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Ex-assemblyman warns of Peripheral Canal bonds

State senate candidate and former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg has just sent out an e-mail bulletin to the 1,000 people who signed up at his web site, www.StopTheCanal.Org warning of closed-door Sacramento negotiations over a water bond that could fund a Peripheral Canal.

“As a former state assemblyman, and former chairman of the (Assembly) Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, I have witnessed how public policy gets made, in the late night, out of public sight and scrutiny,” Canciamilla said in his message. “I am concerned that this might happen with the water bond.”

Canciamilla is running for Senate District 7 against Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier of Concord, who took the seat after Canciamilla termed out. The incumbent senator, Tom Torlakson, will term out in 2008.

Here’s a portion of his email: (all emphasis added by Canciamilla)

“It has been called to my attention TODAY that last minute, CLOSED-DOOR negotiations are now underway at the State Capitol to approve a new $5 billion water bond to be placed on the ballot sometime next year. One version advanced by Senator Don Perata, President pro Tem of the Senate, would prohibit a Delta bypass or a canal. The other version, advanced by the Governor’s administration, contains NO PROHIBITION on Delta transfers, a Delta conveyance, or a peripheral canal.

“IF THE ADMINISTRATION’S VERSION OF THE WATER BOND IS APPROVED IN LATE NIGHT SESSIONS OF THE LEGISLATURE, IT WILL MEAN THAT A MEASURE GOES TO THE BALLOT ALLOWING OUR TAX DOLLARS TO GO TOWARD BUILDING A NEW PERIPHERAL CANAL WHICH WILL LIKELY SEND OUR WATER SOUTH.”

Canciamilla asks residents to email their legislators and voice opposition to the canal.

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Term limit heat turned on

Secretary of State Deborah Bowen certified today a term limits ballot measure in plenty of time to place it on the Feb. 5 ballot and generate ample controversy.

If voters adopt the measure, called Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act, legislators will be able to spend up to 12 years in either the Senate or Assembly. Today, lawmakers are permitted to serve a maximum of six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

But before the state could even send out a press release announcing Bowen’s decision, critics from the CA Term Limits Defense Fund shipped out an e-mail calling the certification into question.

Defense Fund spokesman Kevin Spillane contends that the measure’s chief proponents — state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles — exerted political pressure on counties to drive up the results of the random counting process.

The organization is exploring its legal options, Spillane wrote.

“The surprising, suspicious and we have been told, unprecedented, upward revision of the random sample signature count re-submitted by several counties regarding qualification of the initiative to weaken term limits raises serious questions about the integrity of the California elections process,” Spillane wrote.

Here’s what Spillane is referring to: If the random count in each California county failed to produce an adequate percentage of valid signatures, the state would require a full count of the more than 1 million signatures. This time consuming step might not have been completed to meet the deadline to place the measure on the Feb. 5 ballot. (The Legislature isn’t technically restricted to those deadlines but late entries onto the ballot create havoc in local election offices which must follow the election timetable.)

If the measure had been pushed to June, it would hurt incumbents such as Perata and Nunez who had hoped that a positive February decision by voters would allow them to run for re-election to their seats in the June primary.

Spillane also wrote:

“Political pressure has clearly been applied – and succeeded in obtaining the result desired by the two most powerful members of the Legislature. Several meetings and phone calls with local election officials initiated by representatives of the petition gathering firm and the Speaker’s team have been reported by several sources …

“It does not seem coincidental that one of the counties – Alameda – is the home base of Senate President Perata or that another, Contra Costa County, is part of his sphere of political influence. This latest manipulation of the process by the state’s most powerful legislators and their allies taints the qualification of the initiative to weaken term limits. ”

Gale Kaufman, chief strategist for the proponents’ campaign, www.termlimitsreform.com, called Spillane’s allegations unfounded in an e-mail statement of her own.

“As we have seen over the past few days, the signature counts and complexity of the process generated a fair amount of inaccurate information and speculation. Talking about each up-tick or downturn of numbers would only serve to be futile.

“It’s disappointing that opponents to this reform have tried in vain from day one to tar our effort with unfounded allegations. We hope observers will finally begin to see through these cheap stunts as the campaign moves ahead.”

UPDATE: Here’s what Contra Costa County Registar of Voters Steve Weir said happened in his county:

Speaking only for Contra Costa, we made a mistake.

We reported one duplicate in the some 1100 signatures we checked.

Our systen DFM, has a flaw. It has been corrected, but, we did not do that upgrade.

Here’s what happened. We found a name of someone who’s position was generated to be checked. We found that he was NOT registered at the time he signed the petition. However, when we noted that fact on his petition, the system credited it as good. We were not to count it as good. So, the same guy registered and signed the petition later. This space was also idetified as a signature to check.

When we credited it as good, the previous signature showed up as a dupliacate. Actually, the first .sig was not good and a no count. The second one (after which he registered) should have been counted as good.

We know of this problem in our election infornation management system and such duplicates are supposed to be hand checked.

Our vendor has issued a correction and we had not installed it.

I was called and was asked to check. When we did Candy determined that the dup had been reported incorrectly.

No monkey business, we made a mistake and when we looked and found it, we corrected it.

Because of the random nature of petitions, there’s a penalty for duplicates, our mistake may make for political hay, but it was an honest mistake and we needed to correct it.

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Marathon man: Sen. Tom Torlakson

Sen. Tom Torlakson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, is a very busy man this week.

Now that the deadlock on the state budget has been resolved, Torlakson’s committee has only a few weeks to hear more than 300 appropriations bills before the Legislature adjourns next month.

The legislator from Antioch has been so busy running the committee that staff is bringing him his meals at the dais and he takes very few breaks.

Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that Torlakson probably doesn’t want to hand over the gavel to the committee’s vice chairman, the conservative GOP Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks.

Who know what the committee might vote on while Torlakson is in the bathroom?

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Bill naming bridge after Miller goes to governor

The state Senate has passed ACR 62, which names the new Benicia-Martinez span after Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. The old span is named after Miller’s late father.

The bill has already passed the Assembly, which means it’s now headed for the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger where it will await his signature.

Let’s hope Schwarzenegger doesn’t dilly-dally.

The bridge officially opens to traffic this weekend and the ceremony might sound funny if the emcee has to keep calling it “The Bridge We Think Will Be Named The George Miller Bridge Unless Gov. Schwarzenegger Thumbs His Nose At the Idea.”

UPDATE:
Here are details about Saturday’s opening ceremonies provided by Caltrans’ public affairs office.

Opening ceremony, drive-through procession and community celebration marking the completion of the new span of the $1.2 billion Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Includes unveiling of a plaque dedicating the bridge in honor of Congressman George Miller (Martinez), who will speak at ceremonies in both Martinez and Benicia, and will lead the inaugural drive across the bridge. We are expecting this to be a festive, colorful event with a number of classic vehicles participating. This is also a chance to see FasTrak® open-road electronic tolling in action (though no tolls will be collected during the inaugural drive). Due to safety and security concerns, participation in the inaugural drive-through is limited to dignitaries, the media and members of the public who registered in advance and received a special placard.

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 25, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Schedule of Events:
9:30 a.m. Public/dignitaries gather at Martinez Waterfront Park
10 a.m. Congressman George Miller delivers keynote at opening ceremony
10:15 a.m. Begin procession to the new bridge for first drive
11:15 a.m. Concluding remarks at the Benicia Overlook by
Congressman George Miller and others
12 p.m. Festivities continue on Benicia side with refreshments

Note: The new northbound span is scheduled to be partially open for regular traffic beginning in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 27.

WHERE: The new bridge will carry northbound traffic across the Carquinez Strait along Interstate 680, and sits just east of the original Benicia-Martinez Bridge, which will now carry southbound traffic. The second span effectively doubles bridge capacity in this corridor. The event begins on the Martinez side of the bridge, and wraps up at the Benicia Overlook, which offers views of the new span (see directions provided on next page).

WHO: Confirmed speakers include:

· Congressman George Miller· Former State Senator and FormerU.S. Representative John Burton· State Senator Tom Torlakson · State Senator Patricia Wiggins· Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier· Assemblywoman Lois Wolk· Solano County Supervisor & MTC Commissioner Jim Spering · Benicia Mayor Steve Messina· Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder· James Ghielmetti, Chair, California Transportation Commission· Will Kempton, Director, Caltrans· Michael Phelps, Senior Vice President and Division Manager, Kiewit Corporation

DIRECTIONS:
Martinez Waterfront Park Site
(7 North Court Street, Martinez)

Directions from Sacramento: Take Interstate 680 South. Exit Marina Vista Avenue. Turn left onto Marina Vista Avenue. Continue approximately 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Ferry Street. Cross train tracks. Turn right onto Joe DiMaggio Drive. Turn left onto North Court Street to end of road. Follow event signs.

Directions from Walnut Creek: Take Interstate 680 North. Exit Marina Vista Avenue. Turn left onto Marina Vista Avenue. Continue approximately 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Ferry Street. Cross train tracks. Turn right onto Joe DiMaggio Drive. Turn left onto North Court Street to end of road. Follow event signs.

For those arriving after 10 a.m., go directly on the old bridge to the concluding ceremonies at Benicia Overlook site.
Benicia Overlook Site
(2055 Park Road, Benicia)

Directions from Sacramento: Take Interstate 680 South. Exit at Industrial Park. Turn right onto Industrial Way. Turn left onto Park Road. Continue approximately 1.1 miles. Follow event signs.
Directions from Walnut Creek or Vallejo: Take Interstate 680 North. Exit at Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Park Road. Continue approximately 0.8 miles. Follow event signs.

Directions from Martinez: (The Marina Vista Boulevard onramp to Interstate 680 North will be closed.) Take Interstate 680 North from Arthur Road. Exit at Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Park Road. Continue approximately 0.8 miles. Follow event signs.

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Is AG Jerry Brown running for governor?

Contra Costa County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema thinks so.

Uilkema, who also sits on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, recently met with Attorney General Jerry Brown to hash out the state leader’s concerns about two refinery expansion proposals in Contra Costa County. (Brown is appealing the county’s approval of a Rodeo expansion and registering criticial comments about a Richmond project as part of his statewide push to require consideration of global warming impacts in business, housing and transportation projects.)

“He commented that if he’s going to be governor in a couple years, this (effort to contain refinery emissions) is important,” Uilkema recalled. “That caught my attention, to say the the least, although it was the only mention of it at the time.”

Some folks mistakenly believe that term limits would keep Brown out of the governor’s seat. But voters adopted term limits in 1990; Brown served two terms as governor from 1974-1982.

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DeSaulnier blasts budget impasse, calls for reform

After being locked onto the floor of the Assembly until the wee hours one morning last week to force a vote on a state budget, Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, told Contra Costa business leaders today he will seek reforms of the state’s budget approval process.

Elected in November 2006, it was DeSaulnier’s first front-row seat to the state budget process and his first vote on the matter.

It’s ludicrous, DeSaulnier says, to hold the state budget hostage under a super-majority rule that only two other states use — Rhode Island and Arkansas. He says he was further exasperated to hear that the state Senate had one Republican willing to vote for the budget — Sen. Abel Maldonado — but couldn’t round up a second one.

“A state with a population of 38 million and a budget of $140 billion has been held up for lack of one vote in the Senate,” said an incredulous DeSaulnier to a lunch meeting of several hundred members of the Contra Costa Council.

DeSaulnier agrees the state needs a balanced budget but says it should be done in a thoughtful and deliberative manner with an eye on the longterm impacts rather than a late-night arm-twisting session where the public won’t learn of the consequences until it’s far too late.

To end the annual impasse where a handful of dissenters stall the entire state, DeSaulnier says he wants to create a small commission charged with recommending a new budget adoption process, perhaps a hybrid of successful systems in other states.

He said he will introduce a bill later this year or early next year.

Watch DeSaulnier’s speech on CCTV and Comcast public access station Channel 27 on Aug. 7 at 9 p.m. or Aug. 8 at 2 p.m.