• California,  California Citizens Redistricting Commission,  Flap's California Morning Collection,  Jerry Brown

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 23, 2011

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

    Questions abound over what’s next at Capitol

    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).

    Democrats see real fight in California special election

    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.”

    Redistricting forum draws plenty of opinions in Oxnard: Ventura County residents want no part of L.A.

    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.

    California budget cuts slash monitoring of gang parolees

    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.

    Enjoy your morning!

  • California,  Flap's California Morning Collection,  Jerry Brown,  John Chiang,  Jon Huntsman,  Poker,  Tobey Maguire

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 22, 2011

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

    California Controller John Chiang decided yesterday afternoon that he would withhold paychecks from California Legislators since they did not pass a “balanced” budget by the deadline as specified by Proposition 25. Now, remember they did pass a budget which was quickly vetoed by Democrat Governor Jerry Brown. This budget was not “balanced” enough for the California Controller.

    Oh well – back to the drawing board.

    However, this is not stopping these same Legislators from soliciting campaign cash this week.

    Monday, Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson was looking to bulk up his campaign chest for re-election next year.

    Tuesday saw nine legislators making the restaurant rounds from Spataro to Chops to Esquire Grill and beyond: Democratic Assemblymen Marty Block, Das Williams and V. Manuel Pérez, and Sen. Curren Price; plus Republican Assembly members Dan Logue, Katcho Achadjian, Chris Norby and Diane Harkey, and Sen. Sam Blakeslee.

    Today, these lawmakers continue the quest: Democratic Assemblymen Ben Hueso, Sandré Swanson and Henry T. Perea and Sen. Noreen Evans; plus Republican Assemblymen Brian Jones and Don Wagner, and Sens. Doug LaMalfa and Mark Wyland.

    Who ever said these POLS would be starving with or without balancing the California budget?

    On to this morning’s California links.

    Tobey Maguire Sued Over Multi-Million Dollar Illegal Poker Game; DiCaprio, Affleck & Damon Involved

    Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire is among more than a dozen high-profile Hollywood celebrities being sued in connection with a mega-millions illegal gambling ring that ran high-stakes underground poker games, Star magazine is reporting exclusively.

    Maguire, 35, won more than $300,000 from a Beverly Hills hedge fund manager who embezzled investor funds and orchestrated a Ponzi scheme in a desperate bid to pay off his monster debt to the star and others, it’s alleged.

    An FBI investigation into Brad Ruderman, the CEO of Ruderman Capital Partners, uncovered how he lost $25 million of investor money in clandestine poker games held on a twice weekly basis in suites at the luxury Beverly Hills hotel, Four Seasons, and the Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard.

    Brown Plots New Budget as California Lawmakers Forfeit Pay for Being Late

    California Governor Jerry Brown has drafted a plan to pass a budget through the Legislature that sidesteps Republicans who blocked a previous effort, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

    Brown’s proposal comes as legislators have been forced to forfeit pay for every day they fail to send a balanced budget to the governor past a June 15 deadline. He vetoed a spending plan sent to him by Democrats last week, saying it used legally doubtful maneuvers and one-time fixes.

    “I’ll be sharing some very specific ideas tomorrow,” Brown said to reporters as he left a meeting with Assembly Democrats yesterday. “There will be several ideas I’ll propose.”

    Timm Herdt: Brown can’t get 4 votes; how can he get 81?

    Legislators, Democrats and Republicans alike, know all that and they simply won’t swallow the bitter medicine that the grown-up Brown says is the only alternative if he doesn’t get the chance to ask voters to weigh in on extending current tax rates.

    From the legislators’ perspective, when compared to their other choices, the idea of muddling through for another year without solving the state’s chronic fiscal problems doesn’t seem like such a terrible option.

    Thus far, Brown hasn’t wavered from the plan he put forth in January. But the new fiscal year begins a week from Friday.

    “The next step is the governor’s,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Monday. “If he wants to suggest a budget with significantly deeper cuts to education, health care and public safety, we’ll take a look at it.”

    If Brown is forced to take that step, know this: It won’t be nearly as popular as his veto.

    Huntsman to hold California fundraisers

    Jon Huntsman, fresh off his campaign launch, will host three high dollar California fundraisers next week.

    The former Utah governor will be in San Diego on June 26th, and Orange County and Los Angeles on June 27th. Dinner with Huntsman will cost donors $1,000, while a VIP cocktail reception will cost the primary election maximum of $2,500. Huntsman is also soliciting high dollar bundlers to raise money on his behalf and offering them perks like a seat at the head table and extra VIP tickets for high dollar commitments.

    Enjoy your morning!

  • Bud Selig,  California,  Dianne Feinstein,  Flap's California Morning Collection,  Frank McCourt,  Gavin Newsom,  Los Angeles Dodgers,  Los Angeles Marathon

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 21, 2011

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

    The buzz in the Capitol today is that long time Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is not polling well in the latest California Field Poll. In fact, her numbers are the lowest for her since 1992. If any pundit really thinks DiFi is vulnerable, I will refer them to Carly Fiorina who was the last Republican challenger to a California Democratic U.S. Senator who was deemed vulnerable = recently re-elected Barbara Boxer.

    DiFi is not going anywhere except back to the Senate, barring any health problems. But, I wonder who the GOP will run in 2012 as the sacrificial lamb?

    The poll graphic:

    In Los Angeles, everyone is talking about the L.A. Dodgers and the owner Frank McCourt. The Commissioner of Major League Baseball who took over control of the team some time ago from McCourt disapproved a new Fox Sports television contract which may precipitate a sale of the team, lawsuits, and/or a bankruptcy filing. Likely, there will be all of the above, but most folks in L.A. want McCourt and his wife to be gone and the Dodgers to concentrate on baseball.

    Oh yeah and McCourt owns the Los Angeles Marathon too. I might just have to run in Pasadena next Spring.

    OK – on to the links:

    Steinberg raises legal questions over pay issue

    Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, made it clear that there are legal implications — lawsuit, anyone? — with the decision on legislative pay that state Controller John Chiang is expected to make Tuesday.

    Steinberg suggested that any decision by the Controller would be legally questionable.

    The question that got Steinberg reverting back to the lawyer that he is: Will you be able to hold out and negotiate all summer if your members are not being paid.

    The unspoken suggestion: that legislators would cave on demands of $2 billion to $6 billion more in cuts to schools, universities and public safety to ensure they get their salary and daily expenses.

    “It is a bad precedent for anybody in the executive branch to question the quality of a budget passed by the Legislature,” he told reporters after a quick Senate session Monday. “Because to do so is to shift the balance of power … in a way that is dangerous.

    “Think about if there was a governor, a treasurer or controller from the other party and they were unhappy with the quality of the budget the Legislature passed, they would have the ability — if Proposition 25 is interpreted in a way some suggest — to say it’s not good enough, we withhold your pay until you make all of the decisions and and all of the cuts that we believe are appropriate.”

    The follow-up question: Could withholding legislators’ pay “tip the balance” to legislators accepting the governor’s cuts?

    “If it is an attempt to tip the balance, then it is a conflict of interest like California has never seen,” Steinberg said.

    Salary matters are best decided by the Citizens Compensation Commission, Steinberg said, and legislators should not be forced to determine their vote based on whether or not they would be paid.

    Why McCourt must go, from one baseball blogger

    Many kudos on baseball websites today for blogger Larry Behrendt’s detailing of the case against Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, from the interlocking companies that mean the Dodgers now pay rent for their own stadium and parking lots, to the ticket revenue that gets drained elsewhere, to the huge debt and lavish personal spending. Behrendt posted before commissioner Bud Selig stepped in today to nix the deal with Fox. But that’s exactly what Behrendt felt Selig must do…..

    Over the next two weeks, Bud Selig will face the defining moment of his career as Commissioner of Major League Baseball….

    There is no doubt: Commissioner Selig should reject the Dodgers-Fox contract, seize control of the Dodgers, and sell the team to a responsible owner who will (with the grateful help of millions of my fellow left coasters) restore the team to its former greatness. Selig must act to prevent Frank McCourt from continuing to plunder the team. Selig must act before the team is saddled with even greater debt, while the team’s reputation can still be salvaged and the team is still marketable to a worthy owner….

    How much have the McCourts managed to extract from the Dodgers? Well, if we ignore the debt the Dodgers took on so that the McCourts could buy the Dodgers but include the McCourt salaries, the McCourts have withdrawn from the Dodgers anywhere from $109 million (Frank McCourt’s estimate) to $141 million (Jamie McCourt’s estimate). The truth is, the real amount the McCourts plundered from the Dodgers may be more than $141 million – at the moment, all we have to go on is what each McCourt has been willing to admit to.
    I(In case you were wondering, during their ownership of the Dodgers the McCourts have paid not one penny in income tax.)

    Is Lynn Woolsey retiring? Is Gavin Newsom interested in that seat?

    We’re getting the distinct feeling that something is up. Just got an “advisory” that Rep. Lynn Woolsey will hold a press conference at her home Monday in Petaluma “joined by Rep. Barbara Lee and friends and family.”

    Hmmm. Remember, back in December Woolsey’s peeps told us she was “thinking of” retiring and they’d let us know by June. Tick…tock…tick…

    All that Woolsey spokesperson Bart Acocella will say is: “I can tell you that she will make an announcement on the 27th about her future plans.”

    Even with the state’s new redistricting plan likely to create a very-different looking 6th District, there’s already a line forming to snag the super-safe Democratic seat-for-life, starting with termed out Assemblyman Jared Huffman and activist and author Norman Solomon, Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams, state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane.

    Here’s another name to toss in the mix: What about Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom?

    Yes, we know the duties of Lt. Gov. are…uh…pressing. Especially when he has to walk the Governor’s dog. But eyebrows raised when Newsom just moved to…wait for it…Marin County to live with his in-laws after they had their second child.

    Enjoy your morning!

  • Ami Bera,  Antonio Villaraigosa,  California,  California Citizens Redistricting Commission,  Dan Lungren,  Death Penalty,  Flap'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!

  • California,  California Budget,  California Economy,  California Unemployment,  Flap's California Morning Collection,  Jerry Brown

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 17, 2011

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

    The big news in California today is the Jerry Brown veto of the California State budget yesterday. A budget passed over the objections and votes of the California GOP. In other words, Brown vetoed (the first such veto in California history) his own Democratic Party’s majority passed budget.

    So, what is everyone concerned about in the Capitol today?

    Why, it is whether California Legislators will get paid.


    In the meantime, the California economy continues in a downward spiral and unemployment actually increased this past month.

    No word on the ridiculous Amazon Tax, but I assume that it was vetoed with the California Budget veto yesterday. But, I could be wrong. How convenient for the Governor though.

    On to the links…..

    California loses 29,200 jobs in May, a blow to recovery

    California’s economic recovery stumbled in May as employers shed 29,200 jobs from payrolls, a surprisingly large loss in a state that had been on the mend. The state’s unemployment rate still dropped to 11.7%,  from 11.8% the month before, according to numbers released this morning by the federal  Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    The numbers follow a slate of bad economic news throughout the country. The nation added just 54,000 jobs in May, and its unemployment rate grew to 9.1%. The previous three months, it had added an average of 220,000 jobs a month. Home prices have dropped in California and the nation to surprising lows as sales slow.

    California has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, after Nevada, although Nevada’s unemployment rate dropped significantly in May, to 12.1% from 14.9% the year before.

    California had added an adjusted 14,900 jobs in April, after cutting a net 11,600 in March. It experienced five straight months of job growth from October through February.

    “We do know that the picture is not terribly rosy,” said Johannes Moenius, an economist at University of Redlands.

    Brown’s big budget bet

    Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of the new state budget Democrats passed this week represents a gamble that California’ deadlocked Legislature can find its way to a bipartisan solution that has evaded it all year.

    Brown, in his veto message, blamed Republicans for refusing to go along with his proposal for a special election at which voters would be asked to ratify the extension of about $10 billion in taxes due to expire at the end of this month.

    Brown also slammed his fellow Democrats, indirectly, by describing the budget they passed as filled with “legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings.” He noted that it would leave the state’s books unbalanced for years to come and add billions of dollars of new debt to the California’s already overburdened balance sheet.

    But Brown’s rejection of the budget does not guarantee he is going to get anything better from the Legislature in the days and weeks ahead.

    Republicans remain opposed to new taxes, and even to extending the temporary taxes that are about to expire. Democrats remain opposed to making the kind of spending cuts that would be required to balance the budget without those taxes. There appears to be very little middle ground.

    Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Marathon: Judge extends McCourt talks, deal might be close

    Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon on Thursday rescinded his finding that Frank and Jamie McCourt were at an impasse in their settlement talks, and he set a hearing for later today to determine if a deal had been reached. “I think we are close,” said Jamie’s lawyer Dennis Wasser, according to AP. “Hopefully, we can get it done tonight.

    Dan Walters: If California legislators get paid, vetoed budget is giant charade

    That presumes, of course, that the Democratic budget somehow put pressure on Republicans. In fact, it may have had the opposite effect of increasing their leverage on Brown to make concessions to get his centerpiece, an extension of expiring sales, income and car taxes, on the ballot.

    A complicating factor is that Steinberg, Pérez and public employee unions really don’t want the fall election that Brown seeks on taxes, fearing – with good reason – that voters would reject them.

    Still another is the new state law that strips legislators of salaries and expense checks, about $400 per day each, if a budget is not passed by June 15.

    Controller John Chiang has appointed himself the law’s enforcer. Legislative leaders contend that Wednesday’s budget action complies, but Brown’s declaration that the budget was unbalanced gives Chiang grounds to stop the paychecks if he wishes.

    Chiang was waffling Thursday, saying he wants “to complete our analysis” before deciding whether to pay lawmakers at the end of the month.

    If Chiang pays legislators, the rejected budget will look like a giant charade by Democrats to evade the law.

    Non-Californians at UC campuses get summer subsidy

    A taxpayer subsidy that out-of-state students enrolled in the University of California system have been receiving for years is under scrutiny as the schools search for extra revenue.

    During the regular school year, nonresidents pay up to three times as much as students from California, bringing the universities a few hundred million dollars. But partly due to measures taken to boost summer enrollment, they are spared from paying higher fees for summer classes.

    “It seems out of sync,” said Steve Boilard, director of higher education policy for the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

    Enjoy your morning!

  • California,  California Budget,  California Three Strikes Law,  Flap's California Morning Collection

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 16, 2011

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

    Well, California has a “balanced” budget, albeit a Democrat majority vote one and questionably balanced. It will be within the purview of California State Controller John Chiang to decide whether the passed budget legislation is indeed balanced or he is empowered by California law to ding (meaning withhold) the paychecks of California Legislators.

    California Governor Jerry Brown continues (supposedly) to negotiate with the Republicans in order to schedule a tax election or pass tax extensions to make budget revenues easier for him and the majority Democrats. No deal so far.

    Brown who can either sign, allow it to become law or veto the budget has scheduled a High Noon 12 PM PDT news conference and we will all learn more then – if it doesn’t leak out before = likely. Brown has 12 days to take or not take action.

    So, on to the links.

    California Democrats pass budget with taxes, cuts and tricks

    Democratic lawmakers passed a rare on-time state budget Wednesday over Republican objections, but the plan — balanced with a blend of taxes, cuts and clever accounting — faces an uncertain fate at the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown.

    After warning for months that devastating cutbacks to schools and public safety would occur without the renewed taxes that Brown has sought but has been unable to sell to Republicans, Democrats averted the most severe reductions.

    But they did so by returning to old strategies that have papered over California’s deficits for years: delaying the payment of billions in bills, skipping debt repayments and penciling in money that may not materialize.

    Using their new authority to pass a budget on a majority vote — and under threat of lost pay if a spending plan was not approved by Wednesday — the Democrats pushed through provisions to hike car registration fees and local sales tax rates and force online retailers, such as Amazon.com, to collect sales tax.

    The plan would also cut more deeply into higher education, the courts and local law enforcement.

    “It is not perfect. It is Plan B,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who nonetheless called the package “worthy of the governor’s signature.”

    Democrats said they hoped Brown would continue to negotiate with Republicans for the taxes he wants, to make some of their cutbacks unnecessary. But their blueprint puts Brown in a political pickle. It asks him to break two pledges central to his campaign for governor: no new taxes without voter approval and no more smoke-and-mirrors budgeting.

    Brown has not said whether he will sign the document; he has 12 days to decide.

    Fight Breaks Out on California Assembly Floor During Budget Debate

    A fight broke out Wednesday on the Assembly floor as Assemblyman Warren Furutani confronted Assemblyman Don Wagner over comments deemed offensive.

    The two members jawed angrily in each other’s faces before Furutani, D-Gardena, appeared to give Wagner a shove, prompting several colleagues to separate them in the final minutes of the day’s budget session.

    The dispute brought the house to a standstill for a couple of minutes during debate over a controversial redevelopment plan.

    The two-bill proposal compels redevelopment agencies to backfill state coffers and give money to local governments under threat of elimination. Wagner, R-Irvine, testified that it was comparable to a shakedown scheme and referred to the popular HBO show, “The Sopranos.”

    That prompted Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, to demand an apology for the Sopranos reference “as a proud Italian American.”

    Wagner retorted that he’d “apologize to any Italian Americans who are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams,” setting off a murmur among lawmakers.

    Minutes later, Furutani and Wagner were in each other’s faces and had to be broken up by three other lawmakers. The back of the Assembly chamber was soon flooded with legislative aides who came to see the commotion.

    Democrats’ budget bills at a glance

    The budget bills Democrats approved Wednesday include a combination of tax and fee increases, spending cuts and revenue assumptions. Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown previously took steps to reduce the state’s deficit by $11.4 billion, primarily through spending cuts.

    Here are some of the key provisions of the latest bills:

    Taxes and fees:

    — $12 annual fee on car registrations to pay for Department of Motor Vehicle services. The department’s costs previously were covered by a voter-approved increase in the vehicle license fee increase that expires July 1.

    — $150 annual fee on homes in rural areas that depend on the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for wildfire protection.

    — A quarter-cent local sales tax. A 1 percent increase in the state sales tax is scheduled to expire June 30, so consumers would see a net reduction of three-quarters of a cent in the sales tax they pay on goods.

    — Requiring online retailers such as Amazon.com to collect California sales taxes, a change projected to net $200 million annually.

    Additional spending cuts:

    — University of California, $150 million.

    — California State University, $150 million.

    — California courts, $150 million.

    — County offices of education, $50 million.

    Field Poll: California voters favor revamping “three-strikes” law

    Most California voters see a court order to reduce the state’s prison population by 30,000 inmates as a serious problem, and nearly three out of four say it is time to revamp the state’s “three-strikes” law, a Field Poll out today finds.

    The poll comes on the heels of last month’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ordering California to address its prison overcrowding problem, and 79 percent of those surveyed said the matter is serious.

    But there were not similar margins of support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans to transfer lower-risk inmates from prisons to county jails.

    The poll found 51 percent of voters support the plan, with 37 percent saying it is a bad idea. Yet less than a majority of voters would support an extension of temporary tax increases to pay for it, the poll found.

    The most significant finding came when voters were asked whether the state’s three-strikes law, which passed in 1994, should be modified to allow judges and juries more discretion when sentencing a criminal for a third felony.

    The poll found 74 percent of voters would support allowing that discretion to ease prison overcrowding, with 24 percent opposed.

    Enjoy your morning!


    Flap’s California Morning Collection Archive

  • California,  California Budget,  Flap's California Morning Collection,  Jerry Brown,  Tom McClintock

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 15, 2011

    All eyes are on California Capitol today, as the the Legislature faces a 11:59 PM deadline to pass a balanced budget or have their own paychecks affected. Any odds at some sort of “balanced” budget will pass when legislator’s own bank accounts are on the line?

    The answer is: YES.

    Both the California Assembly and Senate have morning sessions this morning and the poop is that they will pass a majority vote “balanced budget.” Remember California Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in both houses, but lack the 2/3’rds super majority in order to raise taxes.

    The California Legislature is facing an almost $ 10 Billion budget shortfall and is required by law to balance the books. Some of the proposals leaked out of the Capitol for the Democrat majority only plan include:

    • Increasing the state sales tax by 1/4%
    • Increasing car/vehicle registration fees by $12 each
    • Imposing the “Amazon Tax” or internet sales tax collection requirements for online retailers who do not have a physical presence in California
    • Charging rural homeowners a fee for firefighting services
    • Cutting the budget of the California Court system by $150 Million

    There are others, but the Democrats are floundering since most of the above will face certain court challenges or have no realistic ability to either cut spending or raise revenues. In other words, it is a SHAM and GIMMIC budget. Whether Democrat Governor Jerry Brown will go along with this Democrat majority only budget is uncertain.

    Brown will continue to negotiate with the Republicans and hope for a better deal. The Republicans have no incentive to deal with the Governor unless some real reforms become reality – if even that.

    So, on to the links:

    Field Poll: Support Slipping for Jerry Brown, Tax Extensions

    Gov. Jerry Brown still has public support for his tax plan, but the margin has slipped, and so has his public approval rating, according to a Field Poll released today.

    The poll comes as legislative Democrats – frustrated by months of failed budget talks between Brown and Republican lawmakers – prepare today to take up a budget of their own.

    Though Brown’s public approval rating has slipped just two percentage points since March, to 46 percent, many Californians who previously were undecided about Brown made up their minds against him. Thirty-one percent of voters disapprove of Brown’s job performance, up from 21 percent in March.

    Fifty-two percent of registered voters surveyed said they would be willing to extend temporary tax increases to close the state’s remaining $9.6 billion budget deficit, a drop of nine percentage points from March.

    Highlights of the Democratic budget plan

    Highlights of the Democratic budget package that lawmakers plan to vote on Wednesday, according to Assembly budget staff:


    $900 million –- Raise local sales tax rate by 0.25 percentage point

    $300 million –- Raise annual car registration fee by $12

    $200 million –- Require online retailers, such as Amazon.com, to collect sales taxes

    $160 million –- Impose fee on residents in fire zones


    $500 million –- Cut spending on a local law enforcement program (could be offset by a vehicle tax hike, if GOP agrees)

    $300 million –- Reduce spending on University of California and California State University systems by $150 million each

    $150 million –- Reduce court spending


    $2.85 billion –- Delay paying schools and community bills until the next fiscal year

    $540 million –- Delay paying some UC bills until next fiscal year


    $1.2 billion -– Revive a new version of proposal to sell state buildings,and then lease space back

    $1 billion –- Assume state wins lawsuit to take money from early-childhood programs

    $800 million -– Additional unanticipated tax revenue

    $750 million -– Cancel repayment of old school debts

    $700 million -– Assume federal government will pay some Medi-Cal bills

    Conservative heat to end redevelopment

    Who would have guessed that California conservative icon Tom McClintock, the former longtime legislator from Ventura County and current congressman representing a district in Northern California, would step up at a critical time to give Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown a boost in promoting one of his controversial budget proposals?

    The answer is, anyone who paid attention to McClintock’s position as a legislator on the issue of redevelopment. As a property rights advocate, he was a leading foe of redevelopment. Now he’s stepped up and released a You Tube video in which he calls on supporters to urge their state lawmakers “to abolish these rogue agencies.”

    The video comes just as city governments and other redevelopment advocates are sounding the alarm about a potential vote in the Legislature on two developing bills to accomplish most of what Brown is seeking. One bill would abolish redevelopment agencies; the other would allow specific agencies to stay in business, but only if they agreed to turn over most of their current flow of property tax revenues to their local school districts.

    Enjoy your morning!

  • California,  California Budget,  Flap's California Morning Collection

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 14, 2011

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

    The California State Budget deadline looms tomorrow for the California Legislature. If a state budget is not passed, legislators have their pay docked – now, you see the urgency. In the meantime, California Republicans are not moving to support tax extensions which means the Democrats who are in the majority may pass a budget with accounting gimmics – like the under former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Now, the links:

    Faced with loss of pay, Democrats are crafting alternative state budget

    Facing a Wednesday deadline for passing a budget or forfeiting pay, Democrats in the Legislature are quietly drafting a spending plan they could pass without the GOP votes needed for tax increases or extensions.

    The alternative plan would keep paychecks coming even though talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and Republicans have snagged on the issue of taxes.

    “We will have a budget,” said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

    Barankin and others close to the process declined to provide details. But a fallback blueprint would almost certainly rely on accounting moves and other measures that would merely paper over the state’s remaining $10-billion shortfall: Democrats, who have sharply cut back many programs already, have little appetite for further reductions.

    Chronicle will not be pool reporter for Michelle Obama visit

    Remember a couple of weeks ago when The White House got ticked off at Comrade Marinucci for posting video of activists protesting President Obama inside a San Francisco fundraiser? To Team Obama she was violating an unwritten rule on a print reporters posting video and they threatened to exclude The Chronicle from being the pool reporter in the future.

    To other sentient beings, Comrade Marinucci was — and pardon the technical term here — “reporting the news.” News that MANY other non-journalists who were there at the fundraiser were recording with various camera phones. And she was perfectly within her rights to do so, The Chronicle has asserted.

    Why we’re re-telling you this story: First Lady Michelle Obama comes to the Bay Area Tuesday and neither Comrade M — nor anybody at The Chronicle — will be the local pool reporter. Handling that gig will be two reporters from the Oakland Tribune. One is the Trib’s hunky, bearded political reporter Josh Richman and the other is a higher education reporter.

    So just to get this down for the record, we asked the White House what was up. And with all due respect — as we’re sure he’ll do a terrific job — why was a higher ed reporter chosen to do the pool reporting on a political event in San Francisco?

    The White House responded that pool reporters are chosen on a rotating basis.

    More competitive seats under draft political maps, PPIC says

    The number of competitive seats in the Legislature and in California’s congressional delegation would jump significantly under draft maps released Friday, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

    More competitive seats could give Democrats a better chance of securing the two-thirds legislative majority needed to raise state taxes in future years, which would require capturing two additional seats in both the Assembly and Senate.

    Under tentative proposals by California’s new redistricting commission, the number of competitive Assembly seats would rise from nine to 16; competitive state Senate seats, from three to nine; and competitive U.S. House of Representative seats, from four to nine, PPIC concluded.

    No formula is considered foolproof in calculating the number of competitive seats. Analysts use different approaches and reach differing conclusions, serving as grist for lively debate.

    PPIC defined a competitive seat as one that falls between a five-point registration advantage for Republicans and a 10-point advantage for Democrats, which it said reflects the fact that Democrats are more likely to cross party lines.

    Democrats currently hold 52 of 80 seats in the Assembly; 25 of 40 seats in the state Senate, and 34 of 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Dan Walters: The Big Stakes? Two-thirds Margin

    There are many ways to view the new congressional and legislative district maps released last week by the state’s new independent redistricting commission, from the personal to the cultural to the geographic.

    But to Capitol insiders, the most meaningful aspect is whether the Democrats can gain two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses and thus hegemony over tax policy.

    Democrats are two seats shy of two-thirds in each house now, and that’s why the state budget is, as usual, stalemated. Republicans are refusing to vote for nearly $10 billion a year in tax extensions.

    “We need four Republicans,” Gov. Jerry Brown declared Monday as he assembled a gaggle of business, labor and local government leaders to support extending the temporary taxes a few extra months and then asking voters to continue them for five years.

    However, the tax extensions don’t play very well with voters in recent polling. Some Democratic leaders and their union allies have mused about plugging the budget gap with accounting gimmicks, loans and other one-time revenues, and concentrating political resources on getting two-thirds majorities in 2012 elections.

    Enjoy your morning!


    Flap’s California Morning Collection Archive

  • California,  California Budget,  Dana Rohrabacher,  Flap's California Morning Collection,  Jerry Brown

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 13, 2011

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

    This week the California State Assembly and State Senate face a Wednesday constitutional deadline to pass a budget. California Jerry Brown is looking for Republican votes for tax extensions and so far has not obtained them.

    California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. provides an update on state budget negotiations as the June 15 deadline for a balanced budget approaches.

    The question everyone is asking: will a Republican legislature sell out their party and no tax increase pledge?

    Now to the links:

    Jerry Brown offers state budget update in new video

    Gov. Jerry Brown said in an online video Sunday that he wants changes in pensions regulations and state pensions to be part of a budget deal, but he still lacks the support from four Republican lawmakers to place those reforms and billions in taxes before voters this fall.

    Brown said his plan “will put California’s finances on a firm footing for many, many years to come…but what we don’t have are the four Republican votes necessary to put it to a vote of the people of California.”

    He did not outline what those policy changes would entail, but said he was “really perplexed at why a package of this magnitude and this permanence … cannot be allowed for you the people to decide on.

    Brown posted the video to his YouTube channel Sunday, just three days before lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass a budget, to give his budget status report to voters.

    This year, for the first time, lawmakers’ pay will be docked if no spending plan is in place by Wednesday’s deadline.

    Brown plans to hold a Capitol press conference Monday with representatives from many of the various groups that have backed his budget, and the idea of placing higher vehicle, sales and income tax rates before voters, along with changes to state pensions and a limit of future state spending.

    GOP attacks bill that would ease local tax votes

    Now that Republican lawmakers have voted against a renewal of expiring tax hikes, Democrats are turning to another, more complex way to generate revenue.

    A bill proposed by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and narrowly approved last week would dramatically expand the taxing powers of local governments, school boards and other jurisdictions.

    But the bill, SB23-1X, would lead to such a complicated latticework of taxes that opponents say Steinberg is merely pulling a stunt to ramp up pressure against Republican lawmakers.

    The Sacramento Democrat said his legislation would give public schools and law enforcement agencies a firmer source of funding if lawmakers don’t come up with one directly.

    It would grant sweeping authority to local governments to raise money, with voter approval, through taxes on income, vehicles, alcohol, tobacco, medical marijuana, soda and companies that pump oil in California.

    Steinberg introduced his local tax proposal on Friday, soon after the defeat in the Senate of the main bill to renew temporary increases in the statewide sales and vehicle taxes that will expire June 30. It passed, but with only the bare 21-vote majority needed. One Democrat voted against it and three others abstained.

    The bill applies to counties, school districts, community college districts and county offices of education. Critics said it would create a logistical nightmare of inconsistent tax policies that likely would be challenged in court and with a ballot referendum seeking to repeal it.

    Redistricting: Rohrabacher says he’s staying put

    With the release of a round of redistricting maps Friday, I mentioned that GOP Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, John Cambpell, Ed Royce and Gary Miller could be playing musical chairs.

    Rohrabacher may be busy in the Middle East, but he found time to make it clear he doesn’t plan to look for a new district to run in.

    The latest drafts throw Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, and Campbell, R-Irvine, into the same coastal district (“OCCOAST” on the map). Campbell could run for the proposed Orange-Rancho Santa Margarita district instead – but Dave Gilliard, the consultant for Royce, R-Fullerton, says that Royce has been looking for a home in Orange and considers that the heart of his district.

    If Royce stays in Fullerton and the new district surrounding that city, he could face Miller, R-Diamond Bar, since proposed map eliminate the GOP-advantage in Los Angeles County portion of his district. I’d give Royce the edge in that race, since Miller doesn’t live in the county.

    Here’s the statement that came last night from Rohrabacher’s camp:

        Congressman Rohrabacher announced today that whatever the end configuration of the districts, he will be running in the area of Orange County that he has represented for many years.

        “I share a bond both philosophically and personally with these people. This is the area where people want limited government and personal liberty, which is something we share. I am raising my family here and feel very comfortable with the values of the people of this part of Orange County and they feel comfortable with me.”

        Rohrabacher believes there’s likely to be shifts in the proposed district lines between now and the election but points to his long standing relationship with the people of the area.

        “However the districts are shaped, I’m sure that the candidates and the voters will use this as a way of getting to know each other better. So we end up with districts that are more equal in population and voters who are more fairly represented.”

    Enjoy your morning!


    Flap’s California Morning Collection Archive

  • California,  Flap's California Morning Collection

    Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 10, 2011

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

    Today the California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission will release draft maps on California’s 53 Congressional Districts, 80 Assembly Districts, 4 Board of State Board of Equalization Districts and 40 State Senate Districts.

    The Commission will meet at 9 AM PDT and once approved the draft maps will be posted here.

    The 14-member independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission will meet at McGeorge School of Law in Classroom C for a Business Meeting from 9:00 a.m until close of business on June 10, 2011. The Commission was created by California voters to draw state Congressional, Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization Districts.

    You can watch the Live Broadcast of the meeting here.

    California’s largest union is trying to help elect…Republicans? And the GOP is ticked

    With 700,000 members, the SEIU is California’s largest labor union and on Thursday it announced they would be doing something a bit un-SEIUish: The were starting a political action committee to help moderate Republicans reach office.

    Waaaa?!? You mean the same union that spent $85 million nationally to put President Obama in the White House and were the foot soldiers for Guv Jerry Brown’s winning California campaign?

    Yup. SEIU California has 87,000 Republican members (216,000 Dems and 80,000 decline-to-state and others) and at Thursday’s rollout of the PAC, a few of the Republican ones said they felt the party of Reagan had deserted them. Now, it is held captive by social conservatives and anti-tax types who had no interest in the art of compromising. And that — along with extremists from the left — were the source of the state’s political gridlock.

    Where is the love for good ol’ middle-of-the-road Republicans, several asked. The hope was that — with the SEIU’s help– that more moderate Republicans would be elected to serve in Sacramento.


    Former CA GOP chair Ron Nehring raises a point about the REAL motive behind the SEIU’s Republican outreach:

    “Notably absent from this PAC’s plans are to increase the total NUMBER of Republicans in the caucus. Rather, they are interested only in changing the COMPOSITION of the caucus by electing pro-tax Republicans in Republican districts where there is no chance of electing a Democrat.”

    Ron tells us: “The SEIU effort is unquestionably about replacing anti-tax Republicans with pro-tax Republicans. Obviously the Republican Party has no interest in that.”

    Dan Walters: Here comes the California budget (again)

    Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the state Senate, says that today’s debate on a state budget package “is no game.”

    “This is not a drill,” Steinberg continued, using the pejorative term that Capitol insiders use to describe a bit of meaningless political theater. “This is the beginning of the budget debate.”

    It’s not exactly the beginning, since the debate has really been under way for many years as the budget has drifted in and out of solvency, mostly the latter. But it could be the beginning of the end of this particular segment of this particular year’s version.

    Drill or not, Democrats will put on a big show to present their budget, including an extension of billions of dollars in temporary taxes that otherwise would expire.

    They’ll recite tales of woe from police, fire and education officials and warnings that thousands of felons will be released from prison under federal court order.

    Supposedly it’s all aimed at shaming at least a few Republicans into voting for the tax extensions that would remain in effect until voters decide, as much as a year from now, whether they would be extended even further.

    1 in 3 jobless Californians out of work for year or more

    Of the more than 2.1 million jobless Californians, one out of three has been unemployed for a year or more, according to the latest figures from the state Employment Development Department.

    And as joblessness drags on, unemployment checks run out. About 1.1 million people in the state currently receive jobless benefits, which averaged $291 a week in April. But as of this week, more than 439,000 Californians had exhausted all their benefits – up to 99 weeks.

    How many of these “99ers” have gone on to find work is unknown. But for many in the state, where April’s 11.9 percent jobless rate was the second highest in the nation, unemployment lingers.

    Enjoy your morning!


    Flap’s California Morning Collection Archive