The California Legislature is in session.
An important deadline to remember:
- February 22, 2013: Deadline to introduce bills.
Each member of the Assembly and State Senate are allowed to introduce up to 40 bills in this two year legislative session.
On to today’s California headlines:
- California Ballot Prop Would Force State Takeover of Utilities – Activist Ben Davis, Jr., who led the 1980s initiative campaign to close the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant near Sacramento, now has an even more ambitious initiative project in the works. The measure, which was cleared for signature-gathering Monday by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, would abolish the state’s investor-owned power companies — including Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), and replace them with the publicly owned “California Electrical Utility District.” The measure must gain 504,760 voter signatures by July 1 to qualify for the ballot.
- Environmental groups, unions team up to oppose CEQA push – The battle lines are being drawn in the upcoming legislative fight over California’s environmental review laws. More than a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups announced Wednesday that they are joining forces to oppose an expected push to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act. Members pledged to fight “radical reforms that would limit public input into land use planning, threaten public health, and weaken environmental protections.” The group, CEQA Works, includes the California League of Conservation Voters, Planning and Conservation League, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club California, the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, State Building and Construction Trades Council, United Food & Commercial Workers and the League of Women Voters of California.
- The Pension Fund That Ate California – CalPERS’s advocacy for higher benefits and its poor investment performance in recent years have locked in long-term debt in California and driven up costs, problems for which there are no easy solutions. As former Schwarzenegger economic advisor David Crane, a California Democrat, has said of the fund’s managers and board: “They are desperate to keep truths hidden.”
- Budget analyst warns that Los Angeles is at a financial crossroads – Los Angeles’ top budget analyst warned that the city could lose 500 cops and be forced to close jails, cut the Fire Department and make other public-safety cuts if a proposed half-percent sales tax doesn’t pass on March 5. Los Angeles is at a financial crossroads, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana wrote in a detailed report released Thursday. Although the city has made significant budget savings in recent years, without new money, the city could have to reverse hard-fought police staffing gains. Santana’s report comes as voters consider the Measure A half-percent sales tax increase on the ballot and as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prepares his final budget for 2013-14. “While we are starting to see the `light of the end of the tunnel,’ the security provided by this optimistic picture is still very fragile and not an accurate reflection of the structural problems that the city is facing,” Santana said.
- Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton visit Monterey Peninsula – Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited Monterey for a couple of hours Thursday for a private event. Their visit was not part of this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, said the golf tournament’s director. A Monterey official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the presidents were speaking to AT&T employees, and the company’s clients, about business-related issues. The presidents went from Monterey Regional Airport to Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa on Cannery Row before 5 p.m. They left the hotel within minutes of each other about 7:15 p.m., each of them waving to a crowd of about 20 people. Aaron Braasch, 6, a student at Lincoln Elementary School in Salinas, was with his parents when they saw the presidents leave the hotel. He said he would tell his teachers about it Friday. His parents, Debbie and John, said they were happy their son got to see a piece of history.
- California Democrats to push 10-bill package on gun control in Senate – State Senate Democrats on Thursday finalized a package of 10 gun-control bills they will pursue this year, and received backing for the measures from the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Among the bills, Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) called for outlawing possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines over 10 rounds. The sale of such magazines had been banned, but Hancock said some possessors of the clips have been able to escape prosecution by claiming they were purchased before the law was changed. Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) proposed a ban on the future sale, purchase and manufacture in California of semi-automatic rifles that can accept detachable magazines. “The truth of the matter is that we can save many lives by curbing the proliferation of rapid-fire weapons,” Steinberg told reporters at the Capitol. “We can save lives by getting guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.”
- CalPERS projects $200 million state rate hike – Annual state pension payments to CalPERS are expected to increase $200 million to a total of $4 billion in July. But the rate may go higher as the powerful pension board takes a new look at its risks and policies. The nation’s largest public pension fund last week gave a joint legislative committee an update on its funding status and plans for the future, as required by recent legislation. “For the year 2012-13 our state contribution rate was $3.8 billion,” Anne Stausboll, CalPERS chief executive officer, told legislators. “That is projected to be $4 billion in the coming fiscal year. That rate will be finalized in May, and we have a very open process leading up to that.” The giant pension fund covers 1,576 local governments and non-teaching employees in 1,488 school districts, but the annual payment for state workers draws the most attention.
- California’s Baby Boomers on Track to Overwhelm State’s Younger Working Adults – USC’ Dowell Myers says The Day of Demographic Reckoning has come upon us. We share his thoughts because he’s the lead researcher on a recently released report from the University of Southern California and the Lucile Packard Foundation, “California’s Diminishing Resource: Children.” Myers and his team analyzed data from the 2010 census and the American Community Survey to conclude that we’re coming up on a rather large problem, economically speaking. “It’s been sneaking up on us gradually, and it has finally arrived,” Myers told The California Report. “The oldest Baby Boomer turned 65 last year, and now 18 years of Baby Boomers are going to cross that line.”
- Judge seeks California’s out-of-state prison plan – Gov. Jerry Brown must explain to a federal court by the end of Wednesday how he plans to fit 9,000 inmates currently housed in out-of-state facilities back into California lockups. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton directed California to explain in writing its exact plan to stop sending inmates to private prisons as far as Mississippi. The administration announced its intention to return the inmates months ago, at the same time it also seeks an end to court-ordered prison population caps. Karlton’s order requires California to stipulate the total number of inmates the state plans to return to California prisons from out-of-state facilities, the planned timetable for their return, and where the state plans to house those inmates. As of Jan. 30, according to state prison population reports, California had 8,852 inmates in four prisons run by Tennessee-based Corrections Corp. of America.
- Ann Ravel: In pursuit of transparency – Ann Ravel, California’s political watchdog, captured public attention in November when she squared off against an obscure but well-heeled group calling itself Americans for Social Responsibility. The Arizona-based nonprofit poured $11 million at the 11th hour into the California campaign opposed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30. On the eve of the election, the group admitted it was an intermediary and not the true source of the contribution as Ravel, the chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, demanded disclosure. “We will continue in this matter and all others to ensure that the people of California know who is funding political activity in this State,” she noted.