De León sets legislative agenda

Jan 30, 2015

Following a two-day policy retreat by Democratic lawmakers, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León spoke Thursday at the Sacramento Press Club, laying out his policy agenda for the coming year.  Tops on his list: the economy, the environment, education and income equality.


From Patrick McGreevy at the Los Angeles Times: “De Leon said Democratic lawmakers would try to restore the social services safety net, including an expansion of child care for working mothers, by offering changes in this year’s budget but conceded, ‘The resources are finite. There’s not a lot to play with.’”


De León also addressed his elimination of the Senate’s oversight office last year, saying that lawmakers themselves need to provide oversight


From Laurel Rosenhall at the Sacramento Bee: “’One thing we don’t always do so well is look back, after our bills have been signed into law, to make certain that they are in fact working as intended. The responsibility of a legislator does not end when the ink of the governor’s signature dries on their bill,’ said de León, D-Los Angeles.


“’I’ve asked our committees to look back at the major programs within their jurisdiction and spend the year evaluating their effectiveness and propose improvements, if needed. To ensure government is working efficiently, as well as effectively, we need to incorporate consistent and sustained oversight of all state government.’”


Hot on the heels of San Francisco Senator Mark Leno’s vaping bill, Senator Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa has proposed legislation that would raise the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 in California.


From Alexei Koseff at the Sacramento Bee: “Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age’ Hernandez said in a statement. ‘We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them.’


“Nine in ten smokers take up the habit by the age of 18, according to the American Lung Association in California, and 36,000 California kids start smoking each year.”


The number of inmates in California’s prison system has fallen below a federally mandated cap, a year ahead of schedule.  That’s the good news.  Bad news is that the state’s prisoner population is still at nearly 140% of capacity.


From Sam Stanton at Associated Press: “Following legal battles that went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, the state’s prison population has been decreasing steadily in recent years, and a report posted online Thursday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation puts the latest inmate numbers at 113,463, below the cap of 137.5 percent of capacity set by a panel of federal judges in 2009. The prison system’s design capacity is 82,707 inmates, and the population as of midnight Thursday was 137.2 percent of capacity.


“’This is a snapshot in time,’ corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in a statement. ‘We’re clearly making progress, but much work remains.’”


A state commission charged with setting a new direction for California’s beleaguered state parks system will issue a report today with its recommendations, including a permanent funding source, better accountability and improvements in technology.


From Paul Rogers in the Contra Costa Times: “The California Parks Forward Commission says the parks system can be fixed but that a dedicated source of new funding must be found. But first, the state parks department has to rebuild public confidence three years after Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before him threatened to close dozens of parks to save money -- and former parks director Ruth Coleman resigned after auditors found her staff had not reported millions of dollars sitting in accounts to state finance officials.


"’It's extremely important to have sustainable funding," said Dr. Stephen Lockhart, chief medical officer for Sutter Health and one of the 12 commissioners who worked 18 months on the recommendations…


“The commission, created by a law Brown signed in 2012, was intended to set new direction for the beloved -- but increasingly troubled -- system of 279 parks spread over 1.6 million acres.”


San Francisco officials tracking $1.3 million in missing bond money have zeroed in on a suspect: Clarke Howatt, a senior official at the Association of Bay Area Governments.  From J.K. Dineen at SFGate:


“The missing cash was discovered last month during a routine audit of the South of Market Community Stabilization Fund, a pool of bond money and developer contributions used for neighborhood improvements. At that time, staff members in the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development found the account empty. After contacting ABAG, which acted as a fund trustee along with Union Bank, they discovered that just under $1.3 million had been wired to a Citibank account in La Jolla (San Diego County) controlled by an entity called Urban West for Rincon Developers.


“The investigation seeks to determine if Howatt first used his senior position at ABAG to set up a fake entity purporting to be the developer of the high-profile One Rincon Hill condominium project, and subsequently sought a $1.3 million reimbursement for streetscape improvements that had never actually been made...


“In addition, the official who requested the reimbursement to the La Jolla account — David Kaiser — apparently doesn’t exist. No one by that name was involved with the Rincon Hill project…”


Howatt is nowhere to be found, btw.


Back on Wednesday afternoon, we were wondering who could be said to have had the worst week in California politics – it didn’t seem like anyone was really Singin’ Those Golden State Blues.  The week didn’t look that bad. 


That was then, this is now, and former Public Utilities Commission chair Michael Peevey wins, hands down.  Having a horde of state investigators pour into your home and cart off everything related to a massive public corruption scandal will do that.


Even though Governor Brown sang his praises yesterday, we have to think that Peevey (and his wife, state Sen. Carol Liu, ) have had better weeks.

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