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More calls for Legislature to nix BART strike

With little or no progress apparent at the bargaining table, calls are growing louder for the Legislature to throw an obstacle on tracks as BART rolls toward another strike as early as Oct. 11.

Steve Glazer16th Assembly District candidate Steve Glazer, a Democrat who also is an Orinda councilman and a political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, will be at the Orinda BART station Thursday morning to hand out fliers to commuters and meet the press regarding his online petition drive urging the Legislature to ban BART strikes.

“A BART strike will cripple our economy, hurt workers getting to their jobs, limit access to schools and health care, and damage our environment,” his petition says. “The impact of a BART strike will be felt across the state. It should not be in the hands of a regional BART board. We need a statewide law.”

Glazer is running to succeed Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who’ll be term-limited out of office next year. Also seeking that seat are Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti – both Democrats – and attorney Catharine Baker, a Republican from Dublin.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Brown on Wednesday urging him to call an emergency legislative session in order to act on SB 423, which would compel BART unions to honor the no-strike clause in their expired contracts. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, introduced the legislation by gutting and amending another bill on the last day of the regular legislative session, and started touting it a few days later.

“The hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents who rely upon BART to get to work or school each day deserve peace of mind that they can get to where they need to go without the threat of a strike,” Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia, said in a news release Wednesday. “We call upon the governor to take swift action to ensure that this labor dispute does not create a transportation nightmare.”

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Skinner, Ammiano undecided on prison plans

Don’t mistake the Assembly Budget Committee’s unanimous passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison plan Thursday for a clear sail through that chamber.

Committee chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said Friday that the committee acted largely in order to beat the deadline for fiscal committees to move bills to the floor – not because every member agrees completely with the plan put forth by Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

She demurred when asked whether she prefers this plan to the alternative put forth by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. “All of this stuff is still being discussed and negotiated,” she said.

She’s not the only Bay Area liberal lawmaker who’s undecided on which plan to side with.

Aug. 16 was the last day for policy committees to meet and report bills, so the Brown/Perez/Huff/Conway plan doesn’t have to go through the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

I asked whether Ammiano would care to discuss the competing prison plans as chairman of the committee that would’ve had to hear them had they come earlier. “I think he’d rather stay away from the hypotheticals, and has yet to make a decision on how to vote when the Brown/Perez bill gets to the floor,” spokesman Carlos Alcala replied late Thursday afternoon.

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Brown, some lawmakers unveil state prison plan

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle – most of them, anyway – rolled out a plan today to satisfy a federal court order to limit the state’s prison population while avoiding the early release of thousands of prisoners.

In the short term, the plan is: Lock ‘em up somewhere else.

The plan unveiled by Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway calls for quickly leasing in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including county jails, and contracting with community corrections facilities; suspending the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco; and spending up to $315 million to make it all happen.

“This legislation will protect public safety and give us time to work with public officials and interested parties to make thoughtful changes in the overall criminal justice system,” Brown said in a news release.

But while state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he agrees with preventing any early inmate releases, he said Brown’s plan has “no promise and no hope.”

“As the population of California grows, it’s only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in his own news release. “For every 10 prisoners finishing their sentences, nearly seven of them will commit another crime after release and end up back behind bars.”

“More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution,” he said, announcing he’ll unveil Senate Democrats’ alternative plan at 10 a.m. Wednesday. “We must invest in a durable criminal justice strategy, which reduces both crime and prison overcrowding.”

The state is under a federal court’s order to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of this year. California already has reduced its prison population by more than 40,000 since 2006 – more than half of which was via 2011’s “realignment,” which spun some offenders out to county jails instead of state prisons.

Brown, Perez, Huff and Conway said they’re also seeking long-term solutions.

“This process will leave no stone unturned as we investigate what can work to make improvements,” Perez, D-Los Angeles, said in the news release. “We will consider every option from updating sentencing laws; to giving local governments and law enforcement the necessary tools. And certainly we will examine broader policy questions that prevent crime, like improving education from preschool to higher education and on programs that break the cycle of poverty.”

Huff, R-Brea, said Senate Republicans will support the plan “because we believe the safety of California families should be our first and foremost priority” and allowing the early release of so many inmates “is simply unacceptable.”

Conway, R-Visalia, said today’s plan incorporates some ideas that Republican lawmakers had put forward. “We will continue to work with the Governor and the Speaker to find sustainable solutions that will honor the court’s demands, while keeping Californians safe.”

Activists who’d like to see the prison population reduced, not just moved around, are disappointed.

“Gov. Brown has turned his back on his own earlier proposals to the court, which detailed smart, sustainable alternatives for California to reach the court order,” said Courage Campaign executive chairman Dr. Paul Song. “Instead, the Governor is choosing to throw hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars down the black hole that is California’s broken prison system. This wasteful spending will prevent the restoration of funding to education and other vital services, which continue to suffer from devastating cuts made during the Great Recession. Funding those services would do more to keep Californians safe than further expansion of the prison-industrial complex.”

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Reactions to Jerry Brown’s May budget revision

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“The Governor’s May Budget Revision is another key milestone in our effort to pass a balanced on-time budget by June 15th. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to maintaining the fiscal stability that has come from an improving economy, legislative Democrats making tough but necessary budget cuts, voters approving the majority-vote budget and voters standing with Democrats in supporting temporary tax revenues. We will review the Governor’s proposals and revenue projections, along with the LAO’s revenue projections, in depth, and his revised budget will be thoroughly discussed throughout the Budget committee and subcommittee process. Assemblymembers will review the Governor’s proposal through the prism of principles outlined in our Blueprint for a Responsible Budget: continuing fiscal responsibility, strengthening the middle class, and delivering effective, efficient services for Californians. On the whole, the Governor’s framework and the Assembly’s Blueprint seem to track well, and we’ll spend the next month reconciling our priorities.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia:

“Governor Brown today put forward a revised state spending plan that I believe charts a realistic path forward in meeting the budget priorities of hard-working taxpayers. Republicans share the Governor’s commitment to paying down state debt and holding the line on new spending. It is our hope that Legislative Democrats will follow the Governor’s lead in making fiscal discipline a core budget principle. We must resist the temptation to blow through the surplus using one-time money for ongoing programs and reverse the progress we’ve made in closing the deficit.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“Overall, this May Revision is a refreshing change. For the first time in four years, we no longer have to stare at enormous deficits and make agonizing decisions on which cuts will do the least harm to our children, to the poor, and to middle class families.

“That’s the politically correct thing to say, and it happens to be true.

“I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. Unless the Legislative Analyst has a different conclusion, the Governor proposes few if any resources to restore cuts made over the past few years to the courts, and to health and human services.

“The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is the right policy direction, but our serious concern about how it’s accomplished remains. The concentration grants treat thousands of disadvantaged students unequally. It also fails to expand the proven success of career pathway programs which can reduce dropout rates and improve our kids’ readiness for the workforce by combining rigorous curriculum that’s also relevant to students’ career goals.

“The budget debate begins in earnest. I look forward to a deeper analysis of revenue projections in the coming weeks while we continue to work with the Governor on the best budget for California’s economic recovery and its people.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected, largely due to the increased payroll tax suppressing the economy. Higher tax rates and continuing high unemployment mean less money in people’s pockets and less money to propel the economy.

“We have common ground with the Governor in a belief that we cannot return to a culture of overspending that drives new budget crises. Governor Brown referred to this as a ‘Call for Prudence,’ we would call it ‘Common Sense.’ It seems that the Governor’s biggest budget challenge will be in restraining legislative Democrats and their growing wish list of new spending.

“Senate Republicans continue to believe that the State must meet the promises of the voter approved Proposition 30 tax increase measure by increasing funding for K-14 and higher education. We also believe that the Governor should support our efforts to allow Californians to vote on the bi-partisan rainy day reserve fund that had been previously scheduled for the 2012 ballot. Implementing a voter approved rainy day reserve requirement is the best way to protect against future budget crises and ensure stability.

“The Legislature should spend less time on a growing list of additional tax proposals such as soda taxes, oil severance taxes, tobacco taxes and several property tax measures that undermine historic Proposition 13 protections and instead focus on the growing public safety crises caused by the passage of AB 109, the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment scheme that has shifted 65,000 criminals from state prison to our local communities and neighborhoods.”

From California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye:

“I’m disappointed that the Governor’s revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts. Given the state’s current fiscal condition, I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget. Courts across the state are already closing courthouses, courtrooms, and reducing the hours they serve the public. Without reinvestment in the courts, these terrible impacts will only expand, and the poor and middle class residents who rely on the courts to resolve issues that affect their lives and livelihoods will be adversely affected, as well those businesses still digging out from the effects of the great recession. We need adequate, ongoing funding for the courts that will permit us to reverse the damage caused by five years of budget cuts. The reforms I’ve put in place have helped save money and created more efficiencies. We needed critical support a year ago from the other two branches and now the need for justice is urgent. I am heartened by Speaker Perez’s comments last week about the need to begin reinvesting in the courts. I am optimistic that the Legislature and the Governor can work toward reversing some of the adverse impacts on access to justice before a budget bill is passed and signed.”

There’s a whole lot more, after the jump…
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GOP candidates’ program rolls out its board

California Trailblazers, a program to recruit and support Republican candidates for the state Legislature, announced its board of directors today.

“Just as we did with our Young Guns program, California Trailblazers will train candidates to become stronger candidates ready to bring fiscal discipline and government accountability back to Sacramento,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who launched the program with the Legislature’s GOP leaders, said in a news release. “Along with leaders (Connie) Conway and (Bob) Huff, our Board of Directors will ensure that the most qualified Republican candidates work their way through the program so they are ready to win in November and lead on day one.”

The program is modeled on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program, also co-founded by McCarthy, which recruits and supports House candidates across the nation. As candidates meet metrics specifically designed for their race, they will advance to “Pathfinder,” “Rising Star,” and ultimately “Trailblazer.” These goals will focus on campaign infrastructure, grassroots support, fundraising, and more. The program also will provide training for candidates to learn campaign fundamentals.

Kate Gregg LarkinCalifornia Trailblazers’ chairwoman will be Kate Gregg Larkin, 31, of Manhattan Beach, an attorney and the executive director of LA Loves You, a nonprofit focused on engaging young professionals in charitable giving. Larkin earlier helped launch Share Magnet, a Los Angeles-based social marketing company; before that, she spent five years on Capitol Hill working for the House Committee on Government Reform, Rep. Tim Davis, R-Va., and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex. She also has experience as a political fundraiser in House races. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree from UCLA.

The program’s chief financial officer will be Russ Johnson, 62, of Santa rosa, a partner with Menlo Park-based KPLJ Ventures, a private venture investment fund primarily focused on companies involved in optical and wireless communications. Johnson from 1998 to 2000 was senior vice president of global sales and marketing for JDS Uniphase; earlier, he worked for the Hewlett Packard Company (now Agilent Technologies) for more than 20 years in various marketing, operational, and international business roles. In 1986, he was the founding manager of the HP Asia Pacific Marketing Center in Hong Kong. Johnson was a Bush Team 100 member and serves on the Lincoln Club of Northern California Board of Directors. Johnson has a BSEE from New Mexico State University and an MBA from Purdue University.

Jeff Randle, 49, of Sacramento – who last week was named the Romney presidential campaign’s senior advisor for California – will serve as a California Trailblazers board member. He is president and CEO of Randle Communications, ranked by the Sacramento Business Journal as Sacramento’s fourth-largest public relations and public affairs firm. Randle was a senior advisor to Meg Whitman’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, political advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2002 to 2006, and deputy chief of staff to Governor Pete Wilson from 1991 to 1998. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA.

California Trailblazers’ secretary will be Christopher Wysocki, 42, of Penryn, who is political director for the Legislature’s Republican Caucus. Wysocki earlier served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate Republican Caucus, Director of Member Services for the California Assembly Republican Caucus and Deputy Chief of Staff and Political Director for Assembly Republican Leaders Jim Brulte in 1994 and Bill Leonard in 1998. Earlier still, he was a partner in a Sacramento political consulting firm and President of a national small business advocacy organization. Wysocki holds a political science degree from UCLA.

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GOP candidates sign up for ‘Trailblazer’ program

As House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, prepares to take the podium at the California Republican Party convention’s banquet in Bakersfield, a news release has just gone out announcing that 33 GOP candidates have enrolled in his “California Trailblazers” legislative recruitment, training and advisement program.

The program is modeled on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program McCarthy founded for House candidates.

“As Republicans we see this election as an opportunity to embark on an economic comeback for both America and California,” McCarthy said in the news release. “Also, as Republicans we’re ready to begin the California Republican comeback. I believe that the Trailblazers program is essential to this effort. The Trailblazers program will work to find and give needed resources to principled reform-minded Republicans who are ready to bring fiscal discipline back to Sacramento, and economic growth and job creation back to California. I am proud to be a part of this effort.”

State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff said in the release that the threat of a Democratic super-majority makes it “more important than ever to put our best team on the field this November. The rigorous training these candidates will go through will prepare them to win and fight for a fiscally conservative agenda in Sacramento.”

And Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway called it “a terrific way to train Republicans to become stronger candidates and arrive in Sacramento ready to lead”

Once candidates meet campaign infrastructure, grassroots support, fundraising and other metrics specific to their races, they will advance to “Pathfinder,” “Rising Star,” and ultimately “Trailblazer.” The program also will provide ongoing education through fundraisers, coalition-building experts, media training and issue briefings. A preliminary campaign college for candidates was held in December, California Trailblazers in April will announce the candidates who have graduated to “Pathfinder” status.