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Brown calls special session on Rainy Day Fund

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the “Rainy Day Fund” measure on November’s ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund,” Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24.

Voters enacted the current Rainy Day Fund in 2004 by approving Proposition 58, which directs 3 percent of annual revenues into the Budget Stabilization Account. The current system has no restriction on when funds can be withdrawn and requires deposits even in deficit years, unless the law is suspended.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved the proposal on the November 2014 ballot – ACA 4, which would raise the fund’s cap from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund, among other things. But Brown said Wednesday it doesn’t address the volatility of capital gains revenue, doesn’t provide a reserve for schools to help cushion future downturns, and limits California’s ability to pay down long-term liabilities.

Brown in January proposed changes including increasing deposits when the state has spikes in capital gains revenue; allowing supplemental payments to speed up the state’s payoff of its debts and liabilities; limiting withdrawals to ensure the state doesn’t drain too much at the start of a downturn; and creating a Proposition 98 reserve, after school funding is fully restored to pre-recession levels, to smooth school spending and avoid future cuts.

UPDATE @ 11:15 A.M.: Assembly Speaker John Perez calls this “a welcome and helpful development.”

“Assembly Democrats first proposed a permanent rainy day fund last May, and we look forward to working with our Republican and Senate colleagues to build a reliable system that handles short-term revenue spikes differently than ongoing, stable revenue streams,” said Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We need to establish a solid system for saving money in good years, so that we can better weather the bad years. We need a mechanism that not only strengthens our constitutional reserve, but also gets us off the rollercoaster ride of revenue spikes and dips that has caused so much trouble in recent years.”

UPDATE @ 2:02 P.M.: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, says he’s glad Brown is doing this, but doubts whether Democrats share the enthusiasm. “It’s just common sense for California to put away money during the ‘boom’ years to avoid future tax increases and spending reductions in the ‘bust’ years. However, we are mindful that legislative Democrats have undermined similar efforts in the recent past,” he said.

“Despite agreeing to, and voting for, the rainy day reserve fund in Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4) as part of the 2010-11 budget agreement with Republicans, Senate Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez denied Californians the opportunity to vote for it on the ballot in 2012 as promised,” Huff continued. “Now they want to remove it from the 2014 election ballot, preventing the people of California from establishing strong protections against future budget crises. I think today’s announcement is a message to the Democrats that the Governor is serious about doing something.”

The California Chamber of Commerce supports Brown’s move, too. “Adopting an effective Rainy Day Reserve should be the state’s top fiscal policy. California’s budget crises were caused by the Legislature spending one-time revenues for ongoing programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “A solid reserve requirement will remove the California budget from the fiscal roller coaster. It is crucial that the Legislature pass a consensus proposal that the Governor can support to get approval by voters in November.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, John Perez, state budget | 4 Comments »

CA15: Swalwell’s & Corbett’s Q1 fundraising

Rep. Eric Swalwell raised more than eight times as much as his challenger and fellow Democrat state Sen. Ellen Corbett in this year’s first quarter, and had about four and a half times as much money banked as of March 31, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, a Republican who got into this 15th Congressional District race at the last minute is funded only by himself and by one of the state’s biggest GOP benefactors.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, raised $272,783.87 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and at the end of that period had $922,581.82 cash on hand with $6,859.82 in outstanding debt. Corbett in the same time raised $32,485.33, finishing with $208,005.35 cash on hand and $6,000 in debt; that’s right about where Corbett was at the end of 2014, though she had raised almost three times as much in last year’s final quarter.

Hugh Bussell, a GOP county committeeman from Livermore, lent his campaign $1,750 and took a $2,400 contribution from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, chairman of the Santa Clara County GOP and a prolific contributor to the party’s causes and candidates.

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

CA15: California Labor Federation backs Corbett

It’s not so often that the California Democratic Party and the California Labor Federation end up on different sides of a Bay Area House race.

Ellen CorbettThe labor federation – made up of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions representing 2.1 million members – announced Thursday that it has endorsed state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, in the 15th Congressional District

The party endorsed incumbent Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, last month. Republican Hugh Bussell of Livermore also is in the race.

The labor federation announced this and dozens of other endorsements as its biennial pre-primary convention finished up in Oakland. In a news release, the federation said the endorsements are “the launching pad for the massive grassroots voter outreach efforts that will activate tens of thousands of volunteers from now until Election Day.”

Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said the labor federation’s power “derives from workers coming together on nights and weekends to talk to friends, neighbors and co-workers about the importance of this year’s election. What our grassroots efforts lack in money we more than make up for in face-to-face voter engagement.”

That’s key for Corbett, who very much needs some institutional support to augment her campaign’s meager bankroll. Swalwell’s campaign started 2014 with four times as much money in the bank; consultant Lisa Tucker this week said he raised about $270,000 in this year’s first quarter, and had around $920,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Corbett has not yet disclosed her first-quarter fundraising; the deadline to do so is next Tuesday April 15.

Tucker said Swalwell was on a plane coming back from Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon, and she didn’t want to comment on the labor federation’s choice without speaking with him first.

Swalwell, Corbett and Bussell will share a stage for the first time at a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, April 15 in the Castro Valley Library, 3600 Norbridge Ave.

From the “no surprise” desk: The labor federation endorsed longtime friend to labor Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in his bid for an eighth term, over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna and two Republicans in the 17th Congressional District.

In races for some of the Bay Area’s open legislative seats, the labor federation endorsed Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the 10th State Senate District; Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti in the 16th Assembly District; San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu in the 25th Assembly District; and Campbell Councilman Evan Low in the 28th Assembly District. The federation made a dual endorsement in the crowded 15th Assembly District race, backing both Elizabeth Echols and Tony Thurmond over three more Democrats and three additional candidates.

Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Spotlighting suspended senators’ money & votes

You might have a harder time finding their legislative histories now, but three state senators who are in trouble with the law are being spotlighted by a Berkeley-based nonprofit that tracks money in politics.

MapLight.org reminded the public Monday that their site makes it easy to find the industries and individuals who have given the most (at least, those who’ve given the most through legal channels) to embattled state senators Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and Rod Wright, D-Inglewood.

Yee was indicted Friday on six counts of bribery, one county of conspiring to take bribes and one count of conspiring to traffic guns. Calderon was indicted in February on bribery charges. Wright was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury related to not living in the district he represents.

Here’s a taste of MapLight’s data – lists of the top 10 interests that have given the most to those three senators from 2009 through 2012:

Leland Yee
Public Sector Unions — $81,800
Health Professionals — $54,720
General Trade Unions — $45,103
Insurance — $42,000
Pharmaceuticals & Health Products — $23,528
Gambling & Casinos — $20,100
Telecom Services & Equipment — $18,300
Accountants — $18,100
Real Estate — $16,820
Poultry & Eggs — $15,600

Ron Calderon
Insurance — $92,200
General Trade Unions — $57,600
Pharmaceuticals & Health Products — $38,900
Public Sector Unions — $38,250
Telecom Services & Equipment — $28,747
Health Professionals — $26,600
Real Estate — $24,200
Oil & Gas — $21,950
Electric Utilities — $20,500
Tribal Governments — $17,100

Rod Wright
Insurance — $99,707
General Trade Unions — $81,050
Public Sector Unions — $76,400
Telecom Services & Equipment — $62,989
Tribal Governments — $61,500
Beer, Wine & Liquor — $56,440
Gambling & Casinos — $56,191
Oil & Gas — $54,050
Pharmaceuticals & Health Products — $46,650
Real Estate — $42,900

The state Senate voted 28-1 on March 28 to suspend the three senators, and their official websites were “wiped” over the weekend of their legislative histories, biographies, news releases and so on.

But you can still find a list of bills each has introduced by visiting the state’s legislative information page and typing in their names. And their campaign finance histories are still available through the Secretary of State’s database: Follow these links to Yee, Calderon and Wright.

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Leland Yee | 1 Comment »

Legal scandals lead Dems to cancel golf fundraiser

Chalk up one immediate victim of the ethical and legal scandals sullying the state Senate: Golf.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, who’ll succeed Steinberg in the top spot at the end of this year, issued a joint statement Tuesday announcing they’ve cancelled this weekend’s Pro Tem Cup – the annual Democratic party fundraiser at which donors give tens of thousands of dollars to join legislative leaders on the links at Torrey Pines in La Jolla – “in light of the very recent and extraordinary breaches of the public trust by three individuals.”

C’mon, guys, SAY THE NAMES! Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of voter fraud and perjury; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, indicted on bribery charges; and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, charged last week with trading favors for money and conspiring to traffic arms.

So, no golf!

“In its place, we intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this state,” Steinberg and de Leon said in their joint statement. “It’s important that our constituents understand that, despite the appalling acts of a few individuals who – on their own – put self-interest ahead of the public interest, the Senators who are here are here to serve, to do the hard, unglamorous work of fixing tough public-policy problems, and – most important – to do it the right way.”

And that means putting the putters away. Steinberg and de Leon said the modern campaign system makes fundraising “an occupational necessity, but Senate Democrats have always prided themselves on doing it ethically, appropriately, and in full adherence to every rule and regulation governing public disclosure.

“The Pro Tem Cup has long been a successful, signature example of this,” they said. “But these are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step back and take stock of how we all do the people’s business and balance it against the demands of running for office.”

The lawmakers said Senate leadership in coming weeks will conduct a “rigorous review of existing campaign finance laws and our own internal fundraising practices – and make recommendations on where we can improve as a caucus and a state, with a focus on when, where and how we raise campaign dollars and how we increase public transparency.” They’ll also schedule a public hearing to discuss campaign finance “the constitutional limits on reform.”

“Make no mistake: Senate Democrats fully intend to strengthen our productive, progressive majority this election year and have no intention of unilaterally disarming in terms of campaign resources,” Steinberg and de Leon said. “But this is time for a reality check. And, while the Legislature as a whole cannot be held responsible for the bad acts of three individual members, we do bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they left behind.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Darrell Steinberg, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Leland Yee | 9 Comments »

Why the senate suspension vote was only 28-1

A caller left me a voice mail this morning noting that we’ve not reported why several state senators didn’t cast votes in Friday’s roll call on suspending the three Democrats who’ve run afoul of the law.

The vote was 28-1 in favor of suspension; the lone dissenter, Joel Anderson, R-San Diego, believed suspension was too light a reaction and expulsion would be more appropriate.

The senate has 40 seats, one of which (the 23rd District) currently is vacant. And naturally, the three senators being suspended – Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello; and Rod Wright, D-Inglewood – weren’t there to vote.

So that leaves seven. Of those, six – Marty Block, D-San Diego; Mark Leno, D-San Francisco; Richard Roth, D-Riverside; Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas; Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto; and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford – had excused absences for previously scheduled commitments and were not in Sacramento.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-South Los Angeles, is the only senator who was present but didn’t vote.

“She felt that the motion should have been divided so that each case was considered separately, so they could debate the merits and the ground for each case,” Mitchell spokesman Charles Stewart said Monday. “But there was not the mood or the votes to sever the issue.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014
Under: California State Senate | 3 Comments »

Gun-rights backers decry Leland Yee’s hypocrisy

Gun-rights advocates are up in arms about state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged double life – an ardent gun-control advocate in public, while secretly negotiating with purported mobsters to set up international gun deals.

“It appears that Leland Yee is not only an epic gun-control hypocrite, but also exactly the type of truly dangerous gun trafficking criminal who my clients have always urged authorities to throw the book at,” Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, said Thursday.

Leland YeeYee, D-San Francisco, famously has carried “bullet button” legislation, which would ban a common modification to semi-automatic rifles that lets users quickly swap out their ammunition magazines without running afoul of the state’s assault weapons law. His SB 47 was pulled from consideration last August, a few weeks before the end of the legislative session, but remains pending in the Assembly.

That bill was among eight that made up state Senate Democrats “LIFE Act” gun-control package last year.

“The prevalence of deadly, military-style weapons in our society has resulted in countless tragedies,” Yee said last April. “It is past time to put some common sense laws into place in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The LIFE Act is a bold step forward in this effort.”

Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of “honest services.” Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000. Free on $500,000 bond, Yee is scheduled to return to court Monday.

An FBI affidavit says Yee told an undercover FBI agent he could facilitate big shipments of guns into the country in exchange for campaign contributions. No guns actually changed hands, but Yee accepted a $5,000 contribution from a bogus company set up by the agent as their negotiations continued in a series of face-to-face meetings from January through March 14. At one such meeting, Yee allegedly discussed specific locations in the Philippines and Florida that might be ideal for moving the guns, which he said would include M-16-type automatic rifles.

Consider what Yee said last October when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would’ve classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as banned assault weapons.

“California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades,” Yee said at the time. “But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored. SB 47 will protect the public while keeping an appropriately narrow scope.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 49 Comments »

Money update: SD10, AD15, AD16, AD25 & AD28

Here’s how the money is piling up (or not) in races for some of the Bay Area’s open state legislative seats; all figures are as of March 17.

10th STATE SENATE DISTRICT
Mary Hayashi (D) – $690,733 cash on hand; no debt
Roman Reed (D) – $72,336 cash on hand; $58,034 debt (incl. $40k loan from candidate)
Bob Wieckowski (D) – $152,440 cash on hand; no debt
Peter Kuo (R) – $109,594 cash on hand; $7,541 debt (incl. $5k loan from candidate)
Audie Bock (NPP) – no report

15TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Elizabeth Echols (D) – $140,341 cash on hand; $28,159 debt (incl. $15k loan from candidate)
Clarence Hunt (D) – $30,950 cash on hand; $43,611 debt (loan from candidate)
Sam Kang (D) – $68,800 cash on hand; $13,918 debt
Pamela Price (D) – $20,020 cash on hand; no debt
Tony Thurmond (D) – $98,953 cash on hand; $35,331 debt
Richard Kinney (R) – no report
Eugene Ruyle (P&F) – no report
Bernt Rainer Wahl (NPP) – no report

16th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Newell Arnerich (D) – $66,823 cash on hand; $30,000 debt (loan from candidate)
Steve Glazer (D) – $429,608 cash on hand; no debt
Tim Sbranti (D) – $126,443 cash on hand; $27,817 debt
Catharine Baker (R) – $139,965 cash on hand; $1,886 debt

25th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Kansen Chu (D) – $201,723 cash on hand; $6,458 debt
Teresa Cox (D) – $65,186 cash on hand; $60,136 debt (incl. $58k loan from candidate)
Armando Gomez (D) – $230,622 cash on hand; no debt
Craig Steckler (D) – $123,480 cash on hand; $8,600 debt (incl. $5,100 loan from candidate)
Bob Brunton (R) – no report

28th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Evan Low (D) – $332,916 cash on hand; $2,036 debt
Barry Chang (D) – no report
Michael Hunsweck (R) – no report
Chuck Page (R) – $1,760 cash on hand; $2,000 debt (loan from candidate)

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance | 5 Comments »

Bill advances to allow abbot’s burial at monastery

The abbot who founded the Bay Area’s only Orthodox Christian monastery can be buried on that monastery’s grounds, under a bill approved Thursday by the Assembly.

Archimandrite Theodor MickaState Sen. Ellen Corbett this month gutted and amended her SB 124 – which formerly required state agencies to give preference to clean-energy bidders who certify all their equipment was made in California – to address the plight of Archimandrite Theodor Micka, abbot of the Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley.

Micka, 76, is terminally ill and wishes to be buried on the monastery’s bucolic grounds. But state law prohibits burying un-cremated human remains outside of cemeteries, so the county registrar would be unable to issue a permit for disposition of the body. Corbett’s newly amended bill makes a special exception in this particular case; the bill still must be approved by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Holy Cross Monastery serves Orthodox Christians of all ethnic backgrounds; along with the monks’ daily prayers, they also provide weekly services, baptisms, weddings and memorial services for the region’s Orthodox Christians. Corbett, D-San Leandro, issued a news release saying she’s pleased to help honor the abbot’s final wishes.

“As a resident of the 10th State Senate District, Abbot Theodor has provided religious and personal guidance to persons of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds for many decades,” she said. “It certainly seems appropriate that the California State Legislature compassionately grant Abbot Theodor this last wish so that fellow monks and future visitors may pay him their respects at the Castro Valley monastery where he prayed, worked and lived during his latter adult monastic life.”

Students at the Stanford Law School Religious Liberty Clinic worked with the monastery to present the issue to Corbett.

UPDATE @ 1:35 P.M. TUESDAY 3/25: Gov. Brown signed this bill into law today.

Posted on Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett | 1 Comment »

CA11: DeSaulnier’s endorsement blitz continues

My inbox cries out for mercy.

There have been only three business days in the past four weeks on which Mark DeSaulnier has not announced another endorsement in his bid to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District.

DeSaulnierBetter safe than sorry? Sure, the Democratic state Senator from Concord thought he had punched his ticket to Washington in 2009 when Rep. Ellen Tauscher resigned to take a State Department post; despite having Tauscher’s and Miller’s endorsements, he lost that special election to fellow Democrat John Garamendi.

So ever since announcing his candidacy for this seat even as Miller was announcing his retirement, DeSaulnier has sought to flood the field. And those first few days of endorsements were important, as they included support from several people who were thought to be possible rivals for the seat, and from Miller himself.

Since then, other candidates have emerged: retired immigration judge Tue Phan of Danville; disability rights and employment advocate Cheryl Sudduth of El Sobrante; oil refinery employee Jason Ramey of Concord; Alameda Councilman Tony Daysog; and attorney Ki Ingersol of Benicia. The first is a Republican and the latter four are Democrats; Daysog and Ingersol live outside the district, though that’s no barrier to candidacy.

So DeSaulnier has kept cranking out the endorsements – other Democrats, labor unions, and many other non-surprises. Today’s might take the head-scratching record: “Former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential Nominee Mike Dukakis Endorses Mark DeSaulnier for Congress.”

“George Miller has been an extraordinary public servant and a leader in Congress who has stood up time and time again for middle class America. Mark will provide us with that same kind of inspired leadership,” Dukakis, the 1988 nominee, said in DeSaulnier’s news release.

DeSaulnier replied that “it’s an enormous honor to receive this endorsement from such a renowned an celebrated member of the Democratic Party. Governor Dukakis’ support means a great deal to me personally. I greatly admire his intelligence and determination, and few leaders have accomplished more over their career. I’m grateful for his support.”

Sure, some people remember Dukakis’ name, short as the American political memory might be, but how many votes will this sway in the 11th District, or how many rivals will it intimidate?

Whatever. I’ll stand by for Walter Mondale to weigh in.

Posted on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Under: George Miller, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 11 Comments »