"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday clamped down on state spending, ordering cuts that will cancel nonessential travel for thousands of employees and freeze hiring at most state agencies
as California grapples with a $14.5 billion budget deficit," the Associated Press reports.
"The governor's executive order comes after he filled several positions in his own administration and appointed dozens of people to state jobs, boards or commissions since Jan. 10, when he announced a fiscal emergency.
"His appointments during that time — more than 120 — come with a cost of more than $5 million a year."
The Bee's Judy Lin reports, "Though departments are being urged to postpone hiring
, [Finance Director Mike] Genest
said directors will get to decide on a "case-by-case basis which positions they must fill" so as not to jeopardize health care delivery or public safety.
"'What the hiring freeze is intended for is (to) control the pace of hiring so we can minimize the need for layoffs down the road if the budget situation worsens,' Genest said."
You can read the executive order here.
"Yacht buyers will continue to benefit from a loophole that allows them to avoid sales tax on their boats
, after Republicans in the Assembly blocked an effort to close it Tuesday," reports Evan Halper in the Times.
"Closing the tax loophole -- "sloophole," as it has come to be known by Democrats -- takes a two-thirds majority vote in each house of the Legislature, which requires some Republicans to get on board.
"Not enough of them did Tuesday, so on a 47-18 vote by the 80-member Assembly, the move to scuttle the tax benefit failed.
"'It is unconscionable to cut education and welfare while not closing this loophole,' said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird
(D-Santa Cruz). 'Everyone needs to be part of a budget solution, including yacht owners.
"Republicans, who say forcing yacht buyers to pay the tax would drive jobs out of California, called the proposal "political gamesmanship" that would do little to close the state's multibillion-dollar deficit."
And it looks like AB 32 may have set off a war between environmentalists and advocates for the poor
"Low-income community groups in five California cities launched a statewide campaign Tuesday to "fight at every turn" any global-warming regulation that allows industries to trade carbon emissions, saying it would amount to "gambling on public health."
The 21-point "Environmental Justice Movement Declaration" challenges the stance of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a national advocate of a cap-and-trade program that would allow heavy polluters, often located in poor neighborhoods, to partly buy their way out of lowering their emissions."
"The 18 groups that signed the declaration included the San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Advance Project, Oakland's West County Toxics Coalition, the L.A. chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility and Delano's Assn. of Irritated Residents
And just in time for his confirmation, it looks like someone wants to tube the reappointment of PUC Commissioner Timothy Simon
. LAT's Jordan Rau and Evan Halper have the dirt.
"Public Utilities Commissioner Timothy A. Simon solicited donations from companies he regulates to help pay for a nonprofit conference on green energy hosted last month by one of his political patrons, documents and interviews show.
Two weeks after the conference, the three most generous corporate donors to the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service -- each of which gave at least $50,000 -- won PUC agreement to change a new energy-efficiency program as the companies had requested."Simon's appointment to the commission is largely due to Willie Brown, the former Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor. Brown recommended him to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and is said to be rallying support for his confirmation, which the state Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to consider today.
"California's $7.9 billion prison construction and rehabilitation plan will provide at least 6,900 fewer beds than previously promised and take longer to complete, according to testimony at a legislative hearing Tuesday and interviews with corrections officials.
"An expansion plan slated for existing prisons has been downsized from 16,000 to 13,000 beds
, officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told lawmakers at a state Senate Public Safety Committee hearing. The expansion beds will now cost $222,000 each, or 48 percent more than originally estimated, and won't come on line until December 2009 – 11 months later than originally scheduled
," reports Andy Furillo in the Bee.
"The construction plans became law last year under Assembly Bill 900, which promised a total of 53,000 new beds. The reconfigured plans may require millions more in funds that have yet to be allocated.
"Senate Public Safety Committee Chair Gloria Romero
, D-Los Angeles, said in an interview the figures reaffirm her position that AB 900 "was the wrong policy for the wrong reason."
"'You can't get past the $222,000 per bed figure
,' she said. 'There is black and there is white, and $222,000 per bed, I don't care how you divide it, that is a staggering, overwhelming cost to the taxpayers.'"
"Amid growing concerns of Bay Area residents, a state legislator is pushing for a moratorium on aerial spraying of a moth pesticide
over San Francisco and Marin counties," writes Jane Kay in the Bee.
"Sen. Carole Migden
, D-San Francisco, will ask representatives of the 10 other counties where the moth has been found to join her resolution, she said.
"The resolution, if passed, would delay the application of a synthetic pheromone that disrupts the mating of the light brown apple moth. The moratorium would stay in place until officials could show that any pesticide sprayed by air is both safe and effective, Migden said.
"If the moth became established in California, agriculture officials fear its larvae could destroy the state's agriculture industry."
Meanwhile, the drum beat continues for the man who hates government to get a new, term-limit-free government job
The Grass Valley Union reports, "Eric Egland
, the lone Republican running for John Doolittle's congressional seat who lives in the district full time, said Wednesday he would bow out if powerful state Sen. Tom McClintock from Southern California enters the race
"Egland's remarks are the latest twist in the crowded 4th District race, which also includes longtime politicians Thomas "Rico" Oller
and Doug Ose
as front-runners for the Republicans and former Air Force officer Charlie Brown
running - who came close to beating Doolittle two years ago - for the Democrats. The primary will be held in June and the general election in November."
Speaking of Congress, "Brent Wilkes
, the Poway defense contractor who federal prosecutors contend was the mastermind behind the largest congressional bribery scheme in history, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday
," reports the U-T's Angelica Martinez.
"With his daughter crying behind him, he asked the court to look at his entire life and 'not the picture, which I don't believe to be accurate, which the prosecution has tried to paint of me.'
"U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns
urged Wilkes to admit his wrongdoing, something he politely refused to do.
"'Today is a day to own up,' Burns said. 'A guy who cares at least about his family should come clean to them.'
"Wilkes thanked his family and friends for their support, and continued to deny guilt.
"'I know they understand how helpless I've felt in the process because I couldn't speak out,' he said. 'Your Honor, I've always maintained my innocence and I continue to.'"
Finally, we have found a use for that Gigli DVD your ex-girlfriend gave you. "A South Carolina man is thankful for a DVD that ended up taking a bullet for him
. Colleton County Fire and Rescue Director Barry McRoy
says he was leaving a Waffle House restaurant in Walterboro on Saturday morning when two men ran in fighting over a gun. Police say a bullet hit one of the struggling men, shattered a window and then hit McRoy.
"The bullet hit a DVD McRoy was carrying in his pocket. He suffered a bruise but didn't realize he had been shot. As he told a police officer what happened he noticed a bullet hole in his jacket, the shattered DVD case and a piece of the bullet.
"'I was saved by a DVD,' McRoy says. 'How lucky can you get?'"