The on-again, off-again prospects for a decent flood package this session seem to be off again. The Senate consolidated several flood bills into AB 1665, creating a seemingly decent omnibus bill that would improve flood mapping, release funds for Delta levees and require floodplain communities to at least have an evacuation plan to receive any state levee bond money. We also heard the Senate would revive an Assembly-killed measure by Dave Jones to require local governments to share liability with the state if they built new homes behind suspect levees.
Unfortunately, the language in the Senate-amended bill could be interpreted to dump all the liability on locals. That has sent the League of Cities into a tizzy. They have issued a floor alert along with the California Building Industry Association and the usual suspects.
Unless this changes, I doubt the Assembly will approve it, and the lawmakers might not approve it anyway, because it doesn't include any elements of AB 1899, an Assembly-approved bill by Lois Wolk to restrict building in greenfield areas that don't have 100 -year flood protection.
So it doesn't look good for a flood package one year after Katrina. Of course, things looked bad for AB 32, the global warming bill, just midday yesterday, and then things quickly changed....
Posted by dweintraub at 1:49 PM
I try to avoid visiting the Legislature if I can help it, and today I am reminded of why. If you spend too much time over here, you quickly learn which glad-handing male legislators use the urinal and then leave the bathroom without washing their hands.
If I see it again, I'm gonna name names.
-- Stuart Leavenworth
Posted by dweintraub at 5:34 PM
California will become the first state to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming under a deal that the governor and the Democratic leadership finally inked on Wednesday.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would sign an amended version of Assembly Bill 32 once it passes both houses -- a huge victory for environmentalists frustrated with the Bush administration's inaction on climate change.
Right up until midday, it appeared that talks might collapse as both sides haggled over differences that, to many, seemed to be more symbolic than substantive.
Schwarzenegger wanted language stating unequivocally that California "shall" use market mechanisms to achieve reductions in greenhouse pollution. In the end, he backed off that demand but got language that, as Speaker Fabian Nunez put it, creates "a clear path" for markets to be used.
The governor also backed off his demand for an executive council to oversee the program. Instead, that authority will remain with the state Air Resources Board, as Nunez and environmentalists wanted.
The governor, on the other hand, gained some new authority to suspend the regulations for a limited time during an emergency -- a so-called "safety valve" that should make the governor's business supporters a little less edgy.
The California Chamber of Commerce fears the carbon caps could drive up costs for electricity and possibly cause another energy crisis. Supporters of the bill, which include some business groups, say it will help diversify the state's energy sources and make it less vulnerable to fossil fuel price spikes.
Schwarzenegger's pending signing of the bill will surely draw worldwide attention. For groups worried about global warming, the prospect of a Republican governor bucking his party and regulating greenhouse gases has enormous symbolic value, and will probably prompt other like-minded states to join with California in a larger trading regime.
Venture capitalists also see opportunities. Various alternative energies will be in greater demand as businesses look for ways to reduce their greenhouse pollution. The bill calls for a 25 percent statewide reduction in such gases by 2020.
"We can now move forward with developing a market-based system that makes California a world leader in the effort to reduce carbon emissions," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "The success of our system will be an example for other states and nations to follow as the fight against climate change continues. AB 32 strengthens our economy, cleans our environment and once again, establishes California as the leader in environmental protection."
Schwarzenegger is also expected to sign a complementary bill, SB 1368, by state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata that would prohibit California from importing new sources of energy that didn't meet a standard for low greenhouse gases.
Passage of AB 32 will elevate the status of Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, who co-authored the bill with Nunez. Pavley previously passed a bill that forces Detroit to produce lower-emitting cars for the California market.
Had Schwarzenegger balked at a deal or put himself in a position to veto it, he surely would have faced fire during his bid for re-election. Challenger Phil Angelides made that clear with a statement he issued today.
“I applaud legislative and environmental leaders for standing firm against Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to gut this important legislation," Angelides said. "Unlike Governor Schwarzenegger who tried to undermine this legislation, Californians can count on me as Governor to enforce these greenhouse gas emissions caps and not work to sabotage them.”
-- Stuart Leavenworth
Posted by dweintraub at 5:25 PM
Legislative leaders appear to have struck a deal on measures to reform flood control in the Central Valley.
Details are sketchy, but the deal would wrap together various non-controversial flood bills -- such as ones to improve mapping of floodplains and continue funding for upgrades of Delta levees -- with a provision that will not make developers and local governments very happy.
Earlier in the session, an Assembly committee killed a bill by Dave Jones to make local governments share liabilitity with the state following flood disasters. That provision is now being revived and may be folded into the ominibus bill. The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to hear the package at 1:30 this afternoon.
It's an interesting turn of events. The governor supports the shared liability mandate, mainly because court decisions have increased the state's exposure whenever a levee breaks in the Central Valley. Environmentalists and floodplain managers also like the provision, because it might prompt cities and counties to think twice before approving new homes in areas with suspect levees.
Action in the Assembly suggest a deal has been hatched. Up until today, the Assembly had blocked a generally popular bill by Sen. Dean Florez to reform the state Reclamation Board. The Assembly, however, just passed that Florez bill today, suggesting that State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez have come to terms on a package.
Stay turned for more details after the Senate Rules Committee meets.
-- Stuart Leavenworth
Posted by dweintraub at 1:16 PM
From Pia Lopez:
Though in the end, Senate and Assembly committees easily passed out the four-bill prison deal, there were some fireworks at Tuesday's 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. joint Senate-Assembly committee hearing.
First, Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, called the joint hearing an "extraconstitutional abomination." He insisted that the two houses are supposed to consider legislation separately and independently. He was "appalled" at what he called the "extraconstitutional mingling" of the two houses. His objection made for interesting theater at the hearing. Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, trying to get in questions and comments, was thwarted -- though he did finally manage to address his issues to Assembly committee chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Acting Secretary of Corrections and Rehabilitation Jim Tilton. The committees took separate votes. Because the bills being considered were authored and presented by members of the Senate and senators were most incensed about their separate institutional prerogatives, the Assembly got short shrift in this joint process.
Second, Leno, who authored the bill on voluntary transfers of inmates to federal and out-of-state facilities, roundly condemned the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for what he called a "180-degree turn" on this issue. Taking direct aim at Tilton, he said that in a meeting in the governor's office last week, the administration "accepted the wording" on "voluntary and systemwide" transfers in this bill, recognizing that involuntary transfers would be unworkable and would be unlikely to get support. Worse, Leno said, the administration did not notify him of its change of position. He castigated Tilton for not operating in good faith. So that's where that issue lies.
Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, acknowledged that the bills don't deal with immediate overcrowding, but they do adopt the administration's medium- and long-term building expansion plans -- immediate revenue bonds for 5,340 beds and $312 million for planning and design of 10,900 new beds at existing facilities, a host of new facilities and conversion of facilities. Machado noted that "population trends are beginning to slow down."
The four-bill package seems to indicate that legislators aren't convinced there's really an emergency that calls for immediate beds. Yet they're willing to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the state's broken prison system in a new construction boom 18 months out and beyond. Go figure.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:37 AM
From Pia Lopez:
Adam Mendelsohn in the governor's office has said that while SB2x 12 merely reiterates state law allowing voluntary transfers of inmates to federal and out-of-state facilities, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is still fighting to get an involuntary transfer provision. Stay tuned.
A joint Senate-Assembly hearing on the four-bill package (see earlier blog item) is now scheduled for between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:35 PM
From Pia Lopez:
The governor and legislative leaders have made a deal in the special session on prisons. Four bills have been introduced. Given all the questions legislators raised in hearings and charges of vague proposals with insufficient details, these bills oddly accept the governor’s prison building package.
The most important is SBx2 10.
This essentially gives blanket authority to the corrections department to build new prison beds with $312 million from the General Fund and revenue bonds for costs up to $606 million.
--5,340 new beds at existing prison facilities (where? what level of security?) using the design-build process, which means the department would not have to do a cumulative impact analysis or consider alternatives;
--10,900 new beds at existing prisons or on land owned by the department adjacent to existing prisons (where? what level of security?);
--an undisclosed number and location of re-entry facilities, each up to 500 beds, in collaboration with local governments in urban areas for inmates within one year of release;
--new facilities to provide medical, mental health and long-term care on land owned by the department;
--new correctional officer training academy in southern California, no location stated;
--convert 800 female beds at the California Rehabilitation Center to house male inmates;
--convert the closed Northern California Women’s Facility in Stockton for use as a reception center (where male prisoners are processed before being sent to a regular prison).
SBx2 9 gives the corrections department authority to contract for new community corrections beds, with an important change. It creates an unworkable hybrid of state prison guards and private staff, with no indication of who will be in charge. The bill has no funding.
SBx2 11 appropriates $25 million for county challenge grants (requiring a 25 percent local match) to create re-entry programs for parolees. The amount is so small that a county might be able to create a program for 20 inmates.
SBx2 12 essentially reiterates existing state law providing for voluntary transfer of inmates to federal or out-of-state facilities. The department dropped the idea of forcing inmate transfers.
The bills were drafted Monday night with promises of a joint Senate-Assembly hearing on this 4-bill package today -- though rumor is that the bills may be sent directly to the floor for a vote. Anyone who wants to influence the outcome will have to act fast.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:16 PM
Those of us on the Bee editorial board are disappointed we never get invited to the fundraisers lawmakers schedule while they are dealing with key legislation at the end of the session. In fact, we don't even know what we're missing.
So, lobbyists, help us out! Fax us or email us some of the invitations you have received recently -- and especially in the last couple of days. We’d like to experience the thrill, if only vicariously. Fax them to Stuart Leavenworth at (916) 321-1996 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Discretion is assured.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:55 AM
A package of bills to reform flood control in the Central Valley appears to be dead after a meeting orchestrated by Sen. Pro Tem Don Perata on Monday night.
The meeting was supposed to be a work session, where Assemblywoman Lois Wolk and others presented possible amendments to their legislation. But according to several in the room, Wolk barely got a chance to talk. State Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, lit into Wolk for not working with him and for pushing legislation, AB 1899, that would hurt Stockton, which is in his district.
Stockton is a center of a major building boom in the floodplain. Developers such as Art Spanos, Fritz Grupe and other have plans to build thousands of more houses behind levees. If Wolk’s bill had passed, Stockton and other cities would be required to demonstrate they have 100-year flood protection before any new building is approved.
Wolk’s staff denies that Machado was left out of the loop. They say he kept “raising the goal post” with issues to be resolved. Wolk has provided this blog with a list of 20 concessions made to the bill as it moved through committees.
Many in the Capitol assume Perata was influenced by a $500,000 contribution that one of his bond committees received from the California Building Industry Association, a major opponent of AB 1899. Perata denies this, but is offering some pretty bogus reasons for bottling up the bill. First he said Gov. Schwarzenegger was trying to "gut" it, and didn't want it vetoed. Then he said there wasn't time to handle such complex legislation, even as he was pushing through major changes in worker's comp and health care that the governor is likely to veto. Then he accused the Assembly of "incompetance" in handling AB 1899, suggesting he didn't really want to save it from a veto, but kill it altogether.
Perata is scheduled to make an announcement on the flood bills later this afternoon. He could either bottle up at least six bills or let a few out, such as one by Sen. Dean Florez to reform the state Reclamation Board.
If all or most of these die, it will be a truly amazing development. Polls show deep concern about flooding in the Central Valley. Yet even at the one-year anniversary of Katrina, the Legislature is prepared to do almost nothing about the problem. Wow.
-- Stuart Leavenworth
Posted by dweintraub at 11:43 AM
Stuart Leavenworth here. Along with colleagues on the editorial board, I’ll be contributing to the Insider this week while Dan Weintraub is off at Burning Man. That’s right, our wonkish economist is heading toward that week-long desert festival where everything is bartered, artwork is torched and some folks wander about clothed only in dust.
The best part – Weintraub is attending with his son. How’s that for family values?
Speaking of burning, the governor’s team and Democratic lawmakers are still at an impasse over a bill that is getting national and international attention – Assembly Bill 32.
AB 32 would make California the first state to cap greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The governor supports a mandatory cap, but say he wants firm assurances that industries will be able to buy and sell emissions credits to meet the restrictions.
The two sides negotiated over the weekend, resolved a few points but are still apart on how much authority they will give each other to influence the program in the future.
The governor’s folks are leery that lawmakers may try to hinder market trading of emissions a year or two down the road. Thus, they want language that emission trading “shall” be used, instead of “may” be used.
I’m betting that lawmakers may give on this point, if the administration backs off its demand for a “safety valve” – authority for future governors to suspend the regulations in advance of pending emergency. Environmentalists fear this provision will simply give industries the incentive to lobby for exemptions instead of investing in pollution control. That, they say, could undermine the point of the bill – making a clear statement that California will reduce its emissions by a certain amount, at a certain date.
The outcome will surely affect this year’s gubernatorial race. If Gov. Schwarzenegger is blamed for scuttling a popular environmental bill, his opponent, Treasurer Phil Angelides, will surely vilify him as a tool of oil interests, who want to kill AB 32. (I can see Phil’s ads already: A shot of Arnold in his big, gas-guzzling Hummer, interspersed with images of heat waves, rising sea levels, levees breaking, refinery smokestacks, etc.)
On the other hand, the governor has said he will only sign a global warming bill that protects the state’s economy. Business groups are pressing him to amend it to their liking.
The usual legislative rivalries also could upend the bill. For a while this morning, we heard the Senate leadership might adjourn a day early and jam the Assembly (thereby allowing some legislators to attend Burning Man). Thank goodness that was a false rumor. The thought of lawmakers running around in the desert, bartering, burning stuff…I’m not sure we’d want to inflict that on Nevada.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:04 PM
A former casino worker says California Democrats (and the Republican governor) seem poised to roll back civil rights and worker protections.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:22 AM
Nicholas Romero says Jason Kinney is trying to spin us away from Koz's rap on the new Democrat insiders blog.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:16 AM
This one is a little racier than the CTA deal.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:21 PM
Bill language is circulating in the Capitol to implement the terms of the legal settlement between the governor and the California Teachers Assn. over the funding the teachers claim the state illegally withheld from the schools in 2004 and 2005. The bill provides about $3 billion in new money for the schools through 2013-14.
The best thing about the settlement is that it tries to target all of the money to low-performing schools, those whose student test scores are in the bottom 20 percent of schools statewide. Most of those schools serve primarily poor and minority, mostly immigrant, children. The achievement gap between them and white and middle-class Asian-American kids is the biggest problem in education today.
The question is how the money should be spent, assuming it should be spent on those kids. As always, I favor maximum flexibility and decentralization. Having said that, I would have some concern about pouring all of this money into schools whose students are already failing, since we don't know whether that failure is due to the students themselves and their family backgrounds and living conditions, a shortage of resources, or the operation of the schools. Some guidance and/or extra accountability from Sacramento seems appropriate.
On the other hand, this bill requires those schools that get the money to reduce class size beyond the 20 to 1 ratio already common in kindergarten through third grade. For grades 4-12, schools would have to have an average of 25 students per class, or five fewer than they did in 2006-07, whichever is lower.
I don't see any reason for picking class size reduction as the magic bullet to solve the achievement gap. There is little or no research to suggest that marginal reductions in class size, which is all this money would provide, have much of an effect on student achievement. Wouldn't hiring more aides and tutors possibly be as effective, or even more effective?
I would direct this money to poor and minority kids, but in a way that offers more flexibility to the schools on how to spend it, within certain parameters and subject to review by the state.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:03 PM
Hoping to salvage the redistricting reform legislation, the coalition backing the bill has introduced amendments to SCA 3 that would remove judges and retired judges from the selection of the proposed independent commission. Instead of judges, the panelists would be screened first by city clerks and county registrars, who run California elections. The nominees would then go to the legislaive leaders and the Fair Political Practices Commission, as envisioned in the earlier version of the bill. No word yet on whether this will get it over the hump. But advocates say they believe measure will now win the support of various minority interest groups that did not like the idea of mostly white retired judges having a role in selecting the panel.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:53 AM
Retail health clinics are spreading fast, according to USA Today, and are prompting a competitive response from traditional medical networks. An excerpt:
Most clinics do or will take insurance, are walk-in and are open evenings and weekends. They advertise short waits and 15-minute exams, and some give out pagers so clients can shop while waiting. Prices are posted — at MinuteClinic, on an electronic sign, as in a fast-food restaurant.
Bigger clinics look like doctors' offices, with waiting rooms and exam tables. Smaller ones have just chairs. In most clinics, exams don't require disrobing. Patient records are electronic.
Nurse practitioners — nurses with advanced degrees who can write prescriptions — staff most clinics. They reduce costs because they make, on average, less than half of what family doctors make.
At MinuteClinic, the NPs — who most often work alone — not only diagnose ailments but also input computer data, process payments, dispense tip sheets on how to avoid future illness and send patients thank-you notes.
If clinics cannot treat someone because an ailment is too serious, such as bronchitis that's advanced to pneumonia, most clinics refer clients free of charge to a local doctor or emergency room. Clinic operators say they refer out about 10% of clients.
The retail clinic threat is already sparking change. Several health care providers, including AtlantiCare, the biggest in southeastern New Jersey, are opening their own limited-service clinics in stores.
The American Academy of Family Physicians recently encouraged its 94,000 doctors to expand office hours and same-day appointments. "Hopefully, we'll be able to compete," says Larry Fields, a physician and head of the AAFP.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:56 AM
George Skelton scolds the governor for inflating the Angelides tax plan from $5 billion to $18 billion. Skelton helpfully provides a bit of alternate script should Schwarzenegger decide to rip his opponent on the issue honestly rather than using numbers that don't add up.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:32 AM
The transportation lobby has a mess on its hands. Secretary of State Bruce McPherson announced Tuesday that an industry-sponsored ballot measure to prevent the state from using gasoline sales tax revenues for anything but transportation construction had qualified for the next ballot in 2008.
That might sound like good news for them. But it's not. This was the initiative that the industry was circulating as a hammer to get the Legislature to enact similar protections for the Prop. 42 money as part of the big bond package this year. The Legislature did that -- it's Prop. 1A on the November ballot -- and as part of the deal the industry withheld 300,000 of their signatures, thinking that would be enough to keep their measure off the ballot. It wasn't. The thing still qualified, with only 7,000 valid signatures to spare. The industry version is a stricter ban on transfers than 1A, which would allow periodic loans of the Prop. 42 money to the general fund with deadlines for repayment. Having a second measure looming on the ballot in two years is going to complicate the broad coalition of support for 1A as part of the infrastructure package. Look for the California Teachers Association, which opposed Prop. 42 and grudgingly went along with the bond package despite misgivings over 1A, to be particularly galled by the latest turn of events.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:17 AM
The governor's campaign has just rolled out a commercial they must have had in the can to respond to the Angelides ad linking Schwarzenegger and Bush. The Schwarzenegger ad opens with the question, "Where does Phil Angelides live?" Then, cueing the now-familiar shot of Angelides walking backward, the announce says, "All he talks about is President Bush." The ad then shows scenes of the coast, Yosemite, Los Angeles and San Francisco while lecturing that "this race is about the future of California. Serious issues require serious discussion. It's a choice between Phil Angelides and our governor." Then it makes a quick pitch for Schwarzenegger before finally showing him, and it's over.
Interesting that they feel they have to respond to the Bush connection rather than simply ignoring it and letting the governor's policies speak for themselves. I'm guessing that their polling and/or focus groups must show that he is indeed vulernable there.
Will this ad change that? Hard to say. Like most of the Schwarzenegger ads, it has a feel that is different from typical political commercials, more of a narrative tone than you normally find in such ads. And it's intriguing that Arnold Schwarzenegger is, in effect, accusing Phil Angelides of being unserious. That's something nobody would have bet on a year or two ago. To the extent that independent voters see Angelides as overly partisan and negative, that will probably hurt the challenger, and that's what this ad sets out to do. I guess I don't have very strong feelings about whether it will work.
I can answer the ad's question, though. Angelides lives a couple of blocks from me just outside of downtown Sacramento.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:50 PM
Steve Maviglio gives his take on the Cali press corps, and its relationship with the Schwarzenegger team, from his perspective after spending his summer vacation working in the Angelides war room. His post is on the California Democratic Majority web site, a new bloggish vehicle for the party and its activists.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:30 AM
The long-awaited Angelides ad linking Schwarzenegger to Bush is now going on the air. It's officially sponsored by the Democratic Party, on whose site you can view it here. Click on the ad titled "You."
The commercial features a clip of Schwarzenegger campaigning for Bush in Ohio, and repeats the governor's voice chanting "George W. Bush." Between each repetition of the chant, the ad cites a malady brought about by the president: troops stuck in Iraq, rising gas prices, bigger deficits.
It concludes: "Arnold Schwarzenegger's for George W. Bush. Is he for you?"
Seems like a fairly effective ad, especially for partisans. It might help Angelides shore up his support within his own party, which is weaker than it should be.
I'm not sure how it will play with California independents who are increasingly down on the president even as they like their Republican governor. I think whenever you use campaign rally footage against your opponent you have to be careful. There is cheering in the background as Schwarzenegger speaks, and even though it is cheering for a president now very unpopular here, that enthusiasm sends an underlying positive message that could contradict the negative message the ad is trying to communicate on the surface. The footage also depicts political loyalty. Yes, it is loyalty to a figure many Californians despise, but loyalty is a positive trait to many people, and I think, again, this creates a subtle contradiction of messages as you watch the ad. I'm probably over-analyzing it, but I think the message -- Schwarzenegger is for Bush and not for you -- could be communicated more effectively than it is here, without the distractions. A little more distance, a little more newsy, perhaps.
This ad will remind the most partisan Democrats of why they don't like Schwarzenegger. But its obvious guilt-by-association motif may not play as well with open-minded independents.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:25 AM
My take on the deal between the minimum wage deal struck by the governor and legislative leaders.
The deal will raise the the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour by 2008, with a 75-cent raise on Jan. 1 and another 50 cents a year later. That's a big win for the working poor who will keep their jobs, and for kids and spouses in middle- and upper-income families, who get the lion's share of the higher wages when the minimum is increased. Not so good for folks struggling to get jobs with few skills. Some of them will be priced out of the market.
Politically, the governor gets the minimum wage bill he wanted to sign, without a provision indexing it to inflation. He compromises and makes the increase $1.25 instead of the $1.00 he had already agreed to sign. Increasing the minimum wage, whatever the economic arguments might be for and against, is very popular with voters of all stripes, who see it as free money for poor people. So the governor will score some points with them.
With this deal, the earlier agreement on infrastructure bonds, the budget with big bucks for education, and perhaps a global warming bill, Schwarzenegger has the chance for a policy grand slam of measures that have cross-party appeal. Credit also goes to the Democratic leaders who could have sat on their hands all year and made him look like a do-nothing governor, even though he was willing to sign bills that they wanted to pass.
Did somebody say "ungovernable?"
Posted by dweintraub at 4:51 PM
Douglas Massey says stricter border enforcement is behind a recent rise in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico living in the United States:
Left to themselves, the vast majority of migrants will return once they have met their economic goals. From 1965 to 1985, 85% of undocumented entries from Mexico were offset by departures and the net increase in the undocumented population was small. The build-up of enforcement resources at the border has not decreased the entry of migrants so much as discouraged their return home. Since the late 1980s the rate of undocumented out-migration has been halved. Undocumented population growth in the United States stems not from rising in-migration, but from falling out-migration.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:54 AM
Jim Boren has some advice for Antonio Villaraigosa.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:06 AM
The governor has signed SB 1, the bill that completes the regulatory and legal framework for his Million Solar Roofs proposal. Schwarzenegger tried to get this through the Legislature last year but was thwarted when the issue got bogged down in union politics and the tension over the special election. He then implemented most of his plan through the Public Utilities Commission. This bill picks up a few loose ends that could only be done by statute.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:12 PM
Are hospitals unpopular with Californians? You might think so after viewing the latest ad from the supporters of Prop. 86, the measure on the November ballot to increase tobacco taxes. Almost all of the money to qualify the measure and promote it is coming from hospitals, and they stand to get a big share of the revenue it would produce. But they are not even mentioned in the ad, which instead focuses on the support of anti-smoking groups.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:38 PM
The Economist takes a quick look at California's prison crisis.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:52 AM
Phil Angelides put out a little more detail on his tax plan today. His small business tax cut would increase from $100,000 to $500,000 the exemption for personal property for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Currently, all businesses have to inventory their property, like computers, cash registers, furniture, etc., and pay property tax on it each year, typically 1 percent of the value. This would exempt most small businesses from that requirement because they don't have personal property valued at more than a half-million dollars. More than the tax savings of up to $5,000, the relief from the associated paperwork would probably make this a popular move.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:58 AM
Sen. Barbara Boxer has endorsed the Rebuild California plan crafted by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature, Props 1A-1E on the November ballot.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:54 AM
Chris Reed isn't too impressed with that new study claiming that capping greenhouse emissions will be a boon to the California economy.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:42 PM
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez this afternoon attempted to explain the Legislature's failure to place redistricting reform on the 2006 ballot, but his explanation only made him, Sen Perata and their colleagues look even more devious, petty and insincere. The truth, of course, is that there is simply not the political will to get this done. That's ok. But it would be so much better if Perata and Nunez would have the guts to just stand up and admit that they think the power to draw district lines should stay with the Legislature. Then we could dispense with the charade.
Today's failure, Nunez contends, came because Perata et al in the Senate refused to send the redistricting bill, SCA 3, over to the Assembly after it was passed Wednesday by the upper house. Senate sources say they tried and the Assembly rejected it. Assembly aides say that was only after the Assembly had already shut down and the speaker and the clerk were holding a press conference. The result: lawmakers missed a deadline for getting the measure on the ballot this November.
"We've run out the clock on that now," Nunez said, perhaps in a moment of unintended candor.
But the crazy thing is that Nunez said he fully intended to put SCA 3 up for a vote if it had come to his house on time, and he was confident that the votes were there to put it on the ballot. Yet he would make no commitment to simply doing it on Friday or Monday or Tuesday instead. If he did, at best the measure might still find its way onto this November's ballot. At worst, it would go to the next scheduled election.
But now that the clock has run out for 2006, Nunez said, he wants to start fresh, consider amendments, perhaps try to link the issue with term limits again. There is no deadline now, so what's the rush? They have until 2008 to sit around, do nothing, and then make another mad dash at the deadline. Yeah, right.
We all know that if this bill does not pass this year, its chances of ever passing will go down immensely. A new Legislature is sworn in in December, the bill has to go back to the start, and work its way through both houses again. The momentum built for this one will be lost, and the new members will have no commitment to the issue.
Of course, you can't put this all on Nunez. Perata never really liked this idea from the start, and he only tolerated, rather than encouraging, Sen. Lowenthal's efforts. The Senate vote Wednesday was really just for show. Lowenthal seems to have secured the commitment of at least a couple of senators to vote for the bill with the promise that it would be amended in the Assembly. That meant he could not in good conscience take it up in the lower house without making those amendments. And if he had made them, that would have meant more committee hearings, and a return to the Senate for one more vote, with no guarantee of it passing.
Anyone who has watched the Legislature or any legislative body for any length of time knows that if lawmakers have the will to get something done, they can do it in a nanosecond. If they don't want to do it, they can contrive a million excuses and obstacles to point to that purport to explain their inaction.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:08 PM
Assembly Democrats tried this morning to gut and amend a bill to pave the way for putting a redistricting measure on this year's ballot. Republicans objected, in part because of the language of the ballot title and summary that would have appeared with the measure. It's not clear where this leaves the issue. But the more this drags on, the more it looks as if the speaker and the Senate leader have agreed, directly or implicitly, to support different and conflicting approaches with the result that, in the end, nothing happens. The easiest thing to do at this point would be to resolve the minor differences over SCA 3, pass it and let it go on the next statewide ballot after November. If they wait til next year, you're dealing with a whole new cast of legislative charcaters, the political will is gone, and, most likely, nothing ever happens. Maybe that's the point.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:35 PM
The Angelides tax cut proposal announced earlier today was just part of his latest, and most detailed, fiscal policy package. In addition to the tax cuts for the working poor and middle class, he is also proposing to increase the property tax relief for seniors and the disabled by $236 and to offer a small business tax cut of up to $5,000 for companies with fewer than 50 employees.
Angelides today put those tax cuts -- which he estimates would cost the treasury about $1.4 billion -- in the context of his broader plan.
The key to making it all work is his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. He's offering a little more detail on that score today as well. First, he proposes to reinstate the upper-income tax brackets that were in place in the early 1990s, but he now says this would be only temporary, for three years. He scores that tax increase at about $3 billion a year.
And instead of detailing which corporate taxes he would raise, he is proposing a commission to come up with a list that would go to the Legislature in an up or down vote, sort of like the federal commission used for military base closures. He thinks the state could raise $2 billion this way.
He is also depending on an oddly specific $1.15 billion from eliminating the always popular waste, fraud and abuse.
Here is how he says his numbers fit together:
He starts with a projected $4.5 billion shortfall inherited from Schwarzenegger. Though this is down from the $10 billion projected shortfall that Schwarzenegger inherited from Gray Davis, the Angelides campaign document refers to it as the "Schwarzenegger budget mess."
Angelides then reduces that number because the current budget Schwarzenegger signed in June is expected to end with a surplus of about $1.6 billion that could be spent next year. That leaves the next governor with a $2.9 billion hole to fill.
Angelides' efficiency measures ($1.15 billion) and personal income tax increases ($3 billion) give him enough, in theory, to balance next year's budget, with $1.4 billion to spare.
But he does not stop there.
His tax cuts ($1.4 billion), tuition rollbacks ($600 million), increased funding for Prop. 98 ($400 million) and other, unspecified "new investments" ($478 million) total $2.9 billion. So now he is in the hole again. He needs to find $1.5 billion to dig out.
That's where the corporate tax increases come in. He figures his commission will find $2 billion worth of those.
That leaves Angelides with a budget reserve of $500 million, plus $1.5 billion in the long-term budgt stabilization account that Schwarzenegger created with Proposition 58 in 2004 and which he has begun to fill.
The concept seems to be, you balance the budget with a temporary tax hike on the wealthy and pay for new spending with a corporate tax increase and by eliminating waste. Not sure what happens when that temporary tax increase expires. I thought the latest estimate was that the structural shortfall extended out beyond that point. If so, there would be a new hole in the budget. If not, things aren't as bad as we thought.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:35 PM
Senate leader Don Perata promised a year ago that if the voters rejected Proposition 77, his house would pass an alternative measure that would take redistricting from the hands of the Legislature and give it to an independent commission. The Senate just cast that vote, and sent the measure to the Assembly, which has the power to put this proposal on the ballot. Perata kept his word. Kudos to the Senate leader. Now the ball is in the court of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:54 PM
The Senate just passed SCA 3, the redistricting reform measure, on a bipartisan vote of 27-11. It now goes to the Assembly, where it faces an uncertain fate.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:49 PM
A new University of California, Berkeley, finds that returning California
greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as envisioned by AB 32, could boost the annual Gross State Product (GSP) by $60 billion and create 17,000 new jobs by 2020. This is a follow up to their last study that looked at what getting half way to that goal would mean for the economy. You can read the study here.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:22 AM
Facing a projected gap of about $5 billion between the state's revenues and spending, Democrat Phil Angelides today is proposing an $800 million tax cut for middle-class families and the working poor. The proposal would increase the dependent tax credit by $200 for families earning up to $100,000 a year. It would also create a state match for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which goes to the working poor and is given as a refund to individuals who owe no income tax.
I'll have much more to say about this proposal later, but my first impression is that this is pandering, and that Angelides, who is a smart guy, knows better. I also think it might prove an effective campaign tool because it will complicate the case Schwarzenegger is trying to make that Angelides wants to raise taxes on everyone.
The state cannot afford a tax cut right now, and the middle class in California, especially families, are not overtaxed. California's budget is already famously dependent on taxes paid by the rich and the superrich. This proposal would only heighten that dependence.
The earned income credit would make sense as an alternative to a minimum wage increase, because it can be targeted to the working poor who need help the most, and it spreads the burden of that help throughout society rather than putting it only on employers. But Angelides is not proposing it as an alternative but in addition to a minimum wage hike, which spreads much of its benefit to teenagers and others in middle and upper income households.
As for the middle class tax cut, according to the California Budget Project, a family of four in California pays no income tax until they make about $46,000 a year. In addition, the middle class and the working poor got a big lift out of the roll back in the car tax Schwarzenegger ordered on his first day as governor.
At the very least, if Angelides is serious about this proposal, he owes it to voters to pair this very specific tax cut with a specific list of tax increases that would raise the $5 billion (now $6 billion?) he concedes he would need to balance the budget and enact the new programs he has proposed.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:00 AM
Arnold Kling offers some interesting observation on higher education, which he says is the only product where consumers try to get as little out of it as possible. He's respond to this post on why students choose majors and courses that are known to offer easy A's rather than tougher studies that might benefit them more later. I especially like his logical twist at the end, which I find pretty convincing. His point could also be applied to the effect of California's controversial high school exit exam, or private courses to prepare students to take the test to get a driver's license at the DMV.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:13 AM
The four legislative leaders have all but pronounced redistricting reform dead for the year. They don't want to write the reform in the "waning hours" of the legislative session. Huh? Waning hours? They promised a year ago that they would craft a proposal if the voters rejected Prop. 77, the governor's best shot at creating an independent commission to draw district lines. The voters did their part. And, as they so often do, the legisaltive leaders dropped the ball. That or they were lying all along.
Here's their joint statement:
There is no question about the need to reform the redistricting process and our current system of term limits in California. But given the tremendous impact any proposal crafted by the Legislature this year could have on politics and policymaking in our state, we feel it is the best course not to pursue a sweeping reform package in the waning hours of the legislative session. Make no mistake, our caution in crafting a reform package this year does not in any way diminish our determination to fix a broken system. We stand committed to revisiting redistricting and term limits reform in the next legislative session – to once and for all craft responsible, bipartisan political reforms for the people of California.
UPDATE: A Perata spokeswoman says they expect a Senate vote Wednesday on SCA 3, the redistricting measure that is not tied to term limits. She says the statement above only applies to the linked package. But it still says they intend to revisit redistricting next year. There would be no need to do that if SCA 3 passes. So aren't they sort of jumping the gun?
Posted by dweintraub at 12:50 PM
The Department of Finance says July revenues came in $424 million above the forecast for the month. But most if not all of that gain appears to be from retailers sending in their sales tax payments a bit earlier than expected. Those payments are due July 31 and usually trickle into August. But this year it looks like most of it came in on time, so the August number should be lower than expected by about the same amount. The full report on the month's economic and fiscal activity is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:39 AM
New data from the Census Bureau suggest that blacks, and perhaps Hispanics as well, are fleeing the inner cities of Northern California for the suburbs.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:32 AM
Here is the text from the strangest e-mail I've received this month. I am not even sure if it is supposed to be spam, or what:
I have you on the chart, satellite location. Do you want to be first, little man? You wish the others to watch wants the boy child to grow up, sees him as young and dependent If the Paradisians were short on building materials they certainly move for some time. Temporal stasis. When they come out of it they just woke up. Looked around, no Steengo. Found you here snoring away Captain Tremearne exited through the open door. a woman and three or four children working with hoes. It was a very Ett fasanfullt monster med rumpan bar there would be a thorough search. A door at the far end, bolted on the derision out of my voice. Cooked down to essentials it means that we
And that's the way it ends.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who emailed with theories on what this was about. You sent some pretty convincing evidence that it is some sort of ghost spam, with the damaging part hung up by spam blockers along the way and just the text still left in the file. The random literary references are apparently used by spammers to get past the blockers. But it looks like we foiled em.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:08 AM
The gov's campaign has released another web video needling Angelides about all of his tax and spending proposals. I don't know if anyone other than reporters actually ever sees these things, but I am interested in the genre because I think someday a campaign is going to figure out how to produce them so that real people watch them. I think the right style to grab people would be along the lines of those flash media presentations by the conspiracy theorists who think the government was behind the 9-11 attacks. In other words, fast, furious and edgy. This one on taxes just bored me. And I'm more interested in the topic than just about anyone in California!
Posted by dweintraub at 10:56 AM
That's right. The Democratic candidate today promises to crack down on diabetes, which he says affects more than 2 million people in California. Seems like a perfectly sensible priority for the state Department of Health Services to focus on. But as a campaign event, seems like an odd one.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:51 AM
A documentary profiling the California Nurses Assn.'s battle to bring down Schwarzenegger last year will premier in LA, Oakland and Sacramento (at the Crest Theater) on Aug. 24. The nurses are promoting the film as part of their drive for Prop. 89, the measure that would create public financing for campaigns.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:45 PM
A Court of Appeal has vacated the injunction that would have prevented California high schools from denying diplomas to students who fail the exit exam. This is a legal decision without immediate practical effect, since the Supreme Court had already stayed the injunction, leaving schools free to grant diplomas only to those who passed the exam. This was, however, another blow to the argument of the plaintiffs that the way toward equity was for everyone to continue to pretend that a diploma means something even if it doesn't. That's what the appellate court concluded. But it also noted that its decision leaves oepn the question of what more can be done to help those who fail the exam and thus do not get a diploma. And the court urged the parties to retreat from their legal warfare and work together to improve the education system and the remediation offered to those who fall behind. Some of the language in this decision could even be read as leaving the door open to a court order mandating the state to do more to help students meet its standards. The full decision is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:28 PM
With just a few days to go before they lose all chance of adding proposals to the November ballot, Aseembly and Senate leaders are forming a conference committee to consider proposals for independent redistricting and term limits reform. I still see little downside for advocates of either going forward. As Propositions 2a and 2b on the ballot, the package would follow the infrastructure bonds and could be seen as a move toward making the Legislature less dysfunctional. The most likely redistricting plan would rely on a bipartisan-plus nonpartisan group of citizens vetted at least in part by the Legislature and the judiciary and bound by a set of guidelines to prevent monkey business. The term limits proposal would reduce from 14 to 12 years the total time lawmakers could serve, while allowing them to serve it all in one house or the other if their voters consented. Both ideas are solid, and they should go on the ballot.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:27 PM
California's third largest county jail sets itself up to supply 80 percent of its own electricity on hot summer days. The Alameda County jail is using a hydrogen fuel cell. Called distributed generation, this kind of thing is the wave of the future for large government complexes and probably hotels and other big power consumers. It would develop even faster if people who generate even more power than they need were allowed to sell their surplus back into the grid.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:41 AM
With Connecticut Democrats dumping Joe Lieberman on Tuesday, the Angelides campaign thinks it's time to remind Californians that their governor is also a big supporter of the war and, by extension, President Bush. Amanda Crumley, the campaign's new communications director, put out this statement this morning:
While Phil Angelides opposed the war in Iraq, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a cheerleader for the war and has stood squarely behind President Bush, backing the President’s re-election bid and saying that Iraq was “going in a positive direction. And I think it is all because of the great influence that the United States has over there...” Schwarzenegger even touts the Bush Administration’s favorite sham talking point that we invaded Iraq due to a threat of terrorism.
As much as Governor Schwarzenegger tries to run from Bush, he cannot hide from his record of support of the President and the war.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:37 AM
A long-awaited audit report slams almost the entire leadership of the city of San Diego for turning the place into Enron-by-the-Sea by ramping up public pension benefits while at the same time underfunding the retirement plan.
"The evidence demonstrates not mere negligence but deliberate disregard for the law, disregard for fiduciary responsibility and disregard for the financial welfare of the city's residents."
Here are links to the full report.
And here are first impressions from Union-Trib blogger Chris Reed.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:25 PM
This AP story shows what a political hairball the prison mess has become for Schwarzenegger. The prison guards union wants more prisons, but isn't happy with the governor's plan because the new cells wouldn't be available fast enough. Others are mad at the governor because he wants to build any new cells at all. The inmates rights groups and the victims rights groups, who never agree about anything, seem to agree that they don't like Schwarzenegger's plan, although I've yet to see them quoted saying exactly what they would like to do instead. The guards, meanwhile, have started tv ads attacking the governor while they're trying to negotiate a new labor contract with his administration. The ads say if he doesn't build more prisons, the courts will order the release of dangerous criminals.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:06 PM
Julia Rosen deconstructs Dan Walters' deconstruction of the governor's race.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:50 PM
Phil Angelides today unveiled his government reform plan – at the same Sacramento railroad museum where Arnold Schwarzenegger three years ago invoked Hiram Johnson as a model for his own desire to open up government and sweep the special interests out of the Capitol. Angelides didn’t need to say it, but did anyway: Schwarzenegger hasn’t exactly fulfilled the promises he made that day.
The governor did try to reform redistricting, but his effort was rejected by the voters. Now he is supporting a new move to give that power to an independent commission.
He’s also made some moves toward open government, including releasing a calendar of his scheduled appointments. But that’s a far cry from the sweeping proposal he pledged to implement that would have made virtually every state document open to public view, including internal communications, drafts and e-emails.
And while Schwarzenegger never pledged not to take special interest contribution, he clearly implied that he would not take their money, and then he went ahead and did so in spades.
Still, Angelides’ description of Schwarzenegger today as having “dishonored our democracy” by his conduct in office seems a little bit over the top, as was the treasurer’s statement that the Schwarzenegger Administration is the worst he has seen in his lifetime in terms of doing favors for its contributors. Anyone remember Gray Davis?
And Angelides isn’t exactly clean himself. He’s raised money from people with business before the state, at CalPERS and at the treasurer’s office.
Having said that, the proposals Angelides unveiled were sound.
He said he wanted to expand lobbyist disclosure to include public affairs advice and public relations work known as “Astroturf lobbying,” when a lobbying firm pays an agency to create a coalition that looks like a grassroots movement.
He said he would require disclosure of contributions to nonprofits and other groups set up to benefit a governor by paying for his travel, lodging or other expenses. This is a good idea.
He said he would support penalties for state officials who violate conflict of interest laws by participating in decisions in which they have a financial stake. That’s a loophole that definitely should be closed.
And Angelides said that as governor he would not “moonlight” as Schwarzenegger did when he signed a multi-million-dollar contract with the publisher of a fitness magazine that sold ads to companies selling nutrition supplements, some of which the Legislature was trying to ban or regulate.
We’ll deal separately here later with term limit reform and redistricting, which Angelides did not mention today, and public financing of campaigns and Prop. 89, which deserves attention by itself aside from these four helpful but rather modest proposals.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:11 PM
The LA Times wonders if Calfornia really needs its own hall of fame.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:54 AM
A liberal group's "investigative poll" delivers some surprising conclusions about why Democrat Francine Busby lost to Republican Brian Bilbray in the race to replace Duke Cunningham.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:40 AM
John Myers rounds up Sen. Perata's comments at an afternoon press conference. Highlights: possible movement on minimum wage, and don't get your hopes up for speedy action on redistricting, term limits.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:59 PM
Phil Angelides has endorsed Prop. 89, the nurses' initiative to create public financing for campaigns and strictly limit private contributions. Not sure if Angelo Tsakopoulos will join his endorsement. Perhaps, though, because this reform would have little effect on the kind of $10 million campaign the Sacramento developer waged for Angelides in the primary. Among many other things, the measure seeks to cap contributions to independent expenditure committees at $1,000. But it would place no limit on independent expenditures by an individual without a committee. Those are protected by the First Amendment.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:08 PM
The biggest mystery in Sacramento must be this: How is Phil Angelides going to get himself elected? There's no other way to explain the overflow crowd of journalists that showed up for his campaign staff Power Point briefing today on the "Path to Victory." Unless it was the free lunch.
So what is the answer?
Angelides is going to win the election by winning the lion's share of Democratic votes and more than half the independents.
According to the campaign braintrust, Angelides is going to remind Democrats early and often that Schwarzenegger is a Bush Republican who campaigned for the president in Ohio and shares his values at crunch time, cutting schools, health care and public assistance when the state ran short of money.
The anti-Bush message is expected to resonate with young voters, voters who went to the polls in 2004 but not in 2002, and Latinos. One of the participants in the briefing said several times that he thinks the state's growing Latino vote might in the end be the "big surprise" of the 2006 election.
To the extent that Schwarzenegger responds to the Bush-clone meme by trying to distance himself from the president, that will only hurt him with the Republican base, which is already disheartened and is prone to staying home on election day, the campaign believes.
As for the independents, the campaign believes there is a deep sense of distrust of the governor because he has not turned out to be what he promised to be, or what people hoped he would be. They intend to drive that point home. If Schwarzenegger has changed so much in three years, the Angelides campaign will say, we can't have any idea what he will do if we give him another four years.
Last year's unpopular special election may be a distant memory for many now, but one Angelides strategist said they intend to move it "from the back of the mind to the front."
The overall message? Something akin to Bill Clinton's "Putting people first." Maybe "He's on your side." Something to remind folks that Angelides grew up middle class, even if he later became a wealthy real estate developer.
That's it in a nutshell.
Don't ask me how the lunch was. I skipped it.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:01 PM
The state has agreed to what looks like a pretty sweet contract deal with the CHP.
The officers, as required by statute, will get automatic pay raises to keep them in step with a collection of local police agencies.
In addition to that, they'll also get a 3.5 percent bump to compensate them for time spent before and after their shifts getting ready and putting stuff away, like their guns.
Their uniform allowance will be increased, and they'll get a $25 per month cleaning stipend.
Bonus pay for working swing and night shifts will increase.
And finally, they'll get a tweak to their disability and death benefits -- helping out those widows and orphans the governor (allegedly) tried to mess with a year ago.
The contract does require the officers to begin paying a contribution to their own retirement, as most other state employees already do. But the state will increase their pay by the same amount, so it comes out as a wash, except for the principle of the thing.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:11 PM
Jill Stewart parses the governor's evolving views on immigration policy.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:19 AM
Here is my latest column on the idea of raising taxes to build an arena for the zillionaires who own the Sacramento Kings. In this one I show why it would actually be a better deal for the taxpayers to let the team play there for free, as long as we retain rights to manage the arena rather than handing the keys -- and all the profits -- to the Maloofs once we build the place.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:13 AM
Not many surprises in this new Field Poll on the down ballot races, all of which the Democrats are leading. I might have expected McClintock, given his high image ratings from voters of both parties, to be a bit closer to Garamendi, but Garamendi has always had great name ID and a positive image himself, so he's definitely the favorite there. Cruz Bustamante has the worst image ratings of any candidate who is widely known. He's going to have a tough race against Poizner.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:11 AM