Schwarzenegger education nomination appears in jeopardy
All signs point toward confirmation trouble for one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's picks to sit on the state's Board of Education.
In late March, Schwarzenegger tapped four people to fill vacancies on the statewide board, which helps set education policy for California. One of those picks was Jeannie Oropeza, the Schwarzenegger administration's point-person on education budget matters in the Department of Finance.
The Senate Rules Committee has taken the unusual step of setting a confirmation hearing this Wednesday for only Oropeza – and not the rest of her nominated cohorts. The early hearing is also notable because the committee has up to a year to confirm board nominees and senators rarely vote until closer to that deadline, unless they intend to reject a nominee.
Also, the Senate almost always requires Board of Education nominees to endure questioning; Oropeza is listed as "not required to attend." That is a sign, those familiar with the confirmation process say, that the upper house is on a path to quickly spike her nomination.
The governor’s office is standing behind Oropeza. “Jeannie is one of the most knowledgeable people in California on the many education issues … and is eminently qualified to serve the children of this state,” said Aaron McLear, a Schwarzenegger spokesman.
There are growing concerns in the state Senate over what some see as an irreconcilable conflict -- being an independent voice on the education board and being the top education budget analyst in the Schwarzenegger administration.
McLear downplayed conflict fears, noting that “there is ample precedent” of the Senate confirming other Schwarzenegger administration officials, including then-Secretary of Education Alan Bersin in 2005 and then-senior advisor Bonnie Reiss in 2004, to Board of Education posts. “We hope they will confirm this deserving candidate as well,” McLear said.
For now, the office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) isn’t talking. Steinberg spokesman Nathan Barankin would say only, “Our office has relayed our thoughts on Ms. Oropeza’s appointment to the governor’s office very clearly.”
-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento