Tag Archive: Flap’s California Morning Collection

Aug 15 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 15, 2012

Share

San Diego, California

Good Wednesday 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:

Jerry Brown and California’s Nurses are active in and around the Capitol today.

Gov. Jerry Brown will be at Sacramento’s New Technology High School this morning to promote Proposition 30, his tax measure on the November ballot. Teachers and others likely to benefit from the proposed tax increases will be joining him for the 10:30 a.m. campaign stop being billed as a “back to school” press conference.

Nurses are rallying outside the Capitol today to draw attention to a report about non-profit hospitals – and whether they earn their tax breaks. The noon rally by the California Nurses Association follows a 10 a.m. hearing on the same subject by the Senate Select Committee on Charity Care and Nonprofit Hospitals.

Dan Morain: Using CEQA as bait, Pérez muscles tax bill

On Monday, Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Palm Desert Republican, broke with the GOP and voted for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez’s $1 billion tax hike to fund “middle-class scholarships.”

On Tuesday, Nestande ceased being Assembly Republican Caucus chairman.

“I would prefer to say I stepped down,” Nestande told me, though he had no choice.

The rest of us got a peek at how this town works, especially at the end of legislative sessions, when the insiders turn serious about doing their deals.

On the surface, Pérez won big on Monday, muscling his signature piece of legislation through the Assembly. As currently written, his Assembly Bill 1500 would raise taxes by $1 billion on out-of-state companies that sell heavily into California but have little payroll or property here. Think General Motors, Chrysler and, notably, Altria, also known as Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette maker.

Republicans are all but irrelevant in the Legislature except when the talk turns to tax increases, which require two-thirds votes. To round up the few Republicans he needs, Pérez is offering sweeteners.

The biggest plum would be an overhaul of the California Environmental Quality Act, the 1970 law signed by then Gov. Ronald Reagan that has been used and sometimes misused to restrict and block development.
In an email that is bouncing around the Capitol, a Pérez aide circulated language for one version of the overhaul. Proponents of the changes say the proposal would remove red tape from development. Environmentalists say the proposal would gut the law.

Unions circulating draft of workers’ compensation overhaul

Labor unions are making a late-blooming effort to raise long-frozen benefits for workers with job-related illnesses and injuries and promising employers enough administrative savings to pay for them.

A 45-point summary of the proposed legislation is circulating among lobbyists who specialize in the multi-billion-dollar workers’ compensation system, seeking to undo, in part, the reforms that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed through the Legislature eight years ago.

The changes could be placed into Senate Bill 863, a workers’ compensation measure being carried by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, when their labor union sponsors line up enough support. Business support is critical because Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated that he wouldn’t sign legislation on the subject that’s opposed by employers.

Biotech food measure Prop. 37 on ballot

The controversy over genetically engineered food has moved up the chain, all the way to the ballot box.

In November, voters will decide whether to make California the first state in the nation to require labels on most genetically modified food products. At least 18 states, including California, have tried to pass similar laws through their legislatures and failed. This time, however, the measure made it to the statewide ballot with 1 million signatures.

Recent polls show the proposal, Proposition 37, winning by a 3-to-1 ratio, although opponents have raised more than $22 million – $4.2 million from agricultural giant Monsanto alone – to the yes campaign’s $2.7 million in anticipation of a media battle leading up to the fall vote. The measure is opposed by deep-pocketed food manufacturers – including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola – the biotech industry and seed companies.

Enjoy your morning!

Share

Aug 14 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 14, 2012

Share

Mission San Francisco de Asís

Good Tuesday 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:

Judge orders changes to Prop. 32 language

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the secretary of state to change language on the November ballot describing Proposition 32, the initiative that promises to eliminate special-interest money in politics.

According to the new ballot label, the measure “prohibits” unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, as well as using payroll deduction to raise political cash. The label initially used the word “restricts.” The backers of Proposition 32 had argued that the original language, as determined by the attorney general’s office, was misleading.

“Voters deserve to be informed that Prop. 32 doesn’t just reduce direct contributions from corporations and unions to politicians, it eliminates them entirely,” said spokesman Jake Suski.

Judge Michael P. Kenny, however, denied another request by Proposition 32’s supporters to strike key language from the measure’s title and summary in state-printed voter materials. Backers had targeted a phrase that notes: “Other political expenditures remain unrestricted, including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by payroll deduction prohibition.”

That’s the argument at the heart of the union-backed opposition campaign, which has been running statewide radio ads denouncing the initiative as “a deceptive proposition stuffed with special exemptions” for businesses.

Unions lost a separate challenge to ballot language that they said could mislead voters into thinking payroll deductions can be used with workers’ written permission. All payroll deduction is barred under the measure

ONLINE POKER: Legislation faces tough odds before deadline

Divisions among tribes with successful casinos have stacked the odds against legislation to legalize and license online poker in California, with less than three weeks left in the two-year session.

Some tribes support the proposal co-authored by the Senate’s top Democrat. Others support the concept but want changes to the legislation. And some tribes oppose the idea, saying it risks eating into the business of bricks-and-mortar casinos legalized by voters in 1998 and 2000.

Bill to close corporate tax loophole moves forward

Middle class Californians will get relief from soaring college costs if a bill passed by the Assembly Monday becomes law.

AB1500 would eliminate a $1 billion tax break for out-of-state corporations and use the expected windfall to reduce tuition.

It is the second component of Assembly Speaker John Perez’s “Middle Class Scholarship Act.” The Assembly previously approved the other part, which would reduce tuition by more than half for families whose annual household income exceeds the cap for getting a free ride at California’s public universities ($70,000 a year for the California State University system and $80,000 for University of California system) but is less than $150,000.

The Legislature approved the tax loophole in 2009 as a way to get a handful of Republican lawmakers to vote for the state budget.

On Monday, Republican Assembly members objected to what they described as an attempt by Democrats to undo the previous budget deal.

“This wasn’t a loophole, it was a product of careful, extensive negotiations and promises,” said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine. “Promises made by one side of the aisle to secure the votes that they needed from the other side of the aisle. Promises that have now been completely undone.”

But Perez, D-Los Angeles, said there was no use preserving a two year-old status quo where “you are getting kicked in the head by other states.”

“This will help California businesses remain competitive while ensuring that California’s middle-class families have the same opportunities to succeed as our generation had,” he said.

The 2009 tax loophole deal allowed companies operating in multiple states to choose the cheaper of two formulas for calculating their tax liability in California. They can use an option that considers sales, property and payroll, or a formula that considers only sales.

Perez’s bill would force corporations to use only the sales factor. At least 11 other states, including Texas and New York, require that corporations calculate their tax obligations this way.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, passed a single-sales requirement through the Assembly, but his measure failed to get GOP support in the Senate. Republicans say the change could drive job creating corporations out of California.

AB1500 passed the Assembly 54-25, barley meeting the two-thirds threshold. Assemblyman Brian Nestande, of Palm Desert, was the lone Republican supporter.

“I’m putting forth my vote to say we need to come together and work on some of these issues to bring businesses back to California,” he said.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, an independent, also voted yes.

California scrambles to pay its bills with more borrowing

Embedded in a Monday report from the California controller is a statistic showing just how much the state is straining to pay its bills before November’s vote on higher taxes.

Controller John Chiang, who manages the state’s cash flow, finished July with more than $18 billion in outstanding loans after using high-speed accounting to cover day-to-day expenses. That means he would borrow some money from the state’s 500-plus “special” funds, used it to pay a bill and promised to repay it later when more tax revenue rolls in.

It’s a standard maneuver, especially at the beginning of the fiscal year, when expenses outpace revenues. But the controller leaned more heavily than usual on this tactic last month, tapping 81% of the money available for short-term borrowing, up from 48.4% in July 2011.

A spokesman for the controller, Jacob Roper, had a matter-of-fact explanation for the borrowing: “That’s the amount of special fund borrowing necessary to carry out the state’s budget.”

The $18 billion in outstanding loans includes $9.6 billion left over from June, as well as $8.5 billion in new borrowing in July.

Cities refuse to hand over redevelopment money

Twenty-seven cities have not forked over all of the redevelopment money the state says they owe, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.

The state says the cities owe $129 million total, but they’ve only returned $6.7 million.

The dispute involves an accounting shuffle that helps close the state’s $15.7-billion budget deficit. Because redevelopment agencies are being dissolved this year, Brown wants to shift $3.1 billion to schools, helping offset the state’s obligation to fund education.

Right now the state is trying to secure the first wave of money -– local tax revenue that officials say was mistakenly paid to redevelopment agencies in the first six months of 2012.

The Brown administration set a target of $685 million and has threatened financial penalties if cities don’t pay up, but they may not meet their goal.

“It may be half of that amount. It may be a third of that amount,” said Marianne O’Malley of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which has repeatedly warned that there may not be as much redevelopment money available as expected.

Enjoy your morning!

Share

Jul 30 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 30, 2012

Share

Marina Del Rey, California

Good Monday morning!

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:

California Democratic Party endorses Jerry Brown tax initiative

The California Democratic Party has made its support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative official.

The party’s executive board voted to endorse Proposition 30 at a weekend meeting in Anaheim. The measure would generate an estimated $8.5 billion in revenues assumed in the current state budget by temporarily raising income taxes on high earners and enacting a quarter percent hike in the state sales tax.

The board voted to oppose a rival tax initiative backed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California State PTA. Proposition 38 would raise income taxes on a sliding scale for most Californians, sending the bulk of the revenues to schools and early childhood development programs.

Are public pensions following IRS tax-delay rules?

The IRS is taking a new look at whether public pension systems qualify for tax deferrals, raising questions about nonprofit charter schools in CalSTRS and county systems using “excess” earnings to fund retiree health care.

Taxes on employer-employee contributions to pension systems and their investment earnings can be avoided until retirees are paid. But if the rules are not followed, the IRS can change the tax status and impose fines and penalties.

As public pension funding problems surfaced during the economic downturn, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service began encouraging retirement systems to seek compliance reviews and make voluntary changes.

Some large systems, such as the California State Teachers Retirement System, have not had full tax reviews in recent decades, relying instead on IRS approval of specific issues.

(The giant California Public Employees Retirement System and the University of California Retirement System did not respond to queries last week about the status of their tax compliance reviews.)

Last April, CalSTRS said in a letter to the IRS that a proposed new rule, aimed at excluding non-government employees from public pensions, could make more than 10,000 charter school employees now in CalSTRS ineligible for the retirement system.

Bay Area to Sin City? Las Vegas bullet train backers gamble on record loan

Call it the bachelor or bachelorette party of tomorrow: you and your friends sipping cocktails aboard a futuristic train as it whips travelers across the desert to Las Vegas.

You might have to wait awhile, but it’s not such a long shot. Lost in the fractious debate over California high-speed rail is a separate, little-publicized plan for a second bullet train that would connect the Golden State with Sin City. Private developers are wagering on the Vegas train, hoping the Obama administration in coming weeks provides a record rail loan to kick-start construction on the $8 billion-plus train line that could someday connect to California’s much-debated high-speed railroad near Los Angeles.

The vision for the 150 mph party train is as audacious as the gaudy casinos, shows and night life that attract 1.5 million visits to Vegas from the Bay Area each year. Partyers could pay the equivalent of a pricey plane ticket and step onto the Las Vegas Strip in less than 1 1/2 hours from Southern California.

“Consider the train an extension of Las Vegas,” said project COO Andrew Mack. “We definitely want to create that type of environment where they can sit back and relax.”

California’s newest city withering on fiscal vine

The jagged foothills, withered pastures and a web of horse trails along the Santa Ana River give the state’s newest city a hint of the Wild West. Jurupa Valley’s money troubles, though, are pure modern-day California.

Jurupa Valley may be broke in a year, even though the city is so new that it has no permanent employees, no generous employee pension plan and runs City Hall out of a leased strip-mall storefront next to the Lucky Wok Chinese restaurant.

Without a financial rescue, the city will have to shut its doors, sending the mishmash of Jurupa Valley communities back into the ether of unincorporated Riverside County.Unlike San Bernardino, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes, California cities that have all reached the brink of insolvency in recent weeks, Jurupa Valley’s money troubles are not of its own making. They are Sacramento’s fault.

Enjoy your morning!

Share

Jul 26 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 26, 2012

Share

Audience watches the San Bernardino City Council on July 18 declare a fiscal emergency and begin preparations to file for bankruptcy protection. LA Times Photo

Good Thursday morning!

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:

There is a great deal of California Water news today, but I will NOT be covering it. My lovely wife works for a large, Southern California water company and anything I would write would be seen as a direct conflict to either her employer or us.

So, on to the other California headlines:

Bankrupt San Bernardino must cut spending by a third

San Bernardino must cut government spending by a third, almost assuredly resulting in widespread layoffs or pay reductions for city workers, as it prepares to officially file for bankruptcy protection, city officials said.

Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller told the City Council that it must cut $45.8 million from the $166-million budget to ensure the city remains solvent throughout the current fiscal year, which runs through next June. Crafting the austerity plan will be required as part of the Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy process.

“By any definition, a 30% budget cut in a single fiscal year is a severe haircut. Indeed, you might even call it a scalping,” Mayor Patrick Morris said at a special council meeting on the city’s fiscal crisis Tuesday evening.

At the meeting, the seven-member council voted unanimously to suspend debt payments and freeze staff vacancies, saving $5.4 million in July alone, the first and easiest step in what’s expected to be a budgetary bloodletting in the months ahead.

Death penalty repeal pits Mayor Villaraigosa vs. former Gov. Wilson

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa goes up against former Gov. Pete Wilson in a debate over the death penalty that will be coming soon to mailboxes throughout California.

Villaraigosa signed the ballot argument to be included in the official state voter guide on Proposition 34, which would repeal the state’s death penalty if approved on the November ballot. Wilson signed the “no” argument.

“Proposition 34 lets serial killers, cop killers, child killers and those who kill the elderly, escape justice,” says the argument against the measure, also signed by Keith Royal, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Assn., and Marc Klaas, who became an advocate for crime victims after his 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was murdered.

Downtown L.A.’s Underwater Home Mortgage Crisis

In many movies, downtown Los Angeles is a stand-in for New York City. Its nooks and crannies mimic that most urban of American cities, and Ramon Garcia’s condo on Seventh and Spring streets is no exception. His seventh-floor window overlooks a courtyard in the Bartlett, a 1911 bank designed by the architects who planned City Hall, and his 550-square-foot residence is smaller than a racquetball court.

But one detail would be unthinkable in New York. If he sold it, Garcia estimates he’d get $105,000 — half what he paid in 2005. While 30 percent to 60 percent of the Inland Empire’s homes have “underwater mortgages,” making that region a national symbol of the nation’s housing crisis, rarely reported is that downtown L.A. is just as “underwater” as Riverside: Its residents owe far more than their homes are worth.

“It kind of sucks, because I don’t know if it will ever be worth what I paid for it,” Garcia says.

According to Zillow Real Estate Research, 31 percent of American homes are underwater, about like the city of L.A. (Other data peg the percentage lower.) But in 90014, Garcia’s ZIP code, an astonishing 78 percent of condos and lofts are underwater. Nearly four out of every five residents in the area roughly bounded by Sixth Street, Ninth Street, San Pedro Street and Grand Avenue own places worth far less than the loan they signed.

In the United States, ZIP code 90014 is in the top 1 percent of underwater mortgages.

And it’s bad all over downtown.

ZIP codes that extend from downtown north and south into other areas are underwater, by 66 percent (90017: part of the Financial District and part of Pico-Union), 64 percent (90021: part of Industrial District, Warehouse District and part of Skid Row), 51 percent (90012: City Hall, Civic Center, Chinatown), 44 percent (90013: site of Downtown Art Walk, part of Skid Row), and 36 percent (90015: South Park, L.A. Live, Fashion District).

Vallejo leaves bankruptcy period behind, charts new course

This hard-hit former Navy town, just up Interstate 80 from San Francisco’s glittering lights, weathered its humiliation long enough as California’s first sizable city to file for bankruptcy protection.

Now as Stockton, San Bernardino and perhaps other California cities head into their own bankruptcy proceedings, Vallejo wants people to know it’s on the mend.

It balanced its general fund budget last year and socked away nearly twice the reserves the bankruptcy judge ordered after the city nearly died – belly up and devastated – in 2008.

But its financial challenges aren’t over.

While Vallejo, population 118,000, emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2011, it continues to push for more benefit concessions from employees and retirees in the interest of long-term solvency.

“People ask whether it was worth it,” Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis said of the city’s slide into a bankruptcy filing and hard recovery since. “That question suggests we had an option. It was filing bankruptcy or not existing as a city any more.”

Enjoy your morning!

Share

Jul 25 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 25, 2012

Share

A medical marijuana dispensary at Venice Beach, California

Good Wednesday morning!

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:

L.A. City Council deals blow to pot clinics

After years of controversy over medical marijuana, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday decided to ban every clinic in the city – but left the door open for some to reopen in the future.

The 14-0 decision came after some five hours of debate, including three hours behind closed doors, as well as passionate opposing testimony from medical marijuana advocates and neighbors frustrated by the problems the clinics create.

In a separate vote, the council OK’d a plan to study allowing 182 dispensaries to open in the future, following more extensive analysis by the Planning Department over the next several months.

City Councilman Jose Huizar, a co-author of the ban, said the city has simply been unable to properly control the dispensaries. In Eagle Rock, for example, he said, there are 13 clinics.

“That’s too many for such a small area,” Huizar said. “All we hear are complaints about the number of dispensaries and the problems around them.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to sign the measure, his office said Tuesday, and it would take effect 30 days after his signature.

The vote reversed the council’s earlier decisions to allow dispensaries to remain open if they had obtained the proper permits from the city.

California still ranked No. 9 among the world’s economies

As it slowly recovers from its worst recession since the Great Depression, where does California’s economy fit into the global marketplace?

A massive new economic forecast from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. confirms that were California a nation, it would place No. 9 among the globe’s economies, just behind No. 8 Italy and just ahead of Russia.

The data-filled report, to be unveiled today in Los Angeles, pegs California’s economy at just under $2 trillion a year (2011 numbers) and implies that it could move up or down in the rankings, depending on what happens to the volatile European economy. The state once ranked as high as sixth.

California’s economy saw an inflation-adjusted 2 percent growth from 2010 to 2011, while Italy’s grew at just one-fifth of that rate. Among the economies larger than California’s, only China, Germany and Brazil, which leaped into sixth place, had higher rates of growth than the state. But Russia’s economy grew twice as fast as California’s from 2010 to 2011, so it could push California down to 10th place.

Police, protesters clash as tensions roil Anaheim

Simmering tensions in the wake of two deadly police shootings in Anaheim exploded into violence Tuesday night as protesters clashed with police outside City Hall even as officials voted to ask federal authorities to investigate the killings that have rocked the Orange County community.

Protesters hurled rocks, traffic cones and other objects at police clad in riot gear as officers chased people along sidewalks and streets throughout the evening and fired less-than-lethal projectiles into crowds after giving a dispersal order. Sirens wailed as officers formed skirmish lines and police from neighboring law enforcement agencies provided assistance.

Police said that at least five people were arrested on suspicion of assault and resisting arrest, and that a reporter from the Orange County Register was struck by a rock as angry crowds stood face to face with officers in tense standoffs. Fires were started in dumpsters, and at least one storefront had its windows broken as the skirmishes continued into the night.

State duns cities for millions of dollars

California cities are in a high-stakes fight with officials in Sacramento over money that the state says the cities owe as part of the winding down of redevelopment agencies.

County officials, under the state’s direction, have sent letters of demand to cities throughout the state in recent weeks, many for millions of dollars. Several cities, including El Cerrito, refused to pay and sued the state, which is threatening to penalize cities by withholding sales tax revenue that cities rely on to pay for police, parks and other general operating expenses.

Some local officials warn that if the state follows through with its threat, struggling cities could be pushed off the fiscal cliff. Recently, fiscal crises prompted three California cities – Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino – to declare bankruptcy.

“It’s time that we stand up and be counted, and defend our municipal affairs and rights, and push back,” William C. Jones III, mayor of El Cerrito, said at a City Council meeting July 12 after the council voted to sue the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished redevelopment agencies last year as part of the budget plan to deal with California’s chronic deficits, redirecting billions to local governments for schools, public safety and other services. Some of that money helps the state’s budget by reducing the amount of the general fund that is required to go toward education.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video:’It’s time for Jerry Springer’

Share

Older posts «