California Senate’s Rubberstamp Oversight

A demolishing developer. An inattentive fracking regulator. A lenient toxic director. 

The California Senate has the power to confirm certain governor appointees, and it also has the power to reject them. It rarely does the latter, and never if both branches are ruled by the same party, and recent events show how this collegial culture has led to unfortunate choices. 

Appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012, Matthew Jacobs is Chairman of the Board for the California Housing Finance Agency, an agency meant to help increase affordable housing. He is also a Los Angeles developer who buys rent-controlled apartments, evicts tenants and then turns the properties into luxury condos. His appointment sailed through without comment. He announced this week his departure from CHFA after his day job became politically radioactive.  

Mark Nechodom was appointed to the Department of Conservation with then-Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg saying that he was satisfied with Nechodom's commitment to manage hydraulic fracturing. This was after the department’s predecessor was fired for being too hard on the oil industry. In June, Nechodom resigned after an outcry over allowing oil producers to drill thousands of oilfield wastewater disposal wells into federally protected aquifers.

This week, despite serious concerns that Barbara Lee was dragging her feet in reforming an embattled agency, the Senate reappointed her as head of the Department of Toxic Substances Control. She had replaced Debbie Raphael who resigned. When Raphael left, the current Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León said, "after repeated failures of the Department to protect the public's health and safety, it's time for a major restructuring of DTSC." 

A few appointees have been withdrawn before confirmation. Some have been rejected when two different parties ruled the Senate and governorship. 

But the last reported rejection of an appointee while the same party ruled both was in 1976. After his appointee was rejected, Jerry Brown reappointed him for another year. 

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