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CAPITOL NOTEBOOK: DAVIS CLOSELY KEEPING HIS APPOINTMENTS.

Byline: Terri Hardy and Dorothy Korber

JUDGING from that well-groomed head of silver hair, Gov. Gray Davis is no stranger to the fine-tooth comb. That's also his tool of choice when it comes to winnowing the hundreds of appointments he has to make to state bodies ranging from the Fish and Game Commission to the Board of Barbering.

Davis is blazing new frontiers in micromanagement, worried observers say, and his reluctance to choose commissioners is hamstringing state boards that find themselves without a quorum. So far, at least 20 of the state's 300 appointed boards are either unable to conduct business or are on the verge of paralysis because they don't have enough members.

``The governor is insisting on being so hands-on that things are being left undone,'' said one Southern California legislator, a Democrat who asked not to be named. ``There's a lot of hand-wringing in the Legislature. If Gray doesn't relinquish some authority, we don't know what's going to happen.''

A list of boards with quorum problems supplied by the Governor's Office includes five of the nine regional Water Resources Control Boards - including the Los Angeles region - as well as the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Board of Corrections.

We were concerned that vital state business was at a standstill, and polled those quorum-challenged boards. We found good news, sort of. Board executive directors told us they can, for the moment, manage quite well, thank you, without being able to conduct business. Their staffs are busy juggling meeting dates, shifting agendas and postponing decisions.

While the regional positions are unpaid, this got us wondering what the state board members do for their hefty salaries.

We did discover officials from one quorumless board - a board not included on the list provided by the Governor's Office - who were actually concerned that they were not able to function. The Electricity Oversight Board has canceled its March meeting, so it can't adopt a key agreement with the Public Utilities Commission.

Travis Pitt, executive director of the Building Standards Commission, notes that Davis isn't the only one responsible for the operational slowdown. Last year, the state Senate, foreseeing that it would be politically beneficial to stall its approval of Wilson appointments in case a Democratic governor was elected, put off confirming potential board members.

``They wanted Davis to have a lot of people to appoint,'' Pitt said. ``I guess they got their wish.''

Bugged

A state agricultural emergency was narrowly averted last week, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Thank goodness for Mango, a 2-1/2-year-old black Labrador who sniffed out a first-class package shipped from Denver to Los Angeles County that contained fruit fly maggots.

Bills to watch

Assemblyman Scott Baugh, R-Huntington Beach, introduced AB 592, which would triple California's juror pay rate from $5 to $15 per day. The current rate was set in 1957 and has not increased since. . . . State Sen. William Knight, R-Palmdale, introduced SB 414, which would require voters to show identification at the polls before they can cast a ballot. . . . Assemblywoman Nell Soto, D-Ontario, introduced AB 531, which would require every service station to provide motorists with free water and compressed air. . . . State Assemblyman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, introduced AB 790, which would require the names of the top 12 deadbeat taxpayers to be posted on the Internet. Only people who owe more than $1 million in sales tax would be targeted.
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Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 28, 1999
Words:572
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