Villaraigosa Named to Medical Panel

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

State Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) on Friday appointed his former colleague Antonio Villaraigosa to a seat on the California Medical Assistance Commission.

The state commission position pays $99,000 a year, but the former mayoral candidate was appointed to a term that expires at the end of the year. Villaraigosa replaces former Sonoma Assemblywoman Valerie Brown, who is leaving the post and taking a job on Hertzberg's staff.

The appointment signals an apparent thaw in the relationship between Villaraigosa and Hertzberg, who were once good friends but had a falling-out during the transition from Villaraigosa's term as Assembly speaker to Hertzberg's tenure.

Asked Friday if the appointment meant they had settled their disputes, Hertzberg said: "It's all water under the bridge."

In fact, Hertzberg said he offered Villaraigosa the well-paying state commission post in January. Instead, Villaraigosa took a job as a consultant for the California Teachers Assn.

Hertzberg said he called Villaraigosa after the Los Angeles mayoral race and offered him the same appointment again. This time his former colleague accepted.

"I called him the day after the election and said, 'Look, I offered it to you before, and I'm going to offer it to you again,' " Hertzberg said. "He is a former speaker of this house. He has a lot to offer California."

The seven-member state medical commission meets twice a month and oversees health care services for Medi-Cal recipients, reports to the state Legislature on the cost of service and manages statistical information related to state health resources.

Villaraigosa could not be reached for comment.

The appointment is the first job Villaraigosa has taken since losing the mayor's race June 5 to James K. Hahn. After his defeat, some political analysts speculated that he might run against his friend Assemblyman Gil Cedillo to fill state Sen. Richard Polanco's seat. Others have suggested that he might make a bid for a statewide office or go into the private sector.

Last fall, Villaraigosa transferred $1.3 million in campaign funds he collected as Assembly speaker to an account created for a state Senate campaign. He said earlier in the year that he transferred the money to keep his options open. He has not said what he plans to do.

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