Maldonado’s Leverage on Lieutenant Governor Nomination
Adding a major political wrinkle to action on the state’s fiscal mess, the deadline by which the Legislature must act on Sen. Abel Maldonado’s nomination for lieutenant governor is February 22 – the same day lawmakers must act on at least part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal.
Maldonado, a San Luis Obispo Republican, was named by the GOP governor on November 24 to fill the remaining term of Democrat John Garamendi, who was elected to Congress.
Article V, Section 5 of the state constitution says Maldonado can take office if he is approved by a majority of the Senate and the Assembly. If neither house acts within 90 days, he also would take office.
When he presented his budget on January 8, Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency under the terms of Proposition 58, the 2004 ballot measure aimed at improving the state’s budget practices.
Declaration of a fiscal emergency triggers a special session – the eighth of this two-year legislative session – and requires action by the Legislature within 45 days.
“If the Legislature fails to pass and send to the governor a bill or bills to address the fiscal emergency by the 45th day following the issuance of the proclamation, the Legislature may not act on any other bill, nor may the Legislature adjourn for a joint recess, until that bill or those bills have been passed and sent to the governor,” Proposition 58 reads.
Maldonado was the 27th vote – the two-thirds majority needed – to pass the budget last February for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
In exchange, Maldonado demanded the Legislature place a measure on the ballot reinstating open primaries in California. It appears on the June ballot. If approved it takes effect in 2012.
Maldonado also insisted a proposed 12-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax be nixed and that a second measure be placed on the ballot to forbid lawmakers from getting a pay raise when there’s a budget deficit.
Maldonado’s support for whatever fiscal measures lawmakers act on before February 22 will be key, a fact both he and legislative leaders are well aware of.
So far, neither the Assembly nor the Senate has shown any signs of action on Maldonado’s nomination.
Since one house voting Maldonado down is sufficient to reject his nomination, traditional legislative courtesy would have the Assembly do so, avoiding senators from having to vote against their colleague.
State Democratic Party Chair John Burton, the former leader of the Senate, told the San Francisco Chronicle in December Maldonado would be voted down.
“Why should they give the job to a Republican — when there hasn’t been a Lt. Gov. who’s been a Republican since Mike Curb in 1978,” Burton said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, who cajoled Maldonado into the budget vote that ended the stalemate, said in a statement after Maldonado’s nomination, he had “grave doubts” about his confirmation.
Steinberg cited the $2 million expense of calling a special election to fill Maldonado’s Senate seat. If the Legislature acts by February 16 on the nomination the election could be consolidated with the June primary, obviating the need for a special.
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