Legal battle brews over Maldonado's confirmation vote

Chris Rizo Feb. 12, 2010, 3:43am

Abel Maldonado (R)

Pedro Nava (D)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-The stage is set for what could turn into a major legal battle between California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Assembly.

You see, the Republican governor and the Democratic-led Assembly are at loggerheads over whether the Assembly approved the governor's nomination of state Sen. Abel Maldonado, 42, as lieutenant governor.

The state Assembly says it has rejected Maldonado's nomination, while Schwarzenegger insists that they didn't really -- at least officially.

If the state Assembly is correct it would mark a major victory for state Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who is running for state attorney general. The Santa Barbara Democrat has crusaded for months against the nomination, approved Thursday by the state Senate.

Nava has issued statements, held press conferences, wrote op-eds -- all against allowing Maldonado, a moderate Republican, to serve as the state's No. 2, a post that comes with seats on the governing boards of the University of California system and California State University system and a place on the State Lands Commission, in addition to serving as president of the state Senate, where he casts the deciding vote in case of a tie.

Nava said rather than appoint a lieutenant governor the post should remain vacant until January, after voters decide who should take the $159,134 a year post.

As for the governor's threats to sue over the nomination, Nava said that is poppycock, saying state officials have a $20 billion budget morass to solve rather than play legal games.

"The Assembly rejected the Gov's handpicked partisan selection for Lt. Gov. -- now he says he wants to go to court. Enough Already-lets get to work to protect people in wheelchairs and adult day care. Time to focus on real problems-not your tantrums," Nava wrote on his Facebook page early Friday morning.

Squabbling over Maldonado's confirmation came after the state Assembly voted 37-35 to confirm the Republican senator from Santa Maria.

For their part, Assembly officials, including Chief Assembly Clerk Dotson Wilson, said Maldonado had to get 41 votes -- a majority of the 80-member Assembly -- to be confirmed in the lower chamber.

Disagreeing was the governor's top legal advisor, Andrea Lynn Hoch, who said state law requires a majority of votes "against" Maldonado in order for him to be rejected.

"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," Hoch said.

California law says that when a statewide constitutional office is vacated, the governor nominates a replacement. Within 90 days, state lawmakers must vote to confirm or reject the appointment. In the event that the Legislature does nothing, the nominee automatically takes office.

Schwarzenegger said he will officially name Maldonado as lieutenant governor soon.

"Based on the votes taken today, Senator Abel Maldonado will be sworn in as the next lieutenant governor," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Complicating matters for Maldonado politically was that he intends to run for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary in June, and that his appointment would be to fill out the 10 months remaining on the term of a Democrat, John Garamendi, who was elected to Congress.

Then there is his voting record, which Democrats like Nava and even some Republicans have criticized.

Nava has said Maldonado has a record of voting against working-class Californians, while Republicans are still fuming over his support for tax increases to help the state make ends meet amid its catastrophic revenue declines.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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