SACRAMENTO — The president of the California Community Colleges board is expected to step down after state Senate Republicans on Monday blocked confirmation of her appointment by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on grounds that she had voted to support tuition breaks for illegal immigrants.
Board President Katherine "Kay" Albiani is the third member of the community colleges board of governors in the last six months to lose her position over the board's controversial vote on illegal immigrants.
The Democratic-majority Senate voted 23 to 13 along party lines for her confirmation Monday, but it needed 27 votes to be approved.
Albiani, of Elk Grove, Calif., had been serving on the board provisionally under a rule that allows service for up to a year without legislative confirmation. The year ends today, so she will be forced to step down unless the Senate reconsiders, which lawmakers said was unlikely, especially since the full Senate is not meeting today.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger stands by his appointment of Kay, and it is unfortunate that the Senate did not confirm her appointment today," said Rachel Cameron, a spokeswoman for the governor. A search for another appointee will begin immediately, she said.
Albiani said she was "proud to have fought for my confirmation until the very end, and I hope and pray that legislators will no longer force a litmus test upon the governor's future appointees."
Last year, Albiani joined the 17-member board of governors in unanimously voting to support state legislation that would have allowed illegal immigrants, under certain conditions, to qualify for student financial aid and community college fee waivers.
The legislation was later vetoed by the governor.
The vote to reject Albiani is not only a sign of how the issue of immigration has polarized the Legislature, but also comes amid Republican lawmakers' dissatisfaction with the GOP governor for having sided with Democrats on issues ranging from the budget to healthcare reform.
Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) said the legislation that Albiani and the community college board voted to support was "bad policy" that would serve as an incentive for more people to come to California illegally.
"We have the best benefit package of any state for illegal immigrants, so they come here," Ackerman said.
Democrats, meanwhile, lashed out at Republicans.
"I think we are going to have a very difficult year if we are going to get into spitting matches and say, 'He or she said something and I don't agree with it,' " said Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena). "The real issue is, are we going to apply a litmus test to those appointed by the government for confirmation? If we go down that road, that is a very dangerous road."
Two other provisional board members were forced to step down last year after opposition from Republican senators persuaded Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) not to schedule a vote. Perata put Albiani up for a vote Monday in hopes her impressive resume would carry the day. Albiani has been a member of the Los Rios Community College District Board of Trustees since 1996. She heads the California Community College Trustees Assn.