by Torey Van Oot from SacBee Capitol Alert
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Oropeza last month for one of four open seats on the board. Oropeza, a Republican, works on education budget issues for the California Department of Finance. She also previously worked as an education budget consultant in the Assembly.
"The point of a four-year, individual term is that it be independent," Steinberg said. "If Ms. Oropeza's day job is defending the governor's budget and helping the governor create policy, how can she under any circumstance act independently of those positions as a voting member of the Board of Education?"
Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Penn Valley, voted against the recommendation to reject, saying the Republican caucus expressed support for the nominee. But he noted he had not raised the issue of conflict of interest to his colleagues.
"I don't know if they were fully aware of the possibility of a conflict of interest in making their recommendation," he said.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, the Rules Committee had not required that the nominee come testify at today's hearing. That unusual move indicated to some that a "no" vote would be the likely outcome.
Schwarzenegger said in a statement that he was "disappointed (Oropeza) was not given the opportunity to present her case to serve the students of California."
"Jeannie is widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable people in the state on education policy and she would have been a great addition to the board," he said.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor believes Oropeza is qualified for the job. He pointed out that the Senate has given the OK to administration officials for Board of Education posts in the past, such as his former adviser Bonnie Reiss. Steinberg acknowledged that issue at the hearing, but countered that there is a difference between political appointees and the nomination of civil servants such as Oropeza.
This post was updated at 3:32 with a statement from Schwarzenegger.