News

Term-limits issue dropped for L.A. air board chairman

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee appears to have dropped
attempts to remove term limits on the chairman of the South Coast Air
Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, had
proposed the change in two separate pieces of legislation authored by
Democratic Assembly members, one by Simon Salinas of Salinas and the other
by Joe Baca of San Bernardino, but he dropped the plan in the final week of
the 2005-06 legislative session.

“It’s out,” said lobbyist and former senator Richard Polanco, who lobbied
the issue on behalf of the SCAQMD.

Murray, who is termed out this year, is a friend and political ally of
SCAQMD chairman Bill Burke, the husband of Los Angeles County Supervisor
Yvonne Burke. Burke, a significant political player in the Los Angeles area
and the founder of the L.A. Marathon, also is a member of the California
Coastal Commission.

The move to extend Burke’s tenure on the commission was originally part of a
measure introduced by the termed-out Salinas, but it was taken out of that
bill after a story on the controversial extension appeared in Capitol Weekly
two weeks ago.

But the favor for Burke found its way back into legislation the next day,
and the unwitting author this time was Baca, who also is termed out. The
measure was inserted into Baca’s AB 1457 without Baca’s knowledge.

That bill, which would give the city of San Bernardino the right to develop
land deeded to the city by the state, is at the top of Baca’s priority list
this year. The bill, with the Burke amendments rewritten, awaited action
Wednesday in the Senate.

Without the change in the law, Burke would be forced to give up the
chairmanship this year.

Earlier this week, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management
District (SMAQMD) hailed the removal of the Burke provision from Salinas’
bill. That’s because the Salinas bill also contained unrelated provisions
relating to the SMAQMD.

The bill “has been returned to the clean, non-controversial form” that had
been approved earlier in the Assembly, said Larry Greene, the district’s
air-pollution-control officer. Greene’s note, in the form of a “Floor Alert”
to the Senate and Assembly, urged support for the newly amended bill.

On August 17, Capitol Weekly reported that the bill had been changed in the
Senate to remove the term limits on the Los Angeles air-quality-board
chairperson, effective January 1, 2007.

Under current law, the chairperson of the SCAQMD can serve a maximum of two
consecutive two-year terms. Burke has served as chairman several times since
he was appointed to the board in 1993–from August 1997 to December 1999,
from January 2000 to December 2001, and from January through December in
2003. He was elected chairman in January 2004, a term that ends this year.

Burke previously served on the Air Resources Board. He withdrew from
consideration for an appointment to another powerful panel, the commission
that governs the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), after a
legal opinion raised questions about potential conflicts stemming from his
sitting on both the DWP and the SCAQMD board at the same time.


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