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Buchanan appointed to chair state reorganization committee

Joan Buchanan

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, has been appointed chairwoman of a special committee that will examine Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive branch reorganization proposal.

Buchanan is more than capable of this task. But sheesh, what did she do to earn this thankless assignment? Hit  Speaker John Perez’ car in the state garage? (Just kidding. About the car.)

Here’s the news release her office just put out:

Assemblymember Joan Buchanan Appointed Chair of Special Committee on Governor’s Reorganization Plan

(Sacramento, CA)—Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) announced that Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has appointed her Chair of a new special committee that will assess the Governor’s Reorganization Plan No. 2, a plan that will reorganize several agencies and departments of the executive branch.

“The Governor has presented the Legislature with a broad proposal to streamline the administrative functions of the Executive Branch,” Buchanan stated. “I look forward to our discussions on how to make California state government as efficient, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the public as possible.”

Assemblymember Buchanan is currently the Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on State Administration, which has held a number of hearings in the past few months to evaluate some of Governor Brown’s other proposals to reorganize the executive branch. She is also the Chair of the Select Committee on Government Efficiency, Innovation, and Technology.

The committee membership will include members with diverse expertise in the areas the Governor has proposed to reorganize. Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) will serve as Vice Chair, with Assemblymembers Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), Isadore Hall (D-Los Angeles), Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills), Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) and Norma Torres (D-Chino) filling out the rest of the special committee’s membership.

Posted on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Under: California Assembly, California Legislature | No Comments »

Assembly looks at wasteful health care district spending

A friend and a foe of the Mt. Diablo Health Care District, targeted by local regulators for transfer to the city of Concord to eliminate costly elections and overhead, are among the speakers at Wednesday morning’s Assembly hearing on health care district.

Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review Chairman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will lead the hearing starting at 9:30 a.m., which will be aired via webcast at the California Channel.

Mt. Diablo Health Care District board chairman Jeff Kasper is scheduled to speak, along with district critic and Contra Costa Taxpayers Association Executive Director Kris Hunt.  Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill will also testify. (Speaker list updated on 4/10/2012. LAV)

The Local Agency Formation Commission last month voted to dismantle five-member elected health care district board and turn over its limited remaining duties to Concord’s city council. The district hasn’t run a hospital since 1996. Since then, four civil grand juries and the Local Agency Formation Commission’s hired consultant have concluded that the district has spent the vast majority of its property tax proceeds — $240,000 a year — on elections, overhead and legal bills, with very few dollars going to community services or programs.

Mt. Diablo is a piker compared with other health care districts, according to a recent Bay Citizen analysis of similar agencies statewide.  It found a Peninsula district, for example, with $43 million in reserves that refused to help subsidize health insurance for the poor. It reported that 30 of 74 of California’s taxpayer-funded health care districts no longer run hospitals but continue to collect public dollars, diverting that money for administrative and legal costs, along with benefits for their directors.

“Allegations of administrative waste, wrong doing, and lack of appropriate spending priorities persist, while unmet health care needs linger in their communities,” wrote the committee in a news release about the hearing. “The committee will aim to uncover if health care districts are still the best use of public funds and if they are using their resources to promote public health and welfare, especially given the current health care environment in the state.”

The committee said witnesses will include representatives from the Peninsula Health Care District in San Mateo, the Beach Cities Health District in Redondo Beach, Mt. Diablo Health Care District in Concord, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, health care advocates and the Association of California Healthcare Districts.

The testimony will focus on the health care districts’ current and former purpose, funding mechanisms, Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) oversight, the current challenges of healthcare service delivery, if the health care needs of the state are being met and case studies of health care district expenditures, the committee said.

 

 

Posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012
Under: California Assembly, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 6 Comments »

Money race for open East Bay Assembly seats

The East Bay’s open-seat Assembly races are seeing some fierce financial competition, according to campaign finance reports due yesterday.

In the 18th Assembly District, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, a Democrat, raised the most from Jan. 1 through March 17 – $76,066.30 – and has loaned his own campaign $7,500; spent $94,323.96 during that period; and had $142,087.82 cash on hand as of March 17. Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, another Democrat, raised $64,929.24 and has loaned his campaign $13,650; spent $43,991.95; and had $132,944 cash on hand as of March 17. And AC Transit Director-at-Large Joel Young of Oakland raised $32,645.00 and has loaned his campaign $50,000; spent $42,566.85; and had $161,919.94 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Rhonda Weber of Alameda, that race’s sole Republican.

In the 20th Assembly District, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, raised $32,174.70 and has loaned his campaign $96,000; spent $40,916.18; and had $130,435.08 cash on hand as of March 17. Hayward optometrist Jennifer Ong, another Democrat, raised $33,699.00 and has loaned her campaign $48,100; spent $119,021.85; and had $91,266.06 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by New Haven Unified School District Trustee Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat; Hayward Councilman Luis Reynoso, a Republican; or Union City Mayor Mark Green, a nonpartisan candidate.

In the 11th Assembly District, Oakley Councilman Jim Frazier, a Democrat, raised $58,008 and has loaned his own campaign $2,500; spent $91,901; and had $90,543.67 cash on hand as of March 17. Union negotiator Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista, also a Democrat, raised $19,866.56; spent $34,991.11; and had $15,614.53 cash on hand as of March 17. Retired fire chief Gene Gantt of Vacaville, another Democrat, raised $14,570 and has loaned his own campaign $3,000; spent $26,941.89; and had $16,142.19 cash on hand as of March 17. Suisun City Vice Mayor Mike Hudson, a Republican, raised $40,078.19, spent $40,763.95 and had $594.10 cash on hand as of March 17. Former Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, a nonpartisan candidate, raised $19,488.99, spent $6,291.50 and had $13,547.49 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Democrat Charles Kingeter, a programmer from Suisun City.

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, California Assembly, campaign finance | No Comments »

Assembly dream job?

About to graduate from college but don’t have a job lined up? The pay isn’t great but the benefits sound good.

The application period has opened for the 2012-2013 Jesse Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program, an 11-month stint working in the California Legislature.

Fellows earn $1,972 a month plus health, dental and vision benefits. Participants learn about politics and policy, and attend weekly academic seminars where they may earn graduate credits from California State University-Sacramento.

The application deadline is Feb. 22. Applicants must be on track to earn their undergraduate degrees by September.

Download the application at www.csus.edu/calst/assembly.

 

Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Under: California Assembly | No Comments »

Assemblywoman Hayashi charged with shoplifting

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley

East Bay Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has pled not guilty to a charge she shoplifted more than $2,400 in Neiman Marcus clothing on Sunday from the ritzy San Francisco department store, prosecutors say.

The Hayward Democrat has been charged with one count of felony grand theft.

Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer called the incident a “mistake and a misunderstanding.”

“The assemblywoman apologizes for the distraction this has caused,” Singer said. “She is a firm believer in the justice system and hopefully, it will be cleared up shortly.

“Mary has never been arrested for anything. The worst thing she ever got was a speeding ticket.”

Authorities say she was caught on video surveillance walking out of the Union Square retail outlet Sunday around 12:15 p.m. with leather pants and other assorted clothing, said Stephanie Ong Stillman, a San Francisco district attorney spokeswoman.

Neiman Marcus security staff apprehended Hayashi, whose husband is Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis Hayashi, outside the store with $2,445 worth of unpaid clothing items.

Prosecutors have video evidence, Stillman said.

Hayashi could face up to three years in jail for the charge, however she has no criminal history, Stillman said.

Hayashi, known for her fashion and style, is undoubtedly hoping for a swift and positive resolution.

The 45-year-old lawmaker will term out of the Assembly next year.

She has opened a committee to run for state Senate in 2014 in the newly configured District 10, whose incumbent, Elaine Alquist, D-Fremont, will term out in 2012.

She had raised nearly $200,000 for her bid as of June 30, according to state campaign finance records.

In 2009, Hayashi earned $115,000 for her state position and her husband made $165,000 on the bench.

 

Posted on Friday, October 28th, 2011
Under: California Assembly, Contra Costa politics | 15 Comments »

Oakley mayor enters AD11 race

Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier

Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier will run for state Assembly next year in a newly carved district that encompasses most of East Contra Costa County and a majority of Solano County.

The 52-year-old Democratic general contractor’s decision to enter the state contest also ends speculation that he will challenge Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho in her re-election bid.

Unlike an upstream fight against a two-term incumbent supervisor, the new 11th Assembly District is wide open. It includes Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Knightsen, Discovery Bay, Bryon and Bethel Island along with Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista and Isleton. (Click here to see a map of the district.)

Frazier is the first to officially declare his candidacy in the heavily Democratic 11th District (19 percentage points Democratic) although others are evaluating the option. Open seats typically draw more people.

Campaign strategy will also change under the state’s new top-two primary rule.

In the past, the primary winner who hailed from the predominant party was almost guaranteed victory in the general election. Next year, the top two vote-getters in the June contest will face off again in November regardless of party affiliation.

Jobs, education and transportation will top Frazier’s policy priority list, he said via telephone prior to his scheduled 4 p.m. today announcement press conference in Oakley.

Frazier also announced endorsements from Democratic Reps. John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney, state Sens. Mark DeSaulnier and Lois Wolk, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

He was elected to the Oakley City Council in 2008 after serving on the city’s planning commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s citizen advisory committee.

Posted on Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Under: 2012 Assembly election, California Assembly | 2 Comments »

Legislature posts members’ spending

Bowing to political pressure, the California Legislature has released its members’ office spending numbers, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But the man who started this debate, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, called the reports released by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, a joke.

“If these documents were not posted on the Assembly’s web page, I would think they were an April fool’s joke,” Portantino said in a statement. “Today, Assembly Speaker John Perez released 8 month expenditures that continue to mislead the public on how the Assembly operates. The documents released hide true and accurate accounting of staff budgets and complete staff expenditures. I once again implore Assembly leaders to come clean and open the Assembly to true transparency. The documents released today are an insult to the public.”

Portantino has been feuding with Perez over cuts to his office budget.

Incomplete or not, an examination of the numbers shows that the bulk of the members’ annual expenses are staff salaries. And state senators have office budgets four to five times bigger than assemblymembers.

Interestingly, the Senate GOP Caucus spent more than its Democratic counterparts: $1.58 million for the Republicans vs. $1.52 million for Democrats. The Republican floor leader spent $1 million, while the Democratic floor leader spent $477,161. Aren’t Democrats the majority party?

I was also curious about East Bay members’ spending.

In a sampling of Assembly expenditures of Dec. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010:

  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo:  $322,459 total expenses, of which $171,034 went to salaries. Her second-highest expense was $65,590 for communications.
  • Former Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (now state superintendent of public instruction), D-Antioch: $321,972 total expenses, of which $223,288 went to salaries. His second-highest expense was $52,017 for rent and utilities in his district office.
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: $278,678 in total expenses, of which $225,820 went to salaries. Her second-highest expense was $28,967 for personal per diem.

Assembly expenditures from Dec. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2011 (eight months):

  • Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord: $257,476 total expenses, of which $178,917 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was $34,217 for rent and utilities at her district office.
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: $244,868 total expenses, of which $148,267 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was$28,812 for rent and utilities at her district office.
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: $204,113 total expenses, of which $158,691 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was $24,328 for personal per diem.

Senate expenditures for Nov. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010:

  • Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: $1.09 million in total expenditures, of which $847,134 was salaries. His second-highest expense was $63,289 for his district office.
  • Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley: $922,551 in total expenditures, of which $851,505 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was $28,797 for personal per diem.
  • Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro: $983,547 in total expenditures, of which $802,258 was for salaries. Her second-highest expense was $72,592 for her district office.

Posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011
Under: California Assembly, California budget, California Legislature, California Senate | 5 Comments »

First all-woman delegation leads Contra Costa

For the first time in Contra Costa County history, all three of its representatives in the California Assembly are women.

That bucks state and national trends, where despite comprising slightly more than half the population, women make up less than a third of the California Legislature, 16 percent of the House of Representatives and 17 out of 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

I sat down in a Contra Costa Times conference room recently with Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner, of Berkeley; Susan Bonilla, of Concord; and Joan Buchanan, of Alamo, where we talked broadly about why women are underrepresented, how to encourage more women to seek public office and how women legislate differently than men.

Read a sampling here of what the women had to say or watch the full video below.

Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly District 15, California Assembly, women in politics | 7 Comments »

New Assembly Speaker to raise money for Buchanan

Buchanan

Buchanan

Perez

Perez

New Assembly Speaker John Pérez will headline a fundraiser for Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo on March 18 at Round Hill Country Club.

The event is billed as an opportunity to “meet the new Speaker of the Assembly.”

The price of the encounter ranges from $100 for the “friend” seat at dinner to $7,800 for a table of eight plus tickets to the co-host reception.

If you are so inclined, RSVP Cynthia Brantly Pierce at 510-704-165y or email her at cynthia@cpierce.com.

Buchanan has no primary challengers yet and no one expects a viable Democrat will surface. Her presumed GOP challenger in November is San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, who also has no opponent in the primary. The close of filing is March 12, so we’ll see if that holds up.

Posted on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, California Assembly | 5 Comments »

Gov signs half of Contra Costa lawmakers’ bills

Conta Costa representatives in the state Legislature posted mixed results in this weekend’s billapalooza, an avalanche of nearly 700 bills released after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided late Sunday that sufficient progress had been made on water talks.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier’s “There Ought to Be a Law” initiative produced a bill that requires workers in health clubs’ daycare centers to comply with the same rules designed to protect children from pedophiles in daycare centers. (Who knew they didn’t? Good grief.) A constituent whose daughter was molested at a health club brought him the bill idea and the governor signed it into law.

The Antioch and Dumbarton bridges are now eligible for state seismic retrofit dollars after the governor signed a bill by Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. Engineers recently determined that both spans need strengthened but they were not on the list.

And youngsters will find it much more difficult to purchase whippits, those small metallic containers of nitrous oxide or laughing gas intended for home use in whipped cream charging bottles. The governor signed Torlakson’s bill, which makes it a crime to sell whippits to anyone under the age of 18.

Of the 14 bills authored by DeSaulnier, Torlakson and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, the governor signed half and vetoed the other half.

The local veto rate is quite a bit higher than the overall figure. Of the 685 bills the governor acted on Sunday, he vetoed 229, or a third. (Click here to visit the governor’s legislative update page and see his actions on all the bills.)

To see where the pen came down on other East Bay legislators’ bills, visit my colleague Josh Richman’s blog entry at http://www.ibabuzz.com/politics/2009/10/12/thrill-of-victory-agony-of-defeat/

For a full list of the three Contra Costa legislators’ bills, see below:

DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

Signed

SB147 — Creates career technical courses at California State University system.

SB186 — Removes sunset of provision in workers compensation insurance that allows employees to seek treatment from their personal physicians for on-the-job injuries.

SB283 — Requires the state to develop building codes for the piping of recycled water.

SB702 — Requires personnel in health clubs’ child care centers to follow same hiring procedures as other daycare facilities in order to help shield children from pedophiles.

Vetoed

SB 406 — Would have allowed regions to impose a fee of up to $6 on motor vehicle registration to fund planning required to comply with new state law that links receipt of transportation dollars to land-use decisions. Governor said such a fee should be subject to voter approval.

SB 656 — Would have excluded non-peace officers who are members of a peace officers’ union from state Public Employment Relations Board dispute resolution process. Peace officers are not subject to the process. Governor said the bill would create an inconsistent class of employees within peace officer unions that would circumvent the state’s existing dispute resolution process.

SB 811 — Would have required the state to apply emission standards to vehicles coming to the state using the original out-of-state registration date. Governor opposed on the grounds that it contained potential legal problems that could lead to lawsuits.

Buchanan

Buchanan

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Signed

AB 483 — Creates Web site that lists whether employers have workers compensation insurance.

Vetoed

AB 1006 — Would have required the state to consider where workers live when locating new state offices in order to help reduce traffic congestion. Governor said the Department of General Services already considers numerous factors and believes state services should be located for the convenience of the public.

Torlakson

Torlakson

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Signed

AB 1015 — Prohibits the sale of whippits containing nitrous oxide to minors, chiefly to stop the use of the gas by youngsters.

AB 1175 — Designates the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges as eligible for state seismic retrofit dollars.

Vetoed

AB 267 — Would create special education finance districts. Governor expressed concern that parcel boundaries could be manipulated to win election.

AB 476 — Would have called for the evaluation of standardized testing in California schools for efficacy. Governor said this work is already being done by other entities and that it would circumvent the authority of the state Department of Education.

AB 836 — Would have created a task force to improve digital literacy in California schools.Governor opposed, arguing that he has already issued an executive order directing the creation of the Digital Literacy Council.

Note: To look up more details on each of these bills, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov and search by author, bill number or legislative session.

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009
Under: California Assembly, California Legislature, California Senate, Schwarzenegger | No Comments »