Sequoia National Park
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
On to today’s California headlines:
The rough and tumble of intra-party politics can put a strain on even the closest of relationships. The latest exhibit of this truism came yesterday, with the announcement from the campaign of Sen. Tony Strickland that he was giving his endorsement in the 38th Assembly District primary to Patricia McKeon, wife of Rep. Buck McKean of Santa Clarita.
This came after: A) Strickland originally endorsed Republican Scott Wilk, a longtime friend, in the same race; B) Strickland decided to run for Congress after Rep. Elton Gallegly announced his decision to retire; C) Pressure was exerted in the name of solidarity within the California Republican congressional delegation that it was not a good idea for a GOP candidate to be endorsing the opponent of a congressman’s wife; and D) Strickland pulled his endorsement from Wilk to take a neutral position.
Despite lowering the proposed cost of California’s high-speed rail project to $68 billion, the Brown administration still relies on “highly speculative” funding for the project, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a report today recommending that construction funding not be approved.
The nonpartisan LAO did recommend that the Legislature approve minimal funding to continue planning for the project.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority propose to use $2.6 billion in high-speed rail bond funds and $3.3 billion in federal funds to start construction in the Central Valley by early next year.
The LAO and other critics of the project have long questioned the authority’s reliance on uncertain federal funding to complete the project, an objection raised by the LAO again today.
“Given the federal government’s current financial situation and the current focus in Washington on reducing federal spending, it is uncertain if any further funding for the high-speed rail program will become available,” the report said, which may be viewed online at this link.
Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that the state budget deficit could increase by $1 billion or more above the $9.2 billion his administration estimated in January.
Brown said that because of court challenges, weaker-than-expected tax receipts and other factors, the state’s deficit would probably grow when he releases revised budget numbers next month.
“Whether it’s $1 billion or a couple billion, we’ll let you know in a couple weeks,” Brown said after speaking to the California Medical Assn. in Sacramento.
The doctors’ group has donated more than $250,000 to Brown’s initiative for the fall ballot, which would temporarily raise taxes on sales and incomes of more than $250,000. Brown said his initiative was constructed to have the greatest chance for voter approval, even though polls show Californians are divided on the measure.
A San Francisco state senator believes California is ready for a significant change in how the state treats people arrested for possessing drugs and is proposing reducing criminal penalties, a shift he said may actually lead to a decrease in drug use.
Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has introduced a bill that would change the punishment for possession of any illicit drug from a felony to a misdemeanor. The bill, SB1506, won support from a legislative committee Tuesday and if enacted into law would make California the 14th state in the country to classify drug possession as a lesser crime.
The federal government also classifies simple drug possession – including cocaine and heroin – as a misdemeanor. Simple drug possession means the substance is for personal use and is not intended to be sold.
Leno predicts the change would have multiple impacts, including reducing government costs and improving public safety, but also noted a potential significant social impact.
“How does that burden, which mostly affects young brown and black people, benefit any of us?” Leno said, noting a felony limits a person’s ability to get a job, housing and college aid. The current system “perpetuates a chronic underclass,” he said.
Enjoy your morning and watch Dan Walters discuss how California businesses achieve success with the Job Killer List in the Capitol.