development Department office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

April 24, 2013
Mark Vargas fills California Coastal Commission vacancy

COASTAL COMMISSION.jpgAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez has named a green building specialist to the California Coastal Commission.

Mark Vargas's appointment to the 12-member commission begins today. Vargas, an alumnus of the Gov. Gray Davis administration and the secretary of state's office, resigned from the Little Hoover Commission yesterday to take this new post.

"California's coast is one of our most important environmental and economic assets," Pérez said in a statement. "Mr. Vargas will provide an important voice in the Commission's ongoing work to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource."

Vargas replaces former commissioner William Burke, who stepped down last week amid controversy over remarks he made about a proposal to ban beach bonfires and questions about whether it was proper for him to serve on both the Coastal Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Albion River, lower left, flows into the Pacific Ocean in Albion, Calif., in this 2002 file photo. AP Photo/ Eric Risberg, File)

March 5, 2013
Jerry Hill chosen to lead environmental committee

Jerry Hill - 1MB version (1).JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has tapped Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to fill former senator Michael Rubio's place atop a key environmental committee.

Steinberg announced in a statement that he was nominating Hill to chair the Committee on Environmental Quality. It will be an influential post as the Legislature weighs overhauling the California Environmental Quality Act.

"[Hill] is well-positioned to appreciate the complexities of this challenge, and well-versed in the false dichotomy that pitches business against the environment," Steinberg said in a statement. "California has led, and will continue to lead the nation in smart, environmentally sustainable economic growth."

Critics, including Gov. Jerry Brown, have said CEQA is in need of reform, saying cumbersome environmental requirements unnecessarily stall development. Environmental groups have begun mobilizing to protect the law. Rubio was expected to be a leader in the process until his abrupt resignation two weeks ago.

The Senate Rules Committee, which Steinberg chairs, is expected to confirm the appointment on Thursday.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Sen. Jerry Hill's office. .

January 14, 2013
Mark Nechodom, fracking regulator, confirmed in CA Senate

The Senate unanimously confirmed Mark Nechodom's appointment to head the Department of Conservation on Monday, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pronouncing himself satisfied with Nechodom's commitment to managing hydraulic fracturing.

"...Assessing the qualifications as well as the direction of the director of this department, I am satisfied. I think he'll make a fine director," Steinberg said.

Nechodom had faced stiff questioning over his department's role in crafting regulations governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an energy extraction process that involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the ground.

Critics worry that fracking could endanger public health by compromising drinking water supplies, and Steinberg last week sought an assurance from Nechodom that the need to safeguard public safety would trump energy companies' desire to keep secret the identity of the chemicals they use.

January 9, 2013
CA Senate panel approves nominee amid 'fracking' concerns

The Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously today to advance Gov. Jerry Brown's appointment to head the state's Department of Conservation, but not before subjecting Mark Nechodom to pointed questions about regulating the controversial oil drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking, as it is commonly known, has been a lightning rod for environmental advocates who say the method of firing a mix of chemicals, water and sand deep underground is poorly regulated and imperils public health.

Nechodom's predecessor, Derek Chernow, lost his job after pushing back on Brown's request to expedite the permitting process by easing restrictions on underground injection.

November 21, 2012
Jerry Brown appoints aide to appellate justice job

Thumbnail image for 121121 Jim humes.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has named a long-time aide, Jim Humes, as a First District Court of Appeal associate justice.

If confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, the 53-year-old Democrat will fill the vacancy created by retired Justice Patricia Sepulveda and become the first openly gay justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal.

The job pays $204,599 per year. The court is based in Humes' hometown San Francisco.

Humes' résumé includes a 19-year state career, most recently as the Brown administration's executive secretary for legal affairs. As California's attorney general, Brown named Humes his chief deputy in 2007, capping a Justice Department career that started in 1993 and included leadership positions in its civil division and health, education and welfare section.

After earning his law degree the University of Denver, Humes worked for two Colorado-based law firms with stints in the Colorado Attorney General's Office from 1984 to 1986 and again from 1987 to 1993. He also holds a Master of Social Science degree from the University of Colorado and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Illinois State University.

July 6, 2012
Jerry Brown appoints pair to CSU board of trustees

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed two people to the California State University board of trustees, according to the Governor's Office.

Lupe Garcia, 43, from Alameda, has been a lawyer for Gap Inc. since 1999. She is a member of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Garcia is registered to vote without a party preference.

Hugo Morales, 63, of Fresno, has been executive director at Radio Bilingüe Inc. since 1980. He served as an adjunct lecturer of the La Raza Studies Program at Cal State Fresno from 1976 to 1979. Morales earned a law degree from Harvard Law School. Morales is a Democrat.

Both appointees must be confirmed by the Senate. Compensation for CSU board members is $100 per diem.

The CSU board still has five vacancies, including one student position.

April 18, 2012
Steve Glazer clears key committee vote for CSU trustee post

Steve Glazer, a top unpaid adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, cleared a key hurdle today for winning confirmation to the California State University Board of Trustees.

The Senate Rules Committee approved Glazer's appointment by a bipartisan vote of 5-0 at a confirmation hearing this afternoon, signaling smooth sailing for the Brown appointee as he heads to a vote of the full Senate.

Glazer's confirmation hearing had been delayed last week amid questions about support from Senate Republicans, whose votes are needed to hit the two-thirds threshold for approving CSU trustees.

Another Brown appointee to the board, former chairman Herbert Carter, failed to win approval after Republicans signaled they would not support him in a floor vote. But unlike Carter, Glazer had not made a controversial vote for a generous campus president pay package on the same day the board moved to increase tuition.

Glazer told members of the committee today that while he believes the board should do what it can to attract top-tier talent for open posts, "we need everyone in the system to make sacrifices" during a time of budget constraints.

"We have to live within our financial means," he said. "We have to set the right example."

Glazer, who is helping run Brown's tax measure campaign, was appointed to the board by the Democratic governor last year. He faces a May 3 confirmation deadline.

RELATED POSTS:
Senate delays confirmation hearing for Steve Glazer

February 9, 2012
Jody Patel named interim administrative director of state courts

Jody Patel, former executive officer of Sacramento Superior Court, was named interim administrative director today of California's court system.

Patel replaces Ronald G. Overholt, who resigned after serving in the post for about five months, as reported here.

Patel quickly announced that she has no plans to serve permanently. A nationwide search currently is under way to find a permanent administrative director.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye announced that the state Judicial Council had approved Patel's interim appointment.

Patel had been serving as regional administrative director of California's state court system. She was the executive officer of Sacramento Superior Court from 2001 to 2006.

December 28, 2011
Jerry Brown names Debra Bowen's husband to agency post

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Mark Nechodom, a senior adviser to the undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the husband of Secretary of State Debra Bowen, to be director of the California Department of Conservation, Brown's office announced today.

Nechodom, 56, replaces Derek Chernow, the acting director Brown fired last month.

Like Brown, Nechodom is a Democrat. He was previously acting director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Environmental Markets and senior climate policy adviser for the U.S. Forest Service.

The position, which requires Senate confirmation, pays $136,156 a year.

Chernow and Elena Miller, who oversaw oil drilling operations in California, were released amid conflict between the agency and oil producers about permitting, especially in Kern County.

Brown appointed Jason Marshall, 42, to be chief deputy director of the department, a position he has held before. Marshall, a registered independent, is to be paid $109,752 a year.

December 27, 2011
Jerry Brown ramps up California judicial appointments

Gov. Jerry Brown made just one judicial appointment in his first 11 months in office.

This afternoon, he announced 14.

The Democratic governor's appointees included six Democrats to Los Angeles Superior Court and three more to Riverside Superior Court, including Raquel Marquez, a 45-year-old senior deputy district attorney who will be that court's first Latina judge.

Brown also appointed Kathleen O'Leary, 60, to be presiding justice of the third division of the 4th District Court of Appeal, where she has been an associate justice since 2000. O'Leary will be the first female presiding justice of the division, which oversees matters in Orange County. The position requires confirmation by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments and pays $204,599 a year.

Tuolumne County District Attorney Donald Segerstrom Jr., a Democrat, was appointed to a judgeship in Tuolumne Superior Court. Brown also appointed Democrats to judgeships in Ventura and Santa Clara superior courts, and he named a lawyer registered as a decline-to-state voter to a superior court judgeship in Imperial County.

The superior court positions pay $178,789 a year.

The appointments follow Brown's sole other judicial pick this year, in which he appointed Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court.

December 21, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown appoints EDD director, other top posts

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a longtime state manager to direct the California Employment Development Department, which oversees unemployment and disability benefits, he announced today.

Pamela Harris, a 56-year-old Placerville Democrat, served as acting director since 2009 at EDD before Brown officially appointed her to the post. She began working for the state in 1978 as a Department of Finance auditor. She will earn $142,965 annually.

Brown also appointed Jan Owen, a 59-year-old West Sacramento Democrat, as commissioner at the Department of Corporations. Owen worked for the Department of Financial Institutions from 1996 to 2000 before spending the last decade in the private sector at the California Mortgage Bankers Association, Washington Mutual, JP Morgan Chase and Apple. She will receive $142,965 annually.

Other appointees include:

Pete LaBahn, a 56-year-old Laguna Beach Democrat, to the Board of Parole Hearings. A former Riverside County Sheriff's Department official, LaBahn previously served on the parole board from 2009 to 2010. He will earn $111,845.

Herbert "Bert" Mason, a 62-year-old Fresno Democrat, to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. A retired California State University, Fresno, professor, he previously served on the board from 1999 to 2002. He will earn $128,109.

Margaret Tatar, a 53-year-old Santa Ana decline-to-state voter, as chief of the Medi-Cal Managed Care Division at the Department of Health Care Services. She previously served as executive director of public affairs at CalOptima, an Orange County health care plan for low-income residents. She will earn $122,196.

All of the appointments but Tatar's require Senate confirmation.

December 6, 2011
Jerry Brown appoints Chester 'Chet' Widom as state architect

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a Los Angeles architect and former president of the American Institute of Architects to be state architect, the governor's office announced this afternoon.

Chester "Chet" Widom, 71, was a partner at the firm Widom Wein Cohen O'Leary Terasawa from 1964 to 2008 and advised the Los Angeles Community College District on construction projects from 2009 to 2011.

He is a former Los Angeles planning commissioner and was president of the American Institute of Architects in 1995. Widom will oversee the Division of the State Architect, part of the Department of General Services.

Like Brown, Widom is a Democrat.

"I look forward to working closely with my staff at the Division of the State Architect, the Department of General Services, the legislature and other local leaders to make our state even more innovative, sustainable and efficient, " Widom said in a prepared statement. "We face many challenges, but my immediate priority is to carefully scrutinize and streamline the State Architect's operations."

The position requires Senate confirmation and pays $142,964 a year.

November 30, 2011
Jerry Brown appoints two Democrats to CalSTRS board

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that he has appointed a lawyer and a former deputy state treasurer, both Democrats, to the California State Teachers' Retirement System board.

The CalSTRS appointees, Brown's office said in a release, reflect the Democratic governor's commitment to "appointing individuals with greater independence and stronger financial backgrounds to public retirement boards."

Paul Rosenstiel, 61, of San Francisco, is chairman of the California Budget Project, which advocates for low- and middle-class residents. Rosenstiel, a principal at De La Rosa & Co. Investment Bankers, was deputy state treasurer from 2007 to 2009 and policy director for Steve Westly's gubernatorial campaign in 2006.

Michael Lawson, 58, of Los Angeles, was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP from 1995 to 2011 and was a staff attorney at the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. earlier in his career. The Harvard Law School graduate is on the Morehouse College board of trustees.

The CalSTRS positions require Senate confirmation and pay a $100 per diem.

November 15, 2011
Retired Justice Carlos Moreno among Jerry Brown appointees

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno to the California Commission on Access to Justice, a panel that considers ways to improve access to the courts for poor people.

Moreno, 63, retired from the state Supreme Court earlier this year. The Los Angeles Democrat's appointment to the unpaid position was one of 11 appointments Brown's office announced this afternoon.

The other appointments included these:

Caroline Godkin, 38, of Sacramento, appointed deputy director of legislation for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Godkin, a senior fiscal and policy analyst at the Legislative Analyst's Office since 2008, is to be paid $98,280 a year. She is not registered to vote, Brown's office said.

Deborah Hoffman, 45, of Sacramento, appointed assistant secretary of communications at the California Environmental Protection Agency. Hoffman, communications director for Sen. Fran Pavley since 2009, is to be paid $93,408. She is registered decline-to-state.

Sepideh Khosrowjah, 51, of El Cerrito, appointed policy adviser at the Public Utilities Commission. Khosrowjah, chief of staff and an energy adviser to Public Utilities Commissioner Mike Florio since January, is to be paid $113,736 a year. She is a registered Green Party voter.

Beth Willon, 57, of Sacramento, appointed assistant director of external affairs at the Department of Mental Health. Willon was previously a communication specialist at Lucas Public Affairs and was communications director for Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, when he was lieutenant governor. Willon, a Democrat, is to be paid $103,560 a year.

November 3, 2011
Jerry Brown names PG&E official as his senior adviser

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. official as his senior adviser for cabinet and external affairs.

Dana Williamson, who was PG&E's director of public affairs, "will be responsible for working with members of the Governor's cabinet especially on projects requiring cross functional collaboration," Brown's executive secretaries, Nancy McFadden and Jim Humes, said in an email to staff on Tuesday.

Williamson, 39, will also oversee the governor's external affairs operation and the administration's Washington, D.C., office.

Like Brown, Williamson is a Democrat. She is to be paid $147,900 a year, the governor's office said.

McFadden and Humes said in the email that Williamson "brings 15 years of political, policy and communications experience in government, campaigns, non-profits and business."

McFadden also came to the administration from PG&E, where she was a senior vice president.

October 20, 2011
Former lawmaker Hector De La Torre named to state air board

Former Assemblyman Hector De La Torre was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown today to the state air resources board, a part-time job paying $40,699.

De La Torre, a 44-year-old South Gate Democrat, was termed out of the Assembly in 2010 and currently is serving as vice president of the Free Conferencing Corporation, Brown said in a press release.

The Senate must confirm De La Torre's appointment.

A former South Gate councilman, De La Torre was elected to the Assembly in 2004. He served as chairman of the powerful Assembly Rules Committee, but was ousted by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez in 2008 after challenging a "golden handshake" early retirement plan that boosted pensions for 55 employees.

De La Torre ran unsuccessfully for state insurance commissioner last year against an Assembly Democratic colleague, Dave Jones.

His resume also includes stints as a manager for the Los Angeles Superior Court, a manager at Southern California Edison, and chief of staff to the deputy secretary of the United States Department of Labor.

De La Torre is filling the seat previously held by Lydia Kennard, Brown's office said. Kennard was appointed to the board by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004.

Editor's note: This post updated at 11:19 a.m. to include that De La Torre is filling the seat previously held by Kennard.

September 13, 2011
Ex-lawmaker stepping down from six-figure commission post

HA_denise_ducheny.JPGToday will be former Democratic Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny's last day serving on the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

The San Diego Democrat, who was appointed to the board by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg late last year, submitted her letter of resignation to the Senate Rules Committee on Aug. 29. Her resignation is effective at midnight tonight, Chief Administrative Law Judge Alberto Roldan confirmed today.

Ducheny, one of five former legislators receiving salaries of $128,000 a year to serve on the board, is widely expected to run for the vacant 51st Congressional District. Her likely rival for the seat, Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas, also of San Diego, took aim at the commission and its members yesterday, announcing plans to push legislation to dissolve the board. He characterized the commission as a landing spot for "termed out, drunk-driving legislators" in a release, citing Ducheny's 2000 drunken driving arrest and a more recent incident involving former GOP Sen. Roy Ashburn, who recently won Senate confirmation to the board.

Ducheny has not responded to a request for comment on her decision to step down.

RELATED POSTS:
Will Ducheny and Vargas face off for San Diego Congress seat?
Senate appoints former lawmaker to $128k state board job

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, at a May 2009 hearing at the Capitol. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee.

August 26, 2011
Jerry Brown appoints new leaders for corrections oversight, Fish & Game

Gov. Jerry Brown today announced new leaders for the Department of Fish and Game and the inspector general's office overseeing the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Brown named Robert Barton, 49, of Bakersfield, as inspector general. Barton, a Republican, has been the senior assistant inspector general in the office since 2005 and worked as a deputy district attorney for Kern County. He replaces Bruce A. Monfross who had been acting inspector general since the beginning of the year. Barton got his legal training at the University of California, Davis School of Law. He will be paid $142,965.

Brown also named Charlton "Chuck" Bonham, 43, of Albany, director of the California Department of Fish and Game. Bonham, a Democrat, has worked for Trout Unlimited since 2000. He replaces John McCamman, who had served since 2007. Previously, Bonham was an instructor and trip leader for the Nantahala Outdoor Center and served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa. He will be paid $150,112.

Both positions require Senate confirmation.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:12 p.m. to reflect that the Office of Inspector General is charged with oversight of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

August 25, 2011
Attempt to keep Cogdill, Kelley on water panel blocked in Senate

HA_cogdill.JPGGov. 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.

August 25, 2011
Senators fear Jerry Brown appointee is too busy

The Senate Rules Committee gave the green light yesterday to Gov. Jerry Brown's pick to head the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, but not without airing concerns about the appointee's large workload.

Jacob Appelsmith, who worked under Brown in the Attorney General's Office, was appointed to serve as both the department's director and an unpaid senior adviser to the governor earlier this year. His current responsibilities include negotiating gambling compacts between the state and Native American tribes.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who chairs the Rules Committee, questioned how Appelsmith could juggle his various duties in the case of a crisis or when issues arise that require his immediate attention in multiple areas. Steinberg and others also cited Appelsmith's role providing additional support to the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which oversees the the alcohol control unit, as a liaison from the governor's office.

August 24, 2011
Jerry Brown appoints jobs adviser Michael Rossi to rail board

Gov. Jerry Brown this afternoon appointed former bank executive Michael Rossi to the California High-Speed Rail Authority board, one week after Brown made Rossi his top jobs adviser.

The appointment is Brown's second in less than a week to the beleaguered rail authority's board. Brown said last week that construction of a high-speed rail system should go forward and that he was working to "get their act together" in the face of criticism about the project's management and cost.

Rossi, like Brown, is a Democrat. He replaces David Crane, an appointee of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Crane resigned Tuesday.

"As we have discussed over the past month, I have long been of the view that governors should be able to determine the actions of the California High-Speed Rail Authority," Crane wrote. "Accordingly, I wish to inform you that effective immediately, I am resigning my position on the board so that you can appoint someone in my place."

Compensation for the position is $100 per diem. The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

August 10, 2011
Coastal Commission Director Peter Douglas to retire

Coastal Crusader Retirement.jpg Peter Douglas, the longtime director of the California Coastal Commission, announced today that he plans to retire later this year.

Douglas, who made his announcement at today's commission meeting, said he will officially step down in November. His retirement, which will be preceded by a period of sick leave, is related to his battle with lung cancer.

"It was a very difficult decision and it was disease driven," he told the Associated Press. "I'm at peace with it - it's been an incredible 41 years. It's been a meaningful, purposeful legacy."

The full Associated Press story on the announcement is posted at SacBee.com.

PHOTO CREDIT: A Wednesday March 30,2005 file photo showing Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, at in his office in San Francisco. Jeff Chu, Associated Press.

August 3, 2011
Brown appoints six to troubled teacher credentialing panel

Gov. Jerry Brown named six people Tuesday to the troubled Commission on Teacher Credentialing, fulfilling a vow to bring new leadership to a board whose teacher disciplinary practices were roundly criticized by a state audit.

July 26, 2011
Jerry Brown nominates Goodwin Liu to Supreme Court

Gordon Liu.jpgGov. Jerry Brown today nominated University of California, Berkeley, law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court.

Liu, 40, withdrew his nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in May after Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation.

"Professor Liu is an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar and teacher," Brown said in a prepared statement. "He is a nationally-recognized expert on constitutional law and has experience in private practice, government service and in the academic community. I know that he will be an outstanding addition to our state supreme court."

Liu, a Georgia native, joined the Berkeley faculty in 2003. He was an appellate lawyer in Washington D.C. and previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the governor's office said.

He attended public schools in Sacramento before receiving a bachelor's degree in biology from Stanford University, a master's from Oxford University, and a law degree from Yale Law School, the governor's office said. Liu, a Democrat, will replace Carlos Moreno, the only Democrat on the court, who retired earlier this year.

"I'm deeply honored by Governor Brown's nomination and look forward to the opportunity to serve the people of California on our state's highest court," Liu said in a prepared statement.

Brown, a Democrat, made controversial judicial appointments when he was first governor, from 1975 to 1983, including the appointment of Rose Bird chief justice. His nomination of Liu is the first of his third term.

PHOTO CREDIT: File photo of Goodwin Liu from University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

June 22, 2011
Senate appoints Robert Ross to Health Benefit Exchange Board

The Senate Rules Committee today appointed the head of a large, statewide private health foundation to the California Health Benefit Exchange Board.

The California Endowment President and CEO Robert Ross, will join the newly created oversight board, which is tasked with setting up a statewide health insurance marketplace to comply with the federal health care overhaul. Ross, whose term ends in 2016, will receive $100 per diem and travel expenses to attend the board meetings.

Ross fills the final opening on the five-member board, which is also made up of Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley and appointees by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. Schwarzenegger tapped his former chief of staff Susan Kennedy and his Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe, for the board while Pérez picked Paul Ferer, a human resources executive who chairs a nonprofit business coalition dealing with health care issues.

The state health benefits exchange, which must be up and running by 2014 under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was created by legislation signed into law last year. California was the first state to establish such a system in the wake of the federal law's passage.


May 18, 2011
GOP legislators seek answers about department head's pay

Republican lawmakers have made three separate requests searching for answers about a contract that pays the new Department of Social Services director about $52,000 more than normally allowed.

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that William Lightbourne is receiving a $216,611 salary and $343,000 annually in total compensation as part of a three-and-a-half-year contract. He will oversee the realignment of many social services responsibilities to counties and cities. Because he is on loan to the state from Santa Clara County, the Brown Administration avoided a law limiting pay for the position to $165,000. Instead of directly paying Lightbourne, the state is reimbursing Santa Clara County.

Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, asked the Legislature's lawyers to determine the legality of that arrangement.

"There are restrictions on high pay for a reason, to ensure that taxpayers' money is used wisely," he stated in a press release. "The Administration's structuring of this extraordinarily high pay package seems designed expressly to avoid state law."

Sen. Joel Anderson sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg asking for an investigation into whether Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley misled lawmakers by not revealing her knowledge of Lightbourne's contract. The Senate confirmed Dooley in a 31-0 vote. Anderson said his vote may have been different had he known about the salary for Lightbourne.

On Tuesday, Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, sent the governor's office a public records act request, seeking copies of any communication between Brown's and Dooley's office about Lightbourne. He also requested copies of Lightbourne's calendar, reimbursement claims and travel expenses for the two weeks he's been on the job. Jones said he's glad that senators have joined him in pursuing this issue. Brown's office had not responded to the public records request as of Wednesday afternoon.

LaMalfa Leg Council Request
Dooley Pay Spiking Scandal Letter

May 12, 2011
Jerry Brown names Steinberg adviser to administration

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Janelle Beland, a senior adviser to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, undersecretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, Brown's office said today.

Beland, 41, held a variety Capitol posts before working for Steinberg, including chief of staff to Sen. Leland Yee.

Beland is a Democrat, as is Brown. She is to be paid $138,528 a year in her new post, which does not require Senate confirmation.

Brown's other appointments announced today:

Sandra Schubert, 48, was appointed undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Schubert, a Democrat, was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center from 2009 to 2010. She was previously director of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, counsel for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and legislative assistant to Sen. Barbara Boxer. Schubert is to be paid $126,588 a year. Her new position does not require Senate confirmation.

Anthony Eggert, 39, was reappointed to the California Energy Commission. Eggert, a decline-to-state voter, is to be paid $128,109 a year. The post requires Senate confirmation.

• Democrat Nanci Nishimura, 57, and Adam Torres, 47, who is registered decline-to-state, were appointed to the Commission on Judicial Performance. The positions, which don't require Senate confirmation, are unpaid.

May 5, 2011
Jerry Brown names Fred Klass director of DGS

Gov. Jerry Brown has named a top Department of Finance official as director of the state Department of General Services.

Fred Klass has worked at the Department of Finance for more than 20 years, serving as the department's chief operating officer since 2007. Klass has also worked for the Senate Budget Committee, California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office and the Little Hoover Commission.

The Fair Oaks resident, who's registered decline-to-state, replaces acting DGS Director Scott Harvey, who was appointed under the Schwarzenegger administration. Compensation for the position, which requires Senate confirmation, is $159,300 a year.

Other appointments announced by Brown this morning:

• Legislative aide Willie Armstrong was named undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency. The Sacramento Democrat has worked for several Democratic lawmakers, including as chief of staff to the agency's current secretary, Anna Caballero, during her time in the Assembly. Armstrong is currently chief of staff for Assemblywoman Nora Campos D-San Jose. His new job pays $120,000 a year and does not require Senate confirmation.

• West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, State Board of Education President Michael Krist and Dianne Harrison, president of California State University, Monterey Bay, were named to unpaid posts on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. All three are Democrats.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Willie Amstrong works for Norma Torres. He works for Nora Campos.

April 29, 2011
GOP retired major general picked to head Veterans Affairs

Gov. Jerry Brown today named a Republican retired major general with more than 35 years of service with the California National Guard as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Retired Maj. Gen. Peter James Gravett became the first African American division commander in the history of the U.S. National Guard when he was promoted to the post in 1999. His assignments included serving in a Partnership for Peace program in Kiev, Ukraine.

Gravett, 69, most recently served as state chairman for the Southern California Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee and principal business associate at Traiden Global Solutions.

The Rolling Hills Estates Republican, who retired in 2002, replaces acting Secretary Rocky J. Chavez, an appointee from the Schwarzenegger administration.

The position, which comes with a salary of $175,000 a year, requires Senate confirmation.

April 28, 2011
Fran Florez appointed to state Medical Assistance Commission

BB FLOREZ MOM 039.JPGThe Senate Rules Committee has appointed the mother of former Sen. Dean Florez to a paid post on the California Medical Assistance Commission.

Fran Florez, a former Shafter councilwoman and San Joaquin Hospital community board member, lost a November bid for the 30th Assembly District to Republican David Valadao.

The Shafter Democrat, who also ran for the Assembly in 2008, has served on the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Her term on the board, which coordinates health care services for Medi-Cal recipients, comes with an annual salary of $56,095 and ends Jan. 1, 2013.

Senate Rules also announced that it appointed Nora E. Vargas, a former aide to former Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, to the Osteopathic Medical Board of California. Vargas is the vice president of community engagement for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. The Chula Vista Democrat formerly served on the Dental Board of California and the Physician Assistant Committee. She was director of Hahn's Office of Immigrant Affairs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Then Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and his mom, then Assembly candidate Fran Florez, leave the Senate chambers together, Monday Oct. 22, 2007. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:30 p.m. to add Florez's salary.

April 5, 2011
Lauren Hammond appointed to California gambling panel

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed former Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond to a six-figure job on the state Gambling Control Commission.

Hammond, a Democrat who served on the city council from 1997 until last year, will earn $128,109 a year on the commission, which regulates tribal casinos, card rooms and remote caller bingo operations.

Hammond, 55, worked as a consultant in the state Senate from 1981 to 2004. The new position requires confirmation by the Senate.

February 10, 2011
Chief justice gives clues on Brown's state Supreme Court pick

With just a few weeks left until state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno steps down, many are wondering who will emerge as the first court appointee of Gov. Jerry Brown's current term.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye relayed a conversation on the subject to the San Francisco Chronicle, saying Brown has "suggested his appointee would be relatively young, quite possibly a minority and not necessarily a current judge."

"He's interested in ethnic diversity, he's looking at academic professor types and also for someone young who will stay awhile," Cantil-Sakauye said Wednesday in recounting the discussion (with Brown).

She said the governor didn't disclose when he would be nominating a successor to Justice Carlos Moreno, who is leaving the bench at the end of this month. But since it takes 90 days for a State Bar commission to review court candidates and report back to Brown, Cantil-Sakauye said she expects to be naming a series of appellate justices to fill Moreno's seat on a rotating basis for at least the next few months.

Capitol Alert readers picked Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund President Thomas Saenz for the post in a recent Supreme Court short list survey.

Read the full San Francisco Chronicle blog post here.

January 24, 2011
Jerry Brown names appointments, legislative affairs officials

In two high-profile appointments, Gov. Jerry Brown today appointed Mona Pasquil, a longtime Democratic operative, to be his appointments secretary, and Gareth Elliott, state Sen. Alex Padilla's policy director, to be his legislative affairs secretary.

Brown also made his first appointments of non-Democrats, retaining H.D. Palmer, 51, a Republican, to be the Department of Finance's deputy director for external affairs, and appointing two decline-to-state voters: Michael Cohen to be chief deputy director for budget in the Department of Finance and Sue Johnsrud to be Brown's director of operations.

Johnsrud, 55, was chief administrative officer of the Department of Justice, where Brown was state attorney general.

Pasquil, 48, was chief of staff to Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and was acting lieutenant governor upon Garamendi's election to Congress. Before that, she was political director for Gov. Gray Davis' gubernatorial campaign. She is to be paid $147,900.

Elliott, 40, is to be paid the same amount. Like Brown, he also is a Democrat.

Brown also appointed Nettie Sabelhaus, 63, to be a special adviser to the governor on appointments. Sabelhaus has been appointments director for the California Senate Rules Committee since 1999. The Democrat is to be paid $147,900 a year.

Pedro Reyes, 49, of Davis, was appointed chief deputy director for policy in the Department of Finance. He has been deputy policy director in the Speaker of the Assembly's Office since 2000. Reyes, a Democrat, is to be paid $152,112.

January 19, 2011
Damon Dunn is named fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution

Damon Dunn Stanford 1997.JPGFormer GOP down-ticket candidate Damon Dunn has been named visiting fellow at his alma mater Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Dunn, who played football for Stanford, will serve as a economic and public policy fellow there through the 2012 academic year, according to a release.

"I look forward to working with preeminent leaders in public policy as we help the Golden State regain some of its luster," he said in a statement.

Dunn, who lost a November bid to unseat Democrat Debra Bowen, is a businessman and former professional football player. The first-time candidate was included on Time magazine's "40 under 40" list of political up-and-comers last fall.

PHOTO CREDIT: In this file photo, Stanford wide receiver Damon Dunn is lifted by teammates after Stanford beat the University of California 21-20 in the 100th Big Game, Saturday, Nov. 22, 1997 at Stanford, Calif., Stadium. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

January 13, 2011
School board elects president, delays items

KirstMichael1 original.jpgA new state board of education, gathering Wednesday for its first meeting of the year, chose Michael Kirst as board president and delayed taking action on two controversial issues.

Kirst is a Stanford education professor who has a long relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown. He served on the board during Brown's first term as governor (including a stint as president), consulted on education matters when he was the mayor of Oakland and advised Brown throughout his most recent gubernatorial campaign.

He is one of seven new members Brown appointed last week to the board that sets policy for California's public schools.

The board was supposed to tackle two hot-button issues in its first meeting, which runs through today: affirming the ability of the Aspire charter school chain to operate statewide, and regulations for a controversial law known as the "parent trigger" that made up part of the Race to the Top package of bills.

Both items will reveal the political leanings of the new board on education reform. The prior board, appointed by Schwarzenegger, favored charter schools and policies that give parents more choice about their children's education. But teachers' unions generally oppose such changes, and were heavy contributors to Brown's campaign.

The items were postponed to give board members more time to consider the issues, said Regina Wilson, spokeswoman for the state board of education.

Photo: Michael Kirst. Courtesy of Stanford University School of Education, 2010

January 12, 2011
Brown names Karen Ross as food and agriculture secretary

Karenross.jpgGov. Jerry Brown today announced the appointment of Karen Ross as secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Ross, who most recently worked as chief of staff to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is the former president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. She has also worked for the Agricultural Council of California and served on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

The 59-year-old Democrat's experience in state agriculture industry won her support from Central Valley farmers.

The position, which requires Senate confirmation, pays $172,524.

PHOTO CREDIT: AP file photo of Karen Ross, 2010.

January 6, 2011
Ex-Assemblyman Torrico appointed to unemployment board

Former Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, a Democrat from Newark, joins other ex-legislators on the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board with an appointment by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, the speaker's office said today.

Torrico, the former Democratic majority leader in the Assembly, is a labor law attorney who has represented employees and taught employment law. His background in labor law was a prime reason for appointing him on Dec. 22 to the four-year job, which has a salary of $128,109 a year, said Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Pérez.

Two other freshly termed-out legislators are also new to the board, which is now comprised completely of six former lawmakers. A seventh position, which Gov. Jerry Brown has the authority to fill, is vacant. The board usually meets once a month. Its first meeting with new members is next Tuesday.

Dennis Hollingsworth, who just finished up as a Republican senator from Murrieta and GOP minority leader, was appointed to the board at the end of December by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before he left office. Schwarzenegger also appointed termed-out former Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, in early December used his authority to appoint termed-out former Sen. Denise Ducheny, a San Diego Democrat who was chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee and is also an attorney.

By statute, the board must include two attorneys.

Two other termed-out lawmakers also on the board were also appointed by Schwarzenegger. Former Assemblyman George Plescia, a Republican from La Jolla and a former GOP minority leader, joined the board in January 2009. Bonnie Garcia, a former Republican assemblywoman from Cathedral City , also joined in January 2009 after her Assembly term ended.

January 5, 2011
Jerry Brown announces press office staff

The former communications director for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gil Duran, has been appointed press secretary for Gov. Jerry Brown, according to a news release.

Duran was previously press secretary to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Brown, when he was mayor of Oakland.

Brown also appointed two deputy press secretaries - Evan Westrup, who was deputy press secretary for Brown's campaign, and Elizabeth Ashford, who was chief deputy communications director for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ashford most recently worked in the United Kingdom, for the communications firm the Brunswick Group and for the Office of the Chairman of the Conservative Party.

All three appointees are Democrats. The Brown campaign's main spokesman, Sterling Clifford, is not joining the administration.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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