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Ethics probe in Capitol after Duvall’s resignation

The sex scandal that forced the resignation of Orange County Assemblyman Mike Duvall intensified in the Capitol, where the Assembly speaker ordered a full-bore ethics investigation and staffers launched a bill-by-bill examination of his actions on the powerful Utilities and Commerce committee, where he served as vice chairman.

Duvall, 54, a Brea Republican, was inadvertently overheard before a July 8 hearing of the Assembly Appropriations Committee describing in lurid detail his sexual relationship with two women. One of the women is a lobbyist for Sempra, a major energy company with issues before the Legislature. Duvall and the lobbyist are both married.

His comments went unreported for weeks, but were disclosed by reports in the OC Weekly and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. Both reports included comment from a video recording of Duvall, which were made before the Appropriations  Committee hearing got under way.

The face of the person to whom Duvall was speaking, Assemblyman Jeff Miller, a fellow Orange County Republican, was blurred out in the KCAL report. Miller’s office, however, confirmed that he was the person to whom Duvall was speaking.

It was not clear how Duvall’s comments came to the attention of reporters.

Duvall resigned Wednesday, shortly after being stripped of all his GOP leadership posts in the Assembly.

“I am deeply saddened that my inappropriate comments have become a major distraction for my colleagues in the Assembly, who are working hard on the very serious problems facing our state. I have come to the conclusion that it would not be fair to my family, my constituents or to my friends on both sides of the aisle to remain in office. Therefore, I have decided to resign my office, effective immediately, so that the Assembly can get back to work,” Duvall said in a statement released by his office.

Meanwhile, Sempra’s most recent lobbying report came under examination. It shows the company was active on about 150 different bills.

One of the company’s top priorities was with the legislation involving attempts to increase the level of energy used in the state that is generated by wind, solar and other renewable energy. Pending legislation seeks to change the rules around the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, for California utilities.

There are six RPS bills in the current session, five of which have gone to votes in front of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, where Duvall was vice-chair until being removed on Wednesday after the story of his indiscretion.

While the company doesn’t have an official position listed on most of these bills, all are listed among the bills they lobbied on in their most recent Secretary of State report.

Those bills included AB 915 by Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Chico, which would replace percentage gains in RPS with a requirement that utilities raise their total amount of renewable energy by at least one percentage point a year. Duvall voted yes in Committee on April 13, though the bill failed. Two weeks later, he also voted yes on another industry-supported bill, AB 1348 by Republican minority leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, which would give utilities more leeway in power generation.

Sempra did not list an official position on AB 1106 by Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which would increase fees on private utilities. But an industry group representing utilities, the California Association of Small and Multi-jurisdictional Utilities (CASMU), did oppose it, while the Sierra Club supported the bill. Duvall voted no on April 20.

The company did take an official oppose position on AB 64 by Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, D-Burbank, which would raise the RPS requirement to 33 percent by 2020. Current rules only call for a 20 percent RPS by that time. Duvall voted no, along with all of his Republican colleagues, on April 1.

He did appear to split with Sempra on one key bill, SB 14 by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. This was similar to the Krekorian bill, but with provisions that Sempra supports they say would help maintain flexibility as companies sought to meet increased RPS requirements. Sempra sent a support letter in January. They offered a more enthusiastic one on Tuesday, after Simitian took amendments last week making some technical changes and exempting facilities located outside the United States. Duvall voted no on SB 14 when it came before the committee on July 6.

Another bill Sempra was reportedly quite interested in was SB 695 by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, which would allow utilities to raise rates, among other changes. Duvall was part of a unanimous yes vote on June 29. On April 27, he voted in committee for a similar bill by the chair, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Los Angeles.

In each case, Duvall voted the way his record would indicate he would have anyway, supporting the standard Republican position. But, it must also be noted, he supported Sempra’s position in most cases.

 


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