Arnold Finally to Get His Second in Command

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    NEWSLETTERS

    California Legislature approves budget bill

    The California Assembly set politics aside Thursday -- at least temporarily -- and confirmed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's nominee for lieutenant governor.

         The nomination of Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado now goes to the Senate, but the Assembly was seen as his biggest hurdle. Maldonado was confirmed on a 51-17 vote, well above the simple majority needed in the 80-member house.
        
    The chamber rejected his nomination earlier this year, in part because some lawmakers objected to his role in last year's budget debate. The Republican from Santa Maria agreed to raise taxes only if lawmakers placed an open primary measure on this year's ballot, an idea generally opposed by both major parties.
        
    Some Assembly members still complained about Maldonado's voting record and said they shouldn't support someone who will be a rubber-stamp for the Republican Schwarzenegger's agenda. Yet the prevailing sentiment was that it was time to move on and deal with other issues.
        
    "We need more people in this Legislature who are willing to cast difficult votes," said Assemblyman Juan Arambula, an independent from Fresno, noting that Maldonado has at times been willing to break ranks with his Republican colleagues.
        
    Some lawmakers objected to Maldonado's nomination because he also is running for the lieutenant governor's post in this June's Republican primary. Naming him to fill the vacant position could give him an advantage against his primary opponent, state Sen. Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley, as well as in a potential general election race.
        
    If the Senate confirms him as expected, Maldonado would become the highest-ranking Hispanic in state government. He would fill the position that has been vacant since Democrat John Garamendi won a congressional seat last November.
        
    After the Assembly rejected Maldonado in February, a frustrated Schwarzenegger threatened to seat him anyway, drawing the threat of a legal challenge from the Assembly. On Thursday, the Republican governor praised the chamber for "putting the interests of Californians ahead of politics..."