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A Maldonado re-vote?

It’s still at least theoretically possible for Assembly Democrats to beat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at his own game and reject state Sen. Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor.

The Assembly voted 37-35 yesterday on confirming Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, as lieutenant governor. Assembly Democrats contend this is a rejection, as Maldonado didn’t get 41 votes to confirm. Schwarzenegger and Maldonado interpret the state constitution otherwise, arguing that the Assembly must act by majority either to confirm or reject Maldonado, or else Maldonado can just be sworn in 90 days after his nomination.

This no doubt has the California Supreme Court’s justices rubbing their temples in anticipation of a possible intervention so politically charged that it’s sure to leave everyone unhappy.

But that need not necessarily come to pass. The governor’s office confirmed to me today that under this interpretation, the Assembly could vote again between now and Feb. 21 – the 90-day mark – to either confirm or reject Maldonado with 41 votes. And seven Assembly members didn’t vote yesterday.

One will remain on the sidelines no matter what. Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, was on the campaign trail yesterday and absent from the vote, but issued a statement saying he would have abstained anyway. (Ed. note at 4:10 p.m.: Trevino informs me DeVore “actually was present on the Assembly floor for the morning vote. He was only gone for the afternoon session. Doesn’t affect his purposeful abstention, though.”)

“One year ago, I resigned as Assembly Minority Whip because I would not support the budget deal that led to the failed Proposition 1A — which would have been the largest state tax increase in American history. Senator Maldonado, by contrast, played a decisive role in putting 1A before the people. I won’t reward bad behavior with high office. It is in that spirit that I abstained from this vote.”

Today, campaign spokesman Joshua Trevino told me DeVore will abstain if there’s a re-vote.

“As he just told E.J. Schultz at the Fresno Bee (via Twitter), the GOP Assembly caucus has decided to support Maldonado. If Chuck votes no, it will be more a hit at them than the nominee per se. An abstention registers disapproval of the nomination without expressing direct disapproval of his fellow Republicans. It also serves as a de facto no when the affirmations are tallied.”

Two Assembly Democrats – Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, and Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista – opposed Maldonado in an earlier round of voting, but didn’t vote in the final tally. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that they would again oppose Maldonado in a re-vote. That would make it 37-37 – still four votes shy of a majority to confirm or reject.

Three Assembly Democrats – Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate; Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina – were present but didn’t vote. Assemblywoman Wilmer Carter, D-Rialto, was absent.

I queried all four about what they would do if there’s a re-vote. Carter spokeswoman Ellen Braunstein responded to my query just before noon: “I haven’t been able to contact the Assemblymember yet, and will wait for her response.”

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the other three have responded yet. Perhaps they were busy having their heads knocked together by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Speaker-elect John Perez and/or California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, all of whom might like to see them fall into the party line to sink Maldonado once and for all.

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Bill will let you deduct Haiti aid from 2009 taxes

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said this morning she intends to introduce a bill this week that will provide tax relief to Californians donating money to Haiti earthquake relief efforts in January.

“Giving is one way for people to deal with the enormity of a catastrophe like this,” Bass said. “Many Californians have responded by giving even if it means taking on an extra financial burden in these tough times. This legislation makes it easier for more to give and participate in the relief effort that our neighbors in Haiti desperately need.”

It’ll allow individual and corporate taxpayers making cash contributions this month to eligible charitable organizations for relief Haiti earthquake victims to deduct these contributions in the 2009 tax year. The Legislature passed a similar measure in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.

Bass yesterday announced that her successor as Speaker, John Perez, D-Los Angeles, will be sworn into his leadership post March 1.

Two more local lawmakers named to reform panel

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, this afternoon announced that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, and Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will be among the 10 members of her chamber (eight Democrats and two Republicans) serving on the Joint Select Committee on Reform.

Bass and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, are forming the panel with the goals of making the Legislature more transparent and effective and making state government more efficient and customer friendly. Steinberg announced his appointments last week, including state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, as co-chairman and state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, as a member.

Hill issued a statement saying he’s “eager to answer the call of our constituents for a more efficient and transparent government. I’m confident this group will lead the way to a more productive government with thorough analysis of potential reforms.”

Bass said her appointees “are ready to hit the ground running on reforms. I look forward to the Committee’s recommendations as they work throughout the coming weeks to produce a roadmap to help California work better.”

According to last week’s news release announcing the committee’s formation, the panel will be tasked with:

    – Giving Californians more value for their tax dollars by making government more efficient and accountable.
    – Prioritizing key issues, so government makes the tough decisions and only turns to the voters when absolutely necessary.
    – Cutting through the gridlock caused by outmoded rules and undue partisanship.
    – Making government more transparent and accessible from around the state.
    – Diminishing the influence of special interests.
    – Making government more customer-friendly.
    – Creating a process that encourages decisions that reflect long-term thinking, not short-term band-aids.

The Public Policy Institute of California found in July that only 17 percent of California adults, 14 percent of registered voters and 10 percent of likely voters it had surveyed approved of the way the state Legislature is handling it’s job, and I’m willing to bet the last two months haven’t brought any significant improvement. Re-instilling faith in our state lawmakers won’t be easy or quick; here’s hoping these and other appointees are up to the task, and that the task itself isn’t inherently impossible.

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Bloggers blast Bass ’bout budget boondoggle

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, hosted a conference call this afternoon for bloggers — mostly the liberal Democratic netroots, as it turned out.

It was contentious to say the least. Bass was hammered with questions about what she is and isn’t willing to give up in order to get a budget plan passed by this month’s end, and ultimately offered few details.

“We are going to fight as hard as we can for a balanced approach,” Bass vowed, adding that while that almost certainly won’t mean a 50-50 split between budget cuts and revenue increases, “we are going to do everything we can” to ensure the state’s $24 billion deficit isn’t solved by cuts alone.

“We really do have to put this incredible pressure on the governor to sign majority-vote revenue,” Skinner urged – fees or revenue-neutral tax swaps, as opposed to tax increases requiring a two-thirds majority and thus effectively stonewalled by Republicans.

Bass agreed, but wouldn’t identify specific revenues she wants to hike: “I just want them to total up to about $5 billion, minimum.”

Bass said her caucus is committed to changing Proposition 13’s property tax assessment restrictions so that residential owners remain fully protected while commercial owners are reassessed more regularly. But just as with abolishing the two-thirds-vote requirement for taxes and budgets, she said, no Republican will ever sign off on it, so it’ll have to be accomplished with an initiative placed on the ballot via petition signatures. And that’ll come long after the state runs out of cash and goes into default next month, she noted.

Bass said she’s worried that if the state defaults, “some entity” – which a blogger later narrowed down to a special master appointed by a bankruptcy court – could take control of state finances and enact cuts without lawmakers input. The blogger – I believe it was the relentless Michael Fox of The Liberal OC – said he couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen given the state and federal constitutions’ guarantee of representative government.

More on whose arms are about to be twisted, after the jump…
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Some responses to the governor’s speech

From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“The Governor’s proposal to balance the $24 billion budget shortfall without the use of additional revenues is neither a fair nor realistic solution to the budget crisis. I find it morally objectionable for the Governor’s proposals to specifically cut Cal-Works, Healthy Families, Cal-Grants, In-home service care for the elderly, and even access to State parks. The Governor’s proposal also fails at its intended goals: it fails to address our deficit and it fails to reflect our priorities.

“In this budget year alone, we have instituted $23 billion of cuts, over 20% of our $105 billion budget. These cuts represent a tremendous amount of pain for California, a serious reduction in services to our constituencies, and a reduction in the prosperity of our state.

“Our budget must reflect our priorities. It must reflect what kind of state we want to be. I believe our state should be one that gives priority to children, seniors, and support for working families, all of which requires us to invest in our state. I hope we will look at revenue solutions that are realistic, that help the state support its safety net programs, and that provide Californians with the services they require and demand as they work to bring our state through this economic crisis.”

From State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley:

“That was Governor Schwarzenegger’s best speech yet. He understands, as I do, that voters sent an undeniably strong message during the special election last month: cut spending, do your job and live within your means with no new taxes. Senate Republicans have been preaching this message of fiscal conservatism for years.

“The Governor understands, as we do, that our options are few. There is no combination of taxes and fees that will close this yawning $24 billion deficit, nor does the legislative will exist to raise taxes again. Raising taxes is not the answer. We cannot borrow our way out of this mess. Banks do not consider California to be a good loan risk, and with our track record of overspending, I can’t blame them. The only option left on the table is to cut spending, reform inefficient government agencies, live within our means and never make the mistake of spending more than we have again.

“Now, let’s get to work!”

More, after the jump…
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Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

What they’re saying about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bad-and-worse May budget revision proposals…

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“The message from the Governor’s May Revise is clear. California’s budget deficit continues to grow because of a National and International economic crisis that can be felt in every classroom, boardroom and unemployment office in the state. While Californians will have a chance to affect our budget deficit in next week’s election, it doesn’t change the fact that there are difficult choices ahead for this Legislature and the Governor. Regardless of what happens on May 19, on May 20 we will begin to respond to this fiscal challenge swiftly and responsibly, doing the best we can with the money we have.”

From Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles:

“The deep cuts included in both of Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals reflect the impact the extended national recession continues to have on California. We have consistently said that all issues must be on the table, so we will closely examine each and every one of the Governor’s proposals announced today. We understand the people of California don’t care about politics-as-usual when it comes to solving the budget, and we will reject any stunts or gimmicks that get in the way of serious solutions. Californians are frustrated and families who depend on services from the state –whether schools or firefighting or health care for children – are worried. We will work to solve the budget deficit in a way that protects a safety net for the most vulnerable among us, acknowledges the fact we need an educated workforce to keep our economy going, and respects the strains all Californians are facing in this economy.”

From you:

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What’s that? You have nothing to say about it? But the governor himself today challenged every Californian, “If you don’t like the cuts, sit down with a pen and pencil and figure out where the money is going to come from.”

Hey, it’s even easier than that: Go use Next 10’s nonpartisan “California Budget Challenge,” a free online educational tool that lets users try to balance California’s budget and see how their choices will affect the state five years into the future. Everyone should take a stab at it, in order to understand what’s really at stake here.

More feedback on the governor’s proposals, after the jump…
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