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Last-minute deal for Fresno developer helps stitch together final budget deal

October 8, 2010 |  3:08 pm

As the sun rose Friday on the second day of budget deliberations in the Capitol -- a budget that was already 100 days overdue -- the Senate quickly took up the confirmation of a California transportation commissioner, Darius Assemi.

Assemi, a Fresno homebuilder, had served on the commission as an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but had not received Senate confirmation. When it became clear the Senate had no intention of confirming Assemi last month, his appointment was withdrawn by Schwarzenegger.

Assemi's company, Granville Homes, has been a major donor of campaign contributions -- mostly to Republican candidates and the Republican Party. Since 2005, Granville has spent more than $491,000 on campaign contributions -- most of it to Republican candidates and ballot measures.

Schwarzenegger has been a major recipient of Granville's largess. The company gave the maximum allowed to Schwarzenegger's reelection effort, and an additional $10,000 to Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team.

In the early morning hours Friday, it appeared Assemi's political future had brought the budget talks to a halt. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the budget proceedings were "primed" to proceed after Assemi was confirmed.

Amid the last-minute scrambling and arm-twisting that marked the long delays Thursday night and early Friday morning, Assemi's confirmation was discussed and eventually rushed through on the Senate floor.

Steinberg implied that Fresno Republican Jeff Denham would not vote for one of the budget bills, SB 851, unless Assemi was confirmed. Assemi's confirmation was a priority for Schwarzenegger and for Denham, who is running for Congress.

Denham spoke on Assemi's behalf during his brief confirmation hearing on the Senate floor early Friday morning. "I rise in support," Denham said, calling Assemi a "strong advocate for the Central Valley."

Denham later changed his vote from no to yes on a key piece of the budget, SB 851. "This is our nominee that we had pulled at one point. The Senate indicated they were willing to confirm him and so we renominated him and they passed him out. We're happy about that."

"We've always believed that Darius was highly qualified for this position,"said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.

-- Anthony York and Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento