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 .


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?


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.


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:



Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord


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.


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.



Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo


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


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.



Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch


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.


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.


Water deal still not done

It’s almost 9 p.m. and I’ve been sitting in the hallway outside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office for almost on eight hours now.

The giant sculpted gold bear in front of the guv’s door has a microphone perched on it. The press corps is sitting around on laptops and borrowed desk chairs from nearby offices, which is an improvement over the cold granite tiled floor.

The Big Five was supposed to go back into a third round of talks at 8 p.m. but they didn’t show up until a few minutes ago.

The Dems say they have a document for the Republicans to review. Schwarzenegger’s spokesman says we should expect a statement in an hour as to the status of the negotiations and what the governor intends to do about the roughly 350 bills he is holding hostage pending the outcome of a water deal.

Will there be a water deal tonight? It’s hard to say. What legislators say in the hallway outside negotiations and what they say to each other behind closed doors is often a major divide. Neither side wants to give ground in the court of public opinion. Whatever they come out with, if they come out with anything, will be claimed as victory by both sides.

In the meantime, one of the top aides has offered me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another aide came through with pizza. I can’t accept gifts valued more than $5. How much is a PB&J worth?


Bills escape veto threat

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed 89 bills despite a threat to veto 700 pending pieces of legislation hostage unless top leaders reach a water deal by midnight.

He did veto 94 bills but he nixed them on their merits rather than as part of a promised blanket rejection of most of the Legislature’s work of the past year.

The Big Five — the governor and the top leaders of the Republican and Democratic members of the legislature — were still meeting as of 4:15 p.m. in an effort to reach an accord. The governor has until midnight tonight to sign or veto the 704 bills that have been sent to his office.

As expected, the governor signed bills that would have created financial hardships in the state if they had been vetoed, including Senate Bill 19 authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, which will establish links between student achievement data and teacher and principal data. It is a requirement of federal stimulus dollars in the federal program called “The Race to the Top.”

Schwarzenegger also signed  bill that implements a number of reforms in the state prison system designed to save about $280 million.

Among East Bay legislators bills that were signed into law include state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier’s Senate Bill 147, which creates career technical courses at the Californa State University system and Senate Bill 702, which requires personnel in health clubs’ child care centers to follow guidelines designed to shield children from pedophiles.

He also signed a bill by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, that will place on the Web employers’ workers compensation insurance status. It will allow workers to know whether or not a potential employer has insurance.

Read on to see the full legislative update from Schwarzenegger’s office: