By Chris Micheli
The Governor has the authority to appoint several thousand individuals to serve in his or her Administration during his or her four-year term. Some of these positions require the “advice and consent” of the State Senate. There are two aspects to these types of gubernatorial appointees: securing the appointment from the Governor; and, getting the appointee confirmed by the State Senate.
The likely more difficult aspect of gubernatorial appointments is not confirmation, but securing an appointment in the first place. While there are many positions across California state government, the Governor usually makes only a handful of appointments that are either controversial or that are to such an important post that they generate interest.
A lobbyist usually comes into play more during the Senate confirmation process. Per California’s Constitution, the Senate advises and consents on specified gubernatorial appointees. As such, the Senate must approve those appointees set forth in law and vote to confirm those individuals to their respective positions.
Nonetheless, lobbyists should both monitor gubernatorial appointments as well as the agendas of the Senate Rules Committee to stay abreast of which appointments are made and when they are being considered for confirmation.
Applying for a Position
The first step in securing a gubernatorial appointment is applying for a position. Someone interested in obtaining a gubernatorial appointment needs to review the list of available appointments, which can be found at: https://www.gov.ca.gov/docs/Statutory-Index-2015.pdf
The Governor’s Office has produced information on boards and commissions, including relevant descriptions, the salaries or stipends, how often they meet, current board composition, etc., which can be found at: https://www.gov.ca.gov/s_board&commissionappointees.php
Once an individual determines which position he or she wants to apply for, there is an online application that allows up to ten positions to be applied for by an applicant. The online application can be found at: https://www.gov.ca.gov/s_appointmentsapplication.php
The Governor’s official website has a page specifically dedicated to the appointments process and that page can be found at http://gov.ca.gov/m_appointments.php. On that page, an individual will find an online application, an authorization/release form, and a listing of all positions to which the Governor makes appointments.
After the individual has been notified of receiving the appointment, it must be determined whether he or she needs to be confirmed by the State Senate. If there is no confirmation, then the individual assumes the position once he or she has been officially appointed by the Governor.
In terms of Senate Rules Committee review of a gubernatorial appointee, there are some who are required to appear before the full committee in an open hearing and there are others who are “subject to confirmation, but not required to appear.” These individuals submit written responses to committee members’ questions, but they do not testify in an open hearing. Interest groups can submit written comments to the Rules Committee if desired.
A first step is to work with the Governor’s appointments unit to ensure that coordination occurs and that the appointee is assisting the Governor’s staff with the confirmation process and not interfering with their efforts. This also ensures that lobbying efforts will be effective by targeting the right elected officials with a consistent message.
An appointee who will face confirmation by the State Senate should solicit support letters and statements from interested parties, especially those who may positively influence members of the Senate.
It is important that the appointee meet with the staff and members of the Rules Committee to address any questions or concerns of the appointee and the department, board or commission that he or she will serve. The appointee should address any concerns in advance of the hearing. Each member of the Senate Rules Committee has a consultant to staff the legislator on all matters that come before the Rules Committee. It obviously means that an individual needs to advocate for or against an appointee with each Rules Committee member and his or her staff.
In most instances, these hearings are relatively benign and there is little questioning of the appointee and often little to no public comment at the hearing. Other times, however, appointees can be controversial and the resulting hearings can last several hours with significant questions from Rules Committee members as well as public comments that may last an hour or more based upon the number of persons wishing to testify for or against an appointee.
There is no requirement to provide notice to the committee of your planned testimony, although most interest groups submit a letter to all five of the Rules Committees members with a courtesy copy to the appointee and the Governor’s staff. The Rules Committee has all persons who testify at an appointee’s hearing complete a speaker’s card of basic information and a stenographer takes verbatim comments, the only committee in the Legislature that does so.
Lobbying gubernatorial appointees is usually limited to the five members of the Senate Rules Committee because if they approve an appointee, such a recommendation would rarely be rejected by the full Senate. If an appointee is rejected by the Rules Committee, then the appointee will not be forwarded to the Floor for consideration by the full Senate. Nonetheless, with controversial appointees, lobbying the entire 40-member Senate may be warranted or necessary in order to ensure the appointee gets confirmed.
Chris Micheli is a Principal at the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law in its Capital Lawyering Program.