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California Power

April 07, 1986

Political decisions in other states can have great potential effects on California. A string of such choices is under way now that could result in the election soon of 40-year-old Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from Martinez in Contra Costa County, as chairman of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Despite having the largest delegation in the House, the only California chairmen at present are Reps. Ronald V. Dellums, the District of Columbia Committee; Augustus F. Hawkins, Education and Labor, and Edward R. Roybal, Select Committee on Aging.

Chairmanship of the 41-member Interior Committee would give Miller a major voice in the nation's policies on water development, national parks, public lands, Indian affairs, Pacific territorial affairs, the oil and gas industry, electric power and more. Most of those issues are critical to California and the rest of the West. It would be extraordinary for such a young member to gain the full committee chairmanship, but Miller has been in the House since 1974 and is expected to win a seventh term this fall.

Despite recent House reforms, seniority still counts in choosing a chairman. Miller now ranks No. 4 among Democrats on Interior after Chairman Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), John F. Seiberling (D-Ohio) and James Weaver (D-Ore.).

Seiberling will retire from the House after this year, and Weaver will give up his House seat to run for the Senate this year. Udall is seeking re-election in 1986, but is likely to bow out after his next term or two. Udall, one of the most respected members of Congress, suffers from Parkinson's disease, which has grown progressively worse in recent years.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) may have a shot, at age 47, at the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee soon, should Chairman John D. Dingell of Michigan win election to the House leadership or decide to retire.

Should Miller wind up No. 1 at Interior and Waxman No. 1 at Energy and Commerce, California would have strong and effective leaders in charge of two of the most influential committees of Congress, possibly for years to come. That would be quite a change compared to California's relative lack of clout in recent decades.

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