Thursday, January 23, 2003
Appeals Court Ruling on Coastal Panel Prompts Special Session
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Gov. Gray Davis yesterday called for a special legislative session to reconstitute the state Coastal Commission to assure it complies with a recent court ruling.
The Third District Court of Appeal ruled Dec. 30 that the commission’s appointment structure violates the state Constitution because the legislative leadership has broad discretion to appoint and remove members.
Davis said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, will introduce bills that would give legislative appointees to the panel fixed two-year terms.
Davis said he expects to have the bill through the Legislature and on his desk next week.
“The Legislature and I have worked with extraordinary cooperation and unprecedented speed to keep the California Coastal Commission viable and doing its job, “ Davis said in a written statement. “For more than a quarter century, this commission has been protecting and strengthening California’s coast. I’m pleased that we could agree on a proposal that will protect and strengthen the commission.”
The commission voted on Jan. 8 to seek reconsideration or to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The Third District affirmed a Sacramento Superior Court judge’s ruling in favor of a nonprofit organization that sued after the commission blocked its attempt to create an artificial reef off Newport Beach.
The court ruled that the commission’s structure violates the state Constitution’s separation of powers clause because legislative leaders appoint eight of the 12 commissioners and can remove them at will. Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland wrote that the appointment power gives the Legislature the authority to declare the law and also to control the execution of that law.
“The flaw is that the unfettered power to remove the majority of the Commission’s voting members, and to replace them with others, if they act in a manner disfavored by the Senate Committee on Rules and the speaker of the Assembly makes those commission members subservient to the Legislature,” the jurist said.
Because the commission performs executive-branch duties, that breaches the separation of powers clause, the court said.
Davis appoints four commission members. Four are appointed by the Senate Rules Committee and four by the Assembly speaker.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company