State Sen. Michael J. Rubio, shown with his daughter Iliana in 2011, resigned… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Michael J. Rubio, who was leading the Legislature's effort to make California's environmental laws more business-friendly, abruptly resigned from office Friday to accept a government-affairs job with Chevron Corp.
Rubio, a Democrat from Shafter, in the Central Valley, was chairman of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and introduced bills during his two years in office that related to the oil industry in his district.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission will conduct a routine review of Rubio's move to make sure it involves no violation of the conflict-of-interest rules in California's Political Reform Act.
"We will look to see if there is something to indicate that the act was violated and, if so, we will take a look at it," said the commission's chief of enforcement, Gary Winuk.
Rubio said in an interview that he has complied with state law, and he declined to discuss the terms of his employment. He said he quit the Legislature because he had tired of the 300-mile drive from his district to the Capitol and has a special-needs daughter who requires attention.
"My family comes first," he said.
One of Rubio's bills would have clarified state codes to allow the practice of re-injecting natural gas as part of oil drilling. The 2011 measure, which stalled in a committee, was backed by the Western States Petroleum Assn., a group whose members include Chevron Corp.
In November, Rubio was among a group of legislators who went on a trip to Brazil that was paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, a nonprofit bankrolled by Chevron, PG&E and other firms. Sponsors sent representatives to accompany the lawmakers as they studied Brazil's low-carbon fuel standards and other issues.
In spearheading the push for streamlined environmental laws, Rubio worked closely with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, whose members include Chevron Energy Solutions.
It is common for lawmakers to move into high-level jobs or consulting arrangements with interests that sought their help in shaping state policy. Rubio's announcement renewed complaints about the practice from watchdog groups.
Jamie Court, president of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, said the revolving door between the public and private sector always raises questions of whether politicians spend their time in office "auditioning for a well-paying job for the companies they are supposed to regulate."
Rubio's departure creates a third vacancy in the 40-person Senate that will temporarily put its Democrats' numbers below the supermajority they won in November.
Two Democrats had previously left for Congress, and special elections are being held in coming weeks for their seats. Both are widely expected to remain in Democratic hands, because the party has a comfortable registration advantage in those districts.
A special election will be called to fill Rubio's seat.