Pols go to class to learn how to not steal....
California Senate undergoes ethics training
Imagine this: A state senator is carrying a package of bills for a major corporation. The same company backs a foundation that plans to give the senator its national legislative achievement award. The award comes with $25,000 cash. What ethical or legal issues does the scenario raise? That question was among several that California senators discussed Wednesday during special ethics training prompted by the unusual spate of problems to hit the Capitol in recent months. Two senators have been charged with corruption in separate FBI investigations and a third has been convicted of perjury for lying about where he lived when he ran for office. A fourth is fighting a judge’s recommended order that he pay a fine for campaign money-laundering, and two high-profile Sacramento lobbying firms have paid record-setting fines for violating state lobbying laws. The rules forbid a direct exchange of money for policy, as described in the example above and as alleged by federal authorities who claim that Democratic Senators Ron Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco took bribes from undercover FBI agents seeking official actions from them in the Capitol. Calderon and Yee have pleaded not guilty. But the law allows politicians to raise campaign money from the very interests who lobby them every day. Steinberg said the training focused on drawing the line between the two essential duties of holding office: making laws and raising money.
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|Los Angeles Times
Republican nirvana is a toxic cesspool...
Fresno ranks No. 1 on California pollution list
The state's new effort to map the areas most at risk from pollution features hot spots up and down California. But nowhere are there more of the worst-afflicted areas than in Fresno — in particular a 3,000-person tract of the city's west side where diesel exhaust, tainted water, pesticides and poverty conspire to make it No. 1 on California's toxic hit list. "I'm looking at this map, and all I see is red. We're right here," Daisy Perez, a social worker at the Cecil C. Hinton Community Center, said as she located the center of the red areas that represented the top 10% most-polluted census tracts in California. "It's so sad. Good people live here." Pollution has long plagued the Central Valley, where agriculture, topography and poverty have thwarted efforts to clean the air and water. The maps released this week by the California Environmental Protection Agency show that eight of the state's 10 census tracts most heavily burdened by pollution are in Fresno. For residents of the state's worst-scoring area, statistics tell only part of the story of what it is like to live there. It's a place where agriculture meets industry, crisscrossed by freeways. The city placed its dumps and meat-rendering plants there decades ago. Historically, it was the heart of the city's African American community. The Central Valley's civil rights movement was centered in its churches. People referred to it as West Fresno, which meant a culture as well as a place. These days, young community workers call it by its ZIP Code — the "93706 Zone." It's home to a Latino community — the children and grandchildren of migrant workers; to Hmong and Cambodian farmers; and to a minority African American community that includes those desperate to leave, and an old guard of those who say they will never abandon home.
Los Angeles Times
Twitter critics take on LAPD after NY police hit on social media
A Twitter backlash against New York City police has spread to the West Coast with people posting critical comments and photos of the Los Angeles Police Department. The New York Police Department was hit with a barrage of negative publicity after agency officials urged people to post pictures that praised officers under the hashtag #myNYPD. On Wednesday, people were using a #myLAPD hashtag to post critical comments and photos of Los Angeles police officers. One post showed a photo of police officers in riot gear wielding batons. It said the LAPD has learned "how to keep a country's population under control." Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the LAPD was aware of the negative tweets.
Los Angeles Times
Judge Jodi Remke appointed to head California ethics watchdog agency
With ethics scandals rocking the Capitol, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appointed as the new head of California’s ethics watchdog agency a judge who has overseen the discipline of attorneys. Joann M. “Jodi” Remke, who is presiding judge of the State Bar Court, is Brown’s choice to serve as chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. The appointment fills a void created six months ago when Chairwoman Ann Ravel was appointed to the Federal Election Commission.
Now you can hear the Leftist whack-job for yourself
Judge releases audiotape of ‘Squeaky’ Fromme’s mental exam after Ford assassination attempt
The judge’s order, issued last week, followed her decision in August to release another historic piece of evidence: the videotaped deposition of President Ford, part of the evidence used by the government to obtain a guilty verdict from a jury. The Fromme recording, portions of which can be heard on www.sacbee.com/history, was made Sept. 21, 1975, just more than two weeks after Fromme, then 26, aimed her pistol at the president while he was on his way to a meeting with then-and-current Gov. Jerry Brown. The gun did not go off. Fromme was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent, a Sacramento police officer and bystanders, and was arrested. During the recording, Fromme speaks clearly and confidently about her ability to represent herself and win an acquittal. She also discusses her past drug use and her interactions with convicted mass murderer Charles Manson. Fromme had been an ardent disciple of Manson and the cult-like “family” that supported him even after his murder convictions, and she had been a frequent visitor to The Bee newsroom to advocate for him. But she insisted to Richmond that news accounts about Manson and his followers were overblown.
Los Angeles Times
GOP gubernatorial candidate attacks affirmative action
The recent legislative effort to restore affirmative action in public university admissions "should've been called the 'There are too many Asians at Berkeley' bill," Republican candidate for governor Neel Kashkari told several hundred Cal students Wednesday. Democrats "will never come out and say to you there are too many Asians at Berkeley, but that's what the bill was all about," Kashkari said of Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, recently shelved by Sacramento lawmakers after an outcry from many Chinese-American parents, who fear affirmative action would make it harder for their children to get into top schools like UC Berkeley and UCLA. The comments came as Kashkari, an asset manager from Laguna Beach and former U.S. Treasury Department official, pitched his platform -- including the K-12 and higher education plan he unveiled a day earlier -- to students in a UC Berkeley political science seminar.
San Francisco Chronicle
Indian artifact treasure trove paved over for Marin County homes
No artifacts were saved but Bay Area elites got their fancy houses
A treasure trove of Coast Miwok life dating back 4,500 years - older than King Tut's tomb - was discovered in Marin County and then destroyed to make way for multimillion-dollar homes. The American Indian burial ground and village site, so rich in history that it was dubbed the "grandfather midden," was examined and categorized under a shroud of secrecy before construction began this month on the $55 million Rose Lane development in Larkspur. The 300-foot-long site contained 600 human burials, tools, musical instruments, harpoon tips, spears and throwing sticks from a time long before the introduction of the bow and arrow. The bones of grizzly and black bears were also found, along with a ceremonial California condor burial. "This was a site of considerable archaeological value," said Dwight Simons, a consulting archaeologist who analyzed 7,200 bones, including the largest collection of bear bones ever found in a prehistoric site in the Bay Area. "My estimate of bones and fragments in the entire site was easily over a million, and probably more than that. It was staggering." All of it, including stone tools and idols apparently created for trade with other tribes, was removed, reburied in an undisclosed location on site and apparently graded over, destroying the geologic record and ending any chance of future study, archaeologists said. Not a single artifact was saved. "It should have been protected," said Jelmer Eerkens, a professor of archaeology at UC Davis who visited the site as a guest scholar. "The developers have the right to develop their land, but at least the information contained in the site should have been protected and samples should have been saved so that they could be studied in the future."
Los Angeles Times
New map could refocus state's pollution battles
Graphic maps prove that in California if you're poor, you're screwed
The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a statewide list of census tracts most burdened by pollution, providing a first-of-its-kind ranking certain to pressure regulators to clean up neighborhoods with long-standing health risks. Many of the worst pollution pockets identified and mapped by state officials are in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire. Their residents are largely low-income Latinos who have had little power to force improvements in their communities. By providing the public with an objective accounting of conditions in areas as small as a few thousand residents, Cal/EPA has created a powerful tool to spur regulators to act in highly polluted neighborhoods, state officials and environmental activists say. "It is a major breakthrough that will give us a better opportunity to direct or redirect precious resources to the communities that need it the most," said state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). De León wrote a 2012 law that requires the state to spend 25% of the auction proceeds from California's greenhouse gas-cutting cap-and-trade program to benefit disadvantaged communities that face disproportionate effects from pollution and climate change. The screening tool, called CalEnviroScreen, was developed by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, a branch of Cal/EPA, to pinpoint the communities with the highest exposure and vulnerability to multiple environmental hazards, including polluted air and water, waste facilities and contaminated soil. The rankings, however, are not based only on measures of environmental exposure. They also take into account socioeconomic characteristics and health data on residents to assess the overall vulnerability of communities. Those factors include poverty, education, unemployment, rates of asthma and low-birth-weight infants.
Police state pols don't care how you voted
Sacramento County supervisors vote to ban outdoor marijuana gardens
Sacramento County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to ban outdoor marijuana crops, joining a growing number of California cities and counties that have prohibited cultivation in response to safety and nuisance complaints. Sheriff Scott Jones told supervisors that marijuana plants have increased throughout the county because of a lack of clarity in federal and state laws and inconsistent prosecution. County aides and law enforcement showed numerous aerial photos of reported grow sites, including open space near Rio Linda High School and the Cherry Island Soccer Complex. “We’ve seen a profusion – an explosion – of marijuana grows,” Jones said. The new restrictions would apply to unincorporated Sacramento County and likely take effect in mid-June. The city of Sacramento already bans outdoor cultivation in residential areas, while Elk Grove prohibits all outdoor marijuana growth. The board in 2011 effectively banned medical marijuana dispensaries after as many as 99 such establishments had opened in the unincorporated county.
Bay Area elites claim more water from the unwashed masses
East Bay to tap Sacramento River water
The East Bay Municipal Utility District this month will begin diverting water from the Sacramento River for the first time ever, a clear sign that the drought is literally causing ripples across the state. The district’s board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to begin tapping its water supplies from the Freeport Regional Water Project on the Sacramento River, which it helped build in partnership with Sacramento County at a cost of nearly $1 billion. The district has not used the diversion since it was completed in 2010. The district, which serves 1.3 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, normally gets most of its water from its own reservoir and pipeline system on the Mokelumne River. To stretch this supply, it has called on customers this winter to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 10 percent. The Freeport diversion is a large complex of fish screens, pumps and pipelines in Sacramento, north of the town of Freeport along the Sacramento River. Completion in 2010 marked the end of a decades-long water war in the Sacramento region.
Another GOP cartoon character
El Dorado County supervisor has ‘trouble following laws’
After months of public vitriol, El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting went on trial Tuesday on charges of felony malfeasance as a state prosecutor depicted him as a dishonest figure with “trouble following laws” routinely honored by other elected officials. Nutting, 54, has been charged with four felonies in connection with failing to properly disclose more than $70,000 in state income for brush clearing and other fire prevention work on his family’s 340-acre ranch in Somerset. The prosecution’s case is based on its interpretation of thousands of pages of documents that jurors in the Placerville trial will have to wade through in coming weeks. But beyond the minutiae of the documents and opening testimony Tuesday from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials, the case is focusing a lens on the divisive politics of El Dorado County.
Los Angeles Times
Docs on the take...are our doctors as crooked as our cops?
UC OKs paying surgeon $10 million in whistleblower-retaliation case
University of California regents agreed to pay $10 million to the former chairman of UCLA's orthopedic surgery department, who had alleged that the well-known medical school allowed doctors to take industry payments that may have compromised patient care. The settlement reached Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court came just before closing arguments were due to begin in a whistleblower-retaliation case brought by Dr. Robert Pedowitz, 54, a surgeon who was recruited to UCLA in 2009 to run the orthopedic surgery department. In 2012, the surgeon sued UCLA, the UC regents, fellow surgeons and senior university officials, alleging they failed to act on his complaints about widespread conflicts of interest and later retaliated against him for speaking up. UCLA denied Pedowitz's allegations, and officials said they found no wrongdoing by faculty and no evidence that patient care was jeopardized. But the UC system paid him anyway. As department chairman, Pedowitz testified, he became concerned about colleagues who had financial ties to medical-device makers or other companies that could unduly influence their care of patients or taint important medical research. He also alleged that UCLA looked the other way because the university stood to benefit financially from the success of medical products or drugs developed by its doctors.
Global climate change overshadows success in cleaning up Los Angeles’ smog
Forty-four years ago today during the first Earth Day, skywriting planes inscribed the word “air” across the rust-colored skies of Los Angeles. Protesters and lawmakers came together in a miraculous kind of Kumbaya moment to solve the problem of L.A.’s dirty air that was damaging our lungs and lowering property values. Today, more than four decades and hundreds of advancements and regulations later, scientists, lawmakers and officeholders can say they got the message. The air in Southern California has greatly improved since Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes launched the first-ever national rally aimed at healing Earth’s ills. As millions around the world celebrate what is labeled the biggest secular holiday, Earth Day, local leaders say the successes since 1970 are many, but the problems — particularly the 800-pound gorilla of global climate change — have grown into a daunting challenge. Some say stopping climate change, for example, is impossible and that adapting is the next step. The comparison of fighting air pollution — something easily seen — with battling carbon emissions that produce incremental climate changes over decades formed the topic du jour this Earth Day among L.A. area leaders.
Orange County Register
Pols, energy companies and enviros screw consumers...again
Closing San Onofre could cost ratepayers $3.3 billion
Consumer watchdog groups plan to fight a proposed settlement over the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant that could cost utility users in South Orange County and San Diego more than $3.3 billion. The proposed settlement, which would have consumers pay $3.3 billion of a potential $4.7 billion bill for the already closed San Onofre nuclear plant, was announced March 27 by San Onofre’s owners, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and a consumer group, The Utility Reform Network, among others. But in recent days other consumer groups, such as Citizens Oversight in San Diego and San Clemente Green, have come out describing the deal as unfair to rate payers. Their formal objections could be heard in PUC hearings as soon as June. Under terms announced in March, consumers would pay in the form of higher utility bills, possibly over the next decade. Starting in February 2012, rate payers in parts of San Diego and much of south Orange County started paying for the long-term shutdown of San Onofre, and the settlement proposed in March would extend that through the early 2020s.
Crooked cops in San Jose? They apply the law to everyone but themselves
San Jose police just about stop investigating one another for bad behavior
Even as community complaints against San Jose police officers rise, cops have almost entirely stopped the practice of tipping off their superiors to misbehaving colleagues -- resulting in far fewer officers being punished. New figures from Chief Larry Esquivel show that compared to a few years ago, the department last year launched 83 percent fewer investigations into police department employees based on evidence submitted by fellow officers. Those complaints are key in helping San Jose determine whether an officer needs to be disciplined or trained, yet last year only 1 percent of the police force was investigated based on allegations from their colleagues. "It's very troubling, and I hope that the chief would have an explanation for this at next week's meeting" when the City Council discusses the new figures, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen said. From 2009 to 2012, four to six police employees per year were fired after officer-initiated investigations. But no one was terminated last year.
Los Angeles County child protection system in ‘state of emergency,’ panel says
Warning Los Angeles County’s safety net for abused and neglected children is in a “state of emergency,” a panel of experts will urge the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to make drastic changes to its child protection system, including creating a new agency with the sole mission of directing deputy sheriffs, social workers, doctors and support staff in a unified effort to rescue children. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection issued its final recommendations over the weekend. The panel was formed after eight-year-old Palmdale boy Gabriel Fernandez was tortured to death, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend, when social workers repeatedly dismissed warnings that he was being beaten at home. The 10-member commission is led by former county Department of Children and Family Services director David Sanders and includes Marilyn Flynn, dean of the USC School of Social Work, retired judges Terry Friedman and Dickran Tevrizian, Alliance for Children’s Rights founding member Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and L.A. Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott, who has supervised 4,000 criminal investigations of child abuse and sexual assault. Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich had co-authored the motion to create the commission. Ridley-Thomas called the final report “a roadmap to reform.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Wasted hippies trash San Francisco park once again
Mountains of trash rise after San Francisco's 4/20 pot party
After the masses departed and the smoke cleared, workers descended Monday on Golden Gate Park to bag up and truck away all that was left behind by those who celebrated the pot holiday of 4/20 - an annual event that again tested the patience of some residents and city leaders. While thousands enjoyed Sunday's informal smoke-out, police arrested 11 people around Sharon Meadow, and paramedics tended to four others. Traffic in the area was jammed all day. And officials estimated the cleanup cost would exceed last year's tab. Last year, Recreation and Park Department employees and volunteers were overwhelmed by the heaps of trash left by the hordes of marijuana lovers. To get a jump on the cleanup this year, a crew of about 20 people were out Sunday night picking up broken glass, cardboard and piles of barbecue coals burnt into Sharon Meadow and Hippie Hill. Park officials estimated last year's cleanup cost about $10,000. Because 4/20 happened on a weekend day again this year - the 2013 event fell on a Saturday - officials said cleanup costs could go higher. Next year, April 20 falls on a Monday. After threatening to shut down the 4/20 party last year, Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes Golden Gate Park, said last week that she wouldn't be a "buzzkill or judge anybody's recreational activity" as long as everyone was safe and respectful. On Monday, she said the city had been better prepared to handle the crowds and trash. All that preparation, though, came at a price, with the cleanup bill in addition to overtime policing and other costs to the city.
Los Angeles Times
Air quality police to consider another relaxation of diesel rules
California air quality officials are again moving to relax tough rules to clean up aging diesel trucks that are among the state's worst remaining sources of air pollution. The changes being considered this week by the state Air Resources Board come in response to pressure from small trucking firms and owner-operators, required to install costly diesel particulate filters or upgrade to cleaner models for the first time this year, who have pleaded for more time to comply. "We're all struggling," said Allen Forsyth of Los Angeles, who operates a three-truck fleet that hauls local freight near LAX. "I used everything I had to buy a 2012 truck. But I'm absolutely broke now." The proposal would push back deadlines by a few years for small fleets, lightly used trucks and those in rural areas with cleaner air, and offer other adjustments to assist truck owners. Officials say the changes would slow, but not sacrifice, the state's progress on air quality and achieve 93% of pollution cuts envisioned through 2023. Environmentalists and other clean-air advocates have urged the board to limit amendments to the regulation and preserve what they call the single biggest step California has taken to reduce health risks from air pollution. "We're asking them to hold the line," said Diane Bailey, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Cops, docs want to impose their brand of morality on Califonria
Can Sacramento break the medpot deadlock?
California lawmakers continue to struggle over regulating medical marijuana, nearly 20 years after state voters defied federal law and permitted patients with a doctor’s prescription to use the illegal drug to ease chronic pain, anxiety and depression. The latest battle in the Capitol centers around a renewed push this week by cities and police for legislation to impose tighter controls on the entire industry, from the growing fields to the doctor’s office to the corner shop. Resistance is coming in from doctors, who see it as state meddling in medicine, and from those who favor more lenient limits. Proposed state regulations have been contentious ever since voters in 1996 approved the nation’s first “Compassionate Use Act.” Proposition 215 allows ill people to use marijuana with a physician recommendation. Seven years later, lawmakers passed legislation allowing patients and primary caregivers to grow small amounts for personal use. That measure also launched the identification card for those in need. But it’s widely agreed that enforcement has been haphazard. Dispensaries in some areas have sprung up like corner Starbucks. Doctor recommendations are readily dispensed. And many patients have only trust when it comes to knowing exactly what the marijuana is and at what strength. California’s medical marijuana industry “is out of control. It is in chaos and it may be corrupt,” warned Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, one of those urging lawmakers to crack down.
Leftist's food co-op spurns union carpenters
Union points a ‘Grim’ finger at Sacramento’s Co-op
The Grim Reaper has a message for you: The people who peddle vegan hot dogs and flaxseed in the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op are destroying our city. Take a drive past the shop at Alhambra Boulevard and S Street at the edge of midtown and you can’t miss the big guy issuing that warning. He’s 15 feet tall. And most mornings, the Angel of Death is out there pointing a boney finger into traffic above an enormous sign that says the co-op “Hurts Workers, Hurts Families, Hurts Community.” The menacing character is a big prop in an unusual clash. It isn’t a protest over the treatment of livestock. And it isn’t a campaign objecting to the co-op’s sale of goods from Israel, a crusade some members waged in 2011. This is about unionized carpenters going after a unionized co-op with a progressive-leaning membership largely sympathetic to organized labor. The general contractor building a multimillion-dollar store for the co-op likely won’t use union carpenters because the union’s bid was 30 percent higher than other bids, according to the store.
San Francisco Chronicle
Golden Gate Park 4/20 pot festivities a hit with happy horde
While the vibe in the park was for the most part mellow, city and park officials were keeping a wary eye on the event. They didn't care about the cannabis. They cared about the clogged streets, illegally parked cars and mounds of trash. There were several arrests by late afternoon, according to reports. Last year, the crowds left 10,000 pounds of garbage in their wake and created at-a-standstill traffic jams as the revelers flooded the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Supervisor London Breed said she didn't want to be a "buzzkill." But Breed, whose district includes the Haight and the park area, didn't want a repeat of last year's chaos and two-day cleanup. She noted that smoking anything in any city park is illegal, but San Francisco has a tradition of turning a blind eye to infractions for official or unofficial events. City officials said they would be cracking down on several violations, including structures or canopies, amplified sound, alcoholic beverages, tree climbing, fires, and peddling or vending without a permit. Yet Hippie Hill and Sharon Meadow below it were covered in canopies, with speakers blaring music, bottles and cans of beer everywhere, an occasional tree climber, several barbecues, and dozens if not hundreds of people selling a range of regular and "medicinal" items. "Lollipops (laced with cannabis), two for $5," one entrepreneurial woman yelled. "Joints for $2." So many people were selling pot cookies, pot brownies, pot cupcakes and other bacchanalian treats that sales were pretty slow, many of the impromptu vendors said. Because it was a non-sanctioned event, there weren't any portable bathrooms on hand, just a few stalls in permanent park bathrooms and a plethora of trees and bushes to accommodate the 10,000 or so revelers. Yet the celebration comes as San Francisco and the state continue to grapple with the issue of relaxed laws on marijuana. In San Francisco earlier this month, the City Planning Commission approved restrictions to limit the growth of cannabis dispensaries in the Ocean Avenue neighborhood.
Farmworkers' battle is against the union
In a strange twist the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board gave short-shrift to about 50 “poor and helpless” farmworkers who filled the board’s auditorium on Tuesday during its public meeting. In 1975, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the act that established the board. Its intent, now enshrined in the labor code, is to ensure “the right of agricultural employees to full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing.” The assembled farmworkers were treated politely but their long-standing concerns — that they are being denied the right to select their own labor representatives — have been ignored. Neither the governor nor any legislative leaders have been there to help them. What gives?
Californians deserve clear labeling of genetically engineered food
With more than 90 percent of Americans in support of labels on genetically engineered products, a federal solution would be ideal. But California Sen. Barbara Boxer's labeling bill has stalled in Congress and shows no signs of gaining bipartisan support. There is no compelling evidence of a health risk from foods or animals whose DNA has been modified by scientists. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization all have conducted studies and found no problems. But the scientific field of study is so young, it's impossible to determine if there are long-term risks that aren't showing up yet. Hence the need for labeling, allowing consumers to take the gamble -- a pretty small one, we suspect -- or not.
All the Big Shots showed up for Internet poker hearing
While the Senate had its Day of Reflection to contemplate ethical obligations, the Assembly turned its attention to the task at hand, whether to legalize Internet poker in California. All the big shots were there. Lobbyists, members of major casino-owning tribes, organized labor, card rooms, racetrack interests, Nevada interests, former legislators and many more were there.
SpaceX tax break reveals lack of consistency
A fairly constant refrain among California’s Democratic politicians and their liberal allies is that corporations should be paying more in taxes to support public services. Consequently, the Legislature each year sees a raft of bills that would, in one form or another, increase business taxes – such as this year’s measure that would allow school districts to impose higher “parcel taxes” on commercial property than on residential property. There is, however, no consistency. The same folks who demand higher business taxes as a matter of supposed principle are often willing, even eager, to give certain industries and even certain corporations big tax breaks.
Thomas D. Elias
On fracking, can’t California get half a loaf?
When a city like Carson, home to one large oil refinery and next-door neighbor to another, hard by the junction of two major freeways and site of both a Cal State campus and a Major League Soccer stadium, slaps a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing because of environmental questions, you know fracking of California’s vast oil and gas reserves is no sure thing.
Rail boosters hindered by their own law
High-speed rail plan rebuked again by the courts
Those readers who are familiar with Judge Gideon Tucker's words that “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” might chuckle that two good-news-for-taxpayers stories came out of Sacramento last week. They came, coincidentally, as legislators had left town to enjoy their spring break.
State Bar trying again to expand enforcement powers
The State Bar is something of an odd duck – a quasi-private, quasi-public entity that simultaneously regulates the legal profession and acts as a trade association and political advocate for lawyers.
Pioneering microchip inventor fights California over old tax bill
How this saga ends is anyone’s guess, and it may be many more years, or even decades, before it is settled. But there is more to its resolution than just Hyatt’s tax obligation, if any. It may affect the decisions of other high-income inventors and entrepreneurs about living and working in a state with the nation’s highest marginal income tax rate. And in doing so, it may reveal whether California is undercutting its future by discouraging innovation in what has been its brightest economic sector.
California politicos admit failures in seeking rainy day fund
When you get past the political fuzz and buzz, the Capitol’s quest for a new rainy-day fund to store excess state revenue is an admission that politicians have failed in the past and can’t be trusted in the future.
California could be in the running for Tesla’s battery factory, after all
Before California politicians lavish more gifts on Musk’s businesses, let’s review some of what California’s environmentally conscious legislators and residents have done so far.
Senator’s stance sparks schoolyard fight
It’s common to jokingly compare the Legislature to a grown-up version of high school, complete with popular class presidents and cliques of like-minded “students.” Those who don’t go along with the peer pressure are subject to gossip and bullying — and sometimes are ostracized.
Debra J. Saunders
I see rich people
In the Star Trek movies, San Francisco serves as headquarters of Starfleet Command. This cracks me up no end, as I cannot imagine the Board of Supervisors approving construction of Starfleet Academy or the oddly shaped high-rises you see in the background. And if City Hall somehow did approve the project, you know there'd be some ballot measure to kill the deal. The grounds could be endless: No photon torpedoes. Too many techies already. What about affordable housing?
Chili sauce struggle puts state in hot spot
Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and handful of other states are salivating over Sriracha – or rather, the prospect of luring the hot-sauce maker, its hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to their states. It’s a tantalizing and not completely far-fetched possibility. Irwindale, a small, industrial Los Angeles-area city, so badly wanted Huy Fong Foods to build its new sauce plant there that it financed the $40 million site. But it immediately became an unfriendly host when the plant opened last year. If this long-simmering fight boils over, everyone involved – the city of Irwindale, the company, the California growers who supply the chilies to make the sauce, the local and state economy – gets burned. That just can’t happen. If this apparently backward town persists in driving away a California business icon, it would be a black eye not just for that city, but for the entire state.
Milk debate touches raw nerve in Capitol
The debate’s politics are fascinating, given that some Democrats who are more apt to favor government regulation backed the bill as a means to help the small, niche farming industry that is sprouting up. Meanwhile, some Republicans, who usually decry government meddling, blasted the bill.
California consumers deserve to choose who can access information collected from their car
Recent news has cast a light on government wiretaps and the importance of personal privacy. But it's not just Washington that knows all about you. Your car knows about you; and so does your carmaker.
Homelessness isn't just a city responsibility
Mercury News editors say it's your fault the homeless are trashing their community
The pressure is on San Jose to deal with the epidemic of homelessness that's turning pockets of the city into Third World encampments, polluting waterways and unsettling nearby neighborhoods. The squalid 75-acre camp known as The Jungle near Story Road is said to be the largest of its kind on the continental United States. But San Jose is not causing or ignoring this problem. Nor is Santa Clara County, whose work with the city on homelessness is one of the best collaborations ever for the two governments. All cities in Silicon Valley should accept regional responsibility for the poverty growing in our midst. But if there is a single villain to call out, it's the state of California.
New bills a mystery even to their authors
The nuts-and-bolts of the legislative process are rarely interesting to people outside the halls of the state Capitol, but oftentimes small, process-oriented bills speak volumes about the way our state is governed — especially on the issue of transparency.
Scandal and conflict sour legislative session
When the Legislature’s 2014 session began about three months ago, the Capitol’s dominant Democrats and their allies had high hopes that it would bear legislative fruit – with good reason. However, as the Legislature wound up a couple of weeks of intensive committee hearings Thursday and left town for an 11-day spring break, the atmosphere had soured.
Faced with an initiative, teachers union blinks on discipline bill
The threat of a ballot initiative did the trick, persuading the California Teachers Association to negotiate a new process for teacher dismissal. The Senate Education Committee is expected to hear the bill on April 23. After two years of failing to resolve this issue, the Legislature should get AB 215 to the governor’s desk. California needs a workable process for firing teachers in the rare cases of extreme misconduct, while still protecting teachers from wrongful termination.
Anti-poverty advocates ramp up pressure for more spending
Crime victims and their advocates staged the biggest rally, an annual event seeking validation and sympathy, and politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, were there to utter the requisite bromides. What, after all, could be safer than empathizing with crime victims? Brown didn’t venture, however, a couple of hundred feet away to a much smaller rally of anti-poverty groups and a few friendly politicians, supporting a wide array of bills and budget appropriations attacking “income inequality.” All would cost money, either from the state budget to boost spending on “safety net” services such as welfare grants and health care, or from employers for higher minimum wages and mandatory paid sick leave. Collectively, they represent Brown’s biggest challenge this year as he seeks a fourth lease on the Capitol’s corner office.
Is this how California treats innovators?
Tax board continues long quest against ex-resident
It’s hard not to conclude that California’s tax agency is out of line as it continues to run up administrative and legal fees — not to mention risking potential multimillion-dollar liabilities — to pursue a decades-old dispute over where a taxpayer lived for six months. There’s a troubling lesson here for wannabe entrepreneurs, who might want to think carefully about their residency before they hit the big time.
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