Good Tuesday Morning!
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
Both houses will be tied up with floor sessions all week, and no committees will be meeting. Today, the Senate convenes at noon, and the Assembly at 1 p.m.
How many bills are pending? Aides said last Friday that the Senate will be working its way through approximately 160 measures, while the Assembly has about 225 on its plate.
Bills to watch in the upper house include Senate Bill 1234, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. This would set up a state-run pension plan for private-sector employees not covered by a retirement plan.
On the Assembly side, Assembly Bill 2312 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would regulate the medical marijuana industry and allow local governments to impose up to a 5 percent tax on sales.
On to today’s California headlines:
With California voters poised to vote next week on a tobacco tax hike, a new federal study concludes that the state has used relatively little of the billions of dollars in tobacco money it already takes in to prevent kids from smoking or to help smokers quit.
Between 1998 and 2010, just 6 percent of the money collected from a massive lawsuit settlement and from cigarette taxes went to tobacco interdiction and education programs, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week, far below federal spending guidelines for effectively curbing tobacco use.
The report has provided fuel for both sides of the pitched debate over a June 5 ballot measure that would more than double the state tax on a pack of cigarettes. The money would pay for tobacco-related disease research and anti-smoking programs and go to fight illicit tobacco sales.
The drain of education dollars from the state’s community colleges has raised the specter of campus closures or receiverships, a state college budget officer says.
The comment came as the local colleges look at the uncertain fate of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure on the November ballot. A defeat there could become a knockout blow for some campuses that have been absorbing cuts and dipping into reserve funds over the past three years.
All of California’s interlocked higher education systems — the University of California, the California State University and the community colleges — have been hit hard by the state’s fiscal problems, but community colleges perhaps most of all. Tasked with job training, remedial education and transferring students to universities, the schools receive less money per student than either the universities or K-12 schools.
If the tax initiative fails, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to slash $300 million from the 112-college system’s $3.7 billion budget. And, although he would give the schools $340 million from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, experts say that money may not arrive in time for this year’s budget.
“I do think some districts are going to need state assistance,” said Scott Lay, president and CEO of the Community College League of California, an advocacy group. “I don’t know how many districts would be able to survive a reduction like that and the lost redevelopment money.”
Troubled districts likely would need to ask the state for emergency loans to keep the doors open, but California may not have money available for such emergencies.
When the taxpayer-funded Peninsula Health Care District established a loan program to attract new physicians in 2003, officials promoted it as a way to address doctor shortages in parts of San Mateo County.
The program was designed to help primary care physicians cover the costs of setting up private practices or relocating to the district, which includes Burlingame and Hillsborough, two cities with some of the highest real estate prices in the nation. Doctors who practiced in the district for four or five years would have their loans forgiven.
But nearly a decade later, no physicians have completed the program. The district has not actively promoted the incentives, even after expanding it in 2006 to include other specialties. As a result, critics say, hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have financed community health programs has languished over the years.
“If there is a program that hasn’t worked for 10 years, you would think there would be a course correction, especially with so many dire health care needs in California,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group based in Sacramento. “In the last 10 years, we had tough budget cuts to care for the uninsured and safety net providers. Given the district’s mission, it would certainly have been important for the district to fill in for the drastic budget cuts we’ve seen.”
City officials are not yet formally negotiating a sales-tax agreement with Amazon as the Internet retailer prepares to open a distribution center here, but the company has broached the subject of tax concessions.
“We had one meeting, several months ago. This was mentioned, and it’s never been mentioned again,” said mayoral chief of staff Jim Morris, son of Mayor Pat Morris.
An Amazon spokesman, however, left the door open for the firm to seek a tax-sharing deal.
“We are evaluating various incentives routinely provided to other retailers but have made no decisions,” Amazon spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Stanzel said he could not make any further statements on the record.
Amazon calls the facility a “fulfillment center,” a place where it would warehouse goods for delivery to online customers. The company is expected to occupy a 950,000-square-foot distribution center this fall at the Alliance California complex near San Bernardino International Airport.
The retailer’s move into the center, and another in Stanislaus County, is part of a deal Amazon made with Gov. Jerry Brown. The agreement calls for Amazon to build California warehouses employing at least 10,000 people on a full-time basis and 25,000 more on a seasonal basis by the end of 2015.
In exchange, Amazon received a one-year delay to collect sales taxes in California.
Enjoy your morning!