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State Auditor to probe MTC’s proposed move to SF

The Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee today approved state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier’s request for an audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s proposal to move its headquarters from downtown Oakland to San Francisco at toll-payers’ expense.

“Bay Area motorists travel some of the busiest bridges in the nation. They pay tolls with the expectation that those moneys are used for transportation and congestion related purposes,” DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in a news release. “I have serious concerns about using these revenues for real estate deals. When the Legislature created MTC, I do not believe it ever intended MTC to use toll moneys for these kinds of real property investments. This audit will provide some clarity on what the law allows toll moneys to be used for.”

The audit was approved by a unanimous bipartisan vote. The Bureau of State Audits, under the direction of State Auditor Elaine Howle, will conduct the audit.

The MTC unanimously voted last week to rescind its earlier vote approving the move, and decided to have a six-member committee comprised of former commission chairmen, the current chair and vice chair look into the questions and concerns raised by public officials and others opposed to the move. The committee will report back within 60 days.

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 15 Comments »

Officials crow over State Route 4 Bypass

A flock of federal, state and local officials took a victory lap out in Brentwood this morning at the site of the State Route 4 Bypass project, which they said will create hundreds of jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve driver safety.

The project recently received $25 million in funding from the California Transportation Commission, which will be spent on converting a 2-lane, 2-way expressway to a 4-lane freeway from north of Laurel Road to south of San Jose Avenue, as well as the construction of an interchange at the intersection of the SR 4 Bypass and Sand Creek Road.

The SR 4 Bypass is an approximately 12.5 mile long transportation corridor in Eastern Contra Costa County starting at the SR 4 Bypass/SR 160 interchange in Antioch, passing along the western edges of the cities of Oakley and Brentwood, then rejoining SR 4 in unincorporated Contra Costa County east of Brentwood. Its purpose is to remove the existing SR 4 from the historic downtown areas of Oakley and Brentwood.

Officials toured the area and then proclaimed victory.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, called the project “critical to the future of East Contra Costa County. The construction of the latest phase of the bypass project will create hundreds of jobs and the completion of the overall project will help spur economic development throughout the region, decrease traffic and make our roads safer to drive. I was glad to be a part of the effort to secure $25 million in funding for the State Route 4 Bypass project.”

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said “never in my wildest dreams did I think this project was going to happen, but it’s “a great day to be mayor.”

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said the project “will help Contra Costa commuters spend less time in traffic. The $25 million award recognizes that this project reduces congestion on a highly travelled corridor and improves traffic safety. I am pleased that the California Transportation Commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority were able to make this happen.”

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, praised “effective management and leadership demonstrated by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority” that has led to taxpayers saving about $32 million from the Highway 4 widening and Caldecott Tunnel projects combined. “I will continue to work with the California Transportation Commission to ensure these savings are reinvested back into the community.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, said it has been “an honor to support the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, under the leadership of Randy Iwasaki, and the many local leaders who have worked hard to secure this funding.”

And Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier, who chairs the State Route 4 Bypass Authority, said it’s been “pleasure working with the Building Trades on this. They were instrumental in getting the funding for this project.”

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Contra Costa County, Jerry McNerney, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »

Gov. Brown signs CC pension bill

A cheaper, third pension tier for Contra Costa sheriffs deputies is now permanent under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown today.

Authored by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, SB373 eliminates the Jan. 1, 2012, sunset clause for the less expensive Tier C, which sets the pension formula of employees hired Jan. 1, 2007, or after, at the average salary of the highest three years of wages and establishes a 2 percent annual cost of living increase. The more generous benefit pays based on an employee’s highest single year of salary and a 3 percent annual cost of living adjustment.

The county and Deputy Sheriffs Association negotiated the deal in 2006 but the legislation contained an expiration date.

Both sides wanted time to evaluate the financial impacts. The county wants to lower its pension costs, while deputies have struggled to pay their share of contribution rates.

The Senate and the Assembly voted unanimously in favor the bill.

Read the full bill as signed here.

Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Mark DeSaulnier, pension reform | No Comments »

Senate passes DeSaulnier good corp. bill

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

Corporations with an eye on doing good may find hope in a bill by State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, that passed the Senate on a 37-1 vote today.

SB 201 creates a new form of  for-profit corporation that may pursue societal and environmental goals in addition to making money.

The lone “no” vote came from state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach.

DeSaulnier says the idea originated during a lengthy discussion with former Knight Ridder and Contra Costa Times publisher George Riggs about how companies must put the financial interests of their shareholders above all other interests. Knight Ridder, a well-respected international news organization, was split up and sold after a few shareholders demanded a higher return on investment.

“Being profitable and socially responsible are California traditions,” DeSaulnier said.

Friday is the deadline for legislators to pass bills out of their respective houses. The legislation must pass in the Assembly and receive the governor’s signature before it could go into effect.

Read on for DeSaulner’s release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Under: Mark DeSaulnier | 2 Comments »

Three new chairs for Mark DeSauliner

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, announced today that the Senate Rules Committee has approved the creation of three new select committees that he’ll chair: the Select Committee on Excellence and Innovation in State Government; the Select Committee on Restoring California’s Middle Class; and the Select Committee on Small Business and the Underground Economy.

In his news release, he had this to say about the first:

“Reforming state government and constitutional reform is imperative to solving some of the challenges we face regarding the budget and governance. We cannot just complain about a system, we must be willing to take serious steps to fix it. This includes taking a long-term, focused look at the structure of government and the way our government serves the public. Real reform won’t happen overnight. It could take years, but it must start now and we need to focus on immediate, short range and long term structural change.”

About the committee on the middle class, he said:

“By restoring the middle class we can also restore our economy. The middle class is being systematically wiped out. Most Americans are realizing less wealth and are seeing their wealth decline at an alarming rate. The chasm between prosperity and poverty has never been wider. The average income of the richest 5 percent of families in 1979 was 10 times that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In 1999, the income gap had nearly doubled to 19 times, ranking first among the developed countries, and setting a record since the Census began studying the situation in 1947.”

And about the small business and underground economy committee, he said:

“One way to restore our economy is to foster small business. Small businesses are innovative, creative, hard-working, and provide many jobs in our marketplace. I know this firsthand as a former small business owner. By examining this issue, we may be able to find ways to combat the economic loss that the underground economy brings to the State as well as small businesses. Small businesses are a driving force in California’s economy. But California’s small businesses and their workers are facing an ever-increasing danger – their ability to compete in the state and global economy is threatened by the underground economy. This underground economy plagues many of our once vital industries, drives down wages, creates harsh working conditions, and undercuts legitimate businesses to a point where they can no longer fairly compete and provide well-paying jobs to Californians.”

The way these things typically work is that DeSaulnier will reach out to his peers and figure out who’s interested in participating, and then go back to the Rules Committee to have those people appointed to these panels. Then they’ll start holding hearings, with an eye toward developing legislation most likely for next year.

I think the more cynical among us look at something like this and say, “Oh boy, just what we needed – more committees!” Kinda like the feeling you get when someone announces a new blue-ribbon commission. I wanted to ask DeSaulnier why these issues aren’t being, or can’t be, adequately addressed within the existing committees, but I haven’t heard back from him this afternoon.

Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, economy, governance reform, Mark DeSaulnier | 7 Comments »

DeSaulnier bill would mandate random city audits

DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier

State Sen.  Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced legislation that would mandate the state controller conduct random audits of California cities and perhaps prevent a repeat of the scandal-plagued Bell, a small southern town where elected officials and top city officials have been indicted on corruption and other charges.

Hercules residents have also called for greater oversight after its mayor resigned and two other councilmembers face a recall election in the wake of allegations of mismanagement.

“Recent local government improprieties and irregularities demonstrate the need for increased oversight,” said DeSaulnier (D-Concord). “As we look to realign services to bring them closer to home, it is important that those local agencies be accountable and are periodically reviewed. The State Controller is best situated to conduct that review and this legislation will provide much needed sunshine.”

DeSaulnier co-authored Senate Bill 186 with Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego. To view the bill, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov.

Posted on Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Under: Mark DeSaulnier | 1 Comment »

Corbett aims to ban per-signature petition pay

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is taking another stab at legislation to bar companies that gather petition signatures for ballot measures from paying workers on a per-signature basis.

Corbett said SB 168, introduced Thursday, would remove the incentive for signature gatherers to harass or bully voters into signing petitions, or to fabricate signatures; if they’re paid an hourly wage or salary, it won’t matter how many signatures they gather.

“Our initiative process was established at the turn of the century to give Californians more direct say in our democratic process. It was certainly not set up to create a scam to line the pockets of signature gatherers,” Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in a news release issued Friday afternoon. “Senate Bill 168 will help eliminate fraud and uphold the integrity of the initiative process.”

Some states have received reports of petition circulators forging signatures of names taken from a phonebook, she said; others inserted carbon paper and a second petition beneath the original one, without voters’ knowledge, to get signatures on two petitions at a time. And here in California, she noted, Sacramento County election officials in 2006 discovered that nearly 33 percent of signatures in a petition filed were fraudulent.

Corbett, along with senators Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Dean Florez, D-Shafter, had put forth a similar bill in 2009 that was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009; the governor said it would limit the initiative process by making it “difficult for grassroots organizations to gather the necessary signatures and qualify measures for the ballot.”

A few states, including Colorado, Montana and Nebraska, passed similar laws in recent years, but a federal judge last June issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Colorado’s in a still-pending lawsuit that claims the ban is unconstitutional.

Posted on Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate, Dean Florez, Ellen Corbett, Mark DeSaulnier | 5 Comments »

DeSaulnier moves to transportation & housing

DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will chair the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee this year, leaving prior post at the head of the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

DeSaulnier will remain chairman of the Senate Budget Committee’s subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Labor and Veteran’s Affairs.

His neighbor, state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, was named chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee and the budget subcommittee on Corrections and Public Safety.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg makes the appointments.

In his new post, DeSaulnier returns to a familiar policy arena. He served on the Metropolitan Transporation Commission when he was a Contra Costa County supervisor, and he has long been a vocal advocate of creating planning ties between transportation and housing projects.

It’s all part of the annual chairmanship shuffle in Sacramento as legislators term out and leave vacancies.

Read on for Steinberg’s full committee list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 10th, 2011
Under: Darrell Steinberg, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier | No Comments »

DeSaulnier warns cities about budget cuts

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier delivers dire warnings to cities about pending budget cuts during a speech to the Contra Costa Mayors Conference on Thursday night in Orinda.

Watch video of DeSaulnier’s comments below.

He predicted Gov. Jerry Brown will propose on Monday to shift responsibility for adults on probation to the counties, a move that will save money for the state but push the burden onto local communities.

Posted on Friday, January 7th, 2011
Under: Mark DeSaulnier | 11 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 »