Taking advantage of new authority to shape the California Air Resources Board, the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday named lobbyist and former Shafter Democratic lawmaker Dean Florez to serve the powerful regulator.
The appointment grew out of a debate over the limits of the ARB’s power and the Legislature’s oversight of the climate enforcer. Last year, legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown abandoned a measure that would have halved California’s petroleum use, with the ARB managing the reduction.
Republicans and business-friendly Democrats balked, prodded by an oil industry campaign warning the law would vastly expand ARB’s powers and result in measures like gas rationing. Resistant legislators worried about ceding authority to an unelected board. Responding to that criticism, Brown signed legislation allowing the Senate and the Assembly to each appoint one ARB member.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles made Florez his pick. He can serve indefinitely, at the Legislature’s discretion, and will make $41,889 a year. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, tabbed Environmental Health Coalition Executive Director Diane Takvorian earlier this month.
Florez, a Democrat, represented southern San Joaquin Valley communities in the Assembly and then the Senate from 1998 to 2010 and now is a registered lobbyist. During the height of last year’s debate over climate legislation, he penned an op-ed urging wavering Democrats to ignore “doomsday scenarios” articulated by “Big Oil.”
“My first, second and third priorities will be to represent those who are hardest hit by pollution and who need us to do more,” Florez said in a statement responding to his appointment.