After Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a five-bill package in November 2009 regarding construction of the California Delta, Rep. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) stood up in opposition. Following this decision, Wolk lost five of the seven committee positions she once managed.
There is some debate over whether or not her opinion was related to the rearrangement of committee membership. She was also appointed to another committee, but according to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s representatives, her loss of positions was not due to her opinion on the Delta.
“When I learned that the Conference Committee intended to alter key provisions of the bill, as well as other pieces of the water package, it was clear I could no longer carry this legislation,” Wolk said in a press release. “What began as a sincere effort to create a state and local partnership to restore the Delta and sustain the Delta communities and economy is becoming, day by day, amendment by amendment, a tool to assist water exporters who are primarily responsible for the Delta’s decline.”
After learning SB 458 created a Delta Conservancy that would contain stipulations she disagreed with, Wolk retracted her support. The senator disagreed in the bill’s call for a peripheral canal and told the Stockton Record that Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg’s role in the legislation is “disturbing” and that he threw Northern California Democrats “under the bus.”
In March 2009 Steinberg appointed Wolk as chair to the new committee aimed to maintain the sustainability and preservation of the Delta. Wolk was also assigned to serve on the state commission that allocated land use and resource control in the Delta.
However, on Jan. 8 Steinberg announced they would be cutting down on the membership of the Senate’s standing committees. After broadcasting the list of position changes, Wolk maintained the chairmanship of the Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Natural Resources and Water Committee. Though she picked up a new seat on the Food and Agriculture Committee, she lost her position on Appropriations, Budget and Fiscal Review, Health, Transportation and Housing and Local Government.
Alicia Trost, Steinberg’s spokeswoman said the modifications made in Wolk’s committee positions had nothing to do with her statements regarding the Delta bills.
“It’s consistent with our overall goal of reducing workload so members can focus on specific issue areas,” Trost said.
Last fall the governor signed his approval involving an $11.1 billion bond that paid for construction of a minor canal, more dams and the demolition of the Delta. Steinberg also praised the bills, claiming they would improve the surrounding environment while reestablishing the existing ecosystem and making California’s water supply more stable.
The transition in committee membership tried to create more efficiency in the legislative procedures and allow representatives to focus on their specific committee work, according to Steinberg’s office.
“Senators have a tremendous amount of talent and expertise,” Steinberg said in a press release. “The new committee structure will allow them to dedicate even more of their time and energy to the most pressing issues confronting California and provide greater oversight of state government operations.”
SAMANTHA BOSIO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction – January 25, 2010: The article incorrectly stated the governor signed his approval last fall involving an $11,000,000 bond to pay for construction of a minor canal, more dams and the demolition of the Delta. The amount of the bond was actually $11.1 billion.