Index
Wednesday
Jul032013

POLITICS (Sacramento City Hall): "Behests" to nonprofits, unlimited donations to charities favored by Sacramento city officials: Editorial, "FPPC must limit donations to politicians' charities"....

***Following up on earlier item noted here ("behests" to nonprofits affiliated with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilman Jay Schenirer)....

* Sacramento Bee (editorial):  "FPPC must limit donations to politicians' charities" - From the Bee:

Even in a political town like Sacramento, the numbers are eye-popping. Last year, more than $7.1 million in contributions flooded charities favored by Mayor Kevin Johnson and other Sacramento City Council members. That compares to barely $500,000 in "behests" in 2011 and less than $16,000 in 2005. The 2012 total is three times more than payments solicited by all 120 members of the state Legislature combined, according to an analysis by The Bee's Ryan Lillis published on Sunday.

It shows just how much these unlimited donations from deep-pocketed corporations and wealthy individuals have grown as a backdoor way to win favor with Sacramento's elected officials. Our local politicians also have the dubious distinction of apparently being the only ones in California ever fined for running afoul of the only real rule governing these payments – reporting within 30 days those of $5,000 or more in a calendar year from the same source.

Last December, the state Fair Political Practices Commission penalized Johnson $37,500 – $1,500 for each of 25 violations of the reporting requirement on behests totaling more than $3.5 million and going back to 2009. He blamed an "unintentional administrative lapse."

The mayor is driving this surge of money, responsible for more than 90 percent of the total last year. . . . . . . .

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Enforcing the disclosure requirements – highlighted by the FPPC as an increased area of focus in 2012 – is important. But it's not enough. Chairwoman Ann Ravel and other commissioners need to take a hard look at restricting behests before they spin further out of control. Just as there are limits on contributions to elected officials while they're seeking office, there should be appropriate limits on donations to favored charities while they're serving.

The politicians and contributors say there's nothing untoward going on. The money is going to worthy causes, they say, and undoubtedly some of it is. But the potential for influence peddling can't be ignored............

 

Wednesday
Jul032013

SACRAMENTO: Poor condition of California roads and highways, gas tax increase, state now has nation's highest fuel taxes: Commentary (Dan Walters), "California's hefty fuel taxes buy poor roads"....

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "California's hefty fuel taxes buy poor roads" - From the Bee:

If you spend some time driving in other states, returning to California's roads and highways is a jarring experience - literally. Federal Highway Administration data tell us that California not only has the nation's worst traffic congestion, but its second-roughest roadways. But as of this week, California motorists are paying the nation's highest fuel taxes, nearly 72 cents a gallon, including those for the federal government, due to an annual adjustment by the Board of Equalization.

What's wrong with this picture? Everything.

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The 72 cents per gallon that California's motorists are paying represent about 20 percent of the cost of fuel and generate more than $10 billion a year. On paper, according to a recent state-by-state compilation, California is annually spending $679,000 per mile on its highways, the second-highest level in the nation.

Seemingly, we are taxing motorists a lot and spending a lot, but we are not getting a lot in terms of system adequacy and condition.............

 

Wednesday
Jul032013

SACRAMENTO: Jerry Brown, reorganization of state government, announcement, 26 appointments to various positions....

***Following up on earlier item noted here (Jerry Brown, reoganization of state government, appointment of three new members of his Cabinet)....

* San Jose Mercury News (AP):  "Gov. Jerry Brown appoints 26 as part of California reorganization" - From the MN:

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown has made 26 appointments as part of his reorganization of state government, which takes full effect this week as the new fiscal year begins.

The governor issued the announcement Monday evening for the midlevel bureaucrats, including deputy secretaries, deputy commissioners and deputy general counsels, who will be making between $45,000 and $150,120 a year. Of those, 19 will make salaries above $100,000.

None of the appointees is new to the administration. They either were promoted or received similar titles in their new departments or agencies.

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Brown has said the changes will streamline government and could save money in the long run. He appointed three new secretaries last week as the state prepared to reduce the number of government agencies from 12 to 10, putting departments with related functions together.........

Wednesday
Jul032013

POLITICS/ENVIRONMENT: Vernon, Exide Technologies, court ruling allowing resumption of operations; Chemical Waste Management, Department of Toxic Substances Control, approval, permission to approve toxic waste dump in Central Valley.... 

* Los Angeles Times:  "Decisions on toxic sites spark fury in 2 communities" - "In Vernon, a judge allows Exide to resume operations that had been suspended for alleged violations. In the Central Valley, a state agency OKs expansion of a hazardous waste dump." - From the LAT:

A major toxic waste dump near a Central Valley hamlet is poised to expand, and a troubled battery recycler in Vernon has been cleared to reopen according to key decisions Tuesday that sparked fury in nearby low-income communities.

At the center of both decisions is a little-known California agency, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, which has repeatedly cited both facilities for violations of hazardous waste regulations...............

Wednesday
Jul032013

SACRAMENTO: California Legislature, summer recess, different dates for Assembly and Senate: "California Assembly and Senate can't agree on summer schedule"....

* Sacramento Bee:  "California Assembly and Senate can't agree on summer schedule" - From the Bee:

The California Legislature fights over everything from taxes to red-light cameras, but routinely the two houses agree on details of a monthlong summer recess – until now. Though costs will be small, taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

The oddity stems from a disagreement between legislative houses that will see the Assembly launch its lengthy summer break late today and return Aug. 5. The Senate won't leave until July 12 and returns Aug. 12. The practical impact is that taxpayers will pay for legislative airfare and per diem to fly some senators who are on recess back to the Capitol to present their bills to Assembly committees – and vice versa.

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No estimate is available of extra airfare or per diem costs to be incurred because of the dispute. Legislators who present bills at the Capitol during their recess are entitled to $142 in extra pay for each day they work.

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Rhys Williams, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the differences in recess schedules will not alter deadline dates for passing bills or concluding this year's legislative session on Sept. 13........