January 2012 archive

California Supreme Court Rules Citizen’s Redistricting Commission State Senate Maps To Be Used in 2012


This is a definite blow to the California Republican Party which fears that Democrats using the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission’s Maps will be able to take over two-thirds of the number of California State Senate seats in November – paving the way for tax increases.

The California Supreme Court ruled today that state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission will be used in this year’s elections, despite a pending referendum to overturn them.

The issue came before the High Court after a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, filed more than 711,000 signatures with county elections offices in a referendum to overturn Senate maps drawn by a 14-member citizens commission.

Californians will decide the fate of the newly drawn Senate districts in November if 504,760 of the signatures are from valid voters. Legislative candidates must file and run their campaigns before then, however, so justices needed to identify district maps to be in effect immediately.

County elections offices face a Feb. 24 deadline for certifying FAIR’s referendum signatures. Thus far, they have verified 57,761 of 80,127 signatures checked. If the percentage of valid signatures holds steady, 72 percent, the referendum would qualify for the ballot.

Twenty Senate seats are up for grabs this year – and the results carry high-stakes politically.

GOP officials contend that the new, commission drawn lines would give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes or fees.

One has to wonder, however, whether the California GOP would have been better to invest their time and effort on electing more Republicans rather than challenging the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission.

The entire California supreme Court decision is here.


AD-38: Scott Wilk Vs. Patricia or Is It Rep. Buck McKeon?


Rep. Buck McKeon and Scott Wilk

This California Assembly race REALLY is a FAMILY FEUD. The National Journal has the story.

A sleepy race for a California Legislature seat is turning into a fractious family feud that pits a former top staffer to Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, against the congressman’s wife.

“Actually,” said Scott Wilk, McKeon’s district director from 2001 to 2006, “she’s running against me.” He insisted he was in the contest first. 

So it has been in the bitter early going of a Republican primary still five months away but already splintering longtime allies of McKeon, who has served in the House since 1993. The fight has now devolved into the personal.

Wilk said the congressman didn’t call to inform him that Patricia McKeon would challenge him for the California Assembly seat. Instead, the lawmaker dispatched an aide to Wilk’s home at 9 p.m. to break the news, Wilk said. This, after Wilk’s family had donated $6,000 to McKeon’s campaign committee over the last five years.

“I started laughing because honestly that’s a scenario that never crossed my mind,” Wilk said. “Her political acumen stops at seating charts.”

Wilk, 52, is a longtime political staffer who serves on his local community college board, has been chief of staff to two state legislators, and made an aborted run for the Assembly in the mid-1990s. Patricia McKeon, 69, has been a “full-time mother” (of six), president of a local PTA, and a community volunteer, according to a letter she sent to supporters. She’s been married to Buck McKeon for 49 years.

There is little doubt that Scott Wilk is the most qualified candidate in this race. I have known Scott for years, especially well when he worked for California State Senator Ed Davis and then for Assemblywoman Paula Boland.

Rep. Tom McClintock has endorsed Scott and that will carry a lot of weight in the Simi Valley portion of the Assembly District.

Rep. McKeon has already thrown his considerable weight behind his wife’s run. He hosted a fundraiser for her last fall in Washington, blocks from the Capitol.
“His main role has been that of a supportive husband,” said Alissa McCurley, the congressman’s spokeswoman. Patricia McKeon and her campaign declined to comment for this story. Wilk said they are running a purposefully stealthy campaign.

“The congressman has told people in the district that he plans to lock her in the room, raise all of her money, and win it on her name ID,” Wilk said.

But, why would Patricia McKeon, who has NO political experience and whose husband will be in D.C. serving in Congress want to live and work in Sacramento full time?

Looks like to me that Wilk is running for the California Assembly against his former boss, the Congressman. Can you hold two seats at the same time?

Here is a photo of Patricia McKeon at the Tony Strickland for Congress announcement.

Patricia McKeon and former Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks


AD-38: Scott Wilk for Assembly Announces More Local Leaders on Campaign Team


After the flap with Senator Tony Strickland the other day, one would think that this would be the end of the story on Scott Wilk’s endorsements. I guess that perception is wrong.

From the press release:

Today, Republican Assembly candidate Scott Wilk announced a growing list of local leaders endorsing his campaign for State Assembly.

Simi Valley City Councilman Glen Becerra, former Simi Valley Mayor Bill Davis, Castaic Lake Water Agency Directors William Pecsi and Peter Kavounas, Whittaker-Bermite Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Glo Donnelly, and Santa Clarita Valley community leaders Harold and Jacqulyn Peterson have pledged their support to the Wilk for Assembly campaign.

“It’s very exciting to build a coalition of community leaders as important as the one coming together in support of my campaign,” said Wilk.  “I’ve worked very hard in the community and to get this kind of recognition from these leaders is humbling, but also very inspiring.  It makes me work that much harder to continue to deserve their support.”

“The leaders recognize the challenges facing our state and the failures of the state legislature to create an environment that encourages economic growth and job creation,” continued Wilk.  “As a small businessman myself, I recognize the challenges but I also have the experience needed to find solutions to these challenges.”

Wilk’s website is here.

Simi Valley City Councilman Glen Becerra


Flap’s California Morning Collection: January 26, 2012


Mission San Gabriel

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

On to today’s California headlines:

California air board to vote on landmark electric-car rules

In a move that could reshape the American automobile industry, California regulators Thursday are expected to approve sweeping new rules requiring that 15 percent of new cars sold in California by 2025 run on electricity, hydrogen or other systems producing little or no smog.

The regulations by the California Air Resources Board, dubbed the “advanced clean car rules,” would start in 2018, ramping up each year and ultimately resulting in 1.4 million “zero emission” vehicles on California roads by 2025. Today there are only about 10,000 such vehicles in the state.

“This is a really large step. It’s transformational,” said Tom Cackette, an engineer and chief deputy director of the air board. “Ten years from now the market is going to look quite a bit different.”

The rules are the latest example of California’s influential role in reducing tailpipe pollution across the country. The Golden State was the first to ban leaded gasoline, require catalytic converters and limit vehicles’ greenhouse emissions. But unlike with many previous regulations, the auto industry isn’t fighting the latest groundbreaking California rules in court.

Apart from electric cars, the new proposal also affects vehicles that run on gasoline and diesel, requiring a 75 percent reduction in smog-forming emissions from new cars, SUVs, pickups and minivans. And they require a roughly 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. That will force carmakers to build significantly more fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel models.

The air board estimates that those regulations will add $1,900 to the price of a new car by 2025 — but will save $5,900 in gasoline costs over the life of the average vehicle.

Environmental groups and the auto industry both predict that the upshot of the 15 percent “zero emission” mandate will be that vehicles such as the battery-powered Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt will become as commonplace on freeways by the end of this decade as hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius are now. Both the Leaf and Volt went on sale last year.

California calls $25-billion mortgage settlement ‘inadequate’

Calif. Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris’ office has called a proposed $25-billion settlement with the nation’s mortgage industry “inadequate.”

“We’ve reviewed the details of the latest settlement proposal from the banks, and we believe it is inadequate for California,” Shum Preston, a spokesman for Harris, said in a statement. “Our state has been clear about what any multistate settlement must contain: transparency, relief going to the most distressed homeowners and meaningful enforcement that ensures accountability.  At this point, this deal does not suffice for California.”

Many analysts consider California’s participation to be key to a strong deal. Harris walked away from talks with the banks last year, saying not enough was being offered by the financial institutions for California homeowners.

Since then, certain terms have been added to lure the Golden State back to the table, and Harris has opened separate inquiries into the mortgage business.

State attorneys general have received drafts of a $25-billion settlement with the nation’s biggest banks that would overhaul foreclosure and mortgage servicing practices. No deal has been officially reached among the states, federal agencies and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers: Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co.,Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. Individual states must decide whether they will join a settlement or pursue independent lawsuits and investigations.

The proposed $25-billion settlement would cover only mortgages held by the banks privately and exclude those from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

California taxes not business-friendly, conservative group says

California’s combination of business, sales, income and other taxes ranks it close to the bottom of the 50 states for being business-friendly, according to an index put out by a conservative Washington think tank.

California placed 48th, ahead of only New York at 49th place and New Jersey at 50th, said a report released Wednesday by the Tax Foundation.

The findings are likely to become an issue in a campaign by California Gov. Jerry Brown to put an initiative on the November ballot to temporarily raise the state sales tax and the individual income tax for people who make over $250,000 a year. Brown wants the money to pay down state debt, boost school spending and balance the budget.

Gil Duran, a Brown spokesman, dismissed the Tax Foundation findings as politically motivated.

“This is a partisan group funded by conservative foundations and its assertions must be taken with a grain of salt,” he said. “California added 230,000 jobs in 2011 and personal income grew by $100 billion — far outpacing  the nation. Our state is attracting business and investment from around the world.”

According to the foundation, the top 10 states with business-friendly taxes were Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Washington, Montana, Texas and Utah, the report said. Many of them made it to the top tier because they don’t collect a major tax, such as on corporate income.

California Republican chairman lays out game plan for 2012

California Republican Party chairman Thomas Del Beccaro knows he won’t find many votes for right-leaning candidates in the Bay Area or Los Angeles. But he’s hoping his party can rally support for conservative ballot initiatives, giving Republicans a stronger voice in California politics.

Del Beccaro said Republicans’ policy proposals resonate with individual voters statewide, even if the party lacks enough clout in Sacramento to block Democrats’ legislation or spending plans.

Voters “agree with us on the tax issue. They agree with us on budget reform. They agree with us on law-and-order issues. They agree with us on local control for education,” he said. “We should be promoting these ideas not just as parties, but as candidates throughout the state so we can do better.”

By pushing ballot initiatives on these issues, voters may take a second look at Republican candidates, said Del Beccaro, who has been the state party chairman since March 2010.

“We’re not going to do anything less for legislative races,” he said. “But we need to add in this focus on initiatives, which will help us in legislative races.”
One initiative, which is being pushed by anti-tax groups, would cap government spending. Another seeks to prevent unions from collecting dues directly from paychecks if they’re using the money for political purposes. It also would curb donations from corporations and unions to candidates.

Enjoy your morning!


Flap’s California Morning Collection: January 25, 2012


Hearst Castle, San Simeone, California

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

On to today’s California headlines:

Former GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad considering run for Congress

Former Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad is weighing a run for the Northern California congressional seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Wally Herger.

The Penn Valley Republican said he learned of Herger’s decision after returning home from Mexico, where he had been vacationing without access to his cell phone or lap top, several days ago. Since then, he has been “making phone calls to see if there is any support” for a run for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District.

Aanestad, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, said the addition of a new partner at his Grass Valley oral surgery practice has given him the time and flexibility to run. He said the 12 years he spent serving in overlapping state Senate and Assembly districts makes him a good fit for the House district, which runs from Yuba City to the Oregon border.

Jerry Brown’s tax initiative has broad support, poll finds

An overwhelming majority of California voters support Gov. Jerry Brown’s idea of hiking taxes to raise more money for schools, but they’d much rather he ask somebody else to foot the bill.

A new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 68% of likely voters said they support Brown’s idea to raise taxes on sales and upper incomes for five years. Brown is hoping to sell those ideas to voters in a ballot initiative this fall.

But in a separate question, the same voters said they dislike key pieces of Brown’s proposal. While 68% of likely voters said they support raising income taxes for high earners, 64% of those surveyed said they oppose raising the sales tax.

Brown’s tax plan includes both.

The survey reflects data that Brown considered when crafting his tax proposal. Voters are more likely to support tax increases, for example, if those new revenues are earmarked specifically for public schools.

California lawmakers to sue John Chiang over their pay

Democratic legislative leaders sued Controller John Chiang today for blocking their pay during last year’s budget dispute, a decision that drew scorn from lawmakers last summer.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said the Democratic controller overstepped his bounds when he decided that lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a flawed budget last June and docked their pay. They said they are not suing for back earnings, but to ask the court whether Chiang can intervene this year if lawmakers face another budget dispute with Brown at the June 15 deadline.

The lawmakers filed in Sacramento Superior Court, hiring Arthur G. Scotland, retired presiding justice of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, as well as the Los Angeles firm Strumwasser & Woocher. The Legislature’s operating budget, financed by tax dollars, will pay for legal costs. Billing rates range from $435 per hour for the two lead attorneys to $130 per hour for a paralegal, according to the leaders’ offices.

Berman skips State of the Union speech to stay in L.A.

Rep. Howard Berman, locked in a contentious race  with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat, isn’t  on hand for the president’s State of Union  speech tonight.   His staff says he’s right here in L.A.,  mixing work with a little campaigning.

While many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle  attend the annual speech and often comment  on it afterward, that’s never been Berman’s style, said Gene Smith, who retired from Berman’s House staff  and took on a new role as his campaign manager.

“Howard’s a workhorse, not a show horse,” Smith said in a gentle swipe at Sherman.

Enjoy your morning!