Partisanship hits California Assembly over Schwarzenegger's lt. governor pick

Did the state Assembly vote Thursday to reject Sen. Abel Maldonado's appointment as lieutenant governor?

Assembly members said they did. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said they didn't.

Maldonado said he assumed he'll be sworn in as the state's second-in-command within two weeks — but he's keeping his Senate seat in the meantime.

Democrats accused the governor of dictatorial behavior.

"This isn't some Third World country with a puppet government. ... The governor cannot turn around and say 'I'm going to swear him in anyway,' " said Charles Calderon of Whittier, speaking for Assembly Democrats. "If he does that, I think he's going to look pretty silly."

The bizarre ending to a day of political and personal conflict over the Santa Maria Republican may have shifted the whole mess to the courts, where the outcome could take months to sort out as lawmakers and the governor deal with a $20 billion budget deficit and myriad other problems.

The clash erupted after the Assembly voted 37-35 to confirm the Republican senator to fill in for 10 months as lieutenant governor.

Assembly Democratic leaders maintained that the law required Maldonado to obtain 41 votes — a majority of the 80-member body — to be confirmed.

But the governor's legal secretary disagreed, opining that the law required a majority of votes — at least 41 — against Maldonado in order for him to be rejected.

The governor threw down the gauntlet, saying in a statement: "Based on the votes taken today, Sen. Abel Maldonado will be sworn in as the next lieutenant governor."

Maldonado decried what he said was a day of partisan dysfunction in the Assembly.

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