The California Legislature is in session and considering the end of session bills.
An interesting hearing today on the California Death Penalty, which I have been commenting upon for quite a few years over at Flapsblog.com.
Sen. Loni Hancock, on a mission to replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment via SB 490, will host a hearing today on the costs of capital punishment. It begins at 10 a.m. in room 3191 at the Capitol.
Testifying will be Arthur L. Alarcón, senior judge with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Loyola of Los Angeles law professor Paula M. Mitchell. The two have written a report called “Executing the Will of the Voters? – A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion Dollar Death Penalty Debacle.”
On to the links……
Amazon Opens Wallet — Again — for Initiative Battle
Amazon really doesn’t want to collect sales tax.
The Seattle-based company has now spent $5.25 million to try to put a measure on the June 2012 ballot that would repeal a law requiring online retailers to collect sales tax.
According to newly released campaign filings, Amazon made a $2.25 million campaign contribution on Aug. 10. That’s on top of $3 million the online retailer contributed to the initiative in July.
Ned Wigglesworth, spokesman for the “More Jobs Not Taxes” committee, which is running the repeal campaign, would say only that Amazon’s second multimillion-dollar contribution in as many months was necessary “to cover costs associated with the first phase of the campaign.”
Wigglesworth said his committee was working with a “growing coalition of taxpayer groups, consumers, small businesses” to overturn the new online sales tax law — although so far state records show Amazon to be its only contributor.
State colleges, universities may need to make more budget cuts
Students starting the school year at California Community Colleges this week will pay higher fees and have fewer courses from which to choose. At California State University campuses, students will find their classes packed, fewer library books available and the ranks of part-time faculty thinned.
That dismal picture could worsen if the state’s financial problems force colleges and universities to make additional budget cuts mid-year, leaders of the systems said Monday during a conference call with reporters.
As it is, the state’s 112 community colleges will offer 5% fewer classes this fall, Chancellor Jack Scott said. Based on projected annual demand, an estimated 670,000 students who otherwise would enroll in at least one class will not be served, he added.
Community college students, whose fees already have risen to $36 per unit for this school year from $26 last year, are likely to face a further increase if state revenue doesn’t meet projections. State funding to the two-year colleges was reduced $400 million for this year. Further cuts would trigger an additional $10 per unit fee increase for spring 2012.
That has appeared more likely since a recent report by state Controller John Chiang that California’s tax revenue fell $539 million below expectations in July.
Scott said a mid-year increase would be especially difficult because campuses would have to collect the fees from students who had already enrolled for the second semester.
“All of the colleges…are looking carefully at their budgets,” Scott said. “As to whether it would push some over the edge, I don’t know yet. They have cut back on the number of class sections and many may well have to eliminate summer session.”
Poll: Longer Legislative Terms, Stronger Initiative System
If a unique gathering of Californians for a weekend full of talks about government proved anything, it may be that the best chance for consensus lies in the what’s most absent in politics: substantive dialogue.
On the last weekend in June, 412 citizens from around the state gathered in Torrance to discuss what’s wrong with California’s system of governance and how it might be fixed. This morning, the backers of the event released their findings at a news conference in Sacramento.
Tops on the list: longer legislative terms, an initiative process that allows for amendments by citizens but not by politicians, and a focus on performance measures for state government.
The event and subsequent report are the work of a group called What’s Next California, comprised of everyone from activists to academics. While few may expect the work to be quickly embraced by either the state’s warring political factions or gloomy and distrustful voters, it nonetheless helps provide a window into what can happen when people think, talk, and search for consensus.
The results were gathered through what’s called a deliberative polling process, where participants are asked opinions before participating in the event, then tasked to engage in several deep discussions with other citizens, then re-asked their opinions on the same topics.
Outgoing SF State President Slams Governor
The president of San Francisco State University said Monday that Gov. Jerry Brown “doesn’t seem to appreciate high-quality education in California.”
In a telephone interview shortly after announcing his retirement, SFSU President Robert Corrigan accused Brown of not doing enough to protect higher education from deep budget cuts.
Corrigan, 76, is retiring at the end of the school year after nearly 24 years as the university’s president. He said the state’s budget crisis will take years to resolve.
“I think we are looking at a five-year [budget] problem in California,” Corrigan said in a telephone interview. “At my age, I am not likely to be around for five years.” Corrigan plans to return to his research in American history after retiring. “The next president needs to deal with the Legislature and the governor as best that they can,” he said.
SFSU is one of 23 campuses in the California State University system that has absorbed deep budget cuts over the last several years. In the last three years alone, state cuts of $84.9 million have forced SF State to raise tuition six times, increase class sizes and merge eight academic colleges into six.
Corrigan said he worries that the middle class is being priced out of universities like SFSU. The university had 29,718 students in the 2010-11 school year.
Enjoy your morning!