Category: California Democratic Party

Aug 13 2012

California 2012 Propositions: Democrats Vs. Republicans – Part 1

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With the recent California Republican Party Convention over the past weekend in Southern California, endorsements are now complete for both California political parties.

I will summarize a few of the propositions in this post and highlight the contrast between the Democrats and GOP.

Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment

Increases personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years. Increases sales and use tax by ¼ cent for four years. Allocates temporary tax revenues 89 percent to K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges. Bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are to be spent. Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state revenues over the next seven fiscal years. Estimates of the revenue increases vary—from $6.8 billion to $9 billion for 2012-13 and from $5.4 billion to $7.6 billion, on average, in the following five fiscal years, with lesser amounts in 2018-19. These revenues would be available to (1) pay for the state’s school and community college funding requirements, as increased by this measure, and (2) address the state’s budgetary problem by paying for other spending commitments. Limitation on the state’s ability to make changes to the programs and revenues shifted to local governments in 2011, resulting in a more stable fiscal situation for local governments. (12-0009)

Democrats: Yes

Republicans: No

Proposition 31: State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

Establishes two-year state budget cycle. Prohibits Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified. Permits Governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act. Requires performance reviews of all state programs. Requires performance goals in state and local budgets. Requires publication of all bills at least three days prior to legislative vote. Gives counties power to alter state statutes or regulations related to spending unless Legislature or state agency vetoes changes within 60 days. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Decreased state revenues and commensurate increased local revenues, probably in the range of about $200 million annually, beginning in 2013-14. Potential decreased state program costs or increased state revenues resulting from changes in the fiscal authority of the Legislature and Governor. Increased state and local costs of tens of millions of dollars annually to implement new budgeting practices. Over time, these costs would moderate and potentially be offset by savings from improved program efficiencies.

Democrats: No

Republicans: Yes

Proposition 32: Prohibits Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Prohibitions on Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.

Restricts union political fundraising by prohibiting use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Same use restriction would apply to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. Permits voluntary employee contributions to employer or union committees if authorized yearly, in writing. Prohibits unions and corporations from contributing directly or indirectly to candidates and candidate-controlled committees. Other political expenditures remain unrestricted, including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by payroll deduction prohibition. Limits government contractor contributions to elected officers or officer-controlled committees. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state implementation and enforcement costs of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines.

Democrats: No

Republicans: Yes

As you can see, with the first three propositions, the Democrats and Republicans are exactly opposite.

Californians need to read these ballot measures closely, since they deal with the issues that the Governor and Legislature deem too hot to handle.

The POLS prefer to allow either the Capitol special interests or their special interest surrogates to carry the political ball.

I will deal with the remainder of the California Propositions in subsequent posts.

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Jul 30 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 30, 2012

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Marina Del Rey, California

Good Monday morning!

The California Legislature is not in session for a summer recess.

The California Assembly has adjourned until August 6, 2012 and the California State Senate is also in adjournment.

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

On to today’s California headlines:

California Democratic Party endorses Jerry Brown tax initiative

The California Democratic Party has made its support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative official.

The party’s executive board voted to endorse Proposition 30 at a weekend meeting in Anaheim. The measure would generate an estimated $8.5 billion in revenues assumed in the current state budget by temporarily raising income taxes on high earners and enacting a quarter percent hike in the state sales tax.

The board voted to oppose a rival tax initiative backed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California State PTA. Proposition 38 would raise income taxes on a sliding scale for most Californians, sending the bulk of the revenues to schools and early childhood development programs.

Are public pensions following IRS tax-delay rules?

The IRS is taking a new look at whether public pension systems qualify for tax deferrals, raising questions about nonprofit charter schools in CalSTRS and county systems using “excess” earnings to fund retiree health care.

Taxes on employer-employee contributions to pension systems and their investment earnings can be avoided until retirees are paid. But if the rules are not followed, the IRS can change the tax status and impose fines and penalties.

As public pension funding problems surfaced during the economic downturn, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service began encouraging retirement systems to seek compliance reviews and make voluntary changes.

Some large systems, such as the California State Teachers Retirement System, have not had full tax reviews in recent decades, relying instead on IRS approval of specific issues.

(The giant California Public Employees Retirement System and the University of California Retirement System did not respond to queries last week about the status of their tax compliance reviews.)

Last April, CalSTRS said in a letter to the IRS that a proposed new rule, aimed at excluding non-government employees from public pensions, could make more than 10,000 charter school employees now in CalSTRS ineligible for the retirement system.

Bay Area to Sin City? Las Vegas bullet train backers gamble on record loan

Call it the bachelor or bachelorette party of tomorrow: you and your friends sipping cocktails aboard a futuristic train as it whips travelers across the desert to Las Vegas.

You might have to wait awhile, but it’s not such a long shot. Lost in the fractious debate over California high-speed rail is a separate, little-publicized plan for a second bullet train that would connect the Golden State with Sin City. Private developers are wagering on the Vegas train, hoping the Obama administration in coming weeks provides a record rail loan to kick-start construction on the $8 billion-plus train line that could someday connect to California’s much-debated high-speed railroad near Los Angeles.

The vision for the 150 mph party train is as audacious as the gaudy casinos, shows and night life that attract 1.5 million visits to Vegas from the Bay Area each year. Partyers could pay the equivalent of a pricey plane ticket and step onto the Las Vegas Strip in less than 1 1/2 hours from Southern California.

“Consider the train an extension of Las Vegas,” said project COO Andrew Mack. “We definitely want to create that type of environment where they can sit back and relax.”

California’s newest city withering on fiscal vine

The jagged foothills, withered pastures and a web of horse trails along the Santa Ana River give the state’s newest city a hint of the Wild West. Jurupa Valley’s money troubles, though, are pure modern-day California.

Jurupa Valley may be broke in a year, even though the city is so new that it has no permanent employees, no generous employee pension plan and runs City Hall out of a leased strip-mall storefront next to the Lucky Wok Chinese restaurant.

Without a financial rescue, the city will have to shut its doors, sending the mishmash of Jurupa Valley communities back into the ether of unincorporated Riverside County.Unlike San Bernardino, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes, California cities that have all reached the brink of insolvency in recent weeks, Jurupa Valley’s money troubles are not of its own making. They are Sacramento’s fault.

Enjoy your morning!

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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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Feb 13 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: February 13, 2012

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Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks, California

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

On to today’s California headlines:

Bennett’s departure from House race clears field for new frontrunner

After Supervisor Steve Bennett’s dramatic decision Saturday night to end his campaign for the House, county Democrats left the state party convention Sunday wondering whether one of the three remaining announced candidates will emerge as a clear frontrunner or whether a new candidate will step in to try to fill that role.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, whose district includes much of Oxnard and Port Hueneme, said she “will be taking a very serious look” at entering the race, and former Ventura Mayor Richard Francis also is reconsidering a potential candidacy.

“It’s fluid,” said Democratic strategist Garry South, who is advising the campaign of Westlake Village businessman David Cruz Thayne. “Bennett was clearly the heavyweight in the race — at least the best-known candidate. And now it’s very late to be jumping into a race for Congress.”

California Democrats take shots at Republicans – and each other

For California Democrats attending the state party’s annual convention here over the weekend, the mission for 2012 was clear: deliver victory to President Barack Obama and win enough congressional seats to give the speaker’s gavel back to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

“We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris said during a Saturday address to delegates. “We need to do whatever is necessary, day and night, night and day, to return President Barack Obama to the White House.”

While California is considered safely in Obama’s column this year, party leaders and elected officials roused delegates with talk of the 2012 “battleground” election here in the Golden State, touting opportunities to pick up newly drawn and GOP-held districts to help House Democrats get the 25 seats they need to reclaim the majority.

“This is the most important election that we have to deal with,” Pelosi told delegates Friday. “We have to swing for the fences.”

But in an election year when new districts and legislative turnover are producing fierce primary contests, some of the sharpest shots were fired at rivals in the same room.

“Don’t let the super PACs control this race,” Rep. Brad Sherman said of campaign committees formed in support of fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman Saturday, echoing the line of attack Pelosi used against Republicans for much of the weekend.

The remark came as the two San Fernando Valley Democrats vied for votes to win the party’s endorsement in the 30th Congressional District contest, one of 16 races where the party’s endorsement was still up for debate heading into the three-day convention.

The fight between the Berman and Sherman camps was the battle royale of the weekend, culminating with the two exchanging verbal blows in front of a crowd of several hundred delegates assigned to the district gathered to make a recommendation.

“By the way,” Berman shot back during the meeting. “Do you find it slightly pathetic that a guy who represents twice as much of the (newly drawn) district, started with $2 million more in cash on hand, finds it necessary this early in the campaign to spend all his time attacking and distorting his opponent’s record? Maybe a little insecurity here?”

Sherman came out ahead, but failed to hit the 60 percent threshold needed to be eligible for the endorsement. While talk of a challenge was rampant Saturday evening – Sherman declared he had a handwriting expert on hand in case the integrity of some ballots was in question – no endorsement was made in the race.

L.A. Coliseum Commission officials cash in on unused sick leave

Top officials at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum have shown a knack for banking healthy chunks of unused sick leave on the public payroll — in one case, about 35 years’ worth.

Interim General Manager John Sandbrook, a retired University of California administrator, used the sick leave allotment for most of his university career to boost his annual pension by $655 a month for life, to nearly $183,000, UC figures show. The increase represents 418 days — the quota for all but two of his roughly 37 years within the system, which allows 12 sick days a year.

Sandbrook, 62, was hired by the Coliseum Commission to help stop spending abuses at the scandal-shadowed stadium, which is operated jointly by the city, county and state. The man he replaced last year, Patrick Lynch, left with more than nine years of accrued sick time, adding $1,630 annually to his retirement benefits, according to city and state records.

The practice is allowed under state rules but “smacks of pension spiking,” said David Kline, vice president of the California Taxpayers Assn. “I guarantee you will never find a private company that will allow any employee to accrue more than 30 years of unused sick time.”

California lawmaker to seek reelection after year in Afghanistan

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo needn’t worry about those contesting his reelection challenging any of his votes during the last year. That is because he has spent the time out of the country, serving on active duty in Afghanistan.

Gorell, a Naval Reservist, took office in December 2010 and left three months later for a one-year tour of duty as an intelligence officer overseas. He does not return until March 18, so on Friday his wife, Laura, stood in for him and announced her husband’s plans to seek reelection this year.

“Jeff is very excited to be coming home in March to resume representing his constituents in the state Assembly,” Laura Gorell said in a statement.

My California Assemblyman Jeff Gorell

Enjoy your morning!

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Feb 10 2012

Flap’s California Afternoon Collection: February 10, 2012

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Qualcomm Stadium, Home of the San Diego Padres, San Diego, California

On to the pre-weekend California headlines:

California Democrats converge on San Diego

California Democrats will begin sketching out a roadmap to the November election and beyond when they converge thousands strong on the state party convention this weekend in San Diego.

The priorities of the more than 3,000 party activists, delegates, volunteers and elected officials expected here are many: Re-electing President Barack Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, pushing to regain control of the House of Representatives, electing a supermajority in the state Legislature and passing tax increases in the fall.

They also will be keenly focused on a lesser-known ballot measure that would limit the ability of unions to raise political funds from their members.


Pete Schabarum, ‘father of term limits,’ revisits the issue

The “father of term limits” says he isn’t pleased with the way things turned out.

With another proposal to tinker with  Legislature service allowances on the June ballot, The Times caught up recently with former longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum. The blunt-spoken Republican won fans and foes when he upended state government with his 1990 ballot measure imposing limits on how long state politicians can stay in office. Several local governments and some other states soon followed suit.

Reached at his home in the desert community of Indian Wells, Schabarum said he had hoped his measure would encourage a new breed of “citizen legislator” who would serve the state for a short period of time and then return to private life, giving others opportunities to bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to government.

Instead, many elected officials who want careers in politics engage in a near-constant rotation among posts.

“The guys and gals who are seeking office are always looking beyond where they land for the next jump,” Schabarum said. “They spend most of their time in office looking for their next job.”

What would he do differently if he’d know then what he knows now?

“I probably  would have provided longer timelines but not made it so they could bounce around from one house [of the Legislature] to another.”

Will he vote for a measure on the June 5 ballot that would shorten a legislator’s allowance from 14 years to 12?

“We’ll see,” replied Schabarum,  83.

SUSPENSE IN SANDY EGGO

Democrats convene at the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego this weekend for their annual convention and, unlike many party gatherings, there is a lot to watch.

The best part of the weekend is 4:45-6:45 tomorrow evening, when the endorsing caucuses meet. These caucuses are held for districts in which a candidate had more than 50% and less than 70% at the regional conferences held in January.

Generally, candidates need 60% vote in tomorrow’s caucuses to get on the “consent calendar” for state party ratification on Sunday. However, an incumbent only needs 50%+1, which is rubbing some activists wrong

In districts where there are two incumbents (CD30 – Berman/Sherman), a candidate needs 60%.

California budget still imperiled by cash crunch

California’s tax revenues continue to pour into the state’s coffers well below what Gov. Jerry Brown forecast in his budget, a worrisome sign amid indications of an economic upturn.

State Controller John Chiang issued a report Friday showing that tax receipts in January were $528 million lower than the governor assumed in the budget he released a few weeks ago. That budget already assumed a $9 billion deficit.

“January’s revenues were disappointing on almost every front,” Chiang said in a statement.

The good news — or what passes for good news in the land of California budgeting — is that Chiang said the state is no longer in danger of entirely running out of cash next month. The Department of Finance will shift funds around and take out short-term loans to avoid falling as much as $3 billion in the red.

But the continuing lagging tax receipts are another dose of cold water on some who are hoping for an easier budget year.

Federal judge dismisses GOP’s political map suit

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Republicans challenging California’s newly drawn congressional maps, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission announced Friday in its latest court victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson dismissed the challenge led by former congressman George Radanovich. Republicans, who have been trying to halt new district boundaries that could diminish their political clout, had argued that the commission improperly used race as a factor in creating voting districts.

The Los Angeles-based federal judge found that the California Supreme Court already considered and rejected the petition.

“Once again the work of the Citizens Redistricting Commission has been affirmed against baseless partisan attacks,” said commission chairwoman Jeanne Raya in a statement. “The federal court has found that the commission’s process complied with the law and was fair and representative.”

Attorneys representing Republicans did not immediately return a request for comment. They have the option to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court over the federal Voting Rights act.

The decision marks the fifth time the 14-member citizens redistricting commission has been able to fend off a legal challenge.

Enjoy your weekend!

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