Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.
January 27, 2012
January 26, 2012
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye today urged the defeat of Assembly legislation that would undermine the authority of the Judicial Council, and give courts in as few as two counties authority to veto any statewide judicial project.
Cantil-Sakauye, who became chief justice in 2010, is showing herself to be a tough fighter as she lobbies to kill legislation by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, himself the consummate inside player.
Appearing before The Bee's editorial board, Cantil Sakauye said Calderon's bill, AB 1208, would "reduce and eliminate the authority of the Judicial Council" to control significant parts of judicial branch spending.
As chief justice of the California Supreme Court, Cantil-Sakauye chairs the Judicial Council, which sets policy for courts statewide.
By far the bulk of the judicial branch's $3.1 billion, more than 83 percent, is spent on trial courts. But the Judicial Council uses some money for statewide projects, including installation of a computer system, which has faced significant cost overruns.
Cantil-Sakauye said that under AB 1208, as few as two counties could veto any statewide project, such as the computer system. She said the measure also could have the effect of limiting the counties' ability to set up special courts to hear criminal cases involving veterans or mentally ill defendants.
Cantil-Sakauye said there should be "equal public access, wherever you live, whether or not your county is wealthy and whether or not you have a good relationship with your county supervisors or presiding judge."
Siding with Cantil-Sakauye are presiding judges from 44 counties, a statewide association of defense lawyers, the big business-backed Civil Justice Association of California and the association's rival, the Consumer Attorneys of California, which represents plaintiffs' lawyers. Critics say the legislation raises separation of powers issues.
Backers include a group of judges, some of them from larger counties including Los Angeles and Sacramento, and the Service Employees International Union, which represents many court workers. The bill is headed to an Assembly vote on Monday.
Some judges have criticized the Judicial Council for overspending on projects such as the computer system, and for spending too much on the Administrative Office of Courts, which Cantil-Sakauye also oversees.
In an interview, Calderon criticized the Administrative Office of the Courts for having an out-sized bureaucracy and for spending money on, for example, a studio. The Legislature itself operates an extensive video and audio broadcast operation.
The Legislature has voted for budgets that have stripped the courts of $653 million during the past four years. As a result, counties have been forced to close during some days.
Calderon blamed mismanagement for the closures, saying, "It's the Legislature's responsibility to keep the courts open."
Photo of Cantil-Sakauye by The Bee's Paul Kitagaki Jr.. Photo of Calderon by The Bee's Randy Pench.
January 24, 2012
January 19, 2012
January 18, 2012
In his State of the State address today, Gov. Jerry Brown twice used the word "declinist" in reference to "dystopian journalists" and others in California who bemoan "the impending decline of our economy, our culture and our politics."
Declinists? My immediate reaction was: Is the governor now inventing words?
The answer, as it turns out, is "no."
According to the handy Word Spy website, declinist was first used by writer Samuel P. Huntington in Foreign Affairs magazine in 1988, in reference to writers who claim the United States is declining on the world stage, either because of economic stagnation or excessive spending on military ventures. As Huntington wrote:
Although predominantly of a liberal-leftist hue, declinist writings reflect varying political philosophies and make many different claims.
More recently, other writers have used the terms "declinist" and "declinism," but as far as I am aware, the governor is the first (or one of the first) to use it to rebut the doomsayers of California.
And just who was Brown referring to as part of the "declinist" faction? If I get a chance, I plan to ask him.
But was he also referring to The Bee's Dan Walters?
If so, I'd be shocked. Shocked.
If supporters of new veterans homes in Redding and Fresno were hoping that Gov. Jerry Brown would ride to the rescue, they would be sorely disappointed.
Because of tight state budgets, veterans aren't scheduled to actually move in until early next year even though construction will be complete way before then. The 150-bed, $88 million home in Redding is almost finished, and the 300-bed, $159 million home Fresno is scheduled to be done in April.
Under the spending plan that the governor released last week, there would be a further delay. The homes wouldn't open for yet another year -- until January 2014. When education and safety net programs are being slashed, the Brown administration is saying that there isn't the money to hire staff and ramp up operations so the homes can be occupied. Majority Democrats in the Legislature have blamed Republicans for steadfastly refusing to consider higher taxes to pay for veterans programs and all sorts of other state programs.
Instead, the Brown administration plans to hire skeletal staff and keep the brand-new facilities well-maintained while they sit empty. For the 2012-13 fiscal year that starts July 1, it has budgeted $1.4 million for the Redding home and $1.9 million for the Fresno home. That's about $280,000 a month combined for the two homes.
As I said in a California Forum piece in November about the situation, "Even by state government standards, this seems just crazy."
You can debate the wisdom of opening relatively expensive new veterans homes, though there's definitely a need. But if you're going to spend the big bucks to build them -- while the feds paid 65 percent of the construction costs, the state has spent $103 million -- having them sit vacant doesn't seem like a great solution.
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, a Republican who represents Redding, ripped Brown for the decision.
"This is just one of a long list of bad decisions Brown has made that have hurt veterans since he's been in the office," Nielsen said in a statement. "He's reneging on a commitment he's made to those who have fought hard, sacrificing their lives even, for our country."
His office estimates that it would require about $11.6 million for the Redding home and $14.5 million for the Fresno home in the 2012-13 budget to open them a year from now.
Boosters of the Redding and Fresno homes are trying to organize a meeting with veterans and a bipartisan group of legislators to try to get more money in the budget.
Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, a Fresno Republican, says she's "disgusted" by what she calls a "crippling" budget cut and "a continuing betrayal" of veterans.
Honoring our veterans by fulfilling our state's obligations should be one of our highest budget priorities," she said in a statement. "I hope all of my Central Valley colleagues join me in rejecting this disrespectful and unacceptable cut to veterans funding."