Ami BeraAntonio VillaraigosaCaliforniaCalifornia Citizens Redistricting CommissionDan LungrenDeath PenaltyFlap's California Morning Collection

Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 20, 2012

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Today, everyone awaits California Controller John Chiang’s decision on whether the California Legislators who passed a questionably balanced budget last week (soon vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown) will be paid. The per diem pay which the members of the California Assembly and State Senate receive while in session is paid weekly and Chiang has withheld last week’s paycheck pending his determination as to whether the “balanced” budget complied with California Proposition 25 passed by voters last November.

In the meantime, the California Legislature is in session and have floor sessions scheduled for noon today. Various legislative committees are also meeting. The California Assembly website is here and the State Senate is here.

The California Legislative Portal is located here.

On to the links:

A ‘humble man’ from Santa Paula in the center of state’s redistricting storm

Reformers in California had been trying since 1926 to empower an independent commission, rather than the Legislature, to draw political district lines. So it was an historic day on June 10 when the first such commission held a news conference to unveil the state’s first proposed maps drawn without the stench of a smoke-filled room or the taint of partisan deal-making.

To the microphone in a room at the State Capitol stepped chairman-for-the-day Gabino Aguirre, a Mexican immigrant, one-time migrant farmworker and retired high school principal.

The questions came fast from an assemblage that included a dozen or so reporters and a bank of television cameras. One, posed by a reporter from Antioch, was confrontational: How could the commission have so botched the proposed lines to divide communities in the hills of the East San Francisco Bay?

Aguirre, unperturbed, answered philosophically.

“I’ve mentioned to people that Santa Paula is the center of the universe,” Aguirre said of the town in which he lives and once served as mayor. “If I go to a commission and say, ‘We are the center of the universe,’ that is great. But the work of the commission is to draw the state into districts with large chunks of population. It may not be possible to give each community everything it wants.”

The confrontation defused, Aguirre moved on.

For the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, many more such confrontations lie ahead. It is in the midst of a rigorous two-week period during which it is conducting 11 hearings around the state to receive public feedback on its proposed maps, a tour that will include a stop Wednesday evening at the Oxnard College Performing Arts Center.

The commission will consider public input, issue revised maps on July 12 and then enter a final stage of internal review before submitting final maps to the secretary of state on Aug. 15.

Bera Stays in Congressional Race

Dr. Ami Bera, an Elk Grove resident who lost the Congressional District 3 race last November to Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River), said June 17 he is seeking a rematch against Lungren in November 2012.

“We are firmly committed to running against Dan Lungren,” Bera said.

These comments come a week after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission unveiled the first draft of their proposed Congressional district maps for California.

Under the current proposal, Lungren would no longer represent Elk Grove and would instead have his district cover eastern Sacramento County.

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) would have her district expand over Elk Grove.

If the proposed maps were finalized, Bera would have to move out of Elk Grove to Lungren’s new district area to challenge him.

Death penalty costs California $184 million a year, study says

A senior judge and law professor examine rising costs of the program. Without major reforms, they conclude, capital punishment will continue to exist mostly in theory while exacting an untenable cost.

Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then, according to a comprehensive analysis of the death penalty’s costs.

The examination of state, federal and local expenditures for capital cases, conducted over three years by a senior federal judge and a law professor, estimated that the additional costs of capital trials, enhanced security on death row and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year.

The study’s authors, U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell, also forecast that the tab for maintaining the death penalty will climb to $9 billion by 2030, when San Quentin’s death row will have swollen to well over 1,000.

In their research for “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” Alarcon and Mitchell obtained California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records that were unavailable to others who have sought to calculate a cost-benefit analysis of capital punishment.

Villaraigosa: Stop wars, give cities more money

In his first appearance on “Meet the Press” in his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presented his argument Sunday for an increase of federal funding to cities.

And, part of that, he said, is ending the wars in the Mideast to make more money available to cities.

“I think the term was used that (it) is like they are on another planet,” Villaraigosa said when asked about the Republican presidential debate.

“The fact is, Americans are out of work. Too many people are not able to get back in the workplace and not enough is being done to train them for new work.

“We are asking that we need to focus on home again, and the issue is front and center in the cities.”

Villaraigosa said because of the costs of war, Congress has taken money away from the biggest needs in the cities _ transportation, housing and education.

It is in the cities, he said, where the basic services are provided and where help is needed, Villaraigosa said.

“We are the ones who are delivering the services, and we find the debate among Republicans as being out of touch with everyday people,” Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa took over as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this past weekend and he is making his inaugural speech today, where he is expected to call for the mayors to take a more active role in lobbying Congress to deal with urban issues.

Enjoy your morning!