"Estimated personal income-tax payments, a key predictor of California's financial situation for the year ahead, are significantly down from expectations in recent weeks
, the Legislature's nonpartisan budget adviser said Wednesday," reports Clea Benson in the Bee.
"In December and January, Californians paid about 15 percent less on income from investments and other non-salary earnings
than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted earlier this month when he proposed a state budget. Overall, the state has earned about $1 billion less than expected since December.
The drop was offset by an uptick in corporate tax payments, which were about $350 million above projections.
'Unfortunately, it's not very good news,' [Legislative Analyst Elizabeth] Hill
told the Senate Budget Committee. The data, she said, are 'an early warning sign that we want to be really cautious' about budgeting."
Capitol Weekly's Cosmo Garvin reports on the triumphant return on the Senate Ethics Committee
"It's been one of those 'go-figure' pieces of trivia, a sort of running joke around the Capitol. What's the only standing committee in the Senate without any members? Senate Ethics. Go figure.
"Snicker no more. The Senate Ethics Committee is back after nearly a decade--thanks to Don Perata
"It's not that Senate Ethics went away, exactly. The committee has been staffed with attorneys since its creation in 1991. But after Senator John Burton
took over as Senate president pro tem in 1998, legislators were no longer assigned to it.
"So why is the committee coming back?
"'I'm not sure exactly,' said Senator Alan Lowenthal
, D-Long Beach, whom Perata has assigned as chairman of the committee. 'I don't have the sense that there's an underlying ethical issue that needs to be addressed right now.'
"But Lowenthal added that he had discussed with Perata the possibility that the committee might hold hearings and make recommendations on one or more reform bills--specifically redistricting, extending term limits or moving the presidential primary. Lowenthal last year authored unsuccessful redistricting legislation."
Speaking of ethics, the Merc's Edwin Garcia reports watchdogs are already nervous about the man with the gavel at Assembly Insurance
. "After two years of working quietly in the bustling corridors of the state Capitol, San Jose lawmaker Joe Coto
has been named head of the Assembly Insurance Committee -- despite an almost complete lack of legislative experience in insurance issues
"But Coto has one qualification that has typified past chairs of that committee, which regulates some of California's wealthiest special interests: a prodigious talent for fundraising
"Watchdog groups critical of the appointment suggest that one of the biggest priorities for the insurance committee chair has become raising gobs of money for Democratic causes from the insurance industry. Coto is a former schools superintendent who hadn't previously served on the committee nor carried insurance legislation, but he has a solid track record for fundraising and shifting donations to the party -- facts that further the skepticism of critics.
"'It's been a pattern over the years that the committee has carried water for the industry,' said Carmen Balber
, a consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. 'Unfortunately, we've seen time and time again that legislators will take large contributions from the industry they're regulating and their votes will reflect those contributions.'"
CW's John Howard reports on a new wrinkle in the presidential primary, term limits, redistricting scheme
"The push for an early presidential primary in California next year faces opposition on two fronts: from national party leaders who are considering whether to punish the state and from some in California who believe it is part of a plot to lengthen lawmakers' terms and redraw political districts.
"The Democratic National Committee will decide next month whether to punish California if the state decides to go to a February 5 primary
. ... Under the DNC formula, if California keeps its June 3, 2008, primary date, the state's Democratic delegation will get 97 additional, or "bonus," delegates to the party's national nominating convention. If California moves to February 5, the state keeps its current 443 delegates. Four other states will have caucuses or primaries before February 5--Iowa on January 14, Nevada on January 19, New Hampshire on January 22 and South Carolina on January 29."
George Skelton writes that moving the presidential primary up to February and changing term-limits is a win-win situation
"When the governor called for an early presidential primary last month — "We want to make California relevant" — he got legislative leaders excited.
"This time, the regular state primary would remain in June. The extra cost for a presidential-only contest is variously estimated at between $45 million and $90 million. Take a mid-range number and call it the cost of democracy.
"It's a good investment and in everybody's self-interest. The popular governor could be a powerful player in a meaningful primary. Legislators could acquire a fair redistricting system and more practical term limits. The people could help choose the next president."
CW's Malcolm Maclachlan reports on some of the squabbles that erupted after the recent Democratic delegate elections around the state
Voters and would-be delegates in two districts have filed complaints with the California Democratic Party over alleged improprieties in recent delegate elections held around the state earlier this month.
"One of these complaints names freshman Assemblyman Curren Price
, D-Inglewood. Price's chief of staff, Robert Cole
, has dismissed the charges as "sour grapes." Meanwhile, CDP spokesman Roger Salazar
said that new rules and much higher participation have caused confusion in these local elections."
With the California Faculty Association threatening a strike, the CSU board of trustees approved retroactive salary hikes for senior employees
, reports the Associated Press. "The 4 percent raises for 28 top-ranked employees were approved by the system's Board of Trustees, which wrapped up a two-day meeting in Long Beach on Wednesday.
"CSU leaders say they need to be able to pay competitive salaries to draw top talent.
"Even with the raise, administrators say their executives will still be well below the market.
"But faculty members, who are stalled in bargaining talks with administrators, and students, who are looking at a possible 10 percent fee increase, aren't convinced.
"'Stop ripping us off,' Rocio Navarro
, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, told trustees Wednesday. 'Students should be a priority, but lately you seem to be more concerned about taking care of your executive friends.'"
The LAT's Teresa Watanabe reports on the conflicting messages sent to California's undocumented children
. "They can attend public schools through high school but often can't get the financial aid needed for college.
"They can get emergency medical treatment but often can't get the preventive care to keep minor health issues from becoming full-blown problems.
"And, under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent proposals, undocumented immigrant children would be given unprecedented access to healthcare but would lose long-term welfare benefits.
"Such children often face a confusing thicket of public policies reflecting sympathy for their vulnerability and disapproval of their parents' illegal behavior."
The Bee's Shane Goldmacher writes that Assemblyman Chuck DeVore
wants to change the state's laws against communist sympathizer employment into laws prohibiting the hiring of supporters of terrorists
"Specifically, DeVore's legislation, Assembly Bill 137, would forbid the employment of a "knowing member or financial supporter of an extremist terror network" by the state of California.
"Free-speech advocates support DeVore's drive to rid the law of provisions banning communists, but are fearful of the new, anti-terrorist language.
"'We are closely reviewing the bill for any threat it poses to First Amendment freedoms of expression and association,' said Vivek Malhotra
, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has yet to take a position on the bill."
The Bee's Judy Lin reports: "State officials today are rolling out an ambitious plan to create 10,000 new housing units
for homeless people who suffer from mental illness.
"The Department of Mental Health and the California Housing Finance Agency plan to spend up to $75 million a year in Proposition 63 funding on the brick-and-mortar stage of establishing permanent, supportive housing for the mentally ill.
"An additional $40 million will be used to subsidize rental units, bringing the investment to $115 million a year for addressing one of the state's ongoing social challenges.
"'It's our first major initiative under the Mental Health Services Act,' said Sen. Darrell Steinberg
, author of Proposition 63, which voters passed in 2004 to tax individuals who make more than $1 million for expanding mental health services in California."
The Bee's Steve Weigand offers a resolution in support of Sally Lieber's anti-spanking bill
"Whereas the Organization of Oafish Parents is a statewide group of adults who know just enough to come in out of the rain and need to be spoon-fed meticulous instructions from California legislators on the best way to raise their children:
"Be it resolved by the members of OOPS to support Assemblywoman Lieber's valiant struggles against the snide and skeptical, and work tirelessly for ultimate approval of 'Spank a Kid; Go to Jail.'"
Finally, we told you recently about Kingsley Melton
, the former legislative staffer who was severely burned over the holidays in a house fire in San Diego. The wonderful news is that Kingsley is out of the induced coma and is preparing to be released from the hospital in the next couple of days. He is in good spirits and preparing for what will be a long outpatient recovery.
Unfortunately, his health insurance ran out in November, one month before the accident. Additionally, he doesn't have a job (after working campaigns last year), and won't be employable for months.
Meanwhile, the cost of his recovery will be significant. You all know how much cash you have lying around after a campaign job, and imagine trying to live on that while not being able to work for many months.
It is called the Kingsley Melton Recovery Fund
, and deposits can be made at any Golden 1 Credit Union branch. If people have questions they can call or email Craig Reynolds
in Lois Wolk's office.
Let's show what the Capitol community can do to help one of our own. On behalf of The Roundup, we're contributing $250. And, why don't you head over to Golden One at lunch time and do what you can.E-mail us
and let us know what you contributed.