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Jun 21 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 21, 2012

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Mission San Francisco de Asís

Good Tuesday morning!

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

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

Jerry Brown’s tax initiative officially qualifies for November

As Democratic state leaders continue budget negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike on sales and upper-income earners officially qualified Wednesday for the November ballot, as did two other tax measures.

Brown’s tax initiative will be joined by a rival measure to hike income taxes on all but the poorest Californians as well as an initiative to raise taxes on multistate corporations based elsewhere, the Secretary of State’s Office announced. A total of 11 measures, including a water bond, are now on the November ballot.

Brown and lawmakers are counting on voters to pass his tax plan to generate an estimated $8.5 billion in the current budget cycle, which provides additional funding for schools and helps bridge the state’s $15.7 billion deficit. Though state leaders considered its qualification a foregone conclusion, some political experts began to wonder whether it could miss the June 28 deadline to reach the November ballot as the date drew closer.

The Brown initiative would raise sales taxes by a quarter-cent on the dollar. It would also hike income taxes starting at $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for joint filers.

Brown backs away from bullet train fight

Gov. Jerry Brown backed away from a fight with environmentalists yesterday, abandoning a plan to exempt the $68 billion California bullet train project from environmental laws.

Brown had hoped to fast-track construction of the controversial project by sidestepping key provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act.

But the idea had put him at odds with most of the state’s green groups.

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Planning and Conservation League were among the organizations that in recent days had strongly criticized Brown’s plan.

The Sierra Club had called Brown’s idea “dangerous” and “a political mistake.”

Most of the state’s environmental groups backed Brown in his 2010 campaign for governor. Several green groups have been firm supporters of the rail project, which would link San Francisco and Los Angeles with trains traveling more than 200 miles per hour.

Lawmakers move to allow sports betting in California

Betting that either Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court will remove the federal obstacle that bars the activity nearly everywhere except in Nevada, the Legislature is moving toward positioning California to allow betting on sports events.

Advancing a bill that passed the Senate with only two dissenting votes in May, an Assembly committee on Wednesday gave bipartisan support to a measure that would give card clubs, horse racing tracks and Indian casinos the ability to add sports betting if the state is given the authority to do so.

Nevada has long held a monopoly on big-time sports betting in the United States, and under the provisions of a 1992 federal law only it and three other small states, all of which previously allowed for limited betting on sports, are allowed to conduct that activity.

But New Jersey voters recently amended their state constitution to legalize sports betting and Gov. Chris Christie last month said his state will begin allowing wagers on football, basketball and other sports contests this fall, daring the federal government to try to stop it.

That could set up a showdown before the U.S. Supreme Court over whether the federal law that allows some states but not others to participate in a commercial activity violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

In addition, New Jersey Sen. Frank LoBiondo has introduced legislation in Congress that would allow additional states an opportunity to establish legal sports betting.

California will be in position to follow New Jersey’s lead if SB 1390 by Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, makes its way through the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this fall.

Jerry Brown and Democrats close to deal on welfare budget

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats are nearing a deal on welfare-to-work cuts that would reduce how long families can receive full aid and child care, but provide exemptions such as one for people in areas with high unemployment.

The Democratic governor and lawmakers are still negotiating how broadly the exemptions would apply, said sources close to negotiations who did not want to be named because the deal remains incomplete. The criteria would determine how much the state could save and the extent to which Brown can declare a shift in the welfare model as he asks voters to raise taxes in November.

Brown wants lawmakers to remake the state’s welfare-to-work program, known as CalWORKs, by imposing more severe consequences for not finding work. Democrats are willing to accept some changes, but they say the governor’s plan is too severe when work is scarce even for more qualified job applicants in California.

“The typical CalWORKs recipient doesn’t have a high school diploma,” said Mike Herald, a lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “They’re having to compete right now in a job market where even people with high school diplomas can’t get hired.”

The dispute over CalWORKs has become one of the biggest sticking points in budget negotiations between Brown and his own party’s lawmakers. Facing the threat of lost pay, Democrats sent the governor a $92 billion spending plan on Friday’s constitutional deadline that relied on softer cuts to the program.

Brown has until Wednesday to sign or veto the main budget bill, while the new fiscal year begins in 10 days. Lawmakers could avoid a veto by passing a compromise budget by Tuesday or pulling back the budget they approved last week.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters’ Daily video: ‘Are Republicans an endangered species in California?’

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