California's political watchdog, spawned decades ago by the Watergate scandals in Washington and pushed ardently by a much younger Jerry Brown, is easing its approach to ethics issues -- a move that angers good-government activists. Ironically, the Fair Political Practices Commission is dominated by Brown's appointees.
The LAT's Patrick McGreevy tells the tale: "As part of a top-to-bottom rewrite of regulations in the last year, the Fair Political Practices Commission has eased restrictions on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers, scaled back its open meetings and stopped notifying the public of pending investigations. Its job is to enforce laws on election campaigns, lobbying and conflicts of interest involving public employees, including the governor."
"Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel, whom Brown appointed in February 2011, said she was trying to make rules fair, clearer and easier to comply with and to focus on the worst offenders rather than on those who make minor mistakes. But she has outraged some good-government advocates along the way."
State political conventions are usually a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing and the San Diego gathering of Democrats last weekend was no exception. But there was one interesting moment: Democrats endorsed newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn over veteran Rep. Laura Richardson as they battle for the newly drawn 44th District in the June open primary. Party members loathe getting involved in primary endorsements -- they avoided the Howard Berman-Brad Sherman shootout -- so choosing sides in the Hahn-Richardson caught many by surprise.
From Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad: "The endorsement will be listed on the sample ballot that is sent to every registered Democrat in the 44th district ahead of the June jungle primary and November general election."
“The endorsement from the California Democratic Party is by far the most powerful and important endorsement any candidate could hope to achieve, and I plan to proudly carry the Party’s banner throughout my campaign and all the way back to Washington,” Hahn said in a statement."
"Hahn, who won a special election in July, was forced into the redrawn 44th district in south Los Angeles after redistricting. Richardson’s district was split nearly in half, and she opted to run in this heavily Democratic district against Hahn."
Air pollution is hard on the lungs and even the skin, but new research shows it also may be hard on the brain. Susanne Rust at California Watch tells the tale.
"A study in the journal of the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that air pollution accelerates cognitive decline in women."
"And with a new federal report showing Southern Californians are at the highest risk of death due to air pollution, this study adds to the growing body of grim evidence showing air pollution and healthy bodies don’t mix."
“We keep learning about more adverse effects (from pollution) than we thought possible,” said Jean Ospital, health effects officer with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, who was not involved with the current research."
Billionaire George Soros, a perennial bankroller of liberal causes and no stranger to California's political landscape, has pumped $500,000 into a ballot initiative campaign to rewrite and narrow California's three-strikes law.
From the LAT's Nicholas Riccardi: "The contribution from Soros came the same day that one of the measure's co-authors, Stanford law professor David Mills, gave the campaign $250,000. That raises Mills' contributions to a total of $603,000, making him the largest contributor to the effort."
"Proponents of the measure are circulating petitions to get enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, an effort that could cost as much as $4 million."
There's nothing that San Francisco supervisors like more than tinkering with the local electoral system. The same group that brought you ranked-choice voting now is -- guess what? -- considering a number of changes, including the elimination of ranked-choice voting.
From the Bay Citizen: "San Francisco's current ranked-choice voting system allows voters to rank up to three candidates for each elected office, and those with the lowest vote totals are eliminated and their second- and third-place votes are reassigned until someone has a majority of the votes."
"But the two charter amendments being considered by the board to put on the June ballot are proposing to either overhaul the current system or make small tweaks and keep ranked-choice voting in the city. The proposal to scuttle the current system, sponsored by Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell, would set up in its place a non-partisan primary in September of a given election year."