Category: California Initiative

Apr 20 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 20, 2012

Share

San Diego, California

Good Friday morning!

The California Legislature is in session but there are no floor sessions scheduled for today.

Governor Brown will be attending the funeral of a Stanislaus sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed April 12 as he tried to serve an eviction notice.

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

On to today’s California headlines:

Analysis says Calif. prison medical costs too high

As the state prepares to resume control of inmate medical care, it must find ways to reduce costs that are triple the national average, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said Thursday.

The federal receivership that has been in place since 2006 has greatly improved the medical care of state prison inmates but also has caused costs to soar, according to the report. California spends $16,000 per inmate for health care services, compared to an average of $5,000 in other states.

The analysis was released less than two weeks before the state and attorneys representing inmates must report to a federal judge with recommendations on when the receivership should end and whether it should maintain some oversight role.

The Legislature should create an independent board to monitor prison medical care to make sure conditions do not deteriorate once the state retakes control, the report said. It also recommends that the state experiment with contracting for medical services to cut costs.

The state should rely more on telemedicine so physicians in urban medical facilities can treat inmates without physically traveling to remote prisons. The analysis also found that the receivership has not been consistent in using management safeguards that are designed to hold down medical spending.

The receivership already is following many of the recommendations outlined in the report, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.

The receivership began emphasizing telemedicine a year ago, Kincaid said. She acknowledged that while medical staff in some prisons follow the receivership’s uniform policy for controlling medical costs, those in other prisons must do a better job.

The receiver, J. Clark Kelso, uses private contractors when they are cheaper, she said, but is limited by a prohibition in the state constitution on using a contractor if a state employee can do the job.

She disputed the report’s comparisons with costs in other states, contending that many others don’t count their administrative, information technology or contract costs in their accounting.

Senate leader wants initiative process changed

The leader of the state Senate announced Thursday that he wants to put a measure on the November 2014 ballot to amend California’s initiative system.

Speaking before the Sacramento Press Club (full disclosure: this reporter is the president of the club), Sen. Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the state’s initiative system is broken and one need look no further than last year’s budget negotiations for proof.

Last year, as Total Buzz readers will recall, the then newly elected governor (Jerry Brown) wanted to put on the ballot a tax increase, but Republican legislators wouldn’t put up the votes necessary to send it to the voters. Steinberg said that’s wrong – the minority party was stopping the will of an overwhelmingly elected governor, all because the rules said ballot measures required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

Steinberg said that’s not fair and he named three changes he plans to pursue:

  •     Allow the Legislature, on a majority vote, to place on statutory initiatives on the ballot. Statutory initiatives include measures to raise taxes. (Steinberg said he wouldn’t change the vote threshold for putting constitutional amendment initiatives on the ballot.)
  •     Implement an “indirect initiative” process. That’s where initiative proponents refer their proposal to the Legislature after they’ve gathered the requisite number of signatures rather than directly to the voters. Once the proposal is before the Legislature, lawmakers have the option of amending it. Steinberg said 10 other states have similar processes.
  •     Allow the Legislature, with the governor’s permission, to repeal a voter approved initiative after 10 years. Steinberg said 23 other states have similar rules.

“It sounds obvious, but needs and priorities change,” Steinberg said. California can no longer afford to be governed by voter approved initiatives that exist in perpetuity, like propositions 13 and 98, two budget related ballot measures that have deeply affected the state’s finances.


Democrat Hodge lands Republican Bradbury’s endorsement

For decades, former Ventura County District Attorney Michael Bradbury has been a stalwart Republican with a fondness for throwing his name around in political campaigns. Although he keeps a much lower public profile these days, Bradbury is at it again — this time with a surprising twist. He’s endorsing a Democrat, Oxnard Harbor Commissioner Jason Hodge in the three-candidate primary in the 19th Senate District that includes Republican Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County supervisor.

Although the public announcement was made just today, Hodge tells me that Bradbury “has been a very strong supporter from early on. I know Mike and Mike knows me, and he knows that I have a history of bipartisan cooperation.”

Stoker took the news with grace when I informed him of the endorsement this morning. “Now that I know he has an interest in the 19th Senate District race,” he said, “Mike Bradbury will be one of the first people I go see the day after the primary.”


State ethics czar wants disclosure when campaigns pay bloggers

Ravel acknowledged that her proposal might be controversial with some free speech advocates and bloggers, while others question whether blogs are worth the attention of regulators.

Former state Sen. Steve Peace, now head of the California Independent Voter Project, says Republicans read Republican-oriented blogs and Democrats read those aligned with their party’s ideology.  “I don’t think the blogs are very convincing,” Peace said at the conference. “They talk to people who already agree with them.”

Ravel said some bloggers have admitted to her that they have received undisclosed funding from partisan interests.

In 2009, Chip Hanlon, chief executive of the blog site Red County, announced that one of its writers had been let go after it was discovered the writer was taking payments from a consultant for gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner “for favorable coverage.” Although candidates must disclose their spending, the true source of the funding is hidden when payments are made to consultants, who then pay the bloggers.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters daily video: Will term-limits measure benefit politicians?

Share

Apr 12 2012

Flap’s California Afternoon Collection: April 12, 2012

Share

Lombard Street, San Francisco, California

Good Thursday 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:

FEC delays decision in Durkee embezzle case

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday raised sharp questions but came to no firm conclusion over Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for greater fundraising leeway in the wake of embezzlement by her former campaign treasurer.

The punt will give the FEC more time to consider whether California politicians ripped off by former treasurer Kinde Durkee can solicit additional funds from individuals who have already reached their contribution limit.

“We’re all sympathetic to your client,” FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub told Feinstein’s attorneys Thursday morning, “but it’s still a hard question.”

Though the commission’s legal staff had recommended rejecting Feinstein’s request, the commissioners during a two-hour hearing indicated they thought it was a close call. Several voiced concern over the potential “implications” for other campaigns of granting Feinstein’s fundraising request.

“We have to do some special thinking,” Commissioner Steven Walther said. “We’re in a tight spot, and we need to think this one out.”

Feinstein wants contribution limits be lifted following revelations that Durkee had embezzled millions of dollars from dozens of campaign treasuries. Feinstein’s campaign alone reported losing at least $4.5 million under Durkee’s scheming. The FEC’s reasoning will apply to other former Durkee clients as well, and will also be closely attended to by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

Court: Managers don’t have to ensure lunch breaks

In a case that affects thousands of businesses and millions of workers, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers are under no obligation to ensure that workers take legally mandated lunch and rest breaks

The unanimous opinion came after workers’ attorneys argued that abuses are routine and widespread when companies aren’t required to issue direct orders to take the breaks. They claimed employers take advantage of workers who don’t want to leave colleagues during busy times.

The case was initially filed nine years ago against Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s and other eateries, by restaurant workers complaining of missed breaks in violation of California labor law.

But the high court sided with businesses when it ruled that requiring companies to order breaks is unmanageable and those decisions should be left to workers.

The opinion written by Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar explained that state law does not compel an employer to ensure employees cease all work during meal periods, instead saying the employee is at liberty to use the time as they choose.

“The employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed,” Werdegar wrote.

The court’s decision could greatly reduce the numerous class-action lawsuits surrounding the issue that cost companies millions of dollars in legal costs.
“The courts are making it clear that you have to create a system and a procedure that fully allows employees an opportunity to take breaks and meal periods, and if they do that they do not have to be Big Brother and individually monitor each employee to ensure that they’ve taken every bit of their breaks,” said Steve Hirschfeld, founder and CEO of the Employment Law Alliance, an employer-side legal trade group.

Deadly shooting revives concerns about USC’s neighborhood

It started as a typical evening for Ming Qu and Ying Wu, two graduate students from China studying electrical engineering at USC.

After a night at the library, Qu drove Wu to the house where she was renting a room less than a mile from campus. He double parked in front of the home early Wednesday morning to continue talking.

At around 1 a.m., a gunman approach Qu’s BMW and opened fire, killing both students in an attack that shocked USC and rekindled long-held concerns about safety around the university.

Qu attempted to run for help after he was shot in the head and was found collapsed on a nearby porch, police said. Wu was found shot in the chest, slumped over in the passenger seat of the car parked on a tree-lined stretch of Raymond Avenue just south of Adams Boulevard.

The students, both 23, were close friends who spent evenings chatting on the front porch of the house where Wu lived, according to police sources, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. But on Wednesday, it was raining, so police believe the pair decided to stay in the car, which friends said was a 2003 model that Qu bought for about $10,000.

Police suspect a lone assailant of carrying out the killings, but LAPD Capt. Andrew Smith said investigators had little to go on and are examining all motives, including that the gunman was trying to rob the pair. More than a dozen Los Angeles Police Department homicide detectives canvassed the area Wednesday, going door-to-door to search for witnesses and reviewing intersection cameras for clues.

USC, south of downtown Los Angeles, has long dealt with worries about crime in the neighborhoods around the campus. But in recent years, some of those concerns have eased as crime plummeted, the university expanded and some of those neighborhoods, such as West Adams, gentrified.


California senators call for a vote on Jerry Brown’s pension plan

California’s ranking Senate Republican and one of the GOP’s representatives on a special pension committee have fired off letters to Gov. Jerry Brown and their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature, calling for a key committee vote on the governor’s pension reform plan later this week.

Republicans have embraced Brown’s plan and put it word for word in two bills. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel on Tuesday signed the letters delivered to Brown and pension conference committee co-chairs Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, pushing for a vote Friday when the committee meets in Southern California.

They asked Brown to “join us to demand immediate legislative action on your twelve point pension plan, which we believe represents the first steps that must be enacted to get our runaway pension system under control.”

Molly Munger puts $2 million more into California tax measure

With just weeks left to gather the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, civil rights attorney Molly Munger has poured another $2.15 million into her proposal to raise income taxes to fund schools.

Munger, president of The Advancement Project, is the sole financier of the “Our Children, Our Future Measure.” The proposal would raise taxes on a sliding scale for almost all California earners, routing the revenues directly to school districts and early childhood development programs.

Supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown’s rival tax measure, which would temporarily raise income taxes on high earners and increase the state sales tax by a quarter percent, have tried to persuade Munger to drop her measure to avoid confusion and mixed messaging that could arise with more than one tax hike in front of voters in November.

The Munger camp must collect roughly 504,000 valid voter signatures by to make it on the ballot. They likely need to submit those petitions signatures to elections officials by mid-May to be certified in time for the 2012 election.

Enjoy your afternoon!

And, lastly, Dan Walters explains why the City of Los Angeles may have to declare bankruptcy.

Share

Mar 22 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 22, 2012

Share

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:

Share

Mar 15 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 15, 2012

Share

Los Angeles Marathon Map at Race Expo

Good 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:

Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown paddles on the left

Brown’s revised plan would hike income tax rate on $500,000 earners

In a hairpin turnabout, Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking a last-minute change to his tax proposal, a move to capture the energy of the populist ire toward the wealthy while trying to clear the November field of competing measures.

Brown said he wants to revise his initiative to incorporate elements of the chief rival proposal, a move rife with risks that include a fast-approaching deadline and potential new opposition. In return, backers of the so-called millionaire’s tax are withdrawing their ballot initiative and putting their weight behind the governor’s new plan to boost the hit on the wealthy while easing Brown’s previously proposed sales tax hike that all voters would pay.

“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 joint statement with the California Federation of Teachers, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.

A deal came together over the weekend, when Brown promised to make his tax hike more progressive.

“Our values and principles are clearly reflected in this new initiative,” said Josh Pechthalt, the president of the teachers union.

Brown’s revised plan would put a larger burden on individuals who earn $500,000 or more a year, raising their income tax rate by 3 percentage points instead of his earlier plan for a 2 percentage point increase, while reducing his sales tax hike proposal from a half-cent to a quarter-cent. Those earning $300,000 to $500,000 would also see more of a tax hike: a 2 percentage point increase, rather than a 1.5 percentage point hike.

The new proposal also is expected to extend the period of the income tax hike from five years to seven.


Higher community college fee plan in Santa Monica would be a first in California

Depending on your perspective, Santa Monica College’s plan to charge students four to five times the normal fee to add sections to oversubscribed classes  is either a brilliant idea to cope with its shrinking revenues, or a misguided strategy making it more difficult for low-income students to reach their academic goals.

Given the depth of the community colleges’  financial woes, and the fact that there are 112 of them around the state, it is surprising that more of these revenue generating ideas have not surfaced.  But the Santa Monica plan is now being discussed across the system, as every college struggles to reconcile increasing demand with shrinking resources.

“To some, it offers increased access,” said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office, referring to the Santa Monica plan.  ”Others will argue that this is a move to privatizing public colleges.  We recognize that this debate is going on.”

The interest that the plan has triggered is reminiscent of San Francisco City College Chancellor Don Griffin’s idea in 2009 to sell naming rights of college courses for $6,000 a course.

When the City College’s  Board of Trustees heard of the plan, they nixed it.

Santa Monica officials say they have no choice but to come up with a creative plan to meet student needs and stay solvent.  Since the 2008-09 school year, the college has had to cut the number of courses its offers from 7,434 to 6,288 this year,  a drop of 15 percent.  If voters fail to approve a tax initiative this November, that figure will jump to 23 percent.  Currently the college is serving 500 full time equivalent students without receiving any support from the state to do so, officials say.

CalPERS ‘smoothing’ eases employer rate shock

CalPERS is planning a two-year phase in of a rate increase resulting from a lower earnings forecast adopted yesterday, continuing a “smoothing” policy that softens the impact of rising pension costs on deficit-ridden state and local government budgets.

Lowering the investment earnings forecast from 7.75 to 7.5 percent is expected to increase the annual state payment to CalPERS by $303 million, pushing the total to $3.8 billion.

Critics contend CalPERS and other public pension funds use overly optimistic earnings forecasts to “discount” or reduce future pension debt, concealing a massive “unfunded liability” and the urgent need for cost-cutting reforms.

But CalPERS says its earnings averaged more than the 7.75 percent target over the last two decades. The new forecast stays the course and does not change the basic average investments are expected to earn, 4.75 percent.

What the board lowered is the forecast for 3 percent price inflation, which when added to the basic 4.75 percent return totaled 7.75 percent. The new inflation forecast of 2.75 percent drops the total earnings forecast to 7.5 percent.

“Your proposal is driven by an inflation assumption that I just don’t buy,” board member J.J. Jelincic told chief actuary Alan Milligan at a committee hearing. “I do admire your courage for bringing it forward.”

Jelincic, the apparent lone “no” in a board voice vote, argued that the U.S. Federal Reserve and central banks in other countries have “flooded” their economies with money, a stimulus likely to lead to inflation.

Enjoy your morning!

Share

Mar 14 2012

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

Share

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….

Share