Category: CA-26

Apr 23 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 23, 2012

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Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Good Monday morning!

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

Remember: Friday is the last day for policy committees to pass fiscal bills introduced in their house. So, there will be some action around the Capitol this week.

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

On to today’s California headlines:

Cost of public retiree health care soars in California

As Stockton contemplates a bankruptcy filing, cities, counties and school districts throughout California are grappling with the same issue that has led the delta port city to the brink of insolvency – soaring costs for retiree health care.

San Francisco, which once allowed its public employees to qualify for full retiree medical benefits after working just five years, is projected to pay $153 million in retiree health care costs this year, about 5 percent of the city’s general fund.

The Ventura County city of Thousand Oaks capped its contributions for retiree health care at $435 a month but still faces a $12.6 million unfunded liability for the perk, an amount equal to about 18 percent of the city’s general fund budget.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district, promises 100 percent lifetime health benefits to retirees, their spouses and dependents. It now faces $10.3 billion in long-term unfunded liabilities for the benefit, 1 1/2 times the district’s annual budget.

And at the state level, retiree health care costs have ballooned from $560 million annually a decade ago to a projected $1.7 billion in the coming fiscal year, almost 2 percent of general fund spending.
The benefits’ costs are expected to double for the state and local governments over the next 10 years.


Action slow so far on Gov. Brown’s pension reforms

It’s been six months since Gov. Jerry Brown put forward his proposals to make the public pension system more affordable, yet action on his 12-point plan has been nearly imperceptible.

That has led Republican lawmakers to accuse the Democrats who control the Legislature of stalling. Democrats acknowledge the slow pace, yet say they are making progress and intend to enact reforms before the session ends in August.

“It’s not as fast as I would like, but it’s complicated,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said this week during an appearance before the Sacramento Press Club.

He said Democrats have an obligation to deliver pension reform, particularly as they will ask voters in November to approve hikes to the income and sales taxes. But he also said they have “a different take” on parts of the governor’s plan.

Brown’s reform packaged called for increasing the retirement age to 67 for new, non-public safety employees and having local and state government workers pay more toward their pensions and retiree health care. Among other changes, the governor would put new workers in a hybrid plan that includes a 401(k)-style vehicle.

Frustrated that Brown’s reform package had not been translated into individual bills, Republican lawmakers earlier this year did it themselves. They submitted a legislative package that copied Brown’s 12-point plan and asked that it be heard by the Conference Committee on Public Employee Pensions, which has held five hearings throughout the state reviewing retirement benefits for public employees.

‘No party preference’ is new political flavor in California

Congressional candidate Linda Parks isn’t one for conventional choices.

As she tells voters in a recent television ad, her favorite ice cream flavor is not chocolate or vanilla, but the nuts-and-marshmallow-loaded Rocky Road.

And her chosen party preference on the June 5 ballot?

“None.”

“I’ve had longtime supporters tell me, ‘I don’t even know what party you are.’ And I like that,” said Parks, a Ventura County supervisor who has been both a member and, more recently, a punching bag of both the Republican and the Democratic parties. “I like the fact that they can’t peg me as one party or the other.”

Parks is one of 36 candidates with “no party preference” running for state and federal office in California this year, the first time the option is available for primary candidates.

Her candidacy for the 26th Congressional District is getting attention because of the chance she’ll succeed in becoming the first independent elected to the House of Representatives since 2004.

No-party-preference candidates make up just a fraction of the more than 500 people running for state and federal office on the June ballot. But some observers say a win – or even a good show – by Parks or other no-party-preference candidates could pave the way for more independents to run for elected office in California.

“In this climate with the tea party and the Occupy movement and the anti-incumbent sentiment, if it turns out that that does translate into ‘no-party-preference’ candidates winning, we can expect to see all sorts of people shedding their party affiliation in the future,” said Kimberly Nalder, an associate professor in the California State University, Sacramento, Department of Government.

Tobacco marketing targets low-income, black youth, researchers say

Tobacco marketing is targeting California’s low-income and African American youth, according to researchers who examined advertising throughout the state.

Academic researchers funded by the state’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program found that there was greater visibility of menthol cigarette advertising at retailers near high schools where there are larger African American student populations.

According to the most recent statistics issued by the Federal Trade Commission, the tobacco industry spent $10 billion on marketing in 2008.

“There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem,” said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who presented the research at a legislative briefing in Sacramento last week. “The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit.”

Henriksen’s research [PDF], published last year, found that as the proportion of black students increased at a California high school, so did the share of both menthol-related advertising and Newport brand promotions at nearby retailers. The study looked at all cigarette advertising, but specifically analyzed promotions and price discounts for Newport and Marlboro, two of the most popular brands with underage smokers, researchers said.

Enjoy your morning and here is Dan Walters discussing California unemployment numbers:

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Apr 05 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 5, 2012

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Maria-Elena Talamantes taking the oath of office for the El Monte Union High School District, April 4, 2012

Good Thursday morning!

The California Legislature is adjourned for Spring/Easter break and will resume on April 9, 2012.

On to today’s California headlines:

Brown pitches tax hike for public safety

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday urged support for his proposed tax increase to assure funding for local governments that have taken on increased public safety duties.

“To make realignment work, which is the most far-reaching change in our criminal justice system in decades, we need the money. In order to get the money, we need some more tax revenue,” Brown told media before addressing the California State Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in San Diego. “But almost equally as important, we need the guarantee this money is going to be available at the local level for public safety.”

Brown is seeking to build support for his initiative that includes a constitutional provision guaranteeing state funding for counties that were given responsibility for some lower-level criminals. The proposal aimed for the November ballot would raise money for schools, public safety and various services by increasing the sales tax by a quarter cent for five years and hiking income taxes on a sliding scale for seven years on Californians making more than $250,000 annually.

News from the wild card in CD 26 campaign

The question I hear most frequently from those following Ventura County’s 26th Congressional District race is this: “What’s the story with David Cruz Thayne?”

Thayne is a relative newcomer to the area, having moved to Westlake Village about four years ago, has never run for or been elected to political office and has no apparent base in the district outside of the small network of tennis enthusiasts he has come to know as a tennis instructor, former professional player and parent of a player who competes in local youth tournaments. But he does have this going for him: a team of well respected and talented professionals working with his campaign.

So the big question has been whether he will be able to raise enough money to put this team to work spreading a message that would make him competitive in the June 5 primary.

Unaffiliated voters grow despite partisanship

Despite the high degree of partisanship in Washington and Sacramento, unaffiliated voters in California continue to increase their market share. Decline-to-state voters now account for 21 percent of the state’s electorate, up from the 19 percent of 2008 and double the 10.5 percent of 1995.

Over the last 17 years, both major parties have seen their share decrease. Democrats are now at 44 percent of the state’s voters, down from 48 percent. And Republicans, saddled by a growing Latino electorate that is largely turned off by the GOP, have lost an even bigger chunk as they’ve gone from 37 percent to 30 percent.

California’s dramatic growth in unaffiliated voters, at the current rate, would mean the group would surpass Republicans in 2026 and and Democrats in 2032. The growth is generally attributed to the major parties having a relatively weak organizational presence in California and young voters increasingly registering to vote without declaring a party allegiance.

The rise is not reflected on the national level.

Assemblyman Allen’s union ties raises questions

Assemblyman Michael Allen remained on the payroll of two North Bay labor unions after he took office last year, raising questions for the Santa Rosa Democrat who previously ran afoul of state political conflict-of-interest laws because of his work.

State records show that unions representing health care workers at two North Bay hospitals paid Allen at least $20,000 last year for legal services.

The income, which Allen legally had to report under state political disclosure laws, was in addition to the $95,291 Allen earned as a state lawmaker last year.

Lawmakers generally aren’t prohibited from earning outside income so long as they don’t vote on matters that directly affect the companies or organizations that they are working for.

But some political observers said such work raises questions about a candidate’s independence.

“Appearances are everything in politics. It raises the specter of impropriety, whether or not that exists,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

Have a good morning!

Here is Dan Walters talking about interesting politicians:

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Mar 22 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 22, 2012

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Elysian Park, California before the Los Angeles Marathon

Good morning!

I have taken a few days off recuperating from Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon.

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:

New ACLU report on costly realignment – counties ignoring cheaper, better alternatives

California may be dismantling its prison-industrial complex, but it’s quickly replacing it with a jail-industrial complex, a new report released late Tuesday warns.

The state’s prison population has plummeted — by 22,440 inmates, or about 15 percent — since October, according to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. That’s when the state responded to a court order to reduce overcrowding by adopting realignment, which shifts responsibility to counties for imprisoning and rehabilitating nonviolent felons.

But now, according to the ACLU, the state is funneling billions of dollars to counties, much of it for building or expanding jails, instead of for cheaper alternatives called for in the realignment law — including electronic monitoring, drug treatment and vocational training. The report is the first comprehensive critique of realignment since the massive plan was adopted six months ago.

“The state says locking people up hasn’t worked,” said Allen Hopper, police practices director of the ACLU of Northern California. “But on the other hand, it turns over billions to maintain the status quo,” he said.

Beginning in 2007, the state has awarded about $1.2 billion to 22 counties for jail construction, including $602 million early this month to 11 counties for the expansion or construction of jails. The state also gave counties about $400 million this fiscal year to spend on whatever mix of incarceration, supervision and programs they choose.

The report contends counties could easily reduce their jail populations and save money without endangering public safety, principally by releasing more inmates awaiting trial on their own recognizance or under supervision. About 71 percent of the inmates languishing in California’s jails are awaiting trial and haven’t been convicted of any offense.

Dan Walters: Big voting change in California communities is a big risk

A decade-old California law and 2010 census data are having a potentially explosive effect on how governing boards of local governments, especially cities, are elected.

While all counties and larger cities and school districts have long elected their governing boards from single-member districts, smaller jurisdictions have usually used “at-large” elections in which members are elected by all voters.

It’s long been a bone of civic and political contention, with members of non-white ethnic groups complaining that at-large elections deny them opportunities to place members of their communities in positions of civic power.

Throughout the state, the issue has often been joined via local ballot measures to switch to district voting, with some successful and some not.

Home slump isn’t going away in California

The wreckage of California’s real estate crash is still washing up on the shoreline.

California, Florida and Illinois accounted for more than a third of the nation’s 1.6 million housing units classified as shadow inventory in January, according to CoreLogic, a Santa Ana-based mortgage-tracking company.

CoreLogic defines shadow inventory as properties with 90 days-plus delinquencies, foreclosures or those that are lender-owned.

On a year-over-year basis, CoreLogic said Wednesday that U.S. shadow inventory was down from January 2011, when it stood at 1.8 million units, or eight months’ supply.

This year’s January total, which CoreLogic equated to six months’ supply, virtually matched that reported in October last year.

CoreLogic said shadow inventory growth has been offset by the roughly equal flow of distressed sales – short and lender-owned.

“Almost half of the shadow inventory is not yet in the foreclosure process,” said Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “Shadow inventory also remains concentrated in states impacted by sharp price declines and states with long foreclosure timelines.”

By definition, that includes California. And as a byproduct, the Sacramento region.

‘The potential to turn California politics on its head’

There’s a very long way to go between here and there, but as the campaign season gets under way, Supervisor Linda Parks of Thousand Oaks has a very good chance of making history this year as independent running for Congress. Which is another way of saying that she could actually win.

That conclusion is based on a poll conducted by Parks’ campaign team of Gorton Blair Biggs International, headed by former Pete Wilson strategist George Gorton, whose storied career in political consulting includes a tie-in with Watergate as a youth-vote adviser to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign (he paid someone to spy on anti-war protesters) and a major role in helping to elect Boris Yeltsin as president of the Russian Federation (the film “Spinning Boris” was based on that, with Jeff Goldblum playing the role of Gorton).

Parks’ team yesterday shared with me a polling memo in the 26th Congressional District. Although short on details of the actual poll, the memo makes three things clear: Parks is now running in a strong second place in the primary, none of the four Democratic candidates is particularly well known, and that the Thousand Oaks supervisor has a statistically significant lead in a hypothetical November matchup against Republican Tony Strickland.

Enjoy your morning!

Here is Dan Walter’s on the Irony of Politics and Initiative Signature Gathering:

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Mar 11 2012

Many California Election Filing Deadlines Extended to Wednesday

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We will have to wait on a number of races to get started due to California Election Code 8022.

The complete list is here (Pdf).

In Ventura County, the following races have extended filing deadlines:

  • Assembly District 38
  • State Senate District 19
  • California Congressional District 26

In each of these districts NO incumbents filed for re-election.

Stay tuned…..

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Mar 09 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 9, 2012

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Good Friday morning!

The California Legislature is in session, but there are no floor sessions nor committees scheduled for today.

The Legislature will resume on Monday – the Assembly at 12 Noon and the Senate at 2 PM.

Today is candidate filing deadline for California Legislative, Congressional and Senate races. The June Primary election set of candidates will be set as of 5 PM.

The California Republican Party Board of Directors will be meeting this weekend to consider endorsements for the June Primary election (top two election).

Now that the filing period is coming to an end, the California Republican Party board of directors will meet Sunday to make endorsements ahead of the June primary. Central committees in counties across the state have been meeting to consider making endorsement recommendations in races for Congress and the state Legislature. Those recommendations, or lack of recommendation in some cases, will come up for board approval this weekend. The board will also consider whether to back one of at least four Republican candidates in the race for U.S. Senate. Securing that stamp of approval requires a two-thirds vote.

On to today’s headlines:

Jerry Brown predicts ongoing budget problems, “finger-pointing” if his tax measures fails

Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday he is racing to clear the November ballot of two rival tax initiatives because failure will lead to severe ongoing budget problems and Democratic blame-trading.

“If we get down the road and there are no taxes,” he said, “there’s going to be a lot of finger-pointing.”

The Democratic governor, who proposes to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California’s highest earners, said a proposed tax on millionaires would attract many of the same people who might otherwise support his plan, splitting the vote and likely leaving both measures to fail.

“That would, I think, pretty well ensure the defeat,” Brown told The Bee’s editorial board. “I don’t want to say it’s an absolute, but it’s – I want to choose my words wisely – but I wouldn’t be counting on that tax measure.”

Brown’s meeting was his second this week with a newspaper editorial board, in an increasingly public effort by the governor and his allies to pressure the supporters of two other tax plans to withdraw. Also Thursday, the California Business Roundtable announced its opposition to the other measures.

What deficit? Legal mountain lion hunt dominates state Capitol

Once again, California faces a budget crisis. Revenues are projected to come in lower than anticipated. The governor and special interest groups are sparring over competing tax measures. Angry college students are occupying the Capitol.

And yet the most talked about issue in Sacramento these days is a Fish and Game Commissioner who legally killed a mountain lion in Idaho.

Ever since news of Dan Richards‘ hunting trip came to light in late February, the Watchdog has been patiently waiting for the story to burn itself out.  But after three weeks of intense scrutiny, the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. News organizations, state policy makers and callers to legislative offices continue debating this only-in-California controversy.

The latest development: about 60 people spoke in Richards’ defense at a commission hearing in Riverside on Wednesday, backing the beleaguered commissioner as animal rights groups and environmentalists continue to call for his head. This was after leader of the Senate called Richards a “jackass” and 40 Democratic Assembly members and the lieutenant governor called for his resignation.

Dan Walters: Redistricting, top-two primary change California’s election game

The suburban area of Ventura and Los Angeles counties had long been the domain of Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly.

But Gallegly is retiring this year. As redrawn, the 26th District has a nearly six percentage point Democratic registration advantage, so Democrats see it as a potential gain in their quest to recapture control of Congress.

Initially, Democrats pinned their hopes on Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, but he withdrew. A flock of Democrats jumped in, much to the dismay of party leaders, because Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland also decided to run, giving Republicans a fighting chance of retaining the seat.

After much internal jockeying, party leaders persuaded a local Democratic assemblywoman, Julia Brownley, to enter the race, but the top-two primary system looms as a worrisome factor for the party.


‘Right to Vote’ proposed ballot initiative filed in Thousand Oaks

A Thousand Oaks planning commissioner has filed papers for a proposed ballot initiative that would require the city to hold elections to fill City Council vacancies.

Michael “Mic” Farris submitted the proposed initiative with the city clerk Thursday, two days after the council appointed Planning Commissioner Joel Price to the council seat left vacant by Dennis Gillette, who retired March 1 because of health concerns.

“I think the last two vacancies that the council filled, including the most recent one, left people dissatisfied with how it was resolved,” Farris said of the council’s decision to make appointments. “I know many people wanted to see a (special) election. People would prefer an election if given an opportunity, and this would provide that to the voters.”

In 2005, the council appointed Tom Glancy to the panel after Councilman Ed Masry retired because of health issues.

In both cases, the decision to appoint someone to fill the seat until the end of the retiring council member’s term angered some residents.

Enjoy your morning!

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