Anticipating Gov. Jerry Brown’s next move on the budget is as beguiling as parsing the mutterings of an oracle on a snowy mountain top.
Does he have any other surprises to spring on Democrats?
Is he any closer to persuading a handful of Republicans to vote for tax extensions?
The developments over the past week were stunning: Brown’s veto, the first in modern California history; then Controller John Chiang’s unprecedented decision to not pay legislators, declaring that the budget the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved was not balanced.
Here are some other questions that beg to be answered as the Capitol tries to sort out what just hit it:
Q What effect will Chiang’s decision to forfeit pay to legislators have on budget negotiations?
A Legislators say they would never vote out of personal interest over principle, but for those who need to make payments on apartments in Sacramento as well as on their district homes, the financial crunch could be an effective motivator to get something done
One could argue that legislators already voted for their financial interests by passing what many said was a get-out-of-town budget to meet the constitutional deadline, so the evidence of self-interested votes is already there.
Q Despite all the gnashing of the teeth over Chiang exceeding his authority in judging whether the budget passed muster, will anyone have the guts to challenge his ruling?
A Someone, undoubtedly, will challenge the ruling. But it’s at the risk of further disenchanting the public, which voted to punish lawmakers if they didn’t pass a budget on time. It would be in the Legislature’s best interest if they took their lumps and arrived quickly at a balanced budget.
Q What if the Legislature approves a budget, Brown signs it, but Chiang rules it is not in balance?
A Then, you might have a real constitutional crisis. But Chiang might as well open up his exploratory committee for the governorship.
Q What’s Brown’s next move?
A First he’s got to find a way to calm the emotions of angry Democrats, who felt betrayed by Brown’s veto and Chiang’s decision to withhold their pay. Brown started the healing process Tuesday by meeting with Democratic caucuses from both houses.
Wednesday, his staff restarted discussions with Democratic legislative staffs on various budget alternatives, including one that would bypass Republicans with another straight majority vote.
Q But wouldn’t that require an all-cuts budget that Democrats are reluctant to do?
A Nobody said this was easy. Brown has to thread the needle so that he avoids any hint of gimmickry while minimizing the damage of finding an additional $9.6 billion to cut (on top of nearly $12 billion already).
When Republican Craig Huey got into the runoff in California’s 36th district special election, it came as a surprise. An even bigger surprise: it looks like Huey might actually have an outside chance at winning.
Before the May 17 “jungle primary” to replace retired Rep. Jane Harman (D) observers were expecting a race between two liberal Democrats, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Instead, Huey came in second to Hahn thanks to low turnout and a fractured Democratic field. Both advanced to a run-off that Hahn seemed almost certain to win.
Yet Democrats appear to be treating this race as a real fight. Hahn’s campaign went hard after a third-party web ad that depicted the Democrat as a stripper. Even after Huey personally denounced the video as racist and sexist, Hahn alleged coordination between him and the outside group that made it.
“We’re fighting hard in that race,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the Post Wednesday. “It’s not as easy a race, as overwhelming a race and Democratic seat as people like to think it is.” In reference to the anti-Hahn ad, Pelosi said, “It’s a contest, and they know that.”
Saying that Oxnard and Simi Valley are “like oil and water,” a Ventura-based community organizing group presented alternative political district maps to a statewide commission on Wednesday that would politically sever Simi Valley from the rest of Ventura County in all legislative and congressional districts.
The plan, presented to the Citizens Redistricting Commission at a hearing in Oxnard, was immediately backed by Supervisor John Zaragoza of Oxnard and Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox.
CAUSE, a group that advocates for the interests of low-income and minority residents of the Central Coast, presented detailed maps to make adjustments to draft Assembly district proposals released by the commission earlier this month. The adjustments would keep the populations of each district at the required level.
The proposal — which CAUSE called the “Oxnard-Thousand Oaks unity map” — would resolve complaints that the commission’s draft plans split both cities into parts of two different Assembly districts. It would unite both cities and put them in the same district, which would include Camarillo.
To accomplish that, the alternative would place Simi Valley in Los Angeles County-based Assembly and Senate districts. The commission already has proposed to do that in its congressional district maps.
Christopher Lanier of CAUSE said the revised proposal would properly separate any part of Oxnard from any district that also includes Simi Valley. The two cities, he said, “are like oil and water.”
Thousand Oaks Mayor Fox was less reluctant.
“This process has in some ways pitted communities against communities,” he said. If any part of Ventura County is to be politically excluded, “it makes more sense to put Simi Valley and Moorpark with Santa Clarita.
The commission will accept written testimony on its draft maps through Tuesday. It is scheduled to release revised drafts on July 12, before voting on final plans that must be submitted to the secretary of state by Aug. 15.
While state prison officials plan to move tens of thousands of inmates to county jails in a highly publicized budget move, they began another money-saving effort last month: removing GPS tracking devices from hundreds of paroled gang members.
Corrections officials had been monitoring about 950 gang members statewide through GPS, but budget cuts are forcing them to cut the number to 400 by July 1, said Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“We have to make some difficult choices,” Hidalgo said. “Obviously, during better fiscal times, we would work to increase those numbers once again.”
The reductions, which are saving the state $6 million, include the removal of tracking devices from 40 of the 60 gang members monitored in Sacramento County. The cuts come at a particularly difficult time for local law enforcement agencies, especially the Sacramento Police Department, which is disbanding its gang unit next week.
“We’re not going to have any gang detectives in a week,” Officer Laura Peck said, adding that the 14-member unit is being shifted to other duties because of impending layoffs.
“Hopefully, the community is watching and the community can call us if they see any type of suspicious activity,” she said.
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