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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.

Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Under: California budget, California Senate | No 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 »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: California Senate | 16 Comments »

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.

Posted on Friday, October 1st, 2010
Under: California Senate, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Mark DeSaulnier | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Under: California Senate, Mark DeSaulnier | 4 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 »

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.

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009
Under: California Assembly, California Legislature, California Senate, Environment, State politics, water | No Comments »

DeSaulnier heads to Spain on legislative junket

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is going to Spain to study its national water system.

Per the Los Angeles Times today, the Legislature postponed its special session on prisons and water until Oct. 13 in order to accommodate DeSaulnier’s and other lawmakers’ overseas exodus:

“Seven state senators are heading overseas this week, some having left Thursday, on a trip that includes stops in Copenhagen, Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona.They plan to study Spain’s national water system and Scandinavian environmental programs, and to promote trade between California and Catalonia, according to a statement from the Senate Office of International Relations, which is organizing the trip.”

Uh, excuse me, but I Googled “Spain” and “national water system” and I got 18.7 million hits. See how easy that was? No plane ticket needed.

DeSaulnier doesn’t seen to regard Google as a worthy substitute for Madrid, and who can blame him?

He defended his decision to go on the week-long trip, saying the agenda contains important policy discussions and the opportunity to develop valuable personal relationships. Spain is paying for about half the trip and DeSaulnier says he will cover the rest out of his pocket or from his state campaign account.

“I think it is myopic to think that legislators have to stay in California to do their jobs,” DeSaulnier said. “Not everything was invented here.”

But, of course, if Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wants legislators back in Sacramento before Oct. 13, DeSaulnier says he will cancel the trip.

Cowboy Libertarian and conservative commentator Patrick Dorinson does not sound sympathetic.

“They have to postpone the special session on water and prisons so they can go to Europe?” Dorinson said. “If there is ever a time when voters will go for a part-time legislature, it’s now.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2009
Under: California Senate | No Comments »

DeSaulnier appointed chairman of reform panel

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who lost Tuesday’s special 10th Congressional District special election, has been appointed co-chair of a joint Senate-Assembly committee on reform.

The committee will look at ways to make government and the legislative process more efficient.

It looks as though DeSaulnier is moving on after what had to be a disappointing loss. But I have never known him to spend any time feeling sorry for himself. He had plenty on his plate at the Senate before the 10th District seat unexpectedly opened in February and diverted his attention. He has repeatedly told me how much he enjoys his job in the Senate, and he is clearly getting back to it.

Read on for the press release out a few minutes ago:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, California Senate | 8 Comments »