Jerry Brown seems to have spent the entire year battling the locals in one way or another, but in one respect, the governor may look to them for guidance: Tthe success of local tax and bond measures across California could give the governor a template for his own revenue-producing plan that he hopes to put before voters next November.
From the Chronicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "Voters approved 40 of 53 measures to increase, extend or create new taxes, fees and bond measures, said Michael Coleman, a fiscal policy consultant who tracked the measures for the League of California Cities."
"Despite tough times, if a local government runs an open and fair and honest budget process and maintains a level of trust and integrity with the community ... then these things will pass," Coleman said."
"While the sample size is small, it was a higher percentage of successful tax measures compared with the average rate of passage in elections over the past decade, he said."
"Of the measures that required a majority vote to raise taxes, 82 percent passed, compared with a 65 percent historical average. Of the measures that required a two-thirds majority for taxes, 69 percent passed, compared with a 46 percent historical average."
The evidence may appear incontrovertible, but dozens of state employees fired for wrongdoing had their terminations overturned and in some cases were given years of back pay for the time they were off the job -- a combination that, in effect, provided them with long vacations.
From the LA Times' Jack Dolan: "The board has reversed dozens of terminations in recent years, turning the employees' time off into the equivalent of long, paid vacations. Among the cases: a mentally disturbed prison doctor fired for mistreating inmates; a psychiatric hospital aide fired for allegedly striking a severely disabled patient with a shoe, and a prison mechanic who requested two-months' leave to address "family issues" while he was in jail for beating his wife.
Working for the state is "different" from the private sector, said Personnel Board Executive Director Suzanne Ambrose, explaining that the review process was designed to prevent employees from losing their jobs for political reasons and to ensure "fairness in how the government work is being done."
By contrast, the vast majority of Californians who work in the private sector serve at the pleasure of their bosses. If fired, they have little recourse unless they prove in civil court that their employer violated anti-discrimination laws by terminating them based on something such as their age, race or disability.
The trend of American colleges and universities lately is to enroll greater numbers of international students, and the University of Southern California is leading the way. The LAT's Larry Gordon tells the tale.
"For the 10th year in a row, USC held on to a championship that has nothing to do with sports: The Los Angeles campus once again enrolled the most foreign students of any college or university in the United States, according to a new study. UCLA had the sixth-highest international enrollment, up from seventh place the year before."
"Across the country, the ranks of international students enrolled in American higher education last year increased 5%, to 723,277, according to the annual report by the Institute of International Education, a New York nonprofit, in partnership with the U.S. State Department."
"China, for the second consecutive year, sent the largest group, which was up 22% to about 158,000. Indian students were the next-biggest contingent, followed by those from South Korea, Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Vietnam, Mexico and Turkey, the report found."
At least one piece of Gov. Brown's plan to trim public pensions may have major legal problems -- his effort to require public employees to contribute more toward their own pensions.
CalPensions' Ed Mendel has the story: "Requiring current workers to pay an equal share of normal pension costs, a 50-50 split with employers, may not be allowed under court rulings many believe limit pension changes to new hires, which can take decades to yield savings."
"The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office argued in a new report last week that employers cannot impose cost-saving pension cuts on current workers, unless that power is legally preserved on the date of hire or bargained later."
“Since increasing current employees’ contributions is one of the only ways to substantially decrease employer pension costs in the short run, the legal and practical challenges that we describe mean that the governor’s plan may fail in its goal to deliver noticeable short-term cost savings for many public employers,” said the report prepared by Jason Sisney, deputy legislative analyst."
California's landmark environmental protection review law, the California Environmental Quality Act, is being used by firms to combat their rivals, a new wrinkle in the fight over the law that has spawned voluminous litigation over the years.
From the LAT's Nicholas Riccardi: "The legal tussle was possible because California is one of three states that require private projects to comply with its own environmental law. That measure, the California Environmental Quality Act, is credited with helping preserve swaths of the Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert and coastline. But as state politicians scramble to assure voters they are trying to create jobs, they have turned on the 40-year-old law and the cottage industry of litigation it has spawned."
"These are the laws that allow a solo bird-watcher to protect an endangered animal, but they're being used by a sophisticated real estate entity to kneecap the competition," said Dan Rosenfeld, the principal at Urban Partners who handled the University Gateway development."
"The law requires project developers to go through a lengthy, public process detailing environmental effects and how they will be mitigated. The findings can be challenged in court by virtually any local party."