Category: Proposition 8

Flap’s California Morning Collection: February 8, 2012


Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, California

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

On to today’s California headlines:

California Gov. Jerry Brown denies parole for 71 murderers

California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned 21 people in his first year in office and rejected parole for 71 first- and second-degree murderers who had been recommended for release by the parole board.

Brown did allow for the early release of just one person, Tung Nguyen of Garden Grove, who was convicted of first-degree murder for his role in a motel-room killing in a dispute over money. Nguyen served as a lookout and did not know that his friend had stabbed the victim in the leg, according to a report from Brown’s office. The stab wound punctured the victim’s femoral artery, and he bled to death.

Nguyen was just 16  at the time.

Democrats gear up to fight part-time Legislature measure

A Democratic political strategist and a former Democratic assemblyman will help lead opposition to a proposed ballot initiative that would reduce California’s Legislature to part-time.

Political consultant Steve Maviglio, former spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, said today that he has joined forces with Burbank attorney Dario Frommer, a former Assembly majority leader. Fundraising has not yet begun, Maviglio said.

The group will butt heads with Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and with Ted Costa, the head of a political watchdog group, over the duo’s proposed constitutional amendment.

The secretary of state’s office gave the green light Monday for proponents of the proposal to begin collecting the 807,615 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

Backers hope to encourage the election of citizen legislators who have outside sources of income and are not so politically ambitious that they become overly dependent upon powerful special interests.

The measure calls for the nation’s most populous state to meet three months per year – and for lawmakers’ pay to be cut from $7,940 per month to $1,500 per month – or $18,000 annually.

Jerry Brown affirming more releases of killers than Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is far more likely to allow the release of paroled killers from prison than either of California’s two previous governors, newly released records show.

Brown let stand 331 of 405 – roughly 82 percent – of decisions to parole convicted killers by the state Board of Parole Hearings last year, according to an annual report to the Legislature released Tuesday.

By comparison, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger permitted the release of only about 27 percent of paroled killers, while Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ numbers were even lower – about 2 percent.

California’s governor has a constitutional right to affirm, modify or reverse such parole board decisions. Brown reversed 71, modified one, and sent two back to the board to reconsider.

Herdt: A way to keep score in California politics

As he was wrapping up his just-concluded term as mayor of Ventura, Bill Fulton observed that the job was not without its political challenges.

“It’s pretty easy to be the mayor of Berkeley and it’s pretty easy to be the mayor of Bakersfield, but it’s pretty hard to be the mayor of both at the same time,” he said.

The point, for those unfamiliar with those two California cities, is that their politics are mostly homogeneous — polar opposites, to be sure, but internally homogeneous.

It’s more challenging to be an elected official in a city such as Ventura, where voters hold politically divergent views.

Thanks to redistricting, many politicians around the state now running for Congress and the Legislature are about to find out what it was like being in Fulton’s shoes.

Dan Walters: Proposition 8 ruling is aimed at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

“Proposition 8’s only effect … was to withdraw from gays and lesbians the right to employ the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their committed relationships,” the ruling declared, concluding, “the people of California violated the equal protection clause.”

Assuming that the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court and that Kennedy is the deciding vote on the issue, would he agree?

Kennedy, a Sacramentan who worked for then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, is notoriously unpredictable, sometimes siding with the four liberals on the court and sometimes with the four conservatives.

But even were he to help overturn Proposition 8, the larger issue of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry would remain unclear.

That would take another case and another day.

Enjoy your morning!

Here is a video of my former State Senator Tom McClintock discussing the economy with the Congressional Budget Office.


Flap’s California Morning Collection: October 26, 2011


Hollywood, California

The California Legislature is not in session today.

California Governor Jerry Brown will announce proposed changes to public employee pensions tomorrow.

Gov. Jerry Brown will give lawmakers his plan for pension changes on Thursday, the governor said in a letter to legislators this afternoon, though it remains unclear what Brown will propose.

“Given the paramount importance of pensions to both taxpayers and public employees, it is absolutely critical that we carefully examine our current assumptions and practices,” Brown said in a letter to Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena. “We have to do our best to make sure that we have a system that is fair and truly sustainable over the long time horizon that our pension and health systems require.”

The Democratic governor has said for weeks that he would propose pension changes this fall. He recently said some of them will require a constitutional amendment and a vote of the people.

In Southern California, public employee pension reform comes to the forefront.

California’s public pension debate moves to the south state, where a new legislative committee will look at recent changes and options for fiscal stability.

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino and Assemblyman Warren Furutani of Gardena, both Democrats, are chairing the informational hearing, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Carson City Council Chambers.

Several union representatives and lobbyists are among the scheduled speakers at today’s hearing. They include Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000; Rich Brandt, president of Long Beach Firefighters; and Dave Low, executive director of the California School Employees Association.

Also listed are representatives of CDF Firefighters, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California State Association of Counties, California Special Districts Association, SEIU California, the State Association of County Retirement Systems, AFSCME California, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, the California Teachers Association and the Association of California School Administrators.

Other perspectives will come from Desi Rodrigues of the Department of Personnel Administration, Santa Monica city manager Rod Gould, Ann Boynton of California Public Employees’ Retirement System and Ed Derman of California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

The hearing will be streamed live on the city of Carson’s website, Members of the group Californians for Retirement Security will hold a news conference outside City Hall at 9:15 a.m. before the hearing starts.

On to today’s headlines:

Death penalty ban could go to voters

California voters have consistently supported the death penalty, and even in 1986 tossed out a state Supreme Court justice who opposed it.

But foes of capital punishment sense the tide may be turning as they prepare to begin gathering signatures on a proposed initiative that seeks to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In San Diego County, backers of the ballot proposal will unveil their campaign plans today. Supporters include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Office of Social Ministry for the Catholic Diocese, NAACP and some retired judges.

They plan to urge voters to rethink the death penalty by arguing it’s a drain on the state budget, takes between 25 to 30 years to carry out and runs the risk of executing the innocent.

Statewide, organizers must gather slightly more than 500,000 signatures of registered voters by March 18 to qualify the initiative for the November 2012 ballot.

“The death penalty serves no useful purpose. It is not a deterrent and it is horrendously expensive,” said retired Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose office prosecuted dozens of capital cases when he was there.

Most rank-and-file police and district attorneys remain adamant that the death penalty is a deterrent and provides some measure of closure for families of victims. Advocates for victims rights seethe at the thought of not carrying out the ultimate penalty.

“We can’t put a price on justice,” argued Cory Salzillo, who represents a coalition of district attorneys opposed to eliminating the death penalty.

Dan Walters: Financial facts don’t back anti-Proposition 13 propaganda

It’s an article of faith – indeed, blind faith – among those on California’s political left that the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 began the state’s downward spiral.

Before voters limited property taxes, they say, California was a paradise of well-financed public services, but since then has evolved into something like Mississippi, in which a tiny, selfish overclass oppresses a burgeoning, mostly nonwhite underclass.

Indeed, one leftish critic titled his book, “Paradise Lost.”

The anti-Proposition 13 propaganda always becomes louder when the economy is in recession and government budgets face big deficits, as they do now. It found an outlet in a recent Bloomberg wire service article that, in effect, blamed Proposition 13 for everything awry in California.

The problem with the anti-Proposition 13 hypothesis, however, is that financial facts don’t support it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

In 1977-78, according to the State Board of Equalization, schools and local governments collected $10.3 billion in property taxes. The amount plummeted to $4.9 billion in 1978-79 as Proposition 13 cut the average property tax rate by more than half.

By 2010-11, however, property tax collections had risen to precisely 10 times as much – $49 billion per year – due to new construction and re-evaluation of existing property, even though the property tax rate was fixed at slightly over 1 percent.

During that same 33-year period, state general fund revenue, principally sales and income taxes, increased sevenfold – scarcely two-thirds the property tax revenue growth rate.

Incidentally, inflation and population growth combined were about 400 percent during that same period, less than half the expansion in property taxes.

Obviously, the assertion that Proposition 13 has been an unconscionable barrier to revenue growth doesn’t hold up. But what about the oft-voiced argument that our property taxes are out of whack with those of other states?

According to Tax Foundation data, California’s property tax burden is the nation’s 15th highest as a proportion of homeowners’ personal income at 3.59 percent, well above the national average of 3.03 percent. The reason: California’s below-average property tax rate is more than offset by its above-average property values.

Herdt: A new look at taxing business property

Among advocates for public schools, universities, parks and other state services that have been the victims of substantial state spending reductions, a hunt is on these days for a tax increase that would both generate the substantial revenue needed to prevent further cuts and also be able to win the support of economically battered California voters.

There are very few likely candidates.

Polling shows there is no public appetite to restore the broad-based temporary increases in sales and income taxes that expired this year.

So the search is on for a tax proposal that voters would deem reasonable.

Given this environment, it was inevitable that attention would turn to an issue that has successfully been kept under the rug for more than 30 years: a property tax system that provides greater benefits to business properties than to homeowners and has led to a gradual shift in the property tax burden onto homeowners and away from office buildings, shopping centers and industrial complexes.

Thus, the idea of a so-called “split roll” property tax — a system that would treat business properties differently from residences — is beginning to elbow its way into the discussion.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa jump-started the conversation in August when he suggested business property taxes might be revisited as part of a “grand bargain” of reform designed to rescue California’s deteriorating public institutions.

The issue was sufficiently elevated that last week, at its annual meeting with county assessors, the Board of Equalization sponsored a roundtable discussion at the Capitol that featured, among others, California Tax Reform Association Executive Director Lenny Goldberg and Ventura County Assessor Dan Goodwin.

The association last year released a study, based on data from the Board of Equalization and county assessors, that found a substantial shift of the property tax burden has transpired in virtually every county since passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. In Los Angeles County in the mid-’70s, for instance, residential properties accounted for 53 percent of all property taxes; today the figure is 69 percent.

The traditional explanation has been that, since Proposition 13 allows for the value of property subject to taxation to be reset only upon resale, businesses turn over less frequently than homes. The association’s report says that explanation “does not quite explain the phenomenon.”

Goldberg says the shift is largely the result of “a loophole-ridden” system that has allowed business properties to change ownership through complex transactions designed to avoid triggering a reassessment.

The association report cites reams of anecdotal evidence documenting changes in business ownership that escaped tax reassessment, but Goodwin thinks Goldberg and other reformers may be overstating the situation.

The California GOP’s Latino Voter Problem

Enjoy your morning!


Flap’s California Morning Collection: September 28, 2011


Mt. Shasta

The California Legislature is not in session and Governor Jerry Brown is continuing to sign or veto bills passed more than a week ago. The deadline for action on the legislation is October 9.

On to today’s California headlines:

L.A. County rejects bid for second Latino-majority district

After hours of emotional testimony from hundreds of speakers, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a political redistricting map late Tuesday largely preserving the status quo, protecting incumbents and rejecting demands that the board create a second Latino-majority district.

Tuesday’s 4-to-1 vote sets the stage for a costly legal battle, pitting the county against Latino activists who are expected to accuse the supervisors of protecting white incumbents at the expense of the voting rights of Latinos.

They and Supervisor Gloria Molina argue that the county is repeating mistakes of the past. Two decades ago, federal courts sided with Latino activists and found white county supervisors for decades had systematically split growing Latino neighborhoods to protect incumbents and prevent the emergence of a Latino challenger. The voting rights lawsuit cost $14 million and the county was forced to adopt new maps, which led to the election of Molina. She was the first nonwhite supervisor elected to the board since the late19th century.

In the end, Mark Ridley-Thomas, a black supervisor who had been allied with Molina, switched sides and supported a plan by Supervisor Don Knabe. That plan largely preserves the five existing districts. Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, a possible L.A. mayoral candidate, and Michael D. Antonovich also backed Knabe’s plan.

Touting jobs, Brown signs a pair of bills and curses ‘too damn many regulations’

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills Tuesday that signaled he and other Democrats are willing to relax their concerns about the environment if it means a promise of jobs.

Over the objection of some environmental groups that fear that the landmark California Environmental Quality Act will be compromised, Brown declared that getting people back to work takes precedence.

“We’ve got to remove some regulations to speed things up,” Brown said at a bill signing ceremony in Los Angeles. “We’re going to protect the environment, but we’re also going to do it in a practical way. There are too damn many regulations, let’s be clear about that.”

One bill, SB 292, paves the way for a $1.2 billion plan for a new 72,000-seat stadium in Los Angeles and the expansion of the downtown Los Angeles convention center. The other, AB 900, will give Brown the power to approve relaxed environmental rules for projects valued at more than $100 million.

The legislation won’t affect the 49ers’ plan to build a stadium in Santa Clara, because the deadline to file a lawsuit over environmental issues on that project has passed. It may, however, apply if the Oakland A’s attempt to build a new stadium in San Jose and the Sacramento Kings try to build a new arena.

Regardless of its reach, AB 900 concerns some environmentalists who see it as a stark reminder of the diminishing political will for strong environmental standards in the face of the withering

Amazon, theatrics and the art of a deal

The play, it must be noted, was largely produced by the California Retailers Association, the trade group that represents the giants of the brick-and-mortar industry, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and the like.

The Amazon loophole had been fought for years by mom-and-pop retailers and advocates for school kids and the infirm elderly who were suffering from budget cuts that resulted partly from the uncollected sales taxes.

But it wasn’t until this year, when Walmart and Target got into the game, that the balance of power shifted.

That Amazon executive knew that, this time, his competitors had the resources to take this play out of the Capitol and produce it under the bright lights of a public ballot-measure campaign. Amazon could pursue its referendum, and possibly win, but in the process it would become the target of a multimillion-dollar television advertising campaign that would tarnish its name — perhaps using aggrieved Little Leaguers, struggling schoolchildren and disabled seniors to deliver the message.

Brown, who’s learned a little something about the art of politics over the years, summed up how the deal came together in remarks last week after signing the bill. “We were threatening the tax and Amazon was threatening the referendum. And when you get two threats, that gives you an opportunity to find a compromise.”

No one ever said politics was pretty. But that doesn’t mean it can’t occasionally be artful.

Prop. 8 lawsuit videos stay under wraps for now

The videos of last year’s same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco will remain sealed, at least for now, while a federal appeals court considers arguments by sponsors of Proposition 8 that making the recordings public would endanger witnesses and damage the “credibility and integrity of the federal judiciary.”

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled Sept. 19 that the videos would be released this Friday unless a higher court intervened. On Monday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a temporary stay, which is likely to be renewed while the appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court review the dispute.

Ware’s predecessor, Judge Vaughn Walker, presided over the January 2010 trial on Prop. 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California. Under a new rule that allowed camera coverage, Walker approved a live telecast to other federal courthouses and proposed recording the trial for the court’s website, but the Supreme Court overruled him.

The court ruled 5-4 that Walker had not allowed enough time for public comment under local court regulations. The justices also indicated they agreed with Prop. 8’s sponsors that cameras would intimidate their witnesses.

Walker continued recording the trial and told the opposing lawyers they could use the videos in their closing arguments. He said he did not intend a public broadcast.

Walker ruled in August 2010 that Prop. 8 discriminated unconstitutionally against gays and lesbians, a decision that the measure’s sponsors have challenged in the appeals court.

Walker has played brief excerpts of the videos in lectures at colleges, both before and after leaving the bench in February, prompting accusations by Prop. 8’s sponsors that he was violating his own promises, the court’s rules and the Supreme Court’s decision.

Enjoy your morning!