Category: California Election 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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Today is the First Pre-Election Campaign Receipts and Expenditure Deadline for the California June Primary Election

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Scott Lay of Around the Capitol and the Nooner reminds us all.

Today is the first pre-election filing deadline for state candidates, where contributions and expenditures from January 1 through March 17 must be reported. The next federal deadline is April 15, for the period January 1 through March 31.  Since we’re already in the 24-hr required reporting cycle for state candidates of and contributions over $1,000, don’t expect any huge surprises in terms of cash.

You can watch the stream of reports coming in on the Secretary of State’s website. I will do the filing period update for ElectionTrack around 6pm and 9pm, which will feed the contributions, expenditures and cash on hand figures for candidates on the AroundTheCapitol district pages.

The deadline, however, does not apply to the tax and other ballot measures that will potentially be on the November ballot. So, we won’t find out how much of the governor’s $3.7 million raised for the tax measure was spent on the original measure until April 30.

I will be camped out tonight or early tomorrow AM to see what is happening in AD-38 (Patricia McKeon Vs. Scott Wilk et. al.). The report should be revealing, especially if McKeon has, as I suspect, raised a disproportionate amount of money due to her husband’s defense contractor connections in the Congress.

Almost important will be CA-24 Congressional seat but we will have to wait a few more weeks for the federal reports.

Scott does a great job with his sites and they are not even his primary job!

Stay tuned…..

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Jerry Brown and Teacher’s Union Reach Compromise Tax Increase Initiative Deal

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California Governor Jerry Brown speaks in front of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane in Long Beach, California March 14, 2012

Two tax increase mesures for this November’s ballot have been merged with one, Molly Munger’s continuing to be circulated.

After weeks of battling in public and negotiating behind the scenes, Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers have reached a compromise on a November tax initiative.

The deal would result in a smaller sales tax hike and larger tax increase on the wealthy than the Democratic governor wanted. CFT had been circulating an initiative with no sales tax hike and a two-step increase on earners starting at $1 million.

“This united effort makes victory more likely and will go a long way toward balancing our budget and protecting our schools, universities and public safety,” Brown said in a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon.

The new deal would raise the statewide sales tax by a quarter-cent rather than half-cent per every dollar of purchase. It would retain the governor’s three higher tax brackets starting at $250,000 for single filers. But the last marginal tax hike – at $500,000 for singles and $1 million for couples – would increase by 3 percentage points rather than Brown’s original 2 percentage points.

The income tax hike on the rich would also last longer than Brown’s proposal, going for seven years instead of five. The sales tax hike would still expire at the end of 2016.

As I have said before, I do not think California voters are in any mood to raise taxes with the state of the economy as it is. But, the teacher’s will spin this as a small temporary sales tax and a tax the rich scheme too.

However, if Molly Munger’s initiative qualifies for the ballot, voters may still be confused and likely defeat both.

Also, good luck for the compromise initiative to pass through the Attorney General, Secretary of State and gather the necessary signatures in time to be placed on the November ballot. Governor Brown’s original tax increase initiative will continue to gather signatures as a back-up plan.

Gee, that is not confusing enough, is it?

Stay tuned….

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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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California Supreme Court Rules Citizen’s Redistricting Commission State Senate Maps To Be Used in 2012

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This is a definite blow to the California Republican Party which fears that Democrats using the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission’s Maps will be able to take over two-thirds of the number of California State Senate seats in November – paving the way for tax increases.

The California Supreme Court ruled today that state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission will be used in this year’s elections, despite a pending referendum to overturn them.

The issue came before the High Court after a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, filed more than 711,000 signatures with county elections offices in a referendum to overturn Senate maps drawn by a 14-member citizens commission.

Californians will decide the fate of the newly drawn Senate districts in November if 504,760 of the signatures are from valid voters. Legislative candidates must file and run their campaigns before then, however, so justices needed to identify district maps to be in effect immediately.

County elections offices face a Feb. 24 deadline for certifying FAIR’s referendum signatures. Thus far, they have verified 57,761 of 80,127 signatures checked. If the percentage of valid signatures holds steady, 72 percent, the referendum would qualify for the ballot.

Twenty Senate seats are up for grabs this year – and the results carry high-stakes politically.

GOP officials contend that the new, commission drawn lines would give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes or fees.

One has to wonder, however, whether the California GOP would have been better to invest their time and effort on electing more Republicans rather than challenging the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission.

The entire California supreme Court decision is here.

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