Schwarzenegger cuts Nunez’ son’s prison term

Arnold Schwarzenegger on his last day as California’s governor has commuted the state prison sentence of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’ son, who was involved in a fatal stabbing in 2008 near San Diego State University.

Esteban Nunez was serving a 16-year term in connection with the death of Luis Dos Santos.

“Santos’s death is tragic, and I do not discount the gravity of the offense. But given Nunez’s limited role in Santos’s death, and considering that, unlike (Ryan) Jett, Nunez had no criminal record prior to this offense, I believe Nunez’s sentence is excessive,” the governor wrote. “Accordingly, I commute Nunez’s sentence to the lower term for the crimes for which he was convicted: seven years in State prison.”

The commutation cites Nunez’ probation report in noting that he and his friends had been drinking and were turned away from a fraternity party before Jett picked a fight with Santos and Brandon Scheerer. “Not surprisingly, there are different versions of the fight. However, the following key facts are not in dispute: During the fight, Jett stabbed Santos once through the chest, severing his heart,” the commutation says, noting Nunez admitted to stabbing someone else in the stomach; Nunez, Jett and their friends then fled to Sacramento, where they burned their clothes and threw their knives in the Sacramento River.

Nunez, then 19 and with no previous record, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with the use of a knife, as well as to assaulting and inflicting great bodily injury upon two other people; he was sentenced to a total of 16 years in state prison. Nunez applied for a commutation of his sentence on the ground that his sentence is disproportionate in comparison to the sentence for Jett, who actually inflicted the mortal wound upon Santos.

“Considering Nunez’s limited role in the killing and his clean prior criminal record, I believe his sentence is disproportionate in comparison to Jett’s. The lower terms for voluntary manslaughter (three years) and assault with a deadly weapon (two years each) would be more appropriate in light of these differences,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

UPDATE @ 5:50 P.M. MONDAY: Lots more on this today here.


New bills on booze, child care, energy, bullies

Like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, state lawmakers flocked back to Sacramento today, some to be sworn into their new terms, some to introduce bills, some perhaps just to keep their seats warm.

Among the Bay Area delegation’s legislative priorities: sangria, child care, party buses, public utilities, human trafficking, renewable energy and bullying (in no particular order).

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – who was announced today as the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee – introduced a bill that would lift state law’s ban on sale of infused alcohol. Believe it or not, it’s illegal under existing law for a bar to mix up a big jar of sangria, or to infuse a big container of vodka or some other liquor, for later use and sale; such things can only be made to order. As a resurgence of the art of the cocktail has swept the state, many bar owners have ignored this rule – at their peril, it turned out, when the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started handing out warnings and citations earlier this year. Leno estimates half of the Bay Area bars’s create and serve infusions, including limoncello, sangria, fruit flavored tequilas and many flavors of infused vodka, and his SB 32 is supported by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, was named Majority Leader – second in command, responsible for setting the Democratic agenda and the Senate’s floor operations – and introduced a bill to restore the $256 million for Stage 3 child care that Gov. Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed out of the state’s budget. The Stage 3 program provided child care services to more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 working families statewide; a court has put the cut on hold until Dec. 31, and the First 5 Commissions in many counties – including Alameda and Santa Clara – are footing the program’s bills until funding can be restored. “This money is vital for thousands of working parents, their children, and their caregivers who depend on these centers being open,” Corbett said in a news release.

On the Assembly side, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, co-authored the Assembly version of the bill to restore the vetoed child-care funds, and also introduced his own bill to crack down on operators of “party buses” that allow underage drinking aboard their vehicles. Prompted by the death of a 19-year-old from Burlingame, Hill’s AB 45 would require bus drivers – just as limousine drivers already are required – to make underage passengers sign statements that their consumption of alcohol is illegal, and then end the ride if any underage passengers imbibe. Fines starting at $2,000 for a first offense could be imposed by the Public Utilities Commission against companies that don’t comply, and further violations could result in license suspensions or revocations; party bus operators also could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Hill also introduced a bill, inspired by the Sept. 9 natural gas blast that killed eight people and flattened 27 San Bruno homes, that would prevent utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties or fees assessed by the Public Utilities Commission; require utilities that own or operate gas facilities to annually report to the PUC any pipeline problems; require utilities to create public education programs on their emergency response plans; require gas pipeline owners or operators to prioritize pipelines near seismically active areas for increased safety oversight, and by 2020 to create programs to upgrade their facilities for state-of-the-art inspection methods; require the PUC to set minimum standards to install automatic and/or remote shutoff valves; and require the PUC to ensure utility owners actually use rate increases to pay for the projects they propose, with any diversions publicly explained.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Arnold on DC pols: ‘What wimps. No guts’

In an interview to air tonight on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer,” Sawyer asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about the clean energy policies that he says will be his legacy, and Schwarzenegger talked about how Washington has dealt with this issue.

“We need to go to Washington and say, ‘Look what happened. You, because oil companies have spent money against you, they have threatened you, you backed off the energy policy and the environmental policy in Washington. What wimps. No guts. I mean, here, you idolize and always celebrate the great warriors. Our soldiers, our men and women who go to Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’re risking their lives to defend this country and you’re not even willing to stand up against the oil companies. I said, that’s disgusting. You promised the people you’d represent them. You didn’t promise the people you’d represent the oil companies and the special interests.’ ”


Lawmakers decry Arnold’s child-care veto

Lawmakers and child-care advocates held a news conference in Oakland this morning to decry Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Oct. 8 veto of $256 million in CalWORKs Stage 3 child care funds which would’ve provided services to working parents.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, had called the cuts “unnecessary, misguided, cruel and shortsighted” in a news release issued yesterday. “It will force millions of parents to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for their children. I can think of no action more destructive to our economy that forcing low-income workers to give up their jobs. That’s why we must overturn the Governor’s veto.”

Among those also at the news conference were state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell; Renee Sutton Herzfeld, executive director of Community Child Care Council (4C’s) of Alameda County; and state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro.

Corbett later Tuesday issued a statement saying she’s “disappointed that the Governor used a single pen stroke to take away funds that working families need. He slammed closed the door of opportunity for 60,000 families statewide, including 81,000 children.”

“Government should help people, not hurt them,” she added. “We fought to make sure the most draconian cuts proposed by the Governor did not become reality. Unfortunately, once again, the children of this state were targeted.”

Here’s what Herzfeld had to say last week about the governor’s veto:

My colleague, Katy Murphy, penned an article last week further describing the child-care cuts’ impact here in the East Bay.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear this afternoon questioned why, despite today’s news conference and the veto’s impending effects, I’m bothering to report about a veto that happened weeks ago – “We’re having a presser tomorrow to overturn Prohibition. Hope you can make it.” – and referred questions to state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.

(Asked if he really wanted to be so cavalier about a veto that will impact so many families, McLear responded by e-mail, “Sounds like you’re writing from a particular point of view — interesting reporting. Just making sure u know this story is weeks old.”)

Palmer said the governor vetoed $963 million in general-fund spending, including this child-care money, because lawmakers had sent him a budget with only $375 million in reserves, which he deemed too small given the state’s fiscal instability.

“Each of these vetoes involved trade-offs and some tough choices, and this veto clearly will present challenges for many,” Palmer said, although the budget does still include $1.7 billion in child-care for low-income Californians through other programs. “I do not and would not mean to suggest each family, each individual affected by this will have a vacant slot waiting for them – there are waiting lists, there are backlogs.”

Palmer also provided a primer explaining exactly what the “Stage 3 funds” are:

CalWORKs Stage 1, an entitlement program, is administered by the Department of Social Services through county welfare departments and provides child care services to individuals when they enter the CalWORKs program. It is funded with a combination of non-Proposition 98 General Fund and TANF.

CalWORKs Stage 2, also an entitlement program, is administered by the Department of Education and provides child care services to families transitioning off of CalWORKs. Families are eligible to receive services for up to two years after they no longer receive a CalWORKs grant. Stage 2 is funded through a combination of Proposition 98 General Fund and federal funds.

CalWORKs Stage 3, a capped program (not an entitlement), is also administered by the Department of Education and provides child care services to families that have exhausted their two-year time limit in Stage 2. Families remain eligible for services provided that their children are younger than age 13 and they meet the income eligibility criteria. The budget provides federal funding for services through October 2010.


New ads from Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman

Read ‘em and weep…

Whitman campaign spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera replied that “(c)omparing Meg’s experience as one of the world’s most successful business leaders to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career as an actor is a false equivalency. The only candidate who has supported Arnold’s plan to raise taxes is Jerry Brown when he supported the ballot measure in 2009 that would have raised Californians’ taxes by $16 billion. Now, Jerry’s plan is to do exactly what Arnold did and ask the voters to approve a massive tax increase. Meg Whitman is the only candidate who is offering Californians a real solution to the problems they face and is the only candidate who has promised not to raise taxes.”

This ad should be fun to keep in mind as Whitman and Brown join Schwarzenegger one week from today at the Women’s Conference 2010 in Long Beach for a conversation – moderated by NBC’s Matt Lauer – about California’s future.

And, Whitman’s new ad:

Brown’s campaign replied that law enforcement unions, whose defined-benefit pensions Whitman defends, have spent more than $2.1 million on Whitman’s behalf; that as of Sept. 30, less than 5 percent of Brown’s campaign contributions had come from public employee unions; that Whitman has been on the warpath against teachers’ unions for years; and that Brown’s age and experience mean he’ll not pander to special interests.

UPDATE @ 11:45 A.M.: Whitman’s campaign has launched yet another ad today…


Drinking our budget worries away

HMB Brewing beers - photo by Justin LewisNow THIS is a budget solution I can get behind.

The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company today sent its Budgetary Alement Ale to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Assembly and state Senate, all in honor of the 100-days-overdue budget they recently passed.

A dollar from every sale of Budgetary Alement between now and the end of the year will also be donated to California Forward – a nonpartisan organization dedicated to reforming California’s fiscal and budgetary problems.

“A strong ale for a weak economy,” Budgetary Alement was created by Lenny Mendonca, Half Moon Bay Brewing’s co-founder and co-owner. It has been on the brewing rotation since February, sold at the restaurant and in local retail outlets.

“We hope Governor Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Assembly Minority Leader Martin Garrick, Senate President pro tempore Darrell Steinberg and State Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth can take a moment and set partisan issues and budgeting stress aside to enjoy a nice, cold bottle of our handcrafted Budgetary Alement,” Mendonca said in a news release. “We’re very proud of our ale and know it’s helped many of our guests take the edge off during a rough economy.”

Bob Hertzberg, the former Assembly Speaker who co-chairs California Forward, said his organization “is committed to ensuring we fundamentally fix California’s broken budget and governance and we hope that some Budgetary Alement can help lubricate that conversation.”

Emblazoned with a grizzly bear, a red star and the outline of the state filled with $100 bills, the Budgetary Alement bottle label reads, “Brewed as an English-style IPA, the malt bill, comprised of Golden Promise and Munich Malts, has been paid. No IOU’s in this beer. The hops are East Kent and Styrian Goldings, with a touch of Centennials and add up to about 50 IBU’s, the same as the number of states that should have a budget in place. Also, we have not cut any of our brewing programs to make this beer. It’s whole and complete, just as our schools and parks should be.”

This isn’t Half Moon Bay Brewing’s first foray into politics: During the 2008 presidential election, guests in the restaurant and bar were able to vote between the Obama Ale and McCain Ale (and the Obama Ale won by a landslide).

Also, Mendonca – a director at McKinsey & Company and on California Forward’s leadership council – founded a monthly “Brews and Views” speakers series that tackles public issues while raising money for Coastside nonprofits.