Dems reject two of Schwarzenegger’s parole appointees

Posted on June 27, 2008. Filed under: Parole |

By Shane Goldmacher –
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, June 26, 2008

Senate Democrats blocked two appointees to the state’s parole board and voted to confirm two others on Wednesday, continuing to battle with the Schwarzenegger administration over the shape of the prison panel.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, has complained that the board – heavily populated by ex-law enforcement officials – has a low rate of granting parole.

“There’s something wrong with this system,” Perata said at last week’s hearing. The board granted parole to 129 prisoners out of 5,520 scheduled hearings in 2007. Nearly one-third of those hearings were postponed.

Already in 2008, the Senate Rules Committee has rejected four appointees to Board of Parole Hearings, whose members decide when, and if, California’s life-term prisoners can be set free.

As Perata joined other Democrats to vote down the nominees, he acknowledged the job of a parole commissioner is “one of the hardest and most thankless” in the state.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger responded to the party-line vote by promptly naming two new members – each with law enforcement credentials – to the parole panel and urged the Senate to quickly confirm them.

The vote Wednesday came a week after a long hearing at which district attorneys touted the parole commissioners’ record and defense attorneys urged their rejection.

The showdown had been expected since January, when Perata threatened to block law enforcement appointees to the board. He later backed away from that stance, insisting he “wasn’t saying there is something fundamentally wrong with being in law enforcement,” arguing instead, “There are other points of view that I think have legitimacy.”

The two Perata-supported commissioners, Robert Doyle, a former Riverside County sheriff, and Sandra Bryson, a former reserve deputy in Alpine County, both hail from law enforcement. Their nominations now go before the full Senate.

One rejected appointee, Janice Eng, a former operations manager for a marketing firm, has no law enforcement background. The panel also rejected Edward Martinez, a former deputy sheriff in Stanislaus and Orange counties.

Five Schwarzenegger appointees with police credentials still await confirmation. The incoming Senate leader, Sacramento Democratic Sen. Darrell Steinberg, will likely chair those confirmation hearings. His office did not commit to any specific confirmation policy.

“Sen. Perata has dealt with this in a thoughtful way,” said Steinberg spokesman Jim Evans. “When Sen. Steinberg takes over, he will do the same.”

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