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DeSaulnier to host budget town hall in Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will host a budget town hall on Feb. 2, where residents may share their concerns and offer ideas for improving statement government operations.

The free event will be held from 7-9 p.m. at Concord City Council Chambers, 1950 Parkside Drive, Concord.

For information, call 925-942-6082.

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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.”

 

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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.
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Senate votes to close smoking loopholes

Legislation to close loopholes in California’s groundbreaking anti-smoking laws has passed the Senate on a 25-14 vote.

Senate Bill 575 by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, strips from the law most of the earlier exemptions that permitted smoking in some work environments of certain sizes including hotel lobbies, bars, taverns, banquet rooms, employee break rooms and warehouses. Smoking would be banned in private homes used as daycare centers during operating hours.

DeSaulnier did agree to reinstate the exemption for private smokers’ lounges such as tobacco shops.

Violation of the law is punishable by fines of $100 for the first violation, $200 for a second within one year, and $500 for a third and for each subsequent violation.

Read on for the full release. Continue Reading

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DeSaulnier talks on budgets and dead governors

DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, delivered his annual keynote speech at the luncheon meeting today of the Contra Costa Council. Watch the full video below.

The senator spoke on a broad range of subjects. For the first time in his career, he even used Power Point presentation in an effort to focus his often rambling style.

Among his comments:

  • Predicted the budget impasse may soon end, citing an afternoon scheduled caucus conference call and an order to appear in Sacramento on Monday. The other driving factor may be that without a budget, Caltrans will soon have to start shutting down construction projects.
  • The budget stumbling blocks include the governor’s demand for a hard spending cap, a restriction Democrats fear will hurt education and social programs. The governor also wants a bigger rainy day fund and a deal with SEIU that would require the the state’s clerks, janitors and other service workers to contribute more to their public employee pensions.
  • Described his disappointment at the Legislature’s failure to seriously consider the budget reforms developed by California Forward and passed out of committees in both the Senate and the Assembly. In response, he has created a campaign committee that will work to place the reforms on the ballot in 2012. They include performance-based budgeting, a requirement that all legislation for new programs identify a source of funds and a multi-year budget.
  • Announced his work on what he called “red teams,” collaborations between the state and the county to help businesses keep their doors open. “We know the best way to create jobs is to keep the ones you have,” he said.
  • On the subject of dead governors, DeSaulnier admits to a certain amount of hostility when he looks at the portrait in the Capitol of the father of California’s nearly 100 year initiative process, Hiram Johnson.

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DeSaulnier visits CCT editorial board

For the true politics addicts out there, I have posted below an hour-long video of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier’s Tuesday visit to the Contra Costa Times’ editorial board. I sat in on the session and recorded it.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, talks about the state budget and his desire to avoid the “Big Five” last-minute negotiations, his policy priorities as chairman of both a budget and a policy committee, and vowed to help push reforms of the state pension system.