In his winning campaign for governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to "clean house" at the state Capitol. But when he takes office next week, Schwarzenegger won't be able to bring that kind of change to hundreds of boards and commissions dominated by appointees of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
The new governor may be able to quickly reshape some important boards, such as the state Board of Education. But in other areas, he may have to live with Davis appointees for years, making it more difficult to deliver on campaign promises.
Late Tuesday, Davis announced another 187 appointments to various state boards and commissions, some so obscure they haven't met in years.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, will be able to immediately replace about 1,200 of the 2,700 gubernatorial appointees, including many but not all of those Davis named Tuesday. But about 1,500 others -- including members of powerful bodies such as the University of California Board of Regents, which spends billions of dollars in revenue, and the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, which can affect the cost of doing business -- cannot be touched until their fixed terms expire, in some cases years from now. Many appointees also require approval by the state Senate, where Democrats hold 25 of the 40 seats.
Living with a predecessor's appointees has long been a fact of life for new governors. But in the case of Schwarzenegger, supporters say this political reality runs counter to the desire for change symbolized by the recall.
"I think you can make the argument that the public would like a change in direction," said Alan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce.
Schwarzenegger could quickly gain control of some important bodies. For example, a combination of unfilled vacancies, unconfirmed Davis appointees and expired terms would enable the new governor to gain a majority on the 11-member state Board of Education as early as January. And that could help Schwarzenegger move quickly on campaign promises to reduce school district bureaucracies and promote charter schools -- or to weigh in on the debate over the growing gap in test scores between Asian and white students and Latino and African American students.
In other areas, though, Schwarzenegger may have to be patient if he's intent on a dramatic change of direction.
Davis appointees, for example, could control the five-member Agricultural Labor Relations Board -- which oversees labor issues in the $30-billion industry -- until 2005.
It's not a given that Davis holdovers would try to thwart changes proposed by Schwarzenegger. In some cases, they could embrace his goals. For example, a majority of the Public Utilities Commission, the panel that oversees California's electric utilities, supports Schwarzenegger's plan to again deregulate the commercial power market -- a proposal that could be a difficult sell with the Legislature's Democratic majority.
Davis retained scores of appointees made by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, with sometimes surprising results, said Daniel Zingale, Davis' cabinet secretary.
"These are generally people who take their board service seriously and make their decision based on the merits," said Zingale. "It's not been all the Wilson appointees versus all the Davis appointees."
But, as Davis discovered, gaining a majority on a board can sometimes tip the balance in struggles over state policy. Davis once filled a vacancy on the California Pharmacy Board to win a close vote and thwart federal efforts to restrict access to low-cost drugs from Canada.
In tacit recognition of the importance of the boards and commissions, Davis has nominated nearly 100 people for unfilled positions since his recall on Oct. 7. Senate Democrats and Schwarzenegger aides said late last month that they had agreed to reject all but about 17 of these appointments, some of which are aimed at preserving Democratic majorities on the agricultural labor board and regional water quality boards.
But Senate President Pro Tem John L. Burton (D-San Francisco) told The Times last week that the final number of Davis appointments approved by Schwarzenegger could change.
Some Schwarzenegger supporters would like to see the governor-elect reject any last-minute appointees chosen by the outgoing governor.
"It could slow the work of a new administration on the budget, on the business climate and economic growth," said Larry McCarthy of the California Taxpayers Assn.
Schwarzenegger could choose to allow Davis' appointees to serve out their two-year terms before replacing them. The governor can appoint four of the commission's 12 voting members, and Schwarzenegger will be able to make two at-large appointments immediately. He can choose two other members who must also be serving as locally elected officials, after a nominating process that typically takes two to three months. While Schwarzenegger campaigned to protect coastal resources and keep the commission free of "political interference," last year Republican legislators proposed abolishing the commission.
Agricultural Labor Relations Board
Davis has submitted the names of a pair of aides to fill two vacancies on the five-member board, which enforces farm labor laws and oversees union elections for farm workers. The board also must enforce a controversial law that requires growers and farm workers to seek binding mediation when contract talks stall.
If Schwarzenegger doesn't accept the two Davis nominees -- and makes his own appointments -- he could gain control of the body as early as January, when the four-year term of Gloria Barrios expires. Otherwise, he would have to wait until November 2006 to get a majority.
"Obviously our preference would be to give the new governor a chance to put his team in place," said George Gomes, of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Farm worker advocates say they fear lax enforcement of labor laws if strong advocates for agricultural interests take control of the board -- a situation that existed during the Republican administrations of Wilson and George Deukmejian, said Marc Grossman, spokesman for the United Farm Workers union.
Board of Education
Schwarzenegger inherits one vacancy on the board that shapes state K-12 education policy -- and drives sometimes contentious debates between the governor and groups like the teachers union and advocates of school accountability standards.
He can immediately replace three other members who have not been confirmed by the Senate. The four-year terms of three other Davis appointees expire Jan. 15, which would give Schwarzenegger seven of the board's 11 members. These appointments could tip Schwarzenegger's hand on such issues as class-size reduction, student testing, charter schools and English-only instruction.
Gambling Control Commission
Schwarzenegger criticized the Indian gambling industry during his campaign and called for Indian casinos to pay their "fair share" to California. He could quickly have a significant impact on casinos by filling two vacancies on this five-member commission. And he could control a majority by the end of 2004, when the four-year terms of two Davis appointees end.
Public Utilities Commission
Schwarzenegger has advocated ambitious changes in California's energy policy, including a return to a deregulated electricity market for commercial customers. But he probably won't gain a majority on this five-member commission before having to run for reelection in 2006.
That may not be a problem, though, as a majority of the board has supported deregulation for commercial customers while continuing to favor protecting residential consumers with regulated utility rates.
Two seats -- held by Loretta M. Lynch and Carl Wood -- come open on Jan. 1, 2005. The next vacancy won't occur until Jan. 1, 2007, when the term of Geoffrey F. Brown ends.
Water Resources Control Board
This five-member board responsible for protecting water quality and supplies has a significant impact on two competing interests Schwarzenegger has pledged to champion: the environment and industry.
Schwarzenegger could gain a majority of seats on the board in January 2005: The term of one Davis appointee expires Jan. 15, 2004, and two more four-year terms expire on Jan. 15, 2005.
In an effort to protect environmental interests, Democratic lawmakers -- led by Burton -- have made seats on regional water quality boards a priority in their discussions with Republicans over last-minute Davis appointments.
Air Resources Board
The board's 11 members serve "at the pleasure" of the governor, which means Schwarzenegger could replace them all at once or on a gradual basis, which has been the tradition of his predecessors.
Board of Prison Terms
There are two vacancies on the nine-member board, which conducts parole consideration hearings for eligible inmates sentenced to life terms and makes recommendations for pardons and executive clemency.
Schwarzenegger would have a third vacancy if a recent appointee fails to get Senate confirmation. Another term expires in 2004 and two more seats will come open in 2005.
This board showcases a governor's law-and-order philosophy, which, in the case of Davis, was rigid opposition to parole for violent offenders -- a position that rankled liberal legislators. Schwarzenegger could take a more flexible approach with his appointees and avoid a potential confrontation with key lawmakers like Burton.
Schwarzenegger didn't make transportation a prominent campaign theme, but the issue resonates in a sprawling state with a population in perpetual motion.
There's one vacancy on this commission, which has nine voting members. The terms of two Davis appointees expire Feb. 1, 2004. Two other terms expire Feb. 1, 2005, which could give Schwarzenegger a majority on the powerful panel that allocates money for the construction of highways, passenger rail projects and transit improvements.