The number of contenders with Valley connections in the running to become President Trump’s next Interior Secretary has risen to two.

Earlier this month, the name of outgoing Valley Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) surfaced as a potential choice. Denham has expressed his interest in the job, which is being vacated by Ryan Zinke next week.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

Politics 101

David Taub

Now, The Washington Examiner reports department deputy David Bernhardt has the inside track to receive the nomination. He is expected to be named acting secretary when Zinke leaves officially on Jan. 2.

Despite President Trump saying he expected to name a new Interior secretary by now, he has not.

In between Washington jobs, Bernhardt lobbied on behalf of the Westlands Water District, based in western Fresno County.

Other speculated contenders include former Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), outgoing Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico), and outgoing  Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) among others.

No Brand Veto on Cannabis Regulations

Mayor Lee Brand didn’t veto the city council’s approval of recreational marijuana, but that doesn’t mean he is on board with retail shops opening in 2020.

Council adopted regulations to allow licensing of medical cannabis the first year, and recreational cannabis the following year. By not issuing his veto within the 10 days allowed by law, the bill stands.

“My position on recreational cannabis has not changed and Council’s approval of a cannabis ordinance does not change that.  I did not veto this ordinance, but I will instruct the City Manager to use her discretion…to only approve M-license medical dispensaries,”Fresno Mayor Lee Brand

“My position on recreational cannabis has not changed and Council’s approval of a cannabis ordinance does not change that.  I did not veto this ordinance, but I will instruct the City Manager to use her discretion allowed in Section 9-3306 (b) of the ordinance to only approve M-license medical dispensaries in the City of Fresno,” Brand said in an emailed statement to GV Wire.

Starting in January, the city can issue licenses to medical cannabis retail locations. Recreational shops follow a year later, approximately in Jan. 2020. This is still theoretical. City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter still needs to develop the actual rules for distributing licenses.

Many times during the Fresno marijuana licensing debate, Brand stated his opposition to recreational use.

“As long as I’m the mayor of this city, I will not allow recreational marijuana to be sold in dispensaries,” Brand during a council debate last June.

He repeated his objection in this publication as recently as a few weeks ago.

But, a veto may have been symbolic at best. Council voted 5-2 to approve the current rules. That means there would be enough support to overturn such a veto.

Local law allows up to 14 retail shops, two in each council district. The council could allow for seven more. The bill does not specify criteria to award such licenses.

Also, Brand did not veto the council’s action giving members a pay raise from $65,000 to $80,000 (the council president earns slightly more). The salary bump applies to any council member who begins a new term. Thus, new councilmen Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza, along with re-elected members Esmeralda Soria and Luis Chavez will benefit from the fatter checks.

However, they will still work the first week of the new term under the old pay structure. The raise goes into effect Jan. 13.

Dec. 27, 3:15 p.m.: This item has been updated to include Mayor Brand’s latest statement on not vetoing cannabis regulation.

Money Flowing in Supervisor Race

Steve Brandau is starting to collect money for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors special election on March 5.

In his first set of financial filings, Brandau transferred $9,456 from his prior city council election fund. He also collected from developers—$25,000 from Granville Homes, Inc.; and $20,000 from River Park Properties II.

Granville Homes is the corporate owner of GV Wire.

The other two candidates in the race, Steve Hosey and Nasreen Johnson, have not filed documents indicating they have received large campaign contributions.

Arambula Retains Committee Assignments

Joaquin Arambula

The child abuse arrest of Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) did not affect committee assignments

Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced the assignments today (Dec. 27). Arambula remains as the chair of the budget subcommittee on Health and Human Services, as well as serving on the Human Services committee.

The latter has jurisdiction over child welfare services. Fresno County’s child welfare unit investigated allegations of “willful cruelty to a child” lodged against Arambula earlier this month.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) will continue to serve as the ranking member on the Accountability and Administrative Review committee as well as the Utilities and Energy committee.

Incoming Valley state Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) will serve as chair of the Human Services committee, Senate president Toni Atkins announced last week.

Meanwhile, the Valley’s other freshman senator, Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), will serve as ranking member on the judiciary committee.

Both roles fit with Hurtado’s and Borgeas’ respective backgrounds in health care and law.

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