California ballot has record number of local revenue measures

As reported by Reuters:

A record number of local tax and bond measures will fill the California ballot this November, including over $32 billion of proposed funding for education, infrastructure and homeless services.

Some 650 local measures will go before voters, including 427 revenue measures. That is considerably more than the number proposed during any of the last five gubernatorial or presidential elections, according to data compiled by the local government finance consulting firm CaliforniaCityFinance.com.

Previously, the most measure-packed election was in November 2014, with 268 local revenue measures.

California is one of 24 states that allow initiative rights to its citizens. Voter-approved measures are used to raise revenues for specific construction projects, change tax policy, or create new laws.

In the Golden State and nationwide, a boom in bond proposals follows years of federal cutbacks to state and local programs, continued low interest rates and years of unmet infrastructure needs. …

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Kamala Harris says lower-income kids should go to college for free

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Kamala Harris, in the final weeks of her U.S. Senate campaign against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, released a higher education plan Tuesday calling for making public colleges and universities free for students whose families earn less than $140,000 a year.

She also wants to allow borrowers to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.

Harris announced the benchmarks ahead of a roundtable discussion with students at Los Angeles Trade Tech College. She joins other Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, in pledging to eliminate public university tuition. Clinton’s plan would by 2021 offer free public university tuition to families making less than $125,000 a year.

Harris’ plan, which builds on her efforts in taking on for-profit colleges, comes a week after she took criticism from Sanchez for accepting campaign contributions from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2011 and 2013, and then not bringing charges against Trump University, a for-profit program mostly shuttered in 2011. …

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California lawmakers collect thousands on top of salary while absent

Originally published by the San Jose Mercury News:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In addition to their six-figure salaries and benefits, California’s 120 lawmakers are compensated for their cost of living and meals when they leave home and travel to Sacramento to write and pass bills.

Unlike in many other states, however, California lawmakers have over time crafted loosely worded rules for themselves that allow them to collect those payments regardless of whether they even show up to work.

It’s a perk unlike anything typically available to workers in the private sector, allowing lawmakers such as Assemblyman Roger Hernandez to take unlimited time off and continue collecting a tax-free, daily allowance of $176.

The West Covina Democrat said his 24 sick days this session were due to high blood pressure, a condition he disclosed to reporters after his wife accused him of physical abuse and obtained a restraining order against him during divorce proceedings. …

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Gov. Brown signs legislation regulating cow, landfill emissions

As reported by the Orange County Register:

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that regulates for the first time greenhouse-gas emissions tied to dairy cows and landfills, an escalation of California’s efforts to fight climate change beyond carbon-based gases to include methane and other pollutants.

The move by the Democratic governor targets a category of gases known as short-lived climate pollutants, which have an outsize effect on global warming despite their relatively short life in the atmosphere. Environmentalists hope that tackling short-lived pollutants now would buy time to develop new and more affordable technology to reduce carbon emissions.

The legislation will require steep reductions in a variety of pollutants, including methane; HFC gases used in aerosols and air conditioning refrigerants; and soot, known as black carbon. It’s tied to $90 million in funding for the dairy industry and garbage collectors. …

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The Ever-Growing California Pension Gap

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation that gave prison guards, park rangers, Cal State professors and other state employees the kind of retirement security normally reserved for the wealthy.

More than 200,000 civil servants became eligible to retire at 55 — and in many cases collect more than half their highest salary for life. California Highway Patrol officers could retire at 50 and receive as much as 90% of their peak pay for as long as they lived.

Proponents sold the measure in 1999 with the promise that it would impose no new costs on California taxpayers. The state employees’ pension fund, they said, would grow fast enough to pay the bill in full.

They were off — by billions of dollars — and taxpayers will bear the consequences for decades to come. …

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California proposes steering more water to fish, less to farms, cities

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

In a move that foreshadows sweeping statewide reductions in the amount of river water available for human needs, California regulators on Thursday proposed a stark set of cutbacks to cities and farms that receive water from the San Joaquin River and its tributaries.

To protect endangered fish at critical parts of their life cycle, regulators proposed leaving hundreds of thousands of additional acre-feet of water in the San Joaquin River system. As little as 20 percent of the river now flows unimpeded to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and regulators said they want the so-called “natural” flow raised to at least 30 percent and perhaps as high as 50 percent.

The proposal by staff members at the State Water Resources Control Board is yet another effort to improve the ecosystem of one of California’s most overused river systems, where flows sometimes drop to a comparative trickle. Overhauling the San Joaquin system is sure to add new drama to the conflicts over California’s stretched water supply, a situation that has been complicated by the onset of drought five years ago. …

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Gov. Brown signs bill banning SeaWorld orca shows

As reported by the Fresno Bee:

California Gov. Jerry Brown is approving legislation requiring SeaWorld to follow through on its plan to end killer whale breeding and entertainment shows.

The Democratic governor said Tuesday he’s signed a budget bill codifying SeaWorld’s plans in state law.

A provision if SB839 makes it a crime for an individual or corporation to breed orcas in captivity, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000.

SeaWorld announced in March that it was no longer breeding orcas and would stop making whales do tricks at its amusement parks. The company plans to focus instead on the educational opportunities with its existing whales. …

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Citizens United ballot measure: Who’s for it, who’s against it and what it could really do

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California voters will get to weigh in on the flood of money in politics this November through a ballot proposition that supporters say sends a strong message and detractors say does nothing much at all.

Proposition 59 is part of the uphill fight against the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United decision, which said money spent to influence voters that isn’t funneled through a candidate’s campaign is free speech, and the federal government cannot prohibit corporations and labor unions from spending money that way.

Since the decision, elections have become dramatically more expensive, with hundreds of millions being spent to influence elections at all levels by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors.

The measure asks Californians if they want their members of Congress to work on a constitutional amendment to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision. …

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Sanford Edward Developer Sued for Fraud by Dana Point

Sanford Edward, developer of the “Headlands Reserve” beachfront development in Dana Point, has been sued by the City for fraud.  A Complaint for Damages was filed by the City of Dana Point against Headlands Reserve, LLC and Edward, individually named, on August 29.   The lawsuit is inspired by alleged breach of promises by Edward to indemnify the City against legal costs, fees or other damages taxpayers would incur defending legal claims against Edward’s project.  These legal costs that the City has incurred likely include costs associated with losing a Superior Court case in alliance with Edward, when the City, illegally according to the Court, declared a “nuisance zone” around Edward’s development as a justification for placing barriers to the public’s right to coastal access at the site, which is otherwise guaranteed under the Coastal Act.  The fraud claims also likely include failure to pay costs the taxpayers of Dana Point have had to absorb in connection with the Coastal Commission’s insistence that gates installed at the Headlands Development are illegal, because they have the affect of denying the public their right to coastal access, and Headlands refusal to open the gates to the public as required by the Coastal Commission.

The lawsuit asks that Defendants be ordered to set aside $1,000,000 for damages.

A copy of the lawsuit may be downloaded here: http://voiceofoc.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2016/09/Dana-Point-v-Headlands-Complaint.pdf

 

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Gov. Jerry Brown Signs New Climate Change Laws

As reported by NPR:

California is already on track to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Now under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, the state will ratchet up its fight against climate change by launching an ambitious campaign to scale back emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown said.

California reduced emissions by imposing limits on the carbon content of gasoline and diesel fuel, promoting zero-emission electric vehicles, and introducing a cap-and-trade system for polluters.

The new plan, outlined in SB32, involves increasing renewable energy use, putting more electric cars on the road, improving energy efficiency, and curbing emissions from key industries. …

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