January 2012 archive

Jan 31 2012

SD-27: Bob Hertzberg Decides Not to Run for California State Senate

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Former California Assembly Speaker and L.A. Mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg

I suppose the former Assembly Democratic Speaker did not want to go head to head against incumbent California State Senator Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills.

When Pavley decided not to move to her beach house in Oxnard and run in the neighboring SD-19, it forced a decisionon a race that Hertzberg did not want to make.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) had reached out to Hertzberg about possibly running for the seat, hoping that the more liberal Pavley would opt to run in a safer Democratic district anchored in Oxnard. But when Pavley refused to move, Steinberg announced his support for her.

“I believe the extraordinary challenges we face in California can best be met with big ideas and independent voices,” Hertzberg said in a statement bowing out of the race. “Pursuing a partisan campaign at this time would inevitably distract from my top priority — reforming our government to better serve its citizens.”

It appears now that Democrat Pavley will now face off against term limited out Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita since Republican State Senator Tony Strickland has decided to run for Congress.

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Jan 31 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: January 31, 2012

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Mission San Diego

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

Today is deadline day in the Capitol.

  • Local Redevelopment Agencies will take their last breaths today. The 2010 law axing the agencies, crafted as part of last year’s budget package, takes effect Feb. 1.
  • Bills introduced in 2011 must clear their house-of-origin today in order to stay alive for the remainder of the two-year session.
  • Candidates for state and federal office face a midnight deadline for filing campaign finance reports. The reports will cover cash raised and spent through Dec. 31, 2011.

On to today’s California headlines:

Three Strikes change falters ASSEMBLY: Bill for ballot proposal to soften law may get another try today.

Some state lawmakers want to ask voters to revise California’s Three Strikes law as a way to reduce prison sentences and save money on corrections, but they’re having a hard time getting the issue through the Legislature.

The Assembly on Monday failed to pass AB327, which would require that a defendant’s third strike be for a serious or violent felony. Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, asked for the bill to be taken up again today, the deadline for each house to pass legislation introduced last year.

“This bill is necessary because the current Three Strikes law has led to many unjust sentences over the past 18 years that are not proportionate to the offense. As an advocate for fair and just society, this reality is quite troubling,” Davis said Monday.

Democratic supporters say the change is needed because many third-strike offenders have been sentenced to dozens of years in prison for petty theft and less serious offenses. Debate is split largely along partisan lines, with Republicans saying the bill dilutes the intent of the 1994 voter-approved law, which was intended to punish repeat offenders.

“This is a grave issue,” said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. “Three Strikes came to pass because repeat, unrehabilitated offenders were preying again and again and again upon our families, our children, the people of our community. And it has worked.”

California Assembly votes to outlaw smoking on hospital campuses

Californians may soon be adding hospital campuses to the list of smoke-free workplaces.

The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would expand current limits on smoking at hospitals to entire campuses. Existing law makes it illegal to smoke in buildings and areas adjacent to entrances. Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) argued that the legislation would not only encourage patients, visitors and employees to quit the habit but protect people against exposure to secondhand smoke.

The bill drew the ire of Republicans who said it was another example of California’s “nanny state” politics. Many hospitals, they said, have already voluntarily banned smoking.

Los Angeles judge blocks state budget cut to Medi-Cal providers

A Los Angeles federal judge has tentatively blocked Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts to doctors and other providers who treat low-income patients.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled today that the state cannot reduce payments by 10 percent to Medi-Cal doctors, dentists, ambulance services and other providers. The tentative decision comes after Snyder previously blocked cuts to hospital-based nursing units and some pharmacists.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers included the 10 percent cut in last year’s budget as a way to save $623 million. They won approval from the Obama administration in late October.

Plaintiffs such as the California Medical Association and the California Dental Association argued that the Medi-Cal cut would reduce access to patients as more providers opt out of the system. The state already pays among the lowest rates in the nation to those who treat low-income patients.


Republican Meg Whitman’s HP likes Democrats

An interesting factoid for the 2012 elections: HP, the Silicon Valley powerhouse run by Republican Meg Whitman, is busy bankrolling Democrats.

Financial disclosure documents on file with the state’s election officer show that of some $48,000 that HP gave directly to political candidates during the last quarter of 2011, about $46,000 went to 18 Democrats and one Republican.

The largest single donation, for $13,000, went to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only statewide official to receive a contribution from HP during the fourth-quarter filing period. Harris is not up for reelection this year.

Only one Republican contender, Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville, received a contribution — $2,000. 

The contributions were detailed in HP’s report on its major donations and independent expenditures.

The other recipients all were Democrats, and most received $1,500 or $2,000, with two reporting higher donations – South San Francisco Assemblyman Jerry Hill at $3,943 for a fundraising event and $3,900 for Assemblyman Michael Allen of Santa Rosa.

Whitman, a billionaire and former top executive at ebay, ran for governor in November 2010 and was defeated by Democrat Jerry Brown, who won with a margin of nearly 9 percent of the vote, or 1.3 million votes.

Enjoy your morning!

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Jan 30 2012

AD-38: Patricia McKeon Has Received Washington Defense Lobbyist Money for California Assembly Race

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Republican Assembly candidate Patricia McKeon, wife of Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Simi Valley GOP Activist/Consultant Steve Frank

Looks like pay to play to me. And, the lobbyist has not been very smart about it either.

Recent disclosures reveal that a federal lobbyist with ties to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the senior member of the committee overseeing the Pentagon, provided financial support to McKeon’s wife, who is seeking a seat in the California Assembly this year. As defense industry lobbyists scramble to head off looming cuts in the Pentagon budget, they are looking for new ways to ingratiate themselves with McKeon.

Patricia McKeon, Buck’s wife, surprised many when she announced her intention last September to run for an open seat that largely overlaps her husband’s district. One of the first reported contributions to her campaign came from a political committee called the Fund for American Opportunity, registered to a post office box in Washington, D.C., that donated $1,000. The fund, which is financed by a number of corporations including the drug industry trade association PhRMA, is owned and operated by Mark Valente, a Beltway lobbyist.

The contribution, reported here for the first time, appears to be an effort to circumvent federal campaign limits. Federal campaign disclosures show that Valente has already maxed out in donations to Rep. McKeon this cycle, having given $2,500 to his campaign for Congress. And the contribution came within a day of Valente’s donation to Patricia’s campaign for the California Assembly.

Then, there is the ethics issue of Mrs. McKeon receiving over $ 500K in salary from her husband’s Congressional campaign committee.

For the last 10 years, Buck McKeon made Patricia McKeon his highest-paid campaign staffer, an arrangement that ethics experts have criticized as an invitation for corruption. In 2007, a report exposed the fact that Patricia McKeon was by far the highest-compensated family member of the few members of Congress employing relatives for their campaigns.

A review of campaign documents by Salon found that, counting reimbursements for food and travel, the McKeon campaign committee has paid Patricia over $547,584 since 2001.

I think the Federal Elections Commission/FBI will soon be investigating the Mark Valente contribution.

As far as her receipt of monies from her husband’s campaign account, she had better account for her salary, because she is bound to be asked about it in a debate.

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Jan 30 2012

SD-19 Poll Watch: Mike Stoker Beating Hannah-Beth Jackson in Jason Hodge Sponsored Poll

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The newly redistricted California State Senate District 19

Scott Lay over at Around the Capital has this Nooner poll result.

A polling memo on SD19 conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang for Jason Hodge made the rounds this weekend. While it suspiciously doesn’t include wording and other critical details, the headline is that either Hodge or Hannah-Beth Jackson could have trouble beating former Santa Barbara supervisor Mike Stoker (R). Here are the general election matchups:

Stoker  47%
Jackson  42%

Stoker  42%
Hodge  41%

Hodge 39%
Jackson 35%

Whoa? This is a seat that Obama won by 23 points and Brown won by 6.2%. (emphasis mine)

This poll by Hodge’s campaign pollsters is an outlier if I have ever seen one. Or, it is just a fabrication.

In the three way June primary election it splits this way:

  • Hodge 30%
  • Stoker 30%
  • Jackson 24%

I understand that a run by Mike Stoker is not even a certainty, since his polling shows him in a futile race against either of the two Democrats in the general. This district is a tough race for any Republican in the general election.

This poll is an attempt by Oxnard Firefighter Jason Hodge to influence Sacramento money follks to fund his campaign against Hannah-Beth Taxin’ Jackson who has a firm Democratic base of support in Lefty Santa Barbara.

And, what about, if Senator Fran Pavley should decide to move to her Oxnard beach house?

I would say this poll is probably NOT a fair picture of the state of this race.

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Jan 30 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: January 30, 2012

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Mission San Juan Capistrano

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

Tuesday is the deadline for the California Legislature to pass bills introduced last year out of their house of origin. The Assembly meets at noon, the Senate at 2 p.m.

On to today’s California headlines:

Pension earnings dip amid gloomy forecasts

The nation’s two largest public pension funds last week reported slim annual investment earnings, CalPERS 1.1 percent and CalSTRS 2.3 percent, as experts continue to say hitting their long-term earnings target, 7.75 percent, will be difficult.

While CalPERS reported weak earnings in 2011, a prominent private-sector investment manager, Robert Arnott of Research Affiliates, told the board last week he thinks the most they can expect from stocks and bonds next decade is 4 percent.

Another major investor, Laurence Fink of BlackRock, told the CalPERS board during a similar educational session in 2009 that during the next 15 years: “You’ll be lucky to get 6 percent on your portfolios, maybe 5 percent.”

A Wall Street Journal columnist, Jason Zweig, said last week Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway pension fund projects a return of 7.1 percent. He said William Bernstein of Efficient Frontier Advisors expects roughly 6.5 percent from stocks.

AP Interview: End of prison oversight not certain

The court-appointed receiver overseeing California’s prison health care system said Friday the state must keep its promise to spend more than $2 billion for new medical facilities before the federal courts can end an oversight role that has lasted six years.

California committed to spending $750 million to upgrade existing medical facilities, building a new $906 million medical center and converting juvenile lockups at a cost of $817 million. So far, only the new medical center in Stockton is being built.

Receiver J. Clark Kelso told The Associated Press that the state must begin all the upgrades before it should be allowed to retake control of a prison medical system once deemed so poor that it was found to have violated inmates’ constitutional rights. They are his first public comments since a federal judge last week told officials to begin preparing for an end to the receivership.


Jerry Brown says cap-and-trade fees will fund high-speed rail

Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview airing in Los Angeles today that California’s high-speed rail project will cost far less than the state’s current estimate of nearly $100 billion and that environmental fees paid by carbon producers will be a source of funding.

“It’s not going to be $100 billion,” the Democratic governor said on ABC 7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers program. “That’s way off.”

Brown’s remarks come as his administration prepares revisions to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s latest business plan. Brown is trying to push the project through an increasingly skeptical Legislature following a series of critical reports.

“Phase 1, I’m trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment,” Brown said. “We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees – that will be a source of funding going forward for the high speed rail.”

Brown said, “It’s going to be a lot cheaper than people are saying.”

The annual spending plan Brown released this month included $1 billion in cap-and-trade revenue for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The budget document lacked detail, however, saying, “Further detail on specific program areas will be developed when there is more certainty of fees received from the Cap and Trade Program.”


Dan Walters: California politicans use power to fix the ballot game

Enacting a major change in election law to affect the outcome of one ballot measure is fixing the game.

The attorney general’s office, in concert with the Legislature’s budget analyst, is supposed to provide objective “titles and summaries” for measures that appear on the ballot. The latter agency does its work as it’s supposed to, but in recent years, the attorney general has been giving descriptions positive or negative spins.

The latest examples, under Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, are the very positive description of the Brown-sponsored tax- increase measure that unions support and the negative, and even misleading, way two proposed public pension initiatives that unions despise are described. One example: Using “teachers, nurses and peace officers” as examples of who would be affected, rather than garbage collectors or Department of Motor Vehicle clerks.

Harris’ office defends the summaries and insists that political considerations were not involved, but the chosen words clearly make Brown’s measure more palatable to voters and the pension- reform measures more onerous.

It’s using political office to fix the game, and it undermines democracy.

Enjoy your morning!

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