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Flap’s California Morning Collection June 7, 2011

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

California Retailers Association backs Brown’s tax extensions

Gov. Jerry Brown picked up some heavyweight support for his budget plan Monday when the California Retailers Association endorsed extension of sales, income and car taxes to close the budget’s deficit.

“Governor Brown is sincerely addressing the state’s long-term fiscal problems and has convinced us of the need to extend the 2009 tax increases,” CRA’s president, Bill Dombrowski, said in a statement. “This is part of an overall budget that addresses the mountain of debt facing the state. We support a vote to extend the tax increases and to put them on the ballot in a special election. We also plan to support passage of the extensions during the campaign.”

Brown has been attempting to enlist support of business groups for his budget plan in hopes of garnering the Republican votes he needs – at least two in each legislative house – to place the extensions on the ballot.

The temporary taxes, which include a one-cent increase in the sales tax, were enacted in 2009 as budget-balancing measures. The income tax surcharge expired at the end of 2010 and the sales and car tax increases expire on June 30.

Ethics agency will not investigate complaint over Schwarzenegger affair

The state’s ethics agency has rejected a  request by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party to investigate whether former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger violated any state laws during an affair with a housekeeper that resulted in his fathering a child.

A complaint that did not allege any specific wrongdoing was filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the state Political Reform Act regulating campaign finances.

“The Fair Political Practices Commission will not open an investigation into this matter,” wrote Executive Director Roman Porter in a letter to party attorneys. “After review of your complaint, the information you provided is insufficient to establish a violation of the act.”

New California legislative maps make good on promise of reform

When voters were asked to create an independent redistricting commission, they were told that it would end self-serving gerrymanders secretly drafted in the Capitol’s back rooms and thus make elections less predictable and more meaningful.

The 140-member commission and its consultants and attorneys are still fine-tuning draft maps of 153 congressional and legislative districts prior to Friday’s official release, but at first glance, the maps appear to fulfill that promise.

Were the maps to be adopted by the commission later in the summer and to survive legal challenges, they would create more “swing” districts – winnable by either major party – and probably result in more Latino and Asian American officeholders.

While Democrats would no doubt remain in control of both legislative houses, whether they would achieve their long-sought goal of two-thirds majorities, thereby gaining power over taxes, would depend on how the parties adjust.

An increase in swing districts would mean that right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats would no longer be assured of winning seats after nomination. The state’s new “top-two” primary system would, at least in theory, also work against ideological rigidity. Together, they could create new and perhaps decisive blocs of moderates from both parties.

Republican Tony Quinn, one of the few genuine experts on redistricting and one of the commission’s sharpest critics, says he’s pleasantly surprised. “The maps are balanced in partisan terms,” Quinn wrote in a blog Monday (and) “both parties have reason to be pleased and displeased. There is no partisan advantage in these first maps. And the maps draw a remarkable number of politically marginal districts.”

The maps’ impact on the state’s 53 congressional members would be especially heavy – in part because they were especially benefited by the bipartisan gerrymander in 2001. With so many incumbents 60-plus years old, the maps probably would generate a large number of retirements and, with their replacements likely to be state legislators, would have a domino effect on the Capitol.

Draft congressional district threatens Sanchez

An early draft of new congressional district boundaries does away with the Democratic Latino district now represented by Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and puts Sanchez into a largely coastal, GOP-controlled district now largely represented by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.

The draft also creates a heavily Asian district centered around Little Saigon.

I’ve spoken with two people from the independent citizens commission drawing up the lines, and both emphasized that these district lines will undergo several rounds of revision.

“These are working maps,” said Jodie Filkins Webber, a commissioner and an attorney based in Orange.

“This is a very preliminary stage. We welcome input. We hope people will look at these closely and let us know their concerns.”

Enjoy your morning!

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