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Students to push Legislature for oil-extraction tax

Its proposed measure having failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, a student-led group calling for California to implement an oil-extraction tax will try its fortunes with the Legislature again.

Californians for Responsible Economic Development will change its name to Students’ Voice Now, and will soon announce a partnership with two state senators to get a bill or legislatively referred initiative passed in the Legislature next year, spokesman Kevin Singer said.

“The framework of the bill is expected to include an endowment for education, but also may include subsidies for families and businesses to switch to cleaner forms of energy, a rollback of the gas tax, and/or immediate revenue for the specific purpose of decreasing college tuition across California,” Singer wrote in an email.

Singer said that starting in January, as part of pushing for the bill, they’ll keep networking across California’s college campuses and “continue to build relationships with other interest groups, PACs, and legislators who believe that whether oil is drilled or fracked from our soil, Big Oil needs to pay its fair share.”

California is the only oil-producing state that doesn’t have a specific oil-extraction tax, and the proponents estimated the tax contemplated by their now-dead proposed ballot measure would’ve raised $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year.

But any such legislation probably faces a tough road ahead in the Legislature. State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, this year carried SB 241 to establish an oil-extraction tax, but the bill never made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged not to raise or create any taxes without voter approval, and so might push hard against any efforts to create this tax by legislation alone. And he probably won’t want a legislatively directed tax hike on the same ballot in which he’s (presumably) running for re-election in 2014.

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California Legislature, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, taxes | 2 Comments »

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 »

Ballot measure calls for bigger, much bigger, legislature

An initiative just cleared for signature-gathering today that would increase the size of the state legislature by 100-fold. And no, that’s not a misprint.

The measure calls for creating neighborhood-based elected Assembly districts for every 5,000 people and Senate districts for every 10,000 people. Today, a senate district has 1 million people.

Interestingly, analysts say operating the new legislature would cost taxpayers less; the measure includes reduced pay and other costs. But it would drive up election costs by tens of millions of dollars.

I can hear the sound of political consultants rubbing their hands together already.

Read the Secretary of State’s release below.

Legislative Process Initiative Enters Circulation

Legislature Expansion. Legislative Process. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

SACRAMENTO – Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced that the proponent of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures for his measure.

The Attorney General prepares the legal title and summary that is required to appear on initiative petitions. When the official language is complete, the Attorney General forwards it to the proponent and to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then provides calendar deadlines to the proponent and to county elections officials, and the initiative may be circulated for signatures.  The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

LEGISLATURE EXPANSION. LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Increases size of Legislature almost 100-fold by dividing current Assembly and Senate districts into neighborhood districts such that each Assemblymember represents about 5,000 persons and each Senator represents about 10,000 persons. Provides for neighborhood district representatives to elect working committees the size of the current Assembly and Senate, 80 Assemblymembers and 40 Senators. Gives working committees the legislative power generally, and sole power to amend bills, but requires approval by appropriate vote of the full membership in each house for passage of any non-urgency bill. Reduces legislators’ pay and expenditures. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Decreased state spending on the Legislature of over $180 million annually. Increased county election costs, potentially in the range of tens of millions of dollars initially and lower amounts annually thereafter. (11-0067.)

The Secretary of State’s tracking number for this measure is 1540 and the Attorney General’s tracking number is 11-0067.

The proponent for this measure, John Cox, must collect signatures of 807,615 registered voters – the number equal to eight percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify it for the ballot. The proponent has 150 days to circulate petitions for this measure, meaning the signatures must be collected by June 1, 2012.

 The initiative proponent can be reached at (847) 274-8814.

 To sign up for regular ballot measure updates via email, RSS feed, or Twitter, go to www.sos.ca.gov/multimedia.

 To view this and other Secretary of State press releases, go to www.sos.ca.gov/admin/news-releases.htm.

Posted on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, California Legislature | 13 Comments »

Ma comment raises eyebrows

Interminable Endless debate, grandstanding and hot rhetoric are traditional faire of end-of-session days at the Capitol.

Thankfully, most of the hot air evaporates into thin air, forgotten the moment the words leave their authors’ mouths.

One comment, however, had a little more staying power than most, courtesy of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, at a news conference announcing a bipartisan agreement to eliminate a $1 billion tax loophole for out-of-state corporations.

It had to do with the ever-shifting recounting by legislators of how the bill to carve out the tax breaks for out-of-state corporations came to be approved in the dead of night at the end of the 2009 legislative session.

It was an agreement hammered out in tough negotiations that resulted in passage of the 2009 tax hikes, which required six Republican votes — three in each chamber.

Just last week, Gov. Jerry Brown off-handedly criticized legislators for approving the loophole to out-of-state corporations without understanding the full implications. But Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, begged to differ, saying he understood perfectly well that he was sending $1 billion out of the state.

It was just that Republicans “had a gun to our heads” as Democrats sought desperately to pass the tax hike Steinberg said.

Ma had an entirely different spin in attempting to explain legislators’ acquiescence to the deal.

The bill was “drafted incorrectly,” she said with a stunning finality. Rather than requiring all corporations to pay taxes based on their sales under a “mandatory single sales factor,” Ma said, legislators simply made a mistake in making tax calculations elective for the out-of-state corporations.

When asked by a member of the Capitol press corps if she was saying she didn’t know what she was voting for, Brown came to the rescue. Sort of.

“I want to step in here,” Brown interjected. “Trying to discern the motives of those legislator who created this is a fool’s errand because they all have a different story.

“I have my own story, my own thoughts, but it’s speculative. … If anybody else can figure out why they did it or if they understood it and what they meant by saying they understood it and what kind of understanding they brought to bear on it,” go ahead and try.

Posted on Friday, September 9th, 2011
Under: California Legislature, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Brown squashes DeSaulnier’s initiative reform bill

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier,  D-Concord, is displeased with Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill that would have forced the paid signature gatherers in front of local grocery and discount stores to disclose the fact to the public.

Senate Bill 448 would have required individuals who are paid to circulate an initiative, referendum, or recall petition to wear a badge identifying him or her as a “paid signature gatherer,” according to DeSaulnier’s office. The bill would have had no effect on those who voluntarily circulate petitions.

In his veto message, Brown called the measure “provocative” but not “persuasive.”

But DeSaulnier is “disappointed by Governor Brown’s veto.  Our initiative process is broken and this bill would have taken a modest but important step toward fixing it.”

SB 448 would have required individuals who are paid to circulate an initiative, referendum, or recall petition to wear a badge identifying him or her as a “paid signature gatherer”.  The bill would have had no effect on those who voluntarily circulate petitions.

Signature gatherers are often paid based on the number of signatures they collect and most know little and care even less about the initiatives they hawk.

“Currently, the average voter has no way of knowing whether the person circulating a petition is a civic-minded volunteer or is the employee of a moneyed political operation,” DeSaulnier said in a news release.  “This is not what Governor Hiram Johnson intended when he created the initiative process in 1911.”

 

Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Under: California Legislature, California Senate, campaign finance, Initiative petitions | 10 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 »

Controller will withhold legislators’ pay

California Controller John Chiang will withhold state legislators’ paychecks starting June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget within the next two weeks.

The provision is part of Proposition 25, which voters approved in November. Some analysts had concluded that Legislature’s March budget satisfied the requirement but Chiang disagrees.

Here’s what the controller had to say today:

SACRAMENTO – In response to recent questions regarding the impact of Proposition 25, Controller John Chiang today announced he will permanently withhold Legislators’ salary and per diem beginning on June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget in the next two weeks.

“Presenting the Governor with a balanced budget by the Constitutional deadline is the most important, if not most difficult, job of the California Legislature,” Chiang said.  “In passing Proposition 25 last November, voters clearly stated they expect their representatives to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve any budget shortfalls by the mandatory deadline, or be penalized.  I will enforce the voters’ demand.”

Proposition 25, titled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” was approved by voters November 2, 2010.  The initiative lowered the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.  It also required members of the Legislature to forfeit their salary and reimbursement for travel and living expenses incurred from June 16 until “the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor.”  Payments forfeited will not be paid retroactively.

Recently, questions have been raised regarding whether the budget passed by the Legislature had to be balanced, or if the budget bills passed in March would suffice.  The Controller’s analysis of these issues concludes Proposition 25 cannot be read in a vacuum, and must take into account the provisions of Proposition 58 (passed by voters on March 2, 2004), the intent language found in Proposition 25, and the voter information and campaign materials upon which the voters relied.

Proposition 58 states, “[T]he Legislature may not send to the Governor for consideration, nor may the Governor sign into law, a budget bill that would appropriate from the General Fund, for that fiscal year, a total amount that …exceeds General Fund revenues for that fiscal year estimated as of the date of the budget bill’s passage.”  Because Propositions 58 and 25 overlap in the same section of the Constitution and address the same topic, they must be read together.  A copy of the Controller’s full legal analysis can be found here .


Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: California budget, California Legislature | No Comments »

Smart people to infiltrate Capitol

My colleague Steve Harmon in the Times’ Sacramento bureau wrote today about the loan from major universities to the Legislature of 10 Ph.D. scientists and engineers.

As Harmon tells us, the fellowships are intended to provide California legislators with unbiased scientific and technical advice on issues before the Senate and Assembly.

Put super-smart people in the Capitol?

Here’s the bigger question: What took so long?

Posted on Monday, January 4th, 2010
Under: California Legislature | No Comments »

Capitol Weekly releases ideology rankings

Capitol Weekly released its annual political ideological ranking of state legislators and while such lists are rarely definitive, they do offer a glimpse into lawmakers’ philosophical proclivities.

Click here to read the full report, but here are the results for some of the East Bay representatives.

The Weekly staff selected 19 bills to use in its ranking system and assigned or deducted points for yes, no and non-voting results. A score of 100 is a perfect liberal while a score of 0 is a perfect conservative.

Not surprisingly, the Bay Area lawmakers stick to the liberal side of the chart.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: He scored a 91, missing a perfect score because of a yes vote for the Los Angeles football stadium bill and failing to vote one way or the other on the bill establishing Harvey Milk Day.

State sens. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: All scored 100.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: Scored 94, dinged for failing to vote on a payroll records bill and carbon offsets legislation.

Assemblymemembers Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch; Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland; and Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward: All scored 89, losing liberal points for voting in favor of the Los Angeles stadium deal and air pollution credits bill.

Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Under: California Legislature | 2 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 »