Today is all about the GOP Presidential debate
at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley – just down the road from where I live in Thousand Oaks. The debate which marks the debut of front-runner Texas Governor Rick Perry will begin at 5 PM PDT. John F. Harris of Politico and Brian Williams of NBC News will be the moderators.
I will be tweeting the debate live and you can follow me here (@Flap).
After the debate I will head down to Camarillo for a meet and greet with Rick Perry.
The California Legislature is in session and will end its session on Friday. A number of bills are to be considered including AB 155, the Amazon Tax which while defeated in the State Senate yesterday can be called up for reconsideration by its sponsor Senator Lori Hancock.
The California State Senate’s Schedule is here and the Assembly is here.
On to today’s headlines…..
California’s top Democrats reject Amazon offer
Top Democrats denounced an offer by Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc. to create thousands of new jobs if the state postpones for more than two years its effort to force online merchants to collect sales taxes on purchases by Californians.
Legislators and their bricks-and-mortar retail allies cast doubt that Amazon would follow through with a promise to build two distribution centers in the state and hire as many as 7,000 people.
The company, which has a total workforce of 38,000, has made similar promises in other states that also are trying to force Amazon to collect sales taxes, they said at a state Capitol news conference Tuesday.
“More jobs will ultimately be created in California when we have a tax system that is fairly and adequately applied to everyone in our state,” Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said.
“And, we’re not going to allow the notion of jobs that may or may not materialize to dictate our position on an issue of fundamental fairness to all businesses in California,” he said.
Amazon, said Assembly Rules Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), is “cynically promising jobs that aren’t going to materialize.”
California has lost about 18,000 jobs because of unfair competition from Amazon and other Internet sellers that don’t collect sales taxes, enabling the online merchants to undercut store prices, said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Assn.
A spokesman for Amazon’s “More Jobs Not Taxes” referendum campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
The company and its allies are close to gathering the required number of signatures on petitions to get the referendum on the June 2012 ballot. The referendum would ask voters to repeal a new state law requiring the collection of sales taxes by out-of-state Internet companies that have offices, workers or other connections in the state. The company has refused to comply with the law, which took effect July 1.
In the meantime, Democrats in the Senate and the Assembly, as well as lobbyists hired by big-box retailers, are trying to persuade a handful of Republican members to vote for a new, similarly worded bill that would replace the recent law, thus nullifying the Amazon referendum. Also, as a so-called urgency measure, the proposed law would be immune to a voter referendum.
Lawmakers seek stronger Internet sales tax law
Supporters of a bill that would force Internet retailers to begin collecting sales taxes immediately pressed lawmakers on Tuesday to pass the measure before the end of the session this week.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill as part of this year’s budget to expand tax collection by Internet retailers effective July 1, but Amazon.com has spent more than $5 million toward a 2012 ballot referendum to overturn it.
If approved, the bill under consideration this week could not be overturned by voters because it would be considered an urgency measure.
Democratic lawmakers and retail businesses that support the new bill, AB155, say Amazon is trying to undermine the legislation with a proposal to add 7,000 California jobs at new distribution centers if the online sales tax law is delayed for at least two years.
Speaker of the Assembly John Perez, a Los Angeles Democrat, said Amazon and other Internet retailers kill thousands of California-based jobs each year by unfairly undercutting local businesses on price because they don’t charge the tax.
In the flurry of legislative activity in the last week of the session, Perez said, “California will not sacrifice real jobs for phantom promises.”
Amazon has proposed adding a total of nearly 22,000 jobs in six states that have stepped up tax collection efforts, which would amount to roughly a two-thirds increase in its worldwide workforce, said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association.
“The job numbers appear to be nothing but fiction,” Dombrowski said.
Amazon has been pushing for a major expansion of its distribution network, proposing at least an additional 15 distribution centers as part of an effort to speed deliveries to customers.
Gay marriage foes may win right to defend Prop. 8 in court
The California Supreme Court appeared ready Tuesday to rule that the backers of Proposition 8 and other ballot measures have the right to defend them in court, a stance that would give opponents of same-sex marriage the chance to champion the initiative all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
During an hour of oral arguments, several justices appeared skeptical that only elected state officials may defend measures passed by voters, as gay-rights lawyers claimed.
If that were the case, same-sex marriages would resume in California because Gov. Jerry Brown and Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris have refused to appeal last year’s federal ruling against Proposition 8.
Justice Ming W. Chin observed that the power of the people to enact laws would be curtailed if initiatives could be blocked in court every time officials refused to defend them.
“So the attorney general and the governor get to pick the laws they want to enforce?” asked Chin, a conservative on the court.
Justice Joyce L. Kennard, one of the court’s more liberal members, appeared to agree. Denying initiative sponsors the right to appeal, she said, would be “nullifying the great power that the people have reserved for themselves” and “would not promote principles of fundamental fairness.””What we are going to hold is not limited to gay issues,” Kennard said. “Our holding will apply to any other circumstance when proponents of initiatives are asserting standing” — the legal term for the right to bring a case in court.
The seven-member court will decide within 90 days whether ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of Proposition 8, have the right to represent the state in litigation. That ruling will clear the way for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether ProtectMarriage had standing to appeal U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling against the 2008 ballot measure.
Bill to ensure parents’ right to circumcise clears Legislature
California cities and counties could not ban circumcision of male children under a proposed state law that cleared the Legislature today.
The Assembly overwhelmingly concurred in Senate amendments, 67-2, and the measure now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has taken no position on it.
Assembly Bill 768 would prevent local governments from enacting laws prohibiting the circumcision of male children.
The measure was sparked by a circumcision ban that initially qualified for San Francisco’s November ballot but was removed by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that an existing state law pre-empted it.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat, opted to continue pushing his bill after the court ruling. He has characterized circumcision as a personal, medical and religious freedom.
AB 768 would take effect immediately if signed by Brown, which would prevent the possibility of a San Francisco vote on banning child circumcision if the Superior Court ruling is overturned on appeal.
Gatto contends that passage of AB 768 also would serve as a deterrent to other circumcision opponents, who might consider placing a similar initiative on their local ballot in years to come.
San Francisco’s first-of-its-kind initiative drew national attention for targeting circumcision, removal of the male foreskin, a practice that has biblical roots and that many believe was commanded by God in a covenant with Abraham.
Enjoy your morning!