Good Wednesday morning!
I was up in Tracy, California yesterday on locum tenens dentistry business, but am now back in Thousand Oaks.
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, continues his appearances during memorial week as Caltrans honors fallen highway workers. Brown’s talk during the agency’s 22nd annual ceremony is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol’s west steps.
On to today’s California headlines:
Backers of the tobacco-tax initiative on June’s ballot are fighting fire with smoke.
The Yes on Proposition 29 campaign unveiled its first TV ad Tuesday, a 15-second spot titled “Smokescreen,” accusing tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds of running a deceptive campaign to defeat a $1 per pack increase in tobacco taxes.
“Tobacco companies will continue to deceive and lie to the public about what this measure will do,” said Jim Knox, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, one of the backers of Proposition 29. “That’s why our ad focuses on who the opponents are, to make it clear that all the money to defeat 29 is coming from tobacco companies.”
Also on Tuesday, an unofficial adviser to the campaign called on Gov. Jerry Brown to return $26,000 he received last week from Philip Morris for his 2014 re-election campaign. In addition, the Yes on 29 campaign sent a letter to Brown asking him to remove an anti-29 doctor from a science-advisory board of physicians overseeing the effects of toxins on infants.
With federal funding for community programs and services being slashed by Congress, cities across the region are facing tough decisions about which local programs to keep and which ones to let go.
San Gabriel Valley cities are scrambling to deal with cuts of 25 to 35 percent to their Community Development Block Grant funds – which help pay for everything from parks to graffiti abatement to food banks to housing programs for the needy.
“I don’t think people realize how much the program has been cut,” said Bill Huang, Pasadena housing director.
Since 1974, the federal government has provides cities, counties and states with CDBG funding. Local governments are mostly free to use the funding as they see fit, provided it benefits the community in some way.
“The purpose of CDBG is to give state and local governments a resource to do their own community development work,” said Brian Sullivan, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers CDBG funding.
But with Congress increasingly interested in cutting federal spending and reducing the deficit, during the past two years it has cut a total of $1 billion from the program. That amounts about a quarter of the funding the program was receiving.
And with the pie shrinking, each city that takes part in the program is getting a smaller slice.
El Monte’s CDBG funding will drop by 20 percent next year, from $3.5 million to $2.8 million.
Sen. Sam Blakeslee, one of the only Republican senators willing to try negotiating a budget deal with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown last year, plans to start a new think tank after leaving the Legislature next year.
The organization, called the California Reform Institute, will be funded with $750,000 from Charles Munger Jr., a prominent Republican donor. The announcement is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
The institute will join a constellation of think tanks and nonprofits pushing their agenda in Sacramento. But Blakeslee, a Republican from San Luis Obispo, said his organization would differentiate itself by devising realistic, moderate proposals that can be enacted by lawmakers rather than pushed through a costly ballot initiative campaign.
He said he’s been frustrated by political orthodoxy and short-sighted thinking in the Capitol.
“What’s missing?” he said. “There’s no infrastructure for policy ideas in the center.”
Munger, in a statement, said the institute can play an important role despite cynicism over the much-maligned California Legislature.
“I have worked with Sam for many years on a variety of reform projects and have been impressed with his unusual combination of political and policy insights,” Munger said. “He is just the kind of leader who can apply common sense principles to forge innovative solutions.”
Here’s where Naive meets Dumb:
So, even after being charged with two misdemeanors for drunk driving, Assemblyman Hernandez has gone ahead with his plans for AB 2127, a bill that would allow someone’s everyday job to be considered “confinement credit.” What’s that mean, well, in other words, those who are convicted of a serious offense, such as DUI, would be allowed to apply hours from their regular work as community service to reduce their jail time. That certainly would remove the sting from our current practice of performing community service in a work release program, especially for people like himself.
We’ve all seen these DUI and other offenders carrying out judges’ orders in labor programs instead of jail time, knocking out tasks such as picking up roadside litter, graffiti removal, or other community service. According to California Penal Code 4034.2: each day of participation in such a work release program can be traded for a day of jail confinement.
But Assemblyman Hernandez’ bill would actually allow an offender to trade their own 8-hour work day as a day of confinement credit. Meaning Hernandez could potentially serve time, and be punished, by reporting to work in the state Assembly. How convenient for him.
Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: California Forward has rough path ahead