5

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.
7

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.

5

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.

0

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.

0

East Bay legislators dubious about state water deal

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

I talked with three Contra Costa state lawmakers via telephone this morning about their views on the Big Five water talks under way in Sacramento today. I did not hear much optimism about a the chances of a deal by tonight’s deadline.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and assemblymembers Joan Buchanan and Tom Torlakson view the closed-door talks on the controversial and complex subject as unlikely to produce a package that will attain either legislative or public support, and urged the resumption of public hearings.

DeSaulnier of Concord, who scuttled his planned trip to Spain this week in order to participate in the California water negotiations, called Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s move to hold hostage 700 bills on his desk pending a water deal counter-productive.

“The governor’s unique talents are unsuits for this time right now in Sacramento,” DeSaulnier said. “He just not very good at negotiation.”

“What’s the rush?” he added. “Are they worried it will start raining and with the drought over, the pressure will be off to pass reforms? I think we can get a deal but we need to do it with continued public hearings and public discussion, not artificial deadlines.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Even if the Big Five emerge today or Saturday arm-in-arm with a package, the East Bay legislators say the question of how to pay for it remains a huge sticking point.

All three say they oppose financing the estimated $8 billion to $12 billion package through general obligation bonds. Repayment of general obligation bonds comes right of the top of the state’s general fund, which means the money cannot be used elsewhere.

They favor the use of revenue bonds, which are repaid by water users including residents, businesses and farmers.

“It the midst of these horrible deficits, and we’re facing additional horrendous challenges next year, do we want to cut more from schools or higher education?” said Torlakson, D-Antioch.

“The payment on a $12 billion bond is $700 million a year,” said Buchanan, D-Alamo. “If we are going to pass legislation and ask voters to pass a bond, we need to ask how we’re going to pay for it.”

Buchanan also says that she and other Delta area lawmakers will demand sufficient time to evaluate any proposal and talk with their constituents.

“A half a million people live in the Delta and the impacts of new policies could last decades,” Buchanan said. “You can bet that I and my staff will be reading every word.”

Postscript: DeSaulnier’s trip to Spain was, ironically, a Senate-sponsored event to study the country’s national water system. “I learned more about water by staying home,” DeSaulnier said.

0

San Ramon mayor featured in National Review

San Ramon Mayor and Assembly GOP candidate Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor and Assembly GOP candidate Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor and GOP Assembly candidate Abram Wilson is featured in National Review, the well-known conservative publication.

National Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger captured Wilson’s personality in the piece, titled “The Making of a Mayor,” through family stories and anecdotes. The author used a unique bullet-style format, which I liked (and may well borrow) for its simplicity.

Wilson says he has received numerous responses to the story, including emails from all over the country.

Check it out.

So far, Wilson is the only declared Republican candidate in Assembly District 15. If he remains the only GOP name on the June 2010 primary ballot, he will mostly likely face incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

UPDATE: So what did Wilson do? He turned it into a fundraiser. What else? Read on for his email solicitation:

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