Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Sinclair Paint’



Meyer on Krusty: Why Exactly Did He Want This Job?

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

When Dianne Feinstein called Jerry Brown last winter to confirm what everyone in the world already knew – that she wasn’t going to run for governor, so the Democratic nomination was all his – Krusty responded that he was kind of hoping she would run so he wouldn’t have to.   When we reported the conversation at the time, we said that Brown was half-joking; after Leg Analyst Mac Taylor’s announcement this week that California faces a $25 billion budget deficit, now we’re thinking he wasn’t kidding at all.

As Calbuzzer Tom Meyer, Tim Gunn’s favorite editorial cartoonist,shows this week, the task is made far more difficult by a whole batch of initiatives passed by the state’s self-canceling-minded voters – More services – Less taxes! – not only hardy perennials like Props 13 and 98 but also Props 21, 22 and 26, a new trio of budget straitjackets passed in last week’s election.

Calbuzz is particularly miffed about Prop. 26, which for the first time imposes a two-thirds vote requirement for a whole batch of fees on corporate polluters and the like, because it snuck through with almost no coverage and little notice. As long-time readers know, the measure effectively voids the state Supreme Court’s decision in the Sinclair Paint decision, a business-backed effort that we first blew the whistle on way back when corporate types were trying to weasel it through buried deep inside a “good government” reform package being fronted by California Backward Forward.

As the full implications of Prop. 26 begin to dawn in Sacramento, we confess we’re kicking ourselves now for not screaming to the heavens about it more during the campaign, beyond the excellent Jean Ross piece we ran on its hidden agenda. While we, of course, criticize ourselves severely for the oversight, a full investigation by our Division of Corporate Responsibility and It Didn’t Happen On Our Shift Unaccountability absolves us from responsiblity and concludes that now it’s Krusty’s problem, not ours.

.

Mac’s World: Here are Calbuzz Washington Correspondent Mackenzie Weinger’s latest whip counts and doped-out updates on the California House delegation amid the fierce maneuvering that has followed the Republican skunking of the Democrats in the mid-terms:

Despite her stated intention to remain her party’s leader in the 112th Congress, soon-to-be former Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces mounting opposition within the Democratic caucus.

As of November 12, 18 Democrats — including one Californian, Rep. Jim Costa (who declared victory this week, although votes are still being counted in the 20th CD) have said they will oppose Pelosi in her quest to become House Minority Leader. In the contest to become House Minority Whip, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is leading Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) with 51 public backers to Clyburn’s 13.

(Update: The New York Times, quoting unnamed Democratic sources, is now reporting that the Hoyer-Clyburn fight has been resolved, and that the South Carolinian will accept a newly created #3 post in the caucus).

Among Clyburn’s backers is Rep. Xavier Becerra of L.A., a rising star in the party. He currently serves as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and is angling to stay in that position, announcing his intentionto stay in leadership in a November 5 letter to fellow Democrats: “As your Vice Chair in the 111th Congress, I have devoted my energy and resources to pass our Democratic agenda…. In the coming days, I hope you will give me the opportunity to speak to you personally about my candidacy for Vice Chair.”

At the start of the week, there was discussion of possibly moving each leader below minority whip down a spot amid the Hoyer-Clyburn contest,; that would have left Becerra out of luck for his vice chairmanship. But the new Democratic Caucus election schedule for next Wednesday ends with the minority whip race, meaning leadership posts lower down the food chain should  be settled, protecting the currently unopposed Becerra.

The other Californians supporting Clyburn are Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as Reps. Barbara Lee and Grace Napolitano. Hoyer’s California backing comes from Reps. Joe Baca, Howard Berman, Lois Capps, Dennis Cardoza, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, John Garamendi, Jane Harman, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sanchez, Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Jackie Speier and Henry Waxman.

Across the aisle as members of the new majority party, several California Republicans appear set to become major power brokers in the 112th Congress. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is currently unopposed for House Majority Whip.

Among House committees, a batch of state GOPers are in line or vying for important chair positions: Rep. Dan Lungren, House Administration, Rep. Buck McKeon, Armed Services, Rep. Jerry Lewis, Appropriations, Rep. Darrell Issa, Oversight and Government Reform; Rep. David Dreier, Rules and Rep. Ed Royce, Financial Services.

Lewis, who served as the Appropriations chair in the 109th Congress, faces a challenge from Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, another veteran on the panel. And Royce is vying against Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the current ranking minority member, for the top spot on the Financial Services committee.

With the GOP’s gains, of course, a number of California Democrats have lost powerful committee chairmanships: Rep. George Miller, Education and Labor; Rep. Henry Waxman,  Energy and Commerce;, Rep. Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs: Rep. Bob Filner, Veterans’ Affairs and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Standards of Official Conduct.

In other California congressional news, Dreier, McKeon and Rep. John Campbell are now in DC as part of the GOP majority transition team. And, along with Costa, who claimed victory over Republican Andy Vidak, Democrat Jerry McNerney in the 11th district also crowned himself a winner, in his close race against Republican David Harmer. Neither Vidak nor Harmer have conceded.

ABC – Always Believe Calbuzz: There were many doubters among the Calbuzz cognoscenti – some of them on our own staff! – who whispered darkly that in the midst of the worst recession in decades, we were totally nuts to keep yammering on about the importance of Prop. 23, which sought to suspend California’s landmark climate change legislation. This just in: the “No” on Prop. 23 campaign wracked up more votes – 5,416,385 at press time – than any candidate or other initiative, yay or nay, on the statewide ballot.

In other toldja’ news, the record will show that the Calbuzz Sports Desk focused its reporting from spring training on the Giants vs. Rangers, the match-up that made it into the World Series. Sometimes we amaze even ourselves.

Why Goo Goo Plans are Toast; Labor Runs Amok

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

We come to bury California Forward, not to praise it. The goo goo reform plan, now subsumed into SCA 19, contains a host of worthy measures affecting budgeting and spending. But it’s the much-needed centerpiece – reducing the two-thirds vote needed to approve the state budget – that is its undoing. For now.

Why? Because to put the measure on the ballot will itself require a two-thirds vote, which won’t happen because even if all the Democrats lined up together – and that’s not at all certain – the Republicans would kill it.

As His Royal Walters wrote last week: “Politically, the plan appears to be a nonstarter.”

Loyal Calbuzzers know that we have long argued that without a variety of reforms – including majority vote on the state budget — California will remain fundamentally ungovernable.

Sure, a governor and Legislature will play their roles, budgets will be passed, schools and prisons will operate, the state will function. But California will continue to float along like a raft on the ocean, not like a true ship of state being steered along a certain course.

Besides the majority-vote budget provision, the SCA 19 – at the request of California Forward – also includes a provision that says:

any bill that imposes a fee shall be passed by not less than two-thirds of all Members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature if revenue from the fee would be used to fund a program, service, or activity that was previously funded by revenue from a tax that is repealed or reduced in the same fiscal year or in a prior fiscal year.”

Now, Jim Mayer and Fred Silva of Cal Forward – two really smart guys whose thinking we respect – say this is NOT an attack on the Sinclair Paint decision (which Calbuzz has covered exhaustively) that allows the Legislature to raise fees by majority vote as long as there is a “nexus” between the fee and the service it pays for.

They say it only would apply to a limited situation in which a fee was proposed to replace a specific excise tax used to fund a specific program, service or activity. The measure was inserted, Mayer said, “in order to build some support for majority vote from business groups who would otherwise kill the bill.”

Which kinda underscores our point:  If it doesn’t affect Sinclair, why do it at all? Because, they say, some business interests are worried that the Legislature will try a massive bait-and-switch, swapping out tax-based revenues with majority-vote fees.

The way we read the measure, it does affect Sinclair since every program, service and activity is funded by “revenue from a tax,” and so, any place where the Legislature wanted to subvent tax funds with fee funds would require a two-thirds vote – which under Sinclair only requires a majority. But we’re not what you might call your “tax experts.”

Anyway, even if the liberals go along – and if just a few of them read this like we do, that’s not likely – the Republicans are not likely to give away their one-third-vote leverage. Which is why we say you can stick a fork in Cal Forward’s proposal.

Back Away From the IPhone!

Back in January, Calbuzz was first to break the news that three longtime Democrats from a new Silicon Valley firm were rolling out “a product that – for better or worse — promises to cut dramatically the cost of gathering signatures for ballot initiatives by using social networking and touch-screen technology.”

Verafirma Inc.’s Democracy Project, founded by Jude Barry, Michael Marubio and Steve Churchwell, we reported, makes it possible for activists to use email, Facebook and other social networking venues to distribute ballot initiative language and arguments, and to collect and verify signatures from users who have an iPhone, Droid or other new generation touch-screen device.

So when we heard about Barry, a Calbuzz contributor, getting blacklisted by Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, we thought it was just a case of union protectionism run amok.

The ostensible reason for placing Barry and his firm, Catapult Strategies, on the  “do not patronize” list was that Verafirma is selling its signature-gathering technology to the folks trying to qualify a ballot measure for “paycheck protection” — labor’s most-hated proposal which would ban use of union dues for political purposes.

This didn’t make any sense. Verafirma is licensing use of a technology that anybody can use. It’s as if they’d come up with a pedestrian GPS system and Republican precinct walkers wanted to use it. It’s like selling electronic clipboards and pens. The technology is neutral. It’s like blacklisting an iPod dealer because right-wingers are buying and using his product.

But then we read Internal Affairs in the Mercury News and nosed around a bit more and it all came clear: Pulaski was doing the dirty work for Cindy Chavez, who heads the South Bay Labor Council and who is supporting Forrest Williams for county supervisor. Barry is working for Teresa Alvarado, seeking that same seat on the county board.

Chavez told the Mercury News she didn’t draft the Pulaski letter, although she knew it was in the works. And she took a whack at Barry for allowing “a company of his to support taking the right away from working men and women to speak politically.”

Calbuzz has no candidate in the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors race. We just think Barry  — who worked for Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean, ferchristsake — is getting rat-fucked. Sure paycheck protection is anti-union. And one of Barry’s defenses — that it wasn’t his personal account at Verafirma — is specious.

But none of that should matter: he’s done nothing to challenge labor’s right to organize or influence politics. This stinks.

FPPC Lets Newsom Double Dip: Calbuzz called attention to a loophole in the law governing contributions a while back but the FPPC has decided that you can run for one office, max out to the limit, drop from that race and enter another and max out again from the same donors. This lets Gavin Newsom, now a candidate for gov lite, go back to all those donors who gave him $25,900 when he was a candidate for governor. Whatever.

California Reform Movement 2010: R.I.P.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Calbuzz is way overdue for a rant about the rich irony of the once-promising reform campaign to convene a state constitutional convention ignobly sinking because of…a lack of money.

Really?

The last time we checked, the membership of the Bay Area Council, the corporate coalition whose staff leadership got the ConCon effort started in the first place, included: Amgen, AT&T, BofA, Blue Shield, Chevron, Comcast, Del Monte, Franklin Templeton Investments, Genentech, Goldman-Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Levi-Strauss, Oracle, Pacific Gas & Electric, Shell Oil, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Wells Fargo, along with more than 200 other of the most successful companies with operations or outposts in the Bay Area.

And so: The effort to qualify for the ballot the group’s signature issue foundered because it couldn’t raise more than a measly $3 million for the campaign? Come on. These guys make Gordon Gekko look like Mother Teresa.

The plain fact is that if the high-end companies that populate the council wanted the convention to go, it would have gone. Instead they slammed shut their wallets, the clearest evidence there could be that they don’t want major reform, because they already know how to navigate the twisted, dysfunctional, Byzantine, gridlocked system just the way it is; unlike average citizens, they can penetrate it with mega-bucks campaign contributions and initiative campaigns.

Exhibit A: PG&E. The Pacific Greed and Extortion Co. will spend up to $35 million on its special interest Prop. 16 on the June ballot. The measure would block cities and counties from going into the public power business without a two-thirds local vote. As Chronicler David Baker reported :

So far, PG&E has supplied all of the proposition campaign’s funding, totaling $6.5 million. On Friday, PG&E took the unusual step of telling its investors that funding for the campaign would affect the company’s 2010 profits, lowering them by 6 to 9 cents per share. PG&E Corp. provided the information while reporting its 2009 profit ($1.22 billion, down from $1.34 billion in 2008) and giving its forecast for 2010.

PG&E describes the ballot initiative as a matter of fairness.

Fairness, indeed.

Our sources inside the Bay Area Council and its “Repair California” political wing note that member companies are also holding back their cash in preparation, as one put it, “for a nuclear arms race in November.”

They’re worried about at least two measures to split the property tax roll to allow higher taxes on business properties, an oil extraction tax, limitations on insurance rates, repeal of Proposition 13′s two-thirds requirement for local tax increases and the potential to overturn AB 32′s climate change provisions. And that’s just for starters.

California Backward: So pathetic are current prospects that Repair California is seriously considering throwing in with the California Forward folks and creating some kind of alliance or united front for reform, even if they have to drop their proposal to actually call a constitutional convention and just push the measure that would authorize voters to call a convention.

California Forward, that other paragon of reform circa 2009, is meanwhile dying a somewhat slower death. The incrementalist sponsors of this once-ballyhooed goo-goo group  are also having trouble, um, raising money – to campaign for two proposed initiatives.

Excuse us if the Calbuzz Paranoid Caucus entertains the notion that what you like to call your  Corporate Interests lost interest in this sucker the minute we blew the whistle on Cal Forward’s backroom attempt to dump the Sinclair Paint exemption, which would allow a majority of the Legislature to raise revenue by imposing mitigation fees on business.

Much of what’s left in one of the Cal Forward measures is spinach-and-broccoli good government stuff like performance-based budgeting, while the other tracks a similar initiative sponsored by the League of California Cities. The one element well worth saving in the Cal Forward soup is authorizing communities to raise the local tax by 1 cent with a majority of the people — which is NOT in the League’s “Keep Your Mitts Off Our Budgets” measure.

Some of the Cal Forward folks — most of whom have been totally feckless at raising money — think they can still get a) a billionaire angel to be named later to fund their ballot measures or b) a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to put something like their measure on the November ballot that would allow approval of a state budget by a majority vote, instead of the two-thirds required now. FFC. Good luck with that, guys.

Meanwhile, the bottom line on the collapse of the goo-goos was articulated nicely by the L.A. Times edit page:

This election year will bring many promises about bold leadership and new ideas, but there comes a point in most democratic societies at which the machinery gums up and some of the most cherished hallmarks of liberty — campaigning, voting, serving in office — descend into mere ritual. That’s when it’s time to rebuild the machinery.

Or not.

Cal Forward: We ‘Make No Change’ in Sinclair

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

mckernhertzLast week, Calbuzz stirred up a hornet’s nest by reporting that one of  California Forward’s proposed constitutional initiatives would effectively overturn the Legislature’s ability to raise fees with a majority vote as granted by the courts in the Sinclair Paint case. In doing so, we cited Section 7 of one of their two proposed measures. It amends Section 3 of Article XIII A of California’s Constitution to specify that a two-thirds vote of the Legislature would be required to replace, with a fee, any “revenue…that was generated by a tax” the previous year. Cal Forward squawked about our piece, so  we offered them a chance to explain why our analysis was wrong. Here’s their response which simply asserts they’re making “no change.” But their argument begs the question: If it’s true that the measure would “make no change” in Sinclair, why is Cal Forward seeking to, uh, change it? We stand by our analysis.

By Thomas V. McKernan and Robert M. Hertzberg
Special to Calbuzz

In the hyper-partisan world of California politics, folks aren’t quite sure what to make of California Forward and our plan to reform state government.

Critics on the left object that our plan doesn’t make it easier to raise taxes.  Critics on the right complain that it won’t let a minority of the state’s lawmakers continue to hold up the state budget.

They’re both right – but both are also missing something important about this effort: Our plan doesn’t lend itself to the typical scorecard that attempts to tally winners and losers on one side or the other.

Why? Because its fundamental orientation comes from neither the left nor the right. It doesn’t seek to tilt the playing field in either direction. It is instead, quite simply, a plan to make California’s government work again.

Take for example, the partisan wrangling over fees. As Calbuzz noted last week about the Sinclair Paint court decision, the Legislature needs only a simple majority to impose fees when a nexus exists between the regulatory program being imposed and the payer of the fee.

Conservatives have long viewed this authority as an end-run around the two-thirds majority vote requirement for raising taxes. These concerns were heightened late last year when Democratic lawmakers attempted to impose a multi-billion dollar fee that would have replaced the state’s current gas tax, and simultaneously raised other taxes, all by majority vote.

After much debate, the leadership of California Forward agreed its reform initiatives plan should make no change to the Legislature’s authority under Sinclair Paint.

Instead, the plan requires a two-thirds vote only on a fee that replaces revenue previously generated by a tax.  The good folks here at Calbuzz read this provision differently than the bipartisan legal team that helped California Forward craft our proposals. No surprise there.

But there’s also no question about our intent, which was to raise the vote requirement only in those rare instances where lawmakers impose a new fee to replace an existing tax forestalling the kind of “triple flip” that was attempted last year.

Those who expect our reform initiatives to mark just one more round in the ongoing partisan battle royale are likely to be disappointed.

That’s no accident. The members of California Forward’s bipartisan Leadership Council believe strongly that the problems facing our state won’t be solved by politics as usual, where the parties and the special interests square off against each other, dig in their heels and get nothing done.

You don’t have to be a policy expert to know that one of the biggest problems we face is California’s inability to approve a sensible state budget on time. Our first proposal, the Best Practices Budget Accountability Act, makes some practical, common-sense changes to end budget gridlock by taking sound practices from other states and applying them to California. Among them:

– Pay-As-You-Go – Requiring leaders to make hard choices by identifying right from the start how any new program would be paid for.

– Reduce Inefficiency and Waste – Requiring the Governor and Legislature to set clear goals for every program, measure its effectiveness, and fix or cut what doesn’t work.

– Pay Down Debt – Setting aside funds from occasional spikes in revenues to pay off debt.

– Long-term Planning – Requiring leaders to think ahead by creating two-year budgets and long-term revenue and spending forecasts.

– Majority Vote Budgets – to keep a small minority of politicians from holding up the budget for the entire state, but requiring a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.

– No Budget, No Paycheck – Requiring all legislators to forfeit their salary, travel and living expenses whenever they miss the budget deadline.

A second measure, the Community Funding Protection and Accountability Act, shifts power away from Sacramento and gives more responsibility to local government. It protects local tax dollars that belong to counties, cities and schools from being redirected to balance the state budget, and gives local officials new incentives to work together, eliminate overlapping programs and become more efficient.

The stakes in this debate may not be partisan, but we believe they’re high enough.

We all take pride in the fact that California has always led the way – in technology, education and quality of life.

But year after year of structural budget deficits, accounting gimmickry and a lack of clear priorities has shaken our confidence in ourselves and threatened our standing in the world. Our role as a national leader is in jeopardy.

We don’t need another partisan cat fight. We need a plan that gets California moving again so California can lead again — and that’s what California Forward is bringing to the table.

Robert M. Hertzberg and Thomas McKernan are co-chairs of California Forward, a nonpartisan reform group supported by contributions from California foundations. Their web site is www.caforward.org.