Wilson aide & HMO Lobbyist named chief of staff for Schwarzenegger

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Contra Costa Times (California)

SACRAMENTO — Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger named a former top Wilson aide as his chief
of staff Wednesday and said he would call a special legislative session after taking office next month.

Patricia Clarey, who served as deputy chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, will lead Schwarzenegger’s inner circle of advisers and help oversee his administration.

Clarey, 50, took a leave from her job as vice president for governmental affairs of Health Net Inc., a health maintenance organization based in Woodland Hills, to work on the Schwarzenegger campaign.

Her selection won praise from Republicans but drew criticism from a consumer rights group, which said the appointment showed Schwarzenegger was reneging on a campaign promise.

“HMO lobbyists should not be part of an administration that pledged to govern for the people, not for special interests …” said a statement issued by The Foundation For Taxpayer And Consumer Rights.

The appointment was announced as Schwarzenegger made his first visit to Sacramento since Oct. 7’s recall election.

Trailed by a herd of media, Schwarzenegger strode through the state Capitol’s hallways moving between “relationship building” meetings with legislators. Half a dozen highway patrolmen stood guard. He stopped to shake hands with visitors admiring the inside of the Capitol dome who cheered him as he passed by.

Schwarzenegger offered few other details of his plans as he shuffled between meetings Wednesday afternoon. He told Republican lawmakers he wants to use the special session to reform workers’ compensation and possibly address other issues, such as fixing the budget or repealing SB60, the measure allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

“Action, action, action, action. That’s what people have voted me into this office for,” Schwarzenegger said after holding a brief joint meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders from the Assembly and Senate. “They wanted to have a governor that is filled with action, that performs and that represents the people, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

In another development Wednesday, sources confirmed that Schwarzenegger is interested in creating a special bipartisan panel to study budget reforms. The idea is to follow a model Congress used in the 1980s and 1990s to decide on military base closures.

To protect lawmakers from political heat, Congress set up a separate commission to recommend a whole slate of base closures and then required one up-or-down vote on the plan.

The governor-elect also renewed his promise to quash SB60, the bill Davis signed into law two months ago that takes effect Jan. 1.

Schwarzenegger told Republican legislators he would back a referendum already being circulated on the driver’s license bill if the Legislature does not repeal it.

But powerful Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, said he doesn’t see undocumented immigrants as a security threat. He said he would consult with the measure’s author, Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, before deciding how to proceed.

“I feel it’s much ado about nothing,” he said.

Schwarzenegger’s busy afternoon schedule included private get-togethers with Senate GOP leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga; Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who will take over as Assembly Republican leader in January; Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, D-Culver City; and Burton.

In addition, he spoke to a gathering of Republican legislators and dined with Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a Democrat. The governor-elect planned to meet today with Davis, Treasurer Phil Angelides and other state constitutional officers.

Burton said the meetings were friendly “get acquainted” sessions.

“I think it was fine,” Burton said. “We talked (and), you know, joked around. I think he will be, on a personal level, easy to work with; on a political level, we have to wait and see.”

Republicans clearly relished Schwarzenegger’s arrival.

“I think he’s doing a tremendous job,” McCarthy said, when asked to assess the transition. “In one aspect you see he is prepared to govern from day one, putting the team together, and I think he’s got a mandate and an agenda to move forward to make California working again.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman H.D. Palmer said the governor-elect has not decided what to tackle in a special session or when to have it.

“The specifics haven’t been nailed down yet,” Palmer said.
Andrew LaMar covers state government and politics. Reach him at 916-441-2101
or [email protected]

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