Category Archive: California Legislature

Nov 14 2012

California Legislators Take Off for Hawaii and Australia

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Dancers from HawaiiPhoto: Peter van der Sluijs

The election is over and off they go…..

With the election over, at least 20 California state lawmakers, including some newly elected members, have scattered to exotic locales, including Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and China,  for state-related conferences and trade missions.

Fifteen lawmakers are attending a five-day conference, which runs through Thursday at the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel in Maui, hosted by the Independent Voter Project, a policy group that pays some of the legislators’ expenses. The group has received financing in recent years from business and labor interests including cigarette maker Altria, Southern California Edison, Eli Lilly and Co., Pacific Gas & Electric, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Assn., Chevron and the state prison guards union.

Group spokesman Dan Howle declined to identify the legislators attending but said they include some newly elected members and some current ones, including a few who are leaving office next month because of term limits. Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare is among those who confirmed to The Times that she is attending.

Howle said panel discussions will be held daily on issues including energy, economic development, healthcare and telecommunications.

Let’s see, California has a number of challenges:

  • High Unemployment relative to other states
  • Structural Budget Deficits
  • Out Migration of Californians and California Businesses
  • Declining Schools and Colleges/Universities

Just to name a few.

Is there any reason why the California Legislature is held in such low esteem?

But, the Democrats take super majority control on December 3rd when the newly elected members are sworn in.

I do not foresee any improvement.

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Aug 20 2012

Two Weeks to Go in California Legislative Session

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Dan Walters in the above video looks at the last ten days of the California Legislative session.

What issues will be taken up besides the 200 plus bills already being considered?

Public employee pension reform will be tossed a bone with a reduction of “airtime” in order to satisfy some of Governor Brown’s concerns about passing his tax increase measure, California Proposition 30, in November.

The trial lawyers would love to change MICRA and up the medical/dental malpractice pain and suffering damages limits. This may get some serious reform with limits being increased to satiate the lawyers. It will also force more physicians and dentists to retire or leave California.

The big unions and Governor Brown will probably try to reverse the reforms Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted on Workman’s Compensation Insurance. This will mean increased costs for employers.

Most of these end of term measures will only exacerbate California’s state budget deficit, hurt the business climate and the push for tax increases to sort everything out will drive the narrative going into the Fall election season.

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Jul 19 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 19, 2012

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California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, displays signed legislation authorizing initial construction of California’s $68 billion high-speed rail line at Los Angeles’ Union Station Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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:

CA Senate announces plan to freeze pay — after awarding raises

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced plans Wednesday for a one-year pay freeze for Senate employees, but the move comes in the wake of a recent pay hike for hundreds of the chamber’s aides.

The proposed Senate pay freeze also comes as most state workers are taking a nearly 5 percent pay cut as part of budget cuts designed to save the cash-starved state government billions of dollars.

Steinberg plans to ask the Senate Rules Committee to approve the pay freeze at its next meeting Aug. 1, said Rhys Williams, Steinberg spokesman. The action would take effect immediately. The freeze would not affect pay raises tied to promotions.

Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said that his chamber has no plans to announce a pay freeze, but it will continue to respond to California’s budget crisis by trimming and transferring 15 percent of its budget to other state agencies. This year, $22 million will be sent, Waldie said.

Assembly awards pay raises to more than 100 staffers

The California Assembly has awarded raises to roughly 150 legislative staffers this year, even as lawmakers voted to cut pay for most state workers to help balance the state budget.

Although officials declined to provide exact figures late Wednesday, they said the pay hikes affected about 60 Assembly employees who were reclassified and about 90 workers who had not received merit raises for at least three years.

Most of the increases were between 3% and 5%, with those on the lower end of the salary scale receiving the largest pay increases, said Jon Waldie, chief administrative officer of the Assembly.

A list of Assembly staffers’ salaries can be found on the chamber’s website.

The raises are part of a policy established by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) in December, when roughly a quarter of the lower house’s employees received pay increases. Most of those workers had not received raises for at least three years. Lawmakers must request the raises for their employees and pay for the increases with their own office budgets.

“It’s a policy that’s sound,” Waldie said. The raises “are going to people who haven’t had increases in three years.”

San Bernardino declares fiscal emergency, approves bankruptcy

The City Council took what several members called the hardest decision of their professional lives Wednesday, formally declaring a state of fiscal emergency and directing staff to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

The two votes, both 5-2, came eight days after the council first voted to allow City Attorney James F. Penman to file for bankruptcy protection to help it escape a $45million deficit and a shortage of cash on hand that officials said would leave them unable to pay employees Aug. 15.

The intervening week brought heavy attention to the issue from across the nation and particularly in San Bernardino, and council members said they had been flooded with messages.

The week of information and attention shifted two votes: Councilman Fred Shorett, who voted against filing last week, approved it Wednesday, while Councilman John Valdivia switched from abstaining to opposing. Councilman Chas Kelley continued to oppose bankruptcy.

“The horse is out of the barn – the whole world knows we’re insolvent,” Shorett said. “I will be supporting going forward with Chapter 9 and fiscal emergency.”

Many of those who spoke to the council said moving forward with bankruptcy was the only responsible position, but they criticized how the city has gotten to this point.

California’s ‘Charter’ Cities are Under the Microscope

The last three large California cities to seek bankruptcy protection or announce they plan to had seen their housing values, tax revenue and employment crumble. They also have something else in common: They all are so-called charter cities.

Now another California city, Compton, says it may have to file for bankruptcy by September. It, too, is a charter city. Some say that’s no coincidence.

Of the state’s 482 cities, 121 have their own constitutions, or charters. That gives them more leeway in governing their affairs, including the freedom to set their own rules about elections, salaries and contracts.


Governor signs funding for high-speed rail

At a ceremony in Los Angeles, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday morning to allocate $7.9 billion to the California High-Speed Rail, committing the state to the project despite poor prospects for future funding.

This initial round of funding was in doubt up until the Legislature’s final vote this month. Critics of the high-speed rail plan have blasted it for rising costs, for unrealistic ridership projections and for barreling through homes, businesses and prime Central Valley farmland.

In the end, however, just enough legislative Democrats supported the plan, saying the state faced a greater risk if it didn’t move forward with construction, even though the state doesn’t know how it will pay for the entire project, which is now pegged at $68 billion. No Republicans in the Legislature supported the funding.

On Wednesday, Brown, a vocal supporter of the high-speed rail, praised the project for its economic impact.

“This legislation will help put thousands of people in California back to work,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “By improving regional transportation systems, we are investing in the future of our state and making California a better place to live and work.”

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: Jerry Brown taking a chance with bullet train

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May 02 2012

California Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway Announces Changes to Leadership

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From the press release:

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, of Tulare, today announced key additions to her leadership team, appointing Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, as Republican Whips, Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner, R-Irvine, as Deputy Republican Floor Manager and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, to a newly-created position as Republican Outreach Chair.

Conway also promoted Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, to the position of Assistant Republican Leader and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, to Chief Republican Whip.

“I am pleased to have these dynamic and proven Republican leaders serving by my side as members of our Caucus leadership team as we fight to protect Californians from higher taxes,” said Conway.  “Working together, we will show Californians that Assembly Republicans are truly the ‘party of yes’ in Sacramento, promoting common-sense, bipartisan solutions to fix our broken pension system, safeguard our children from dangerous classroom predators and prevent devastating education trigger cuts from hurting our local schools and colleges.”

This pretty much reflects the change of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s change from being a Republican to a Decline to State (NPP) voter and the fact that my Assemblyman Jeff Gorell has returned from deployment in Afghanistan.

Two moderate Republicans were also somewhat purged – termed out Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita Valley being one.

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Apr 30 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 30, 2012

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Hearst Castle, San Simeone, California

Good Monday morning!

The California Legislature is in session. California Assembly and State Senate Floor Sessions will begin at noon.  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:

Three Strikes Law initiative likely to qualify for Nov. ballot

An initiative written by Stanford University professors to scale back California’s tough Three Strikes Law has garnered more than 830,000 signatures of support, virtually ensuring the measure will make the November ballot and triggering the state’s latest struggle over how harshly criminals should be treated.

California is the only one of the 26 states with three strikes laws to allow prosecutors to charge any felony as a third strike — and then to lock up the offenders for 25 years to life. The proposed initiative would reserve that penalty for the baddest of the bad, including murderers, rapists and child molesters.

Supporters turned in more than 830,000 signatures to state election officials Thursday — 504,760 more than needed. They also announced the endorsement of Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley — a Republican — marking a crucial step toward a bipartisan coalition.

“The Three Strikes Reform Act is right for California,” Cooley said. “It will ensure the punishment fits the crime. Dangerous recidivist criminals will remain behind bars for life, and our overflowing prisons will not be clogged with inmates who pose no risk to public safety.”

Under the existing Three Strikes sentencing scheme, offenders who have committed such relatively minor third strikes as stealing a pair of socks, attempting to break into a soup kitchen to get something to eat and forging a check for $146 at Nord-strom have been sentenced to life in prison.

Cooley’s support is particularly notable because he has taken a conservative position on two other criminal-justice controversies in California. He opposes a November ballot measure that would scrap the death penalty and has sharply criticized the Legislature’s massive “realignment” program, which started in October to relieve prison overcrowding, for effectively reducing the amount of time low-level offenders spend behind bars.

Proposal for part-time Legislature won’t be on November ballot

A drive to convert the California Legislature to part-time won’t make it onto the ballot this year.

The campaign will continue to collect voter signatures, however, in hopes of placing the issue before voters in 2014, said Ted Costa of People’s Advocate, a co-leader of the drive.

Costa said the petition drive has collected between 200,000 and 300,000 of the 807,615 voter signatures needed to qualify the constitutional amendment for a California ballot.

The deadline for gathering signatures is July 2, but that would be too late to qualify for this year’s elections. The secretary of state’s office recommended that signatures be submitted by April 20 for the November ballot.

Costa said that other campaigns have driven up the price for signature-gathering this year, hurting his drive, which has been bankrolled by relatively small donations rather than by a wealthy investor or major political party.

Costa characterized his campaign as in a “fall back, regroup and charge ahead” mode. The effort is spearheaded by Costa and by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield.

On ‘Face the Nation,’ Jerry Brown tries managing expectations

Four months into his second year in office – still with major parts of his agenda unfulfilled – Gov. Jerry Brown this morning tried a little expectation control.

Asked by Bob Schieffer on the CBS public affairs show “Face the Nation” for any advice he might have for politicians, Brown said, “I’ve learned you don’t get things done overnight. It does take time.

“Things that I was talking about 30 years ago – pension reform, renewable energy, completing the California water plan, high-speed rail, they’re right at the top of the agenda today. So what do I say? Hey, you’ve got to take 30 years to get it done, because you can’t get it done overnight, you can’t get it in a term. But we’re into instant gratification, get it done, if you don’t do it in two years, you’re a failure. Life doesn’t work that way, at least from the point of view of somebody in their 74th year. It looks like things take longer, and now I’m kind of glad they do, because I still have something to do.”

The Democratic governor, asked what he thought the presidential election would come down to, suggested one reason he may have been happy to keep quiet for months in his own gubernatorial contest in 2010.

“I think it turns on if one of the candidates screws up first and makes a mistake,” Brown said. “Elections tend to move on the other person making the mistake.”

Job Front: Social media privacy bills advance in Sacramento

Legislation that would bar employers from requesting job candidates’ social media user names and passwords is growing closer to becoming state law.

The Social Media Privacy Act, sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, sailed through the Senate’s Education, and Labor and Industrial Relations committees.

The bill’s Assembly counterpart, authored by Silicon Valley Democrat Nora Campos, D-San Jose, passed unanimously through the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week.

Campos said California’s privacy protections must keep pace with technology.

“Our social media accounts offer views into our personal lives and expose information that would be inappropriate to discuss during a job interview,” Campos said in a statement after the Tuesday committee vote.

Though some employers say access to social media accounts is important to find the best candidate, opposition to the practice has gathered momentum.

Enjoy your morning!

Here is Dan Walters’ Daily Video: Will the real Jerry Brown please stand up?

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