While the budget stalemate appears to be entering its final phase, Capitol Weekly releases its first scorecard with legislative rankings
"The political scorecard is more art than science. Interest groups often use "scorecard votes" as a way of trying to pressure members on key bills, and the results often do not accurately reflect an individual's true ideology.
Scorecards are, by definition, both political and oversimplified."
You can download the entire scorecard by clicking here
And though the stalemate is ongoing, there are fewer reporters left to cover it. CW's John Howard reports on the diminishing Capitol press corps
. "In the past month, at least nine Capitol journalists have left, either through buyouts or layoffs, a direct consequence of business reversals that already have hit the home offices where staffs are being savaged. The math is simple: Fewer or less experienced Capitol reporters mean less scrutiny of government.
Capitol journalists--sometimes plagued by a desire for a career change, problems with editors, a need for more money, better hours, a change of life, whatever--have long migrated from the Capitol bureaus. What makes the latest turnover different is the financial turmoil at the papers.
"Senate Republicans are proposing an across-the-board cut of 1 percent to 2 percent in all state programs
as a way to move stalled state budget talks, probably delaying a legislative summer vacation scheduled to begin tomorrow," writes Ed Mendel in the Union-Tribune.
"They called the cut of about $1 billion to $2 billion in a proposed general fund of about $104 billion a fair way to reduce overall spending without favoring programs backed by either Democrats or Republicans.
"Every program in the state has grown by a tremendous amount in the last three or four years," said Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin. "We think taking a look and making an across-the-board cut might be a way to finish (the budget talks)."
The proposal is not acceptable to majority Democrats, said a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu�ez, D-Los Angeles."
Despite the proposal, there were reports Wednesday that progress was made over a couple of bottles of the Speaker's wine
"Although no deal was struck Wednesday, the 3-week-old state budget impasse appeared to have softened during a 24-hour period in which Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez shared two bottles of fine wine -- a 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia declared by Wine Spectator as Wine of the Year and a 2003 red wine from Quintessa Estate," reports Judy Lin in the Bee.
"'The wine helped
,' Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman
said Wednesday after taking an impromptu stroll with Assembly leaders outside the Capitol. 'He has good wine.'
"Nunez also showed off political generosity Wednesday. He named Assemblyman Van Tran
, a Vietnamese Republican from Orange County, to chair the newly created Select Committee on International Trade that will be charged with expanding import-export opportunities. Chairmanships are usually reserved for the party in power.
"Optimism ran so high, it triggered rumors of a possible weekend vote."
CW's Malcolm Maclachlan reports on a series of environmental bills that are guaranteed veto bait for the governor
"Late last month, a pair of Democratic legislators received opposition letters to their environmental bills from the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Among the reasons cited for the chemical bans in question: They would interfere with the administration's Green Chemistry Initiative
"Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Environmental Protection Agency announced the initiative in May. The concept of green chemistry relies on a number of principles, among the most important being considering the entire lifecycle of products, cutting down on waste and finding viable alternatives to the most toxic chemicals
. The initial announcement was met with acclaim by the chemical industry, environmental groups and many of the legislators most closely association with chemical legislation.
"On June 29, DTSC sent out opposition letters to three bills
, according to communications director Susie Wong: AB 706 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and SB 456 and SB 973 by Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. All three letters were signed by director Maureen Gorsen and used very similar language. In each, Gorsen "strongly recommends" that legislation 'be postponed until the Secretary of the Environmental Protection has developed a comprehensive set of recommendations pursuant to the Cal/EPA Green Chemistry Initiative
"As many as 2,100 California sex offenders reside near schools and parks in violation of Jessica's Law restrictions
approved by voters and championed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year, the state's top corrections official said Wednesday," reports Kevin Yamamura in the Bee.
"The state will give those parolees 45 days to relocate more than 2,000 feet from any school or park as required by law, said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary James Tilton
"The revelation that hundreds of newly paroled sex offenders continue to live near areas where children congregate surprised the lead co-author of Proposition 83, which passed with 70 percent voter approval.
"Courts ruled earlier this year that the law applies to sex offender parolees released starting the day after passage of Proposition 83 in November. But the state delayed enforcing the restrictions because of legal ambiguities and negotiations with labor unions over the new workload, Tilton said."
Daniel Weintraub writes that help is coming for the southern stretch of Highway 99
from Prop. 1B funds. "Traffic along that stretch, which now ranges from 42,000 trips a day near Interstate 5 in Kern County to more than 100,000 in Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto and Stockton, is expected to more than double by 2025, with more than 250,000 motorists a day using the highway in those cities.
"In between the towns, the road is clogged with trucks, some carrying local produce to the rest of the nation and beyond, others lugging goods from Southern California ports to the Central Valley. Near I-5 in the south, trucks represent more than 25 percent of the traffic on Highway 99, compared with the statewide average of 9 percent.
"The Proposition 1B money won't solve all of the problems on Highway 99. But this should be one case where voters won't have to wonder where their money is going. They will soon be seeing it just about everywhere they go on the east side of the Central Valley."
George Skelton writes that Don Perata
's plan to defer to local governments on the placement of new dams won't meet the state's needs
. "Schwarzenegger wants to build two dams: one off stream in Colusa County, the other upstream of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River near Fresno. He also hopes to fix the leaky, shaky delta -- possibly building a canal that bypasses the estuary -- and pay for it all with a $6-billion bond he'll ask voters to approve next year.
"The Perata plan, besides surrendering state power over dams, would allow local agencies to decide about groundwater storage and recycling. They could apply for state grants from a $2-billion bond kitty, part of a proposed $5-billion bond issue. There'd also be $2 billion for a delta fix-up and $1 billion for 'restoration projects' -- pork -- on various rivers, including L.A.'s.
"And about $300 million in existing bond money would be spent immediately for delta and groundwater improvements.
"Although they reject the regional idea, both [Senator Dave] Cogdill
and Schwarzenegger applaud Perata for at least recognizing the need for another water bond and the potential merits of more off-stream storage. Cogdill sponsored a Schwarzenegger bond-and-dam bill earlier this year that Senate Democrats killed.
"Since the state last built any dams, the population has soared from less than 21 million to nearly 38 million � and is headed toward 50 million by 2032.
"Sacramento politicians can't punt just because it's storming. They need to get in the game and carry the ball.
Dan Walters writes that new federal regulations could require the removal of trees and shrubs from the Delta's levee system
. "If applied to California, the rules would result in removing countless thousands of trees, including many giant cottonwoods and oaks, and other vegetation that shade and wildlife habitat, leaving behind piles of rock.
"New research, moreover, indicates that vegetation may actually make levees stronger, not weaker. The studies were conducted at the University of California, Davis, using a large hydraulic model. "The benefits start kicking in at high flows when flood risk is worse," study director Stefan Lorenzato told The Bee.
"So far, the Corps of Engineers is being adamant about removing vegetation by next spring, even though California-based officers have generally supported vegetation and have made at least some attempt to modify the rules.
"It's time for some political intervention from the governor and the state's congressional delegation before the Corps of Engineers' embarrassment over Katrina creates an ecological disaster in California."
From our Getting the Facts Straight
files: "California Highway Patrol Commissioner Mike Brown
in March declared a major breakthrough in reducing traffic deaths, citing a 9.2 percent statewide drop in 2006," reports John Hill in the Bee.
"But it turns out the figure touted by Brown was far too rosy. The CHP said Wednesday that the drop in highway deaths was only 2.5 percent, less than a third of the reduction it claimed four months ago.
"And compared to 2004, the year Brown assumed the commissioner's position, the new number represents an increase, not a decline.
"The culprits, Brown said on Wednesday, were local law enforcement agencies, and the CHP's own field offices, which failed to report all fatalities promptly.
And finally, CW's Malcolm Maclachlan spins the tale of an oil-painting portrait of a state Senator that has transformed into a Capitol inside joke
"In 1980, a "struggling artist" presented Bob Margett with a portrait copied from his official headshot as mayor of Arcadia. It shows him at his desk in a late 1970s era suit, posing behind a oversized name plate.
"'There was something weird about the eyes and the wide lapels that amused me,' Margett said. 'It wasn't a professional job, but that's OK. Her heart was in the right place.'"
"Margett estimates that the painting has been hung in over 100 places--including stints in Greece and a Capitol ladies room. It's appeal also lies in it's odd perspective--one staffer said it looks as if Margett is about to fall flat on his face--and the fact that Margett was "just as bald and gray-haired" back then as he is now.
"For the past three months or so, the painting has worked it's way around the horseshoe, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's inner sanctum.
"It started with deputy chief of staff Cynthia Bryant
and moved on to the office of legislative secretary Chris Kahn--who credits it with magical powers
"I had a full head of hair until I got the picture," joked Kahn, who like Margett is mostly bald.
The picture is rumored to have spent a few hours in the governor's famed smoking tent. As of press time, it's hanging on the wall in communications director Adam Mendelsohn's office
. When asked whether the portrait's new place of honor signaled a thawing of the sometimes tense relationship between the governor and the Republican Caucus, Mendelsohn gave a measured answer.
"This is post-partisanship,' he said. 'We'd be more than happy to have a portrait of [Senator] Joe Simitian [D-Palo Alto]