Climate Change Agenda Drives Senate President De Leon’s Staff Turnover

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File

“Climate change is a top priority for me as the new leader of the Senate,” California state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon said at a recent NextGen Climate Leadership Forum in Oakland. That priority is reflected in a recent staffing change that replaced two top staffers who previously questioned legislation De Leon proposed that was subsequently rejected in committee.

Kellie Smith and Jacqueline Kinney, the staffers who brought opposition against De Leon’s bill, are being replaced with two veterans of the climate change issues De Leon is seeking to push.

Smith and Kinney drove opposition against the bill that two Democrats then opposed in committee in April 2013, and the Los Angeles Times reported a source close to the committee claims the terminations are retribution for opposition to De Leon’s bill. Four months after being introduced, the energy efficiency bill was defeated in Senate committee, with two Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

At the NextGen Climate Leadership Forum this week, De Leon said, “Any efforts to undermine our climate change policies are undermining our global leadership and the future of our economy. The world is watching and we can’t stop now.”

De Leon Chief of Staff Dan Reeves said, “He [De Leon] wanted the committee to have a greater focus on renewable energy and the green economy, and he felt like he needed to have a different set of resources to help the committee drive the agenda forward,” the Times reported.

Jay Dickenson, former assistant executive director of the California Energy Commission is replacing Smith as chief consultant of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, according to the L.A. Times.

Dickenson has prepared climate change-related bill analysis for California’s legislature in the past.

Nidia Bautista, former De Leon consultant and director of the Coalition for Clean Air, will fill Kinney’s position as the panel’s principal consultant, writes the Times.

In early December, De Leon traveled to Lima, Peru, as part of the California delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference. His actions continue to reinforce his statements that he intends to push a progressive climate change agenda in California.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press