SACRAMENTO — Ignoring a plea by its Democratic leader to let the next governor make the appointment, the Senate on Thursday confirmed lame-duck Gov. George Deukmejian's choice for chairman of the state farm labor board.
"We should wait," urged Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), arguing that "the new governor has to have a chance" to choose his or her own appointee.
But breakaway Democrat Sen. Gary K. Hart of Santa Barbara protested what he called a "strategy and philosophy" to scuttle end-of-term appointees of Deukmejian so the posts could be filled by the next governor--Democrat Dianne Feinstein or Republican Pete Wilson.
Later, Roberti denied that he and other Democrats routinely want to torpedo Deukmejian's final appointees to high-level, long-term posts either by delaying them so long that they will lapse or by rejecting them outright.
"There's no organized game plan," Roberti told a reporter.
At issue Thursday was the appointment of Bruce Janigian, a deputy director of the state Employment Development Department since 1984, to a five-year term as chairman of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Critics have complained that Deukmejian filled the board with "pro-grower, anti-farm worker" appointees.
Janigian, an attorney, was described by all sides as personable and "flexible." His credentials for the $83,800-a-year post were never challenged. In spite of Roberti's appeal to vote "no" or abstain, he easily won confirmation 25 to 3.
"Just because he was appointed by Gov. Deukmejian, that's not a good enough reason for me to oppose this appointment," Hart said of Janigian.
Roberti and Sen. Nicholas Petris (D-Oakland), both strong supporters of organized labor and the United Farm Workers union, charged that under Deukmejian the Agricultural Labor Relations Board had become an "advocate against farm workers."
Both praised Janigian as a bright, straightforward and decent person. But they claimed that as an appointee of Deukmejian, Janigian was bound to perpetuate a pro-employer bias into and beyond the four-year term of Wilson or Feinstein.
The board, created in 1975 under former Democratic Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., oversees farm worker union elections and rules on charges of unfair labor practice. Under Brown, the board was accused by growers of a heavy pro-worker bias.
The floor fight over Janigian represented the first instance that Roberti and other Democrats have sought to use their confirmation power to block a Deukmejian appointee from serving in a new Administration, a tactic Republicans employed in the last months of Brown's tenure in 1983.
While insisting that there was no Democratic strategy to routinely sink Deukmejian's major appointees, Roberti said political clashes of "heavy philosophy" may "come into play one or two times more . . . when the length of (an appointee's) term is very, very great."
He noted that terms of members on appointed boards are deliberately staggered and overlap from one governor to another. "It is not intended that any governor dominate the boards," Roberti said.
The Democratic-controlled Rules Committee, headed by Roberti, on Wednesday put three other Deukmejian appointees on a back burner for lack of votes to send their confirmation to the full Senate.