Good Wednesday morning!
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
On to today’s California headlines:
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.
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.
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.
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!