Latest News

The AM Alert

Attorney General Jerry Brown heads to Anaheim to give the opening remarks at the annual National Gang Violence Conference.

But the event of the day will be the Senate Rules Committee hearing for Mary Nichols, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointee to head the state's Air Resources Board.

To recap: The previous chair of the ARB, Robert Sawyer, resigned several weeks ago amid what he called growing pressure from the Schwarzenegger administration to water down environmental policy.

The Governor's Office says no way -- that Sawyer was forced out because he wasn't pursuing tough enough environmental policy.

Then, ARB's executive director, Catherine Witherspoon, resigned and accused the administration of interfering with the independent board.

The governor, whose green image was taking a hit over the affair, quickly appointed Nichols, a former top environmental aide to Govs. Gray Davis and Jerry Brown, to replace Sawyer.

The policy bone of contention at the center of the ARB flap is how to implement Assembly Bill 32, the landmark greenhouse-gas emissions measure passed in 2006.

And exactly what Nichols believes is the best course to implement the law is expected to be the central line of questioning in today's hearing.

"It's an opportunity for us to hear from Nichols herself on her understanding of AB 32 and how she proposes to implement the law compared to her predecessor," said Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

"It will be a friendly discussion," she added.

There will be no confirmation vote following the hearing -- the Senate can wait up to a year to do that. But the hearing allows the Senate "to hear from her on the record, so when we bring her back we have something to rate her on," Trost said.