Raoul Lowery Contreras
The Mexicans Are Coming! The Mexicans Are coming!
In border cities from San Diego, the largest on the west, to Nogales, to El Paso and Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico, Mexicans are flooding across the border in record numbers today. They come not surreptitiously or for illegal work or criminal mischief; they are coming with fistfuls of dollars to sweep our store shelves clean of flat screen televisions, Blue Ray players, digital cameras, computers and Nieman Marcus fashions. While here, they buy food and drink, visit doctors, stay in hotels, take side trips to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World or up the coast to Disneyland, Lego Land and other tourist attractions. They spend real money earned from national oil sales to the United States, from cars built by Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen plants. Thousands of flat screen televisions are assembled in Tijuana and Rosarito Beach just minutes south of San Diego. Aerospace subcontractors of the largest U.S. companies hum with activity in massive industrial parks of Tijuana, Mexico. That is, companies that survived the great exodus to China ten, twenty years ago. Other Latin American countries are mired in perpetual poverty, little or no economic growth, lack of free enterprise and in some cases, are failed states run by communists, criminals and/or drug cartels. Economists generally agree that Mexico is rising fast; they are right. We in San Diego see it every day in our shopping malls.
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Cha-ching!!! Realtors give $500k to California Dems and short-sale dispute ends
The California Association of Realtors’ political action committee gave $500,000 to the state Democratic Party the day before the Democrat-dominated Franchise Tax Board effectively resolved a months-long legislative fight over the state’s tax treatment of short sales. Tuesday’s donation, reported Wednesday evening, matches the $500,000 the Realtors gave state Democrats in May. The group also gave the party $168,000 earlier in the year and more than $1 million in 2012. The 2013 contributions, by far the largest to the party in the current election cycle, will help Democratic attempts to keep their two-thirds legislative supermajorities in 2014.
State investigators trying to beat the Feds to Kevin de León ?
FPPC seeks answers from Kevin de León about $25K donation from Latino Caucus
California’s political watchdog agency is asking state Sen. Kevin de León for more information about a $25,000 contribution the Legislature’s Latino Caucus made to a nonprofit group run by former Assemblyman Tom Calderon. A political action committee run by the caucus, called Yes We Can, made the contribution early this year after a fight over leadership of the Latino caucus. Calderon’s brother, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was in line to become chairman of the influential caucus, but state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, did not want to give up the post. A few weeks after the caucus voted to keep Lara as chairman, the PAC gave $25,000 to Californians for Diversity, the nonprofit run by Tom Calderon. An FBI affidavit published in October alleges that de León, D-Los Angeles, brokered a deal between Calderon and Lara to settle the leadership dispute with the $25,000 payment. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission today sent de León a letter saying it may initiate an investigation into the contribution. The FPPC is exploring whether it constituted a payment made at the behest of a government official, which has to be reported under California law. De León’s chief of staff said the senator helped mediate the chairmanship fight but was not involved in any financial transactions. The FBI affidavit quotes a conversation between Ron Calderon and an undercover FBI agent, in which the senator says he and his brother planned to draw money from the nonprofit group.
Los Angeles Times
Ethics watchdog advises De León of possible probe
The Fair Political Practices Commission alerts Sen. Kevin de León that it might investigate whether he directed a donation to a nonprofit linked to Sen. Ronald Calderon.
San Jose (Racist) State launches dorm hate crime probe
Reacting to widespread outrage over an alleged hate crime against a black student, San Jose State on Thursday appointed a retired African-American judge who is the city's police watchdog to oversee a new task force investigating the notorious incident. The university also announced it hired a prominent black San Francisco lawyer with experience handling sensitive issues to conduct an independent review and produce a report for the task force. The move comes a week after student protesters demanded action from school leaders who were also under fire for tabling a study that found racial and ethnic groups on campus felt they were experiencing prejudice.
They don't come much dumber than the chairman of the Cali High Speed Rail Authority apparently
Bullet train: Rail authority says it's full-speed ahead for project
Critics and many political observers might see California's bullet train project as nearly dead, but state officials made clear Thursday that the train is still heading down the rails at full speed. Under siege following court rulings, Dan Richard, the chairman of the state's High-Speed Rail Authority, said the state still plans to break ground as early as next month on the largest public works project in California history. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny decided last week that nearly $8.6 billion in bond money California needs to construct the first section of the rail line are off limits until the state proves it can pay for the $68.4 billion project. The only other cash the state has to finance the project is $3.3 billion in federal funds that are also at risk because of the rulings. But Richards insisted to reporters Thursday that "nothing in those rulings changes our ability to move forward. We're ready to build this project."
California Legislature rises in estimation of voters
Bad news for Republicans...voters think Dems are doing OK
Californians can be counted on to disapprove of their Legislature’s performance. But the level of skepticism toward state legislators appears to be ebbing as the state’s fiscal footing firms. A new Field Poll gauging how Californian voters view their state lawmakers preserves the negative perception that has underpinned such polls for years, with 44 percent disapproving and 40 percent approving. That still marks a striking improvement from the last few years, when polls regularly showed Californians disdaining the Legislature by 40-point majorities. The gap was 15 percentage points as recently as February. The explanation for the rising optimism is twofold, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said: an improving fiscal situation and the restraint of Democrats who have solidified their grip on the levers of power.
Salton Sea may become financial sinkhole
Auditor questions lack of progress on restoration plan
The Legislature’s efforts to “save” the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake and one of the nation’s eeriest places, have gone virtually nowhere in the last decade, unless one counts the millions of dollars that have been spent on personnel and consultants. That’s the conclusion of a recent report by State Auditor Elaine Howle. Not that anyone needs an official audit to spot this lack of progress. The area remains desolate, its banks home to rusty trailers and empty motels and vacant lots. Extreme heat, combined with a foul smell that often emanates from the water, adds to its post-apocalyptic feel. Nevertheless, many find the area oddly beautiful. Developers have eyed the potential of the lakefront land, and environmentalists have sought ways to halt environmental degradation caused as the polluted lake evaporates. The dusty seabed, exposed as the shoreline recedes, poses an air-quality problem. The sea also serves as a flyway for waterfowl. “If the sea is lost, Southern California loses its most important inland wetland habitat,” according to the Salton Sea Authority, a state agency created in 1993 to promote its restoration. Given all these spending issues and priorities, restoring the Salton Sea to a pristine state that it has never known has not been, and is unlikely to become, a top mission. But is that such a bad thing, given that few people even know what approach to take toward a sea that only is threatening to revert to its natural state?
Los Angeles Times
Thomas Murder: Police continue to stick together and spin wacky story in court
Cop said Kelly Thomas gave him 'fight of his life,' witness says
A crime scene investigator testified Wednesday that two Fullerton police officers seemed exhausted and shaken after a violent encounter with a mentally ill homeless man who died days after being beaten by the policemen. Dawn Scruggs, a veteran forensic specialist, said one of the officers involved in the clash, Manuel Ramos, told her immediately after the incident that it had been “the fight of his life.” The former officers, Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, are now standing trial in the death of Kelly Thomas. Ramos is charged with second-degree murder; Cincinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Scruggs, testifying in the third day of the trial, said that when she arrived on the scene of the 2011 beating, Ramos was slumped over the front of a police cruiser holding the right side of his ribcage. Scruggs said she also approached Cicinelli, who also appeared to be tired and shaken after the fight. Scruggs said she took photos of the scene, including scrapes, bumps and bruises the officers had sustained in the struggle. Ramos had an injury to his left elbow and right knee, Scruggs said, and Cicinelli said he had injured his right thumb.
Poll: Jerry Brown Brown leads his closest Republican challengers by more than 40 percentage points
Brown's polling numbers surge as hapless Republicans continue to flounder
Governor Jerry Brown’s public approval rating has surged to a new high, and he is the overwhelming early favorite to win re-election next year, according to a new Field Poll. Nearly six in 10 registered voters – 58 percent – approve of the job Brown is doing, up seven percentage points from July, according to the poll. Brown leads his closest Republican challengers, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, by more than 40 percentage points. Brown leads the field by wide margins among both Democrats and independent voters, as well as across regions, genders, and age and ethnic groups.
California Democrats up pressure on Republican health care site
GOP amateurish political stunt does nothing to help health care consumers
Adding his voice to a rising chorus of criticism, a Democratic lawmaker called on Wednesday for an investigation of a health care website created by Assembly Republicans. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, became the latest California Democrat to assail a website he says Assembly Republicans created to amplify critiques of the law, rather than help Californians enroll in insurance via Covered California, the state’s newly operational exchange. Gomez has sent the Assembly Rules Committee a letter asking them to investigate. In a statement released earlier Wednesday, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said the website demonstrated “Republicans in California have no qualms about following their national party’s lead when it comes to spreading misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.” A click on the site’s “I don’t have insurance” tab – much larger than a small box linking to the Covered California site that was not initially on the main page – leads to information about IRS penalties for consumers who don’t obtain coverage. The main page displays links to articles about people losing their health insurance or their doctors.
San Francisco Chronicle
Poll: 66% of uninsured plan to get health coverage (like they'll be able to afford it LOL!)
Most Californians have at least heard about the state's new health insurance marketplace, and the majority of the uninsured who participated in a survey released Wednesday said they plan to get covered next year as required by the federal health law. About 68 percent of the 1,701 Californians surveyed Nov. 12-19 - more than a month after the national launch on Oct. 1 - said they were aware a health care exchange is available to people in the state to buy medical insurance. But the survey, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, doesn't make clear whether Californians understand the difference between the state-run marketplace, called Covered California, and the glitch-plagued federal website. California's site has run much more smoothly than the federal portal, which serves 36 states that don't have their own sites. Of Californians who said they did not have health coverage, 66 percent said they would get insurance as the law requires. Twenty-four percent said they would remain uninsured and 11 percent said they were unsure. The survey's margin of error was 3.6 percentage points.
Los Angeles Times
California bullet train project handed another setback
Federal regulators refuse to exempt a segment of proposed track from review
In another key setback to the California bullet train project, federal regulators have rejected the state's request to exempt a large Central Valley segment of proposed track from a lengthy planning review. The action affects part of a 29-mile rail section to be built near Fresno, where state officials have already awarded a construction contract. The decision is likely to complicate, delay and substantially drive up the cost on that initial $1-billion package of work. The ruling marks the second time in nine days that the rail agency's planning process has been rejected by authorities. Raymond Carlson, a Hanford attorney representing Kings County Water District and a grass roots group opposing the rail, said the authority was seriously mistaken to believe that the federal board would even consider granting an exemption on a section that had not yet cleared environmental reviews.
Los Angeles Times
L.A. County social workers to strike as contract negotiations stall
Welfare workers want more money and less work (maybe they should get in line on the other side of the window?)
Los Angeles County social workers will strike Thursday, the first time county employees have taken to picket lines in more than a decade and a sharp escalation of a contract dispute between the county and its largest union. The strike, which may include up to 3,600 social workers and their supervisors, was called Wednesday night by the Service Employees International Union, Local 721, which represents more than 55,000 county employees who have been working without a contract for more than two months. The action could spread beyond social workers because all SEIU members are being urged to respect picket lines. The two main obstacles are the timing of a pay raise and caseloads for social workers. The number and types of social workers who could take to picket lines were unknown, but if large numbers participated, “I would expect services to be impacted,” said Armand Montiel, a spokesman for the county Department of Children and Family Services. County officials had been preparing for such a move after the union declared an impasse late Tuesday.
Field Poll: Californians like Chris Christie, see tea party as a drag
Three years ahead of the presidential race, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has carved a considerably more favorable impression among California voters than four other possible GOP contenders, according to a new Field Poll. Some 47 percent of California voters have a complimentary view of Christie, while just 19 percent see him unfavorably. Each of the other four potential presidential candidates is viewed by voters as more unfavorable than favorable. All of the possible GOP presidential candidates in the survey – Christie, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida – are viewed favorably among Republicans. Christie, however, polls head-and-shoulders above the others in terms of his image among the broader voting public. “What’s really remarkable about Christie is his very positive image rating among Democrats and nonpartisans,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. “It’s on the order of 2-to-1 positive in the early going, which is a very unusual and I think an exceptional profile to have at this stage. He’s in an enviable position.” The survey also shows state voters overwhelmingly believe the tea party’s influence on the Republican Party weakens its chances in the 2014 congressional elections. Voters from the party’s shrinking ranks, by a 48 percent to 33 percent margin, view the populist, conservative movement as undermining their chances of winning congressional seats next fall.
San Francisco Chronicle
After law change Safeway drops slave labor
State cutting forced labor from global supply chain
The executive in charge of Safeway's supply chain is in London this week, rubbing shoulders with Queen Noor of Jordan, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, Walnut Creek-born model and founder of Every Mother Counts Christy Turlington Burns and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. The occasion: a two-day Trust Women conference focusing on slavery, human trafficking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other women's rights issues. Senior VP Carl Graziani will be talking about forced labor, child labor and human trafficking in the global supply chain, and how Safeway, with 5,000 direct suppliers worldwide, has been addressing the problem, especially since the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act took effect two years ago. With an estimated 27 million people engaged in some form of forced labor worldwide, "I think we're all beginning to realize we have to come together on this issue. We can't say in the future that we didn't know what was going on. Consumers expect more," said Graziani. Under the state law, California companies with $100 million or more in sales must disclose on their website how they're monitoring working conditions in their supply chains, whether their suppliers conform to the company's labor code of conduct and what they're doing to address illegal or forbidden practices.
Merrill Newman: North Korean captive had reached out to old comrades before trip
Connecting with old Spy Pals in N. Korea looking like a bad idea
Six months before Merrill Newman flew to North Korea as a tourist, he reached out to surviving members of the once-top-secret guerrilla group he trained as an Army infantryman in the war six decades ago. "I may not be able to make this happen, but if I can, I would like to know if there is any message I can deliver and anyone special I could see," he apparently wrote in an email released over the weekend by North Korea's central news agency. "It was a long time ago, of course, but I have always been sorry that I did not meet the Comrades there during the times of action." That email is now one of the many mysterious details emerging as experts and friends alike wonder how the 85-year-old grandfather with a heart condition wound up in custody in North Korea at the center of an international quagmire.
Shrub tamer pleads, 'Respect O.B.'
After facing charges, he says he will go on trimming shrubbery
The man who was in the spotlight over the past few days for being charged with a felony after pruning overgrown shrubs on city land near his Ocean Beach home spoke on Tuesday, unrepentant the morning after the charges were dropped. Citing community pride, Juvencio Adame, known locally as Vince, said he would continue to trim the trees, located on an oceantop cliff. Adame said the trees harbored transients and litter before he took action. “We’re proud to be Obecians,” said Adame, 46. “We’re going to continue to take care of our neighborhood. Respect O.B.” Adame blamed overzealous police and an unhappy neighbor for the charges against him. “I simply have been doing this for 13 years, up and down this alley,” Adame said. “I sweep every week. And I encourage everyone to do the same thing in their neighborhoods.” He said his family has been in Ocean Beach since 1905, and he has planted lots of trees around the neighborhood. The felony vandalism case was brought by the District Attorney’s Office in October. The case was referred to the county because the damage exceeded the $400 limit for a misdemeanor, which would be handled by city prosecutors. The county filed a motion to dismiss the charges on Monday, two days after U-T Watchdog highlighted the prosecution, criticized by many readers as wasteful.
Los Angeles Times
With fewer qualified recruits, LAPD sees decline in ranks
The public may be safer as fewer whack-jobs with badges and guns roam the streets
Less than a year after reaching its long-sought goal of 10,000 officers, the Los Angeles Police Department is now seeing a steady decline in its ranks as the city struggles to find enough qualified candidates. Fewer people are applying to join the LAPD and, of those who do, a significantly higher number of them are being disqualified from consideration. Since the decline began several months ago, the LAPD is down more than 100 officers. The department needs to hire about 350 officers a year to make up for normal attrition, and officials say they could remain understaffed for years if the current trend holds. Earlier this year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Chief Charlie Beck celebrated the 10,000-officer milestone, a target the city has sought to attain since the L.A. riots in 1992.
Wrongful death suit against deputies revived
Family says cops didn't have to gun down whack-job...they could have let him live and helped him instead
A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a jury trial in a lawsuit filed by the daughter of a suicidal Santee man shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in 2006. In overturning a lower federal court ruling that had dismissed the case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday that a jury should be allowed to decide whether the use of deadly force against Shane Hayes, 40, was justified. On Sept. 17, 2006, Deputies Mike King and Sue Geer responded to the home Hayes shared with his girlfriend after a neighbor reported hearing screaming, according to court documents. The records show the girlfriend told deputies the couple had been arguing over a suicide attempt by Hayes, who she feared would harm himself. Deputies entered the dimly lit home and found Hayes in the kitchen, his right hand behind his back. King ordered him to show his hands, but Hayes walked toward the deputies and held up a knife, point down, court filings said. Within four seconds, both deputies shot Hayes, who was six to eight feet from them, and he died at a hospital 90 minutes later, according to court documents. Hayes’ girlfriend, who witnessed the shooting, has told authorities Hayes did not charge the two deputies.
The feds got it wrong, Brown tells Obama in letter appealing denial of Rim Fire aid
California officials may have figured Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration for this year’s Rim fire was a slam dunk. It was the third-largest wildfire in state history and torched thousands of acres in Yosemite National Park, an American treasure. It didn’t happen. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the state’s request, saying the fire’s magnitude and severity didn’t justify the declaration. Brown appealed the decision Monday. In a letter to President Barack Obama, Brown wrote that the state and local communities “face infrastructure damage, significant negative economic impact, as well as complex and multifaceted environmental damages. The burned area created an enormous potential for catastrophic flooding and debris runoff from winter storms.”
California prison system hiring 7,000 officers
Confronted with a growing wave of retirements, the California Department of Corrections said today that it will need to hire approximately 7,000 prison officers over the next three years to fill current and future vacancies statewide. The state has about 25,000 fewer inmates in its 34 adult prisons owing to a two-year-old program that sends more convicted offenders to local jails, while attrition also is draining the prison-officer ranks with an average 150 retiring each month, according to corrections statistics. The state employees about 28,500 full-time-equivalent parole and prison officers, according to state union contract documents posted on the California Department of Human Resources’ website.
Los Angeles Times
Psychopathic killer cops claim they killed Kelly Thomas in self-defense
Lawyers offer different views of video in Fullerton police trial
The trial of two Fullerton police officers accused of killing a mentally ill homeless man began in dramatic fashion Monday with the Orange County district attorney taking the rare step of arguing the case personally, at one point holding a wooden baton to recreate the deadly confrontation. The death of Kelly Thomas in 2011 generated national attention, marking a rare instance in which police officers are being criminally charged for an on-duty fatality. The centerpiece of the case is a grainy black and white video synched with audio from the officers' recorders that captures the policemen hitting Thomas with a baton and the butt of a stun gun as he calls out for his father and repeatedly says, "I can't breathe." But attorneys for former officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli offered the jury a starkly different interpretation of what happened in those 33 minutes of video. The tape, said Ramos' attorney John Barnett, actually shows that officers were dealing with a man so violent and out of control that they were forced to repeatedly call for backup. Thomas' family watched the proceedings, seated not far from the defendants' own families. Members of the loosely organized group known as Kelly's Army, which held protests demanding the officers' prosecution, were in the audience wearing yellow ribbons. The trial is expected to last weeks. As officers beat him, Rackauckas said, Thomas repeatedly said "that he was sorry, like a young boy begging for the punishment to stop." "His last words were, 'Dad, they're killing me. Dad, they're killing me' … you'll hear his voice drop to this deep low drone as he just barely pushed out the words 'Daddy, Daddy,'" Rackauckas said. At one point, Thomas unsuccessfully tried to move away from Ramos and another policeman, but the officers dog-piled on the homeless man as he complained that he couldn't breathe, Rackauckas said.
R. Scott Moxley
Fullerton Police Lawyers: Kelly Thomas Killed Himself
Ex-officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli offered jurors ludicrous stories
Day One of the prosecution's case against two Fullerton cops accused of using excessive force in 2011 to kill an unarmed homeless man had an eerie resemblance to another trial that landed Orange County in embarrassing international headlines a decade ago. In Corona del Mar, three young men--including the son of a wealthy, corrupt assistant sheriff--got a 16-year-old girl highly intoxicated and, after she'd fallen unconscious, stripped her before videotaping themselves sexual assaulting her vagina and rectum with a Tree Top Apple Juice can, pool cue, Snapple bottle and lit cigarette. Defense lawyers put Jane Doe, that victim, on trial and brought in so-called expert witnesses who opined that the girl faked her stupor for the Sony camcorder after asking her assailants to film her in a necrophilia sex scene she could presumably use to enter the Los Angeles porn world. Today, inside Judge William R. Froeberg's 10th floor courtroom--just beneath the location of the infamous Haidl Gang Rape trial, acclaimed defense lawyers for ex-officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli offered jurors similarly ludicrous stories. Ramos attorney John Barnett, who also served as a losing defense lawyer in the Haidl case, portrayed victim Kelly Thomas as a menacing physical specimen who scared a large group of towering, fully-armed, veteran cops that chased, surrounded, punched, kicked, restrained, clubbed and shot Taser blasts into the homeless man's relatively small frame for five minutes.
Kelly Thomas before and after his mere fatal "bruising" encounter with compassionate police
Jerry Brown is the only one who can upend his re-election
Two statewide polls told us this week that there’s probably just one person who could thwart Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid for a historic fourth term next year. And that’s Jerry Brown. An improving economy and, therefore, Californians’ improving optimism generally about their state buoys Brown’s standing.
To rein in rogue L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, inspector general is good first step
The bad news has been piling up at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over the past couple of years, beginning with reports of widespread inmate abuse in the jails and continuing right up until a few days ago. More than 100 deputies had been hired in recent years despite having committed misconduct of a sort that most law enforcement agencies would consider a firing offense. This latest revelation may very well not be the last. Connecting the ongoing problems plaguing the Sheriff’s Department is a similar thread: a lack of oversight by top LASD officials.
Assembly GOP sows health care confusion
At the national level, congressional Republicans have gone out of their way to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans have voted 46 times to repeal the law. But in California, it appeared that Republican lawmakers were bucking the national Republican trend and doing the responsible thing. Assembly Republicans, led by Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, sent out a press release in August saying that though they had opposed the law, “it is our responsibility as elected officials to help educate Californians about the new federal health care law as we must all comply with it.” At The Bee’s editorial board, we took them at their word. It turns out, however, that the “help” they are offering can be described only as a subversion of California’s efforts to encourage uninsured people to get insurance through the state’s online exchange, Covered California.
Paying California pols who might be better part-time
In May, the editorial board noted that state revenue was up, and that, naturally, elected officials would like some of it to be used to make life easier for ... elected officials. Here in December, that’s exactly what has happened, with a $5,000 pay raise for members of the California Senate and Assembly going into effect this week, a hike of 5.3 percent, to $95,291 a year. The whole conversation about the relative pay of California’s legislators compared with other states’ lawmakers begs another question entirely: Whether they should really be employed full-time. California doesn’t really need a full-time Legislature, doesn’t need the massive staffs each legislator — or, rather, each taxpayer — hires and pays.
Detroit bankruptcy ruling puts public employee pensions on the table in California
A bankruptcy judge in Detroit ruled Tuesday that the city’s truly massive bankruptcy can include a pension reduction, saying, “it has long been understood that bankruptcy law entails the impairment of contracts.” That’s almost word-for-word what the Stockton bankruptcy judge, Christopher Klein, had said during one proceeding. The uncanny similarity of the Detroit case to those in California extends to the almost identical provisions in the California and Michigan state constitutions that prohibit “impairment of contracts.” The potential fallout is immense. If pensions can be reduced in bankruptcy, California cities, struggling with ever-increasing demands for pension fund payments, will use it as leverage to demand concessions from their unions. Moreover, the unsettled situation could affect the outcome of a proposed 2014 or 2016 ballot measure, sponsored by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, that would allow local officials to modify future pension benefits. If Reed gets his measure on the ballot, he could – and would – contend that doing something about mounting pension payments through that process would be better than leaving it to the complexities of bankruptcy.
Democrats have legislative supermajorities, but will they use them or lose them?
Democrats won a 55-seat supermajority in the state Assembly last year, thanks to a couple of surprise wins in what seemed to be safe Republican districts. They kept it by eking out wins in two surprisingly close special elections this year. Democrats also won a 29-seat supermajority in the state Senate last year, then dropped a seat in a special election. Despite wide speculation about what supermajorities would bring, they meant virtually nothing this year, due to the unusually heavy spate of resignations and special elections and Democratic leaders’ go-slow attitude on using their theoretical power to raise taxes or pass constitutional amendments by two-thirds votes. The most likely uses of supermajorities next year, if any, would be to place constitutional amendments on the 2014 ballot, such as one to lower the vote requirement for local parcel taxes, a relatively minor change to Proposition 13.
Affordable Care Act still doesn’t address illegal immigrants
California taxpayers pick up the tab for immigration and Obamacare failures...and the bill is huge!
No matter how successfully President Obama remedies the Affordable Care Act, more than a million California residents will be unable to purchase insurance. That’s because undocumented immigrants, who make up roughly one-seventh of the 7 million people in the state without insurance, are explicitly excluded from participating in the insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The restriction leaves some of the state’s poorest residents without access to enhanced health care. And it complicates enrollment for thousands of mixed families with U.S. born children and undocumented parents. The exclusion eliminates a sizable group of young and healthy members from the insurance pools and leaves taxpayers with an annual $1 billion tab to treat uninsured immigrants in emergency rooms.
Fixing California: State needs freer markets, fewer contraptions
Watching state legislators construct fixes to the state’s problems reminds me of those bizarre contraptions that the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg would devise, as he “invented” complicated, funny methods to achieve simple tasks. Most problems — such as the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, nation’s-highest poverty rate, education failures and others detailed in the U-T’s Fixing California series — are off the table given the power of status-quo-defending interest groups to derail actual solutions. So the reform blueprints get more complicated and far-fetched.
FBI’s Calderon investigation threatens a political dynasty
When the FBI’s undercover investigation of state Sen. Ron Calderon was revealed a few weeks ago, it not only put him in legal jeopardy, it altered the political dynamics of the Southern California region he and his political family have dominated for decades.
San Francisco Chronicle
Special elections not best for lawmaker vacancies
Lib-tards looking for another way to steal your vote
Under California law, the governor is allowed to choose a replacement for a statewide-elected official who vacates her post midterm. He chooses a replacement for county supervisor when one of those positions is unexpectedly vacated as well. It's an easy and painless process that doesn't attract much controversy or concern from voters. So why can't the governor do the same thing with state legislators? This isn't an idle question - in fact, it's an expensive one. There have been 10 legislative desertions in the past year alone. In accordance with state law, each of these vacancies requires a special election at an average cost of $1 million. Can't California always use a spare $10 million? There are other reasons to get rid of these kinds of special elections, too.
Must tighten the rules for politicians using nonprofits
Allegations of political corruption in Southern California bring into sharp relief the need for the Legislature to clamp down on practices that allow its members to use nonprofit organizations as personal piggy banks.
Hollywood’s state tax credit tarnished by scandal, facts
The term “rent-seeking” entered the economic lexicon in the mid-1970s, meaning the employment of political pull to obtain a monopoly or some other unearned economic benefit. The term rarely arises in the Capitol, being a little too abstract for its denizens, but the practice permeates California politics. When infamous lobbyist Artie Samish controlled the Capitol before and after World War II, for example, his primary goal was the protection of a monopolistic liquor industry. Much of what Samish wrought has disappeared, but one remnant, called the “tied-house law,” still requires those in the liquor trade seeking to expand operations to seek legislative exemptions. Just this year, for instance, small distillers had to get special legislation to conduct tastings similar to those of vintners. One of the more nefarious forms of rent-seeking involves loopholes in the state’s complex tax codes. One of the more esoteric rent-seeking loopholes on the books is the “film tax credit” that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself an action movie actor, and Southern California legislators championed.
Rail rebuke result of ignoring public
Judge's decision might be end of high-speed rail plan
Rewriting a financial plan is no big deal, according to some rail supporters. But finding the extra $25 billion needed to write a new plan that actually will pass court muster is a serious obstacle, especially given the unlikelihood of forthcoming federal or private funds.
Time to end the California high-speed rail fraud
A Superior Court judge Monday slowed the California bullet train boondoggle to a crawl. It's about time. For more than two years, Gov. Jerry Brown and his puppet leading the California High-Speed Rail Authority board, Dan Richard, have overstepped their legal authority and disregarded the will of the voters by pushing ahead full-throttle. Until the feds start to realize they've been had, there's still a bit of money left from Washington. But it won't last long. It's hard to imagine how the project can continue to move forward. It's time to put an end to this fraud.
California bullet train takes big hit from judge
Judge Michael Kenny didn’t completely derail California’s bullet train this week. However, in ruling on two lawsuits challenging Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project, Kenny told the High-Speed Rail Authority to slow down and stop sidestepping requirements in a 2008 ballot measure.
California health insurance decision has political fallout
The implementation of the federal health care program popularly known as Obamacare will obviously affect the lives and finances of tens of millions of Americans. Obviously, too, as the nation’s largest state, California’s implementation will play a major role in the program’s success or failure. But setting aside the human impacts for the moment, there are also heavy political effects, both nationally and in California.
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