Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 7, 2014
California audit questions casino mitigation payments

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There are dozens of special funds in state government, but few have gotten as much attention from state auditors in recent years as the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund.

The scrutiny continued this week, when the Bureau of State Audits released its third review of the SDF's operation. And as with audits in 2007 and 2011, the latest review flags similar types of problems in how the money is spent.

The fund is a product of the state's legalization of casinos on tribal land in 2000. Various tribes with casinos have paid into the distribution fund over the years to help mitigate casino impacts. In 2012-13, $9.1 million was allocated to local benefit committees to distribute.

September 10, 2013
Teacher dismissal bill, once stalled, moves to Senate floor

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Union-backed legislation to revise how teachers can be dismissed, which had been rejected by the Senate Education Committee in July, was resurrected Tuesday, two days before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment.

It moved to the Senate floor after several committee members changed their votes.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, made some minor revisions to the legislation, Assembly Bill 375, last week and then asked the committee to consider it again.

The Buchanan bill was introduced as an alternative to a much-tougher measure that Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, had written in response to a sex abuse case involving a Los Angeles teacher.

Opposed by the California Teachers Association and other unions, the Padilla bill was blocked in the Assembly after clearing the Senate. But Buchanan's measure, which she said would streamline dismissal procedures, was stalled in the Senate committee after winning Assembly approval.

Last week's amendments didn't seem to change the lineup of supporters - unions and state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson - or opponents, a coalition of school districts, administrators and school reform groups.

The latter complained that although the measure changes procedures, it would make some aspects of teacher dismissal, especially in sex cases and other criminal and moral matters, more difficult.

However, Padilla told the committee that he's supporting AB 375, even though it is "a slightly different approach than my bill."

In July, four Democrats voted for AB 375, but three other Democrats, including the committee's chairwoman, Carol Liu, refused to vote, thus leaving it one vote short of passage. On Tuesday Liu voted for the bill, and with other vote changes, it got the five votes it needed to move to the floor.

August 15, 2013
Auditor: California should step up oversight of mental health spending

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State agencies have not properly overseen how California counties are spending billions of dollars on mental health care programs generated by Proposition 63, according to a state audit released today.

The 2004 ballot initiative, written by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, levies a 1 percent tax on people who make more than $1 million, to be spent by counties on mental health services. The state Department of Mental Health and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission are supposed to oversee how counties use the funds.

But today's review by state auditor Elaine Howle says the state agencies are not adequately monitoring the effectiveness of county programs.

"Because of the minimal oversight Mental Health and the Accountability Commission
provided in the past, the State has little current assurance that the funds directed to counties--almost $7.4 billion from fiscal years 2006-07 through 2011-12--have been used effectively and appropriately," Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Her audit of the Mental Health Services Act found that:

August 8, 2013
Auditor: California mismanaging federal voting funds

20121106_AOC_YoloVote_142w.JPGConfusing and inconsistent direction from the California Secretary of State's Office has led the state to misuse millions of federal dollars earmarked to improve voting systems, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Widespread allegations of uneven vote-counting practices accompanied the 2000 presidential election, which the U.S Supreme Court effectively decided. The Help America Vote Act, enacted two years later, allocated money for states to train poll workers and update their voting systems -- in some cases, counties continued to rely on punch-card systems.

California received more than $380 million, according to the auditor's report. But the state's methods for distributing that money were plagued by murky standards and a lack of clarity about whether counties could use new voting systems, State Auditor Elaine Howle's office found. At least $22 million went to new voting machinery, like touch-screens, that counties ended up mothballing.

"Some counties have collectively spent millions of federal HAVA funds on voting systems they cannot fully use," the report reads. "Under state law, counties cannot purchase new voting systems unless such systems have been approved by the secretary of state. However, different secretaries of state have reached different conclusions on the suitability of counties using certain voting systems."

The audit was requested by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state in 2014.

In an interview, spokeswoman Shannan Velayas argued that California has led the nation in tackling voting issues and pointed to a comprehensive review of voting regulations that current Secretary of State Debra Bowen called for when she took office in 2007.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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