An afternoon collection of links and comments about my home, California.
Controller: State may need to cut budget this year
Once again, state revenues came in below projections last month, State Controller John Chiang announced Monday, signaling that future budget cuts may be just around the corner.
In June, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats produced a state budget based largely on optimistic revenue projections. If the projections don’t materialize by December, the budget included a mechanism that would trigger additional cuts to education and other parts of state government.
Chiang said Monday that the latest numbers — which show revenues $301.6 million below projections for September — suggest the trigger could be pulled.
“For better or worse, the potential for revenue shortfalls is precisely why the Governor and Legislature included trigger cuts in this year’s State spending plan,” Chiang said in a prepared statement. “September’s revenues alone do not guarantee that triggers will be pulled. But as the largest revenue month before December, these numbers do not paint a hopeful picture.”
GOP assemblyman files referendum of California Dream Act
A GOP state assemblyman today launched an effort to ask voters to repeal the California Dream Act signed into law this weekend by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, filed referendum papers to overturn Assembly Bill 131, which allows undocumented immigrant college students who already qualify for in-state tuition rates to receive state-funded financial aid, including Cal Grants.
“I think that it is perhaps the biggest mistake that Governor Brown has ever made…other than unionizing public employees,” Donnelly, a former Minuteman Corps of California leader, told The Bee over the weekend.
Once cleared for circulation, Donnelly will have less than three months to collect the roughly 505,000 valid voter signatures needed to put the referendum on the 2012 ballot. Qualifying would freeze implementation of the A.B. 131, which is not set to take effect until 2013, until voters decide whether to keep or reject the law.
While he acknowledged that qualifying for the ballot is a “monumental task,” the first-term legislator said he believes he will be able to collect one million signatures without major funding or the use of paid-signature gatherers. He said he will rely on Twitter, talk radio and the fact that “people are furious” to promote his cause.
Brown vetoes bill to limit cell phone searches
Frustrated by Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto, a Bay Area lawmaker says it will be at least another year before he can try again to require police to get a search warrant before looking at the contents of cell phones they seize from people they arrest.
Legislative rules prohibit reintroducing the bill in 2012, the second year of the current two-year session, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said Monday. Despite rebuffs from the governor and the courts, he said, the issue isn’t going away.
Leno’s SB914 would have largely overturned a state Supreme Court ruling in January that let police open and examine the cell phones of people they arrest without a warrant.
The court majority in the 5-2 decision said people who are taken into custody lose their privacy rights over any items they’re carrying. The court cited U.S. Supreme Court rulings from the 1970s upholding searches of cigarette packages and clothing that officers seized during an arrest and examined later without a warrant.
The dissenting justices said modern cell phones can store huge amounts of personal data, and argued that police shouldn’t be allowed to rummage through them without first persuading a judge that they’re likely to contain evidence of wrongdoing. Leno agreed.
SB914 drew support from civil liberties groups and news media organizations, concerned about police access to confidential files of reporters who are swept up in an arrest. A 1978 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires officers to get a warrant to search media records.
New law bans self-service alcohol sales
The Fresh & Easy grocery chain has to fix what it calls a nonexistent problem, now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at self-service checkout stands.
Brown, just before midnight Sunday, approved a proposal that forces the British-owned chain, with more than 125 stores in California, to shift from an all-automated format to one that has at least one clerk on hand to check a purchaser’s age before ringing up sales of beer and wine.
The bill was one of 466 signed by the governor since the Legislature recessed for the year Sept. 9. He has vetoed 97 measures.
The alcoholic beverage sales bill, AB 183, requires face-to-face interaction at Fresh & Easy and all other supermarkets to prevent sales to underage consumers. It was supported by law enforcement and groups that treat alcohol abuse.
“Underage drinking costs California taxpayers an estimated $8.1 billion annually,” said the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco). “AB 183 will help prevent alcohol from getting in young hands.”
Fresh & Easy countered that it built in safeguards by using a combination of automated tellers and clerks to prevent sales to minors. Furthermore, executives noted, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it had no enforcement difficulties with self-service check-outs.
“There’s a problem with making policy on issues like this when clearly the problem doesn’t exist,” said Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott. “Now we have to fix it.”
Brown’s signature is a victory for the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The California Grocers Assn., the industry’s trade group, accused the union of pushing for passage as a ploy to pressure Fresh & Easy to sign a union employment contract. The union denied the charge.
Enjoy your afternoon and evening!