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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 »

Lawmakers ride out-of-district money wave

California lawmakers over the past three years raised 79 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts, according to a new study by the data-crunching wizards at Berekeley-based nonpartisan nonprofit MAPLight.org.

MAPLight.org (that’s “MAP” as in “Money In Politics”) found California legislators serving as of Aug. 31, 2009 – 79 Assembly members and 40 Senators – raised $97.9 million in campaign funds from January 2007 through March 2010, with $77.5 million coming from outside the district. About $11.9 (12 percent) came from in-district, while the remaining $8.6 million (9 percent) couldn’t be definitively located.

More than half of the lawmakers (68 out of 117 members, or 58 percent) raised 80 percent or more of their campaign funds from outside their districts; 19 lawmakers raised 90 percent or more of their funds from outside their districts.

“Not a single legislator in California raised the majority of their campaign funds from in-district, where their voters live.” MAPLight.org Executive Director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy.”

“With out-of-district fundraising at a staggering 80 percent, the problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel,” he said. “This report shows that our campaign finance system is broken. This remote control system works well for wealthy interest groups, but not for voters.”

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation stacked up in percentage of contributions from out of district, and rank among the 119 lawmakers surveyed:

  • Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose – 94.0 percent (#5)
  • Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley – 92.7 percent (#10)
  • State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – 89.1 percent (#21)
  • Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco – 87.8 percent (#29)
  • Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark – 87.5 percent (#33)
  • State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – 85.5 percent (#40)
  • State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose – 85.4 percent (#43)
  • Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City – 83.2 percent (#54)
  • Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch – 82.9 percent (#56)
  • Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., D-San Jose – 82.5 percent (#59)
  • Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda – 80.4 percent (#64)
  • Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino – 80.0 percent (#68)
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – 79.2 percent (#72)
  • Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis – 76.9 percent (#79)
  • Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa – 74.7 percent (#85)
  • State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – 74.5 percent (#87)
  • Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael – 72.5 percent (#91)
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – 67.4 percent (#100)
  • State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto – 63.4 percent (#102)
  • Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – 62.1 percent (#105)
  • Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo – 62.0 percent (#106)
  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – 58.9 percent (#110)
  • State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berekeley – 57.9 percent (#112)
  • And, in case you’re wondering where the money comes from, the top 15 ZIP codes of contributions to legislators were:

    1 Sacramento, CA 95814 – $23,149,034 (23.66%)
    2 San Francisco, CA 94105 – $2,034,877 (2.08%)
    3 Sacramento, CA 95833 – $1,408,211 (1.44%)
    4 Los Angeles, CA 90020 – $1,395,635 (1.43%)
    5 Burlingame CA, 94010 – $1,280,137 (1.31%)
    6 Los Angeles, CA 90071 – $1,054,345 (1.08%)
    7 Newport Beach, CA 92660 –$972,717 (0.99%)
    8 Sacramento, CA 95811 – $843,928 (0.86%)
    9 Sacramento, CA 95816 – $839,730 (0.86%)
    10 Los Angeles, CA 90017 – $741,449 (0.76%)
    11 Oakland, CA 94612 – $698,200 (0.71%)
    12 Sacramento. CA 95834 – $669,150 (0.68%)
    13 Pasadena, CA 91101 – $625,373 (0.64%)
    14 Los Angeles, CA 90010 – $621,677 (0.64%)
    15 San Francisco, CA 94111 – $583,888 (0.60%)

    MAPLight.org is among supporters of Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, which would try out a system of public financing of election campaigns in the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State, funded by an increase in lobbyist registration fees.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, ballot measures, California State Senate, campaign finance, Elaine Alquist, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Joe Coto, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Tom Ammiano, Tom Torlakson | 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 »

    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.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Hill, Karen Bass, Mark DeSaulnier, Mary Hayashi | Comments Off

    CD10: Tauscher’s endorsement questioned

    A Lafayette attorney wants State Department lawyers to force Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher to repudiate her endorsement of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to succeed her in Congress.

    And DeSaulnier rival John Garamendi made sure to give Tauscher a heads-up.

    Jason A. Bezis – who in the final days of Tauscher’s Congressional career was berating her for what he says were too few and too inaccessible CD10 town meetings – has drafted an extensive memo, with exhibits, illustrating his complaint that Tauscher is in violation of State Department rules.

    “The State Department’s ‘Rules on Political Activities’ state their rationale, ‘The Department has a long-standing policy of limiting participation in partisan campaigns by its top officials and political appointees in recognition of the bipartisan character of our foreign policy,’” Bezis noted in an e-mail to the DeSaulnier campaign accompanying the memo. “Therefore, Undersecretary Tauscher’s endorsement of your campaigns has the potential of harming American foreign policy. Your acceptance and prominent use of her endorsement may have a similar damaging effect.

    He’s asking that DeSaulnier’s campaign remove all reference’s to Tauscher’s endorsement from its Web sites; remove from circulation and destroy any campaign literature and fundraising invitations stating or implying the endorsement; advise other Democratic groups to do the same; instruct staff and volunteers not to mention Tauscher’s endorsement; and omit any mention from it from future advertisements.

    “Senator DeSaulnier is seeking to become a federal lawmaker. It is imperative, especially as an aspiring federal legislator, that he follows the letter and spirit of existing federal law. Mr. DeSaulnier should not enjoy ‘fruit from the poisonous tree’ of Undersecretary Tauscher’s illegal endorsement,” Bezis wrote in his e-mail.

    Garamendi’s campaign sent a copy of Bezis’ memo this week to a Tauscher aide, with a cover note that said:

    I have been informed by a lawyer in the 10th Congressional District that he is preparing a formal complaint concerning U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher’s endorsement of California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier in the run up to the September 1st Special Election.
    I am a long time friend of Ellen’s and I do not want her to be jeopardized in any way. As a former Deputy Secretary at Interior, I am aware of the issue that she faces and I wanted the Undersecretary to know of this problem ahead of any formal complaint. Please let me know what the Undersecretary intends to do.
    Attached is the draft of the lawyer’s memo.
    Sincerely,
    John Garamendi

    DeSaulnier campaign spokeswoman Katie Merrill offered just one word of response today: “Seriously?”

    Tauscher’s office declined comment, but longtime Tauscher campaign consultant Lisa Tucker – no longer in the Under Secretary’s employ – said this is “sour grapes” on Garamendi’s part.

    “Garamendi sought her endorsement and didn’t get it, and if he’d gotten it he wouldn’t be doing this,” Tucker said. “Everything that DeSaulnier is using says ‘Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher’ — it’s from before she was sworn in, so it’s all on the up-and-up.”

    Tauscher endorsed DeSaulnier in late March, well before President Barack Obama formally nominated her in early May to serve as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

    I tried to reach Bezis to ask whether he has endorsed, contributed to, or in any way supported any of the CD10 candidates, but my e-mail and voice mail weren’t returned. He is registered to vote as a Democrat and has written several articles for the Democrat-run California Majority Report, but I don’t see that he has made any campaign contributions to Garamendi or any other CD10 candidate.

    UPDATE @ 7:33 A.M. FRIDAY: Bezis wrote back to me overnight, stating he’d endorsed DeSaulnier early on but revoked that endorsement “motivated in part by the campaign literature touting Ellen Tauscher’s backing of his campaign.” He said he has spoken with DeSaulnier, Garamendi, Joan Buchanan, Anthony Woods and Adriel Hampton in recent weeks and believes “all of the candidates (from all political parties) deserve a fair ‘playing field’ — which Tauscher’s illegal endorsement upsets.”

    Tucker’s statement, he said, is “outrageous. Tauscher should not have made an endorsement in any partisan election would coincide with any day of her tenure at the State Department. Tauscher went out of her way to make a ‘pre-endorsement’ of DeSaulnier for a special election that did not yet exist. Tauscher knew that a vacancy would be created and a special election called because of and only because of her State Department appointment. It was obvious that her successor would be elected while she was at the State Department, when she undisputedly could not make an endorsement.”

    Other CD10 tidbits, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
    Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Ellen Tauscher, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 11 Comments »