April 2012 archive

California Election 2012: No on Proposition 29 – Cigarette Taxes


I, generally, like cigarette taxes since less people will smoke as a result. But, the Los Angeles Times in their editorial today is correct (they get it right once in a while).

What’s to like about taxes? Most people view them at best as a necessary evil to help pay for robust government services — a public benefit. But cigarette taxes are an anomaly. In their case, the tax itself is a public benefit. Proposition 29, which would place a $1 levy on each pack of cigarettes sold in California, would serve the common good by making cigarettes more expensive.

Economists have demonstrated conclusively that taxes on cigarettes are an effective tool for reducing smoking rates, which not only benefits the health of current and potential smokers but clears the air for people who would otherwise be exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking, the single biggest cause of premature death in the United States, costs California taxpayers billions annually in medical care to treat people with tobacco-related diseases through Medi-Cal, Medicare and other public health programs. And California’s cigarette tax, at 87 cents per pack, is well below the national average of $1.46.

Voters also should be concerned about the lack of accountability under Proposition 29. The nine-member board of the new agency would comprise representatives from three University of California campuses and three of the state’s federally recognized cancer centers, as well as a physician from an academic medical center and two members from advocacy groups. It would have no one representing the public, no one to stand up for the idea that taxpayer money should be spent efficiently and fairly, to ensure that salaries aren’t exorbitant and that money doesn’t get sent out of state, among other things. Although there are rules preventing a board member from voting on a grant application from his or her own organization, there is too much opportunity for mutual hand-washing when it comes to awarding funds. This came up as a criticism of the stem-cell agency when, by 2010, nearly $1 billion had been granted to institutions with seats on the board. The tobacco research agency would be audited annually, but what would be the point? The state would be powerless to change the agency’s ways even if it found serious problems.

Tobacco companies are contributing more than $20 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 29, outspending the pro-tax campaign — which is supported by bicycling star and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong — by more than 5 to 1. We couldn’t disagree more with their reasons for doing so, and it makes us uncomfortable to agree with them at all, but from our perspective, this initiative takes perfectly good tax money and misspends it; we’d rather see an alternative proposal that hikes the cigarette tax but spends the money more wisely. We recommend a no vote on Proposition 29.

The physician spokesperson in the ads fro the tobacco companies is partially correct. Here is the ad:

But, any increase in taxes should be on a federal level, so there is no bootlegging of cigarettes between the states. Plus, the funds raised should be accountable to a recognized and exisiting government health regulating body.

No on Proposition 29.


Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 30, 2012


Hearst Castle, San Simeone, California

Good Monday morning!

The California Legislature is in session. California Assembly and State Senate Floor Sessions will begin at noon.  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:

Three Strikes Law initiative likely to qualify for Nov. ballot

An initiative written by Stanford University professors to scale back California’s tough Three Strikes Law has garnered more than 830,000 signatures of support, virtually ensuring the measure will make the November ballot and triggering the state’s latest struggle over how harshly criminals should be treated.

California is the only one of the 26 states with three strikes laws to allow prosecutors to charge any felony as a third strike — and then to lock up the offenders for 25 years to life. The proposed initiative would reserve that penalty for the baddest of the bad, including murderers, rapists and child molesters.

Supporters turned in more than 830,000 signatures to state election officials Thursday — 504,760 more than needed. They also announced the endorsement of Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley — a Republican — marking a crucial step toward a bipartisan coalition.

“The Three Strikes Reform Act is right for California,” Cooley said. “It will ensure the punishment fits the crime. Dangerous recidivist criminals will remain behind bars for life, and our overflowing prisons will not be clogged with inmates who pose no risk to public safety.”

Under the existing Three Strikes sentencing scheme, offenders who have committed such relatively minor third strikes as stealing a pair of socks, attempting to break into a soup kitchen to get something to eat and forging a check for $146 at Nord-strom have been sentenced to life in prison.

Cooley’s support is particularly notable because he has taken a conservative position on two other criminal-justice controversies in California. He opposes a November ballot measure that would scrap the death penalty and has sharply criticized the Legislature’s massive “realignment” program, which started in October to relieve prison overcrowding, for effectively reducing the amount of time low-level offenders spend behind bars.

Proposal for part-time Legislature won’t be on November ballot

A drive to convert the California Legislature to part-time won’t make it onto the ballot this year.

The campaign will continue to collect voter signatures, however, in hopes of placing the issue before voters in 2014, said Ted Costa of People’s Advocate, a co-leader of the drive.

Costa said the petition drive has collected between 200,000 and 300,000 of the 807,615 voter signatures needed to qualify the constitutional amendment for a California ballot.

The deadline for gathering signatures is July 2, but that would be too late to qualify for this year’s elections. The secretary of state’s office recommended that signatures be submitted by April 20 for the November ballot.

Costa said that other campaigns have driven up the price for signature-gathering this year, hurting his drive, which has been bankrolled by relatively small donations rather than by a wealthy investor or major political party.

Costa characterized his campaign as in a “fall back, regroup and charge ahead” mode. The effort is spearheaded by Costa and by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield.

On ‘Face the Nation,’ Jerry Brown tries managing expectations

Four months into his second year in office – still with major parts of his agenda unfulfilled – Gov. Jerry Brown this morning tried a little expectation control.

Asked by Bob Schieffer on the CBS public affairs show “Face the Nation” for any advice he might have for politicians, Brown said, “I’ve learned you don’t get things done overnight. It does take time.

“Things that I was talking about 30 years ago – pension reform, renewable energy, completing the California water plan, high-speed rail, they’re right at the top of the agenda today. So what do I say? Hey, you’ve got to take 30 years to get it done, because you can’t get it done overnight, you can’t get it in a term. But we’re into instant gratification, get it done, if you don’t do it in two years, you’re a failure. Life doesn’t work that way, at least from the point of view of somebody in their 74th year. It looks like things take longer, and now I’m kind of glad they do, because I still have something to do.”

The Democratic governor, asked what he thought the presidential election would come down to, suggested one reason he may have been happy to keep quiet for months in his own gubernatorial contest in 2010.

“I think it turns on if one of the candidates screws up first and makes a mistake,” Brown said. “Elections tend to move on the other person making the mistake.”

Job Front: Social media privacy bills advance in Sacramento

Legislation that would bar employers from requesting job candidates’ social media user names and passwords is growing closer to becoming state law.

The Social Media Privacy Act, sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, sailed through the Senate’s Education, and Labor and Industrial Relations committees.

The bill’s Assembly counterpart, authored by Silicon Valley Democrat Nora Campos, D-San Jose, passed unanimously through the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week.

Campos said California’s privacy protections must keep pace with technology.

“Our social media accounts offer views into our personal lives and expose information that would be inappropriate to discuss during a job interview,” Campos said in a statement after the Tuesday committee vote.

Though some employers say access to social media accounts is important to find the best candidate, opposition to the practice has gathered momentum.

Enjoy your morning!

Here is Dan Walters’ Daily Video: Will the real Jerry Brown please stand up?


Flap’s California Blog @ Flap Twitter Updates for 2012-04-30


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Flap’s California Blog @ Flap Twitter Updates for 2012-04-29


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Dilbert: April 28, 2012



Service Monkeys do have their place…..