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Jerry Brown

Governor's Debate Gets Fiesty

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Sep 05, 2014 at 08:18:10 AM PDT

Governor and challenger spar in sole debate

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari had his big moment in the spotlight last night at the governor's debate. Jerry Brown remains the prohibitive favorite with a 19.5 point lead in the RCP polling average. At this point, it would take something of a disaster on multiple fronts for Kashkari to surge past Brown.

But Brown is taking nothing for granted. His big war chest remains at the ready in case anything changes, and he is directly taking on his challenger. It began with a strong barb at Governor Brown from Kashkari:

His 40 years in government has left them out of touch with the struggles of working families. He has declared a governor -- a california comeback. It is not only go we have the had the best schools in california. Today's schools are ranked 46th out of 50 states. We used to have a vibrant job market. Today it is 44th out of 50 states. (CSPAN transcript)

And it just got more testy as it went along, closing with a nice summary by the Governor:

Four years ago when i came to Sacramento the place was in a shambles. A majority of people in California now feel we are on the right track. Five years ago only 13% felt we were on the right track. We are taking care of water and workers compensation and created a rainy day fund. {Before I arrived...}We lost 1.4 million jobs. Since i have been elected almost 1.3 million have come back and that isn't by accident.

And today's Field Poll confirms that topline number:

Californians are taking a more positive view of the direction of the state than then did four years ago when near record proportions (80%) felt the state was seriously off on the wrong track. Currently, slightly more voters believe the state is moving in the right direction (43%) as feel it is off on the wrong track (41%).

That is a big change. Yes, there is still work to do, but today California functions in a way it never did under Gov. Schwarzenegger. There are a lot of factors for that, but certainly Brown can claim a big chunk of that credit. He has made a difference in Sacramento, bringing competence and a steady firm hand on the tiller.

Kashkari attempted to talk about his "middle class plan" at every opportunity, but fundamentally it is just more Arnold-esque hooey. Lower taxes, and the jobs will flow. Meanwhile back in the real world, Brown can point to what he has already done with Prop 30 in bringing financial stability to the state for the past few years.

The whole debate is just under an hour, and worth a viewing (or two). You can watch it here or use the handy iframe to the right.

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Brown Signs Up for Debate with Kashkari

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 17:34:59 PM PDT

Candidates for Governor will face off on Sep 4 in LA

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari has been lobbying for a debate with Governor Brown for a while. It's the typical challenger stuff, claiming he was dodging, or chicken, yada, yada. But for a position as large as Governor of California, a debate is a worthwhile use of everybody's time. Once you strip away all the BS, hopefully we can have a productive conversation. And that conversation will happen on September 4 in Los Angeles.

Kashkari had challenged Brown to 10 debates, but until now, Brown had brushed off that proposition. Most polls show Brown leading Kashkari by about 20 points, and last month the governor told reporters he "hadn't made up (his) mind" as to whether or not he'd debate the former U.S. Treasury Department official.

But both Brown and Kashkari campaigns have now agreed to the September debate, which will be produced by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California. KQED's senior California politics and government editor, John Myers, will moderate the one-hour forum. Journalists from the Los Angeles Times and Telemundo will ask the candidates questions as well. (KQED / Scott Detrow)

Yes, Brown is leading, and it would take some sort of monumental change for Kashkari to get close to the Governor in the vote total. But this should be an interesting chance to hear two perspectives on the state. Brown has a strong record these last four years, but maybe Kashkari can at least try to drag his party into something approaching respectability over these last two and a half months.

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Brown Outlines New Water Bond Proposal

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:15:44 AM PDT

Bond is about half as large as current package on November ballot, doesn't include peripheral canals

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Lois Wolk has been working for a long time on getting a revised water bond package on the ballot to replace the current $11.75bn bond slated for this November. The legislators and the governor are worried, justifiably, that voters will be scared off by that number when considering authorizing additional debt. However, given the current drought, a strong consensus has emerged that we must do something.

But, of course, there are always stumbling blocks. Like, say, the concept of peripheral tunnels to bring water around the Bay Delta. Sen. Wolk outlines how she sees the three pillars of a deal:

"It has to be a reasonable bond. It has to have the support of the governor. It must be tunnel neutral, and he is very clear about that, and I support that strongly," said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who represents the Delta. (Capital Public Radio / Ben Adler)

As you can hear in Ben Adler's clip above, the governor is a lot bit gunshy of adding additional debt. In something of a reversal of roles, the Republican caucus is pushing for a higher funding level, arguing that $2B of storage funds are insufficient, favoring a $3B minimum.

But, if the Governor can gather the votes that he needs before next week's deadline, his plan is likely to be the basis of the bond. While there may be a few changes here and there, one has to suspect that the time pressure will push Republicans toward accepting any deal that can get through the hurdles.

In a letter on his website, the Governor outlined his priorities for the package:

My $6 billion plan provides for water use efficiency and recycling, effective groundwater management and added storage. It invests in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities and for watershed restoration and increased flows in some of our most important rivers and streams.

This water bond is tied to our comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the way for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods. It goes a long way to ensure clean drinking water, protect habitat and free up funding for local water projects.

See the flip for an outline of the spending priorities in the Governor's bond package as well as his open letter on the subject..

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George Will Thinks Kashkari is Goldwater 2.0. Goldwater 1.0 Rolls Over.

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 14:47:01 PM PDT

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari seems to be a bright man doing his best Don Quixote for the California GOP. He knows he isn't going to win without some sort of major Jerry Brown catastrophe. But, the party apparatus is thrilled that he defeated right wing nativist Tim Donnelly. Apparently so much so that GOP scribe George Will took to the pages of the Washington Post to declare that he is Goldwater 2.0:

Today, in this state where one in eight Americans lives, and where Democratic presidential candidates can reap 55 electoral votes without spending a dime or a day campaigning, the Republicans' gubernatorial candidate has an agenda and spirit similar to Goldwater's. Neel Kashkari is not, as some careless commentary suggests, an anti-Goldwater, diluting the state party's conservatism. He is Goldwater 2.0, defining conservatism a ­half-century on.

As Calitics has been down to a DDOS attack on the SoapBlox network, I've not been able to respond to this mularkey until now. And in the interim, the CalBuzz folks have taken Will's argument apart pretty completely.

This is, we report more in sadness than in anger, bullshit.
Maybe George had too many martinis wherever he was staying in Menlo Park when he wrote about Goldwater's nomination at the "unfortunately named Cow Palace" "fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco." Or maybe he just had to come up with something to write off his trip out to the hustings. But he has no point, at least not one he shared with his readers.
Because: The widely known political imp Tyrion of Kashkari has not for one minute shown an interest in re-branding his party. He's desperately trying to make a case against a governor who balanced the budget and calmed the hyperpartisan dysfunction in Sacramento (with the help of voters who passed his tax measure, gave the Legislature the power to pass a budget with a majority of votes and approved measures to boost centrism).

To be honest, at many points it seems like Kashkari is running to get famous more than anything else. Not that I begrudge a campaign on a low budget, but after the fourth time guest hosting KFI's John and Ken Show, shouldn't somebody say something? I'm not sure Kashkari has the it in him to become a flamethrowing media personality, but you could see him landing a gig somewhere on TV or radio after all this is over. He hasn't really made any effort to change the hearts and minds of the still very much right-wing GOP base. He just was a slightly better option, and was able to squeak past Tim Donnelly by gathering 19.4% of the vote in the primary. There are a lot of people who voted for Donnelly, and they aren't going anywhere.

In the end, Kashkari is basically running around trying to do whatever he can to get noticed. The latest polls have him down 52-32, and he will never have the money to compete with the governor on the air waves. So, he goes where he can find a bit of free media and tries to maximize whatever he can get. That's about all you can do in a race like what he's facing. It is a daunting and thankless task, but he signed up for it.

Hey, Charlie Brown knew Lucy was going to move that football, but he still went for it, right?

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Brown Picks Mariano-Florentino Cuellar for Supreme Court

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 17:04:59 PM PDT

Stanford Law Professor is first of two picks that Brown will make

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown will replace Justices Baxter and Kennard this year, and today he announced his first pick, Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar .

Cuellar, 41, was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and for years crossed the border by foot to attend school in Texas. He moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was 14 and obtained his bachelor's degree from Harvard College, his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford.

In selecting Cuellar, Gov. Jerry Brown said: "Tino Cuellar is a renowned scholar who has ... made significant contributions to both political science and the law. His vast knowledge and even temperament will - without question - add further luster to our highest court." (LA Times)

Baxter was widely considered one of the more conservative of the seven member court, so the replacement will likely shift the court leftward. While we can only speculate how a Justice Cuellar will rule, the fact is that Brown will have 3 of the 7 justices by next year. With another Brown administration very likely comes the very real possibility of a Brown majority on the court. And with his current appointment pattern, perhaps a very intellectual California Supreme Court as well.

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Federal judge denies motion to block water transfers

by: Dan Bacher

Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 12:08:08 PM PDT

A federal judge on July 11 denied a motion by an environmental group and fishing organization for a preliminary injunction against water transfers from northern California to San Joaquin Valley irrigators.

Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill of the U.S. District Court in Fresno rejected the motion for the preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from transferring water through the south Delta export pumps to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which includes the Westlands Water District.

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and AquAlliance filed the motion, claiming that the environmental assessment was "seriously flawed" and that the transfers posed "an eminent threat to threatened Delta smelt," according to a statement from Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director.

CSPA and AquAlliance had pointed out that extremely low Delta outflows this year had brought Delta smelt habitat (the low salinity zone) and Delta smelt into the Delta where they were threatened with lethal water temperatures.

The judge's decision was predicated on "agency deference" and the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau claimed that Delta smelt were not in danger because they're not in the Delta in summer, noted Jennings.

Jennings said, "We're deeply disappointed in the decision and will now decide our next steps. Contrary to the decision, Delta smelt are at severe risk. The U.S. Geological Survey's state-of-the-art flow gages of Delta outflow, confirmed by increasing salinity levels, reveal a net inflow to the Delta from the ocean."

Jennnings said the 23-26 June Delta smelt survey by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals that there are no Delta smelt in Suisun Bay and that 92.95% are in the Delta and exposed to high temperatures. A remnant group (7%) of Delta smelt is trapped in the Sacramento Ship Channel, but won't likely survive August temperatures.

State fishery biologists counted only 22 smelt, once the most numerous species in the entire Delta, from June 23 to June 26. The survey included 120 trawls at 40 different locations.

"The USFWS and Bureau have escorted Delta smelt to the scaffold and the judge signed the warrant. We did all we could do to prevent disaster," emphasized Jennings.

Jennings said the state and federal governments have mismanaged northern California water so poorly that there was actually a minus 45 cubic feet per second (cfs) net outflow to the Bay this May while the Department of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation were reporting a plus 3805 cfs.

"Last year, excessive water exports and low outflow drew delta smelt from Suisun Bay into the central Delta where they were butchered by lethal water temperatures," Jennings revealed. "This year, with population levels hovering at historic lows: excessive transfers and exports, relaxed flow standards, high temperatures and negligible outflows may catapult the species into the abyss of extinction. On top of these threats, we were astonished to discover that the estimates of Delta outflow that state and federal agencies have reported and regulators have relied upon for years are wrong and significantly overestimate outflow in low flow conditions."

The Net Delta Outflow Index (NDOI) used to assess compliance with required flow standards is based upon a formula of both actual and estimated data. Examination of tidally filtered outflow data from the U.S. Geological Survey's state-of-the-art UVM flow meters on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and Three-mile and Dutch Sloughs reveals that actual Net Delta Outflow (NDO) in low flow conditions are considerably lower, according to Jennings.

The Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, is an endangered fish from 2.0 to 2.8 inches long that is found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events, approximately from March to May.

The fish is an "indicator species" that demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, it is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat. Massive water exports out of Delta to corporate agribusiness interests have played a key role in the precipitous decline of the fish in recent years.  

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Activists in hazmat suits protest offshore fracking

by: Dan Bacher

Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 12:07:53 PM PDT

As the California Coastal Commission met in Ventura on Wednesday, July 9, a dozen hazmat-suit-wearing protesters with the Center for Biological Diversity and Food and Water Watch urged the commissioners to consider a biologist's warning that chemicals used in offshore fracking pose a toxic threat to sea mammals and coastal fish populations.

"We had really good turn out at the rally and it shows that a lot of people, especially those along the coast, are concerned about offshore fracking and its impacts," said Hillary Aidun of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The protest took place at 11 a.m. outside Ventura City Hall in Ventura. The Coastal Commission will also provide an update on the issue of offshore fracking during the second day of the meeting today.

"We now know that fracking chemicals pumped into California's offshore oil wells pose a scientifically documented danger to marine life," said Center biologist Shaye Wolf, who wrote the letter to the Commission. "The Coastal Commission needs to protect our waters by halting fracking off California's coast."

Oil companies have fracked at least 203 wells in waters off Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Seal Beach, as well as in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel, over the past 20 years, according to an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) investigation last year. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

The Center analyzed the chemicals used during 19 fracking events at 19 different wells in California state waters reported during 2011 to 2013 on FracFocus. All 19 fracking events occurred in Long Beach Harbor within two miles from shore, Wolf wrote in her letter.

The letter explains that oil companies fracking in California waters have admitted to using at least 10 chemicals that can harm aquatic life. Nonylphenol ethoxylate, for example, is extremely toxic and has a long-lasting effect on aquatic environments, according to scientific research.

This chemical, which has been employed in at least 16 frack jobs in California state waters, can also bioaccumulate, that is, become dangerously concentrated in the bodies of creatures higher in the food chain, including sea otters.

"We found scientific studies indicating that at least 10 fracking fluid chemicals used offshore in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine organisms, including sea otters, fish, and invertebrates, if released into the environment. Six of these 10 chemicals were used in all 19 frack jobs," the letter stated.

Fracking involves blasting massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals into the earth at pressures high enough to crack geologic formations and release oil and gas. Scientific studies have revealed that fracking poses consider harm not only to fish and other aquatic life, but to human health as well.

Fracking operations can also spur earthquakes. A substantial number of earthquakes in one region of Oklahoma over the past several years can be linked to the process of fracking, according to a new study from Science magazine.

"About half the oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge wastewater into the sea," according to the Center. "The oil industry has federal permission to dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including fracking fluid, directly into the ocean off California's coast every year. Fracking chemicals can cause cancer and pose an ecological hazard in these wildlife-rich waters."

For more about offshore fracking, please go to http://www.StopOceanFracking.org.

Ironically, the same oil industry lobbyist who is leading the charge to expand fracking in California also served as chair of the state panel that created a series of so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California. In an extreme conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)

The Western States Petroleum Association President also "served" on the task forces to craft alleged "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. Much of the fracking exposed in the AP investigation occurred during the time the Reheis-Boyd served on these panels.

The so-called -marine protected created under the Initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Foundation, fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

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Field: Big Lead for Brown, Legislature's Approval Slips Back

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 07:32:44 AM PDT

Field Poll shows Legislature took hit after recent controversy

by Brian Leubitz

Field is in the midst of their most recent data dump, and you can't help but feel that Gov. Brown is all smiles. First, there's the fact that he has a 20 point lead over Neel Kashkari

The results of the latest Field Poll show incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by twenty points, 52% to 32%, among likely voters in this year's gubernatorial election.  ... Brown is regarded favorably by 54% of likely voters, while 31% have an unfavorable opinion. Following his second place showing in the June primary, Kashkari is viewed favorably by 28%, while 16% of voters hold an unfavorable opinion of him.

In addition, the Poll finds 54% of voters approving of the job Brown is doing as governor, while 29% disapprove. (Field PDF)

The Governor's approval rating during this term has been as low as 43%, before reaching a high of 59% in April of this year. While it did slip, when combined with his mound of campaign funds, the contest between Brown and Kashkari doesn't really seem a fair fight. Barring some major shift of the political landscape, you have to feel that Brown should defeat Kashkari handily.

Now, on the other side, the Legislature was so close to actually having a net favorable rating. The institution's ratings were trending up from a low of 19% in May 2012 before Prop 30. In December 2013, it hit 40% for the first time since 2002. In other words, a really long time. And then in the late March poll, approval was trending even higher, with a 46-40 split in the first few days of polling. Then the Leland Yee story broke, and the numbers fell back to earth.

Slightly more voters believe California is generally on the wrong track (46%) than say it is moving in the right direction (41%). In addition, more voters disapprove (47%) than approve (35%) of the job performance of the state legislature.

Opinions about both matters are directly related to the party registration of voters. Democrats offer a much more optimistic assessment of the direction of the state and hold more positive views of the job the state legislature is doing than Republicans. (Field PDF)

Still, this says a lot about the harmony of the post Prop 30 days. There are still budget fights, but they aren't nearly as toxic as they once were. The majority vote budget means that the fights are basically all within the party. The scandal can't help, but beyond a bad apple or two, this is a legislature that works for California.

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Budget Goes to Governor's Desk: Republicans Freak Out About HSR

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 08:59:57 AM PDT

Budget Based on Compromises Leaves Questions

by Brian Leubitz

First, let's get this out of the way: the budget ($156bn for those counting at home) has now been passed and just awaits a few formalities. It is a budget of compromises, but a solid foundation for California's priorities.  And there are no big public fights, no big accusations, and no sleepovers in Sacramento. This is all good, and says a lot about the improved process under the majority vote budget system. (And Prop 30, which gives the revenue breathing room that we need.)

All that being said, the Governor wanted to maintain a hard line on spending. It's nice and prudent and all that, but there are a lot of gaping holes in the budget that should have been addressed. George Skelton's review of the completed product outlines some of those holes:

But the governor refused to reverse a 10% cut in pay rates for doctors who treat patients in the Medi-Cal program that is greatly expanding under Obamacare. Because of the measly rates - lowest in the nation - more and more doctors are refusing to accept Medi-Cal patients.

And, shamefully, no one even tried to restore previously cut funding for the most vulnerable: the aged, blind and disabled poor living entirely off federal and state subsistence programs (SSI/SSP) - $880 (sic, it is actually $877.40 - BL) monthly for singles and $1,480 for couples. There are roughly 1.5 million Californians receiving SSI/SSP, which was reduced to the federal minimum during the recession. The state is still stiffing them. They're not unionized and can't make campaign contributions. Meanwhile, legislators keep raising the minimum wage, bumping up inflation and squeezing these impoverished folks even more.

So the governor and Democrats shouldn't be patting themselves on the backs all that much for their budget compromise. ([George Skelton / LATimes)

There have been a few good editorials about the Medi-Cal question, including this one in the SF Chronicle. Boiling it down, our reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the nation. And while there is a sharp need to control medical costs. As you can see from the graph in this tweet, our costs are still out of control. But the problem here is that if the tightest controls are isolated to Medi-Cal, doctors simply won't take Medi-Cal patients. And that is exactly what is happening. As you can see from the ad up top, this was a big deal for the state. But under the current budget, reimbursement rates are still far too low.

In addition to the heartbreaking failure to restore SSI/SSP funding for some of the state's most vulnerable, the state's contributions to CalSTRS are taking a big chunk out of the restoration of funding to K12 education. And even with the $250+ million for both early child education and vocational education, there are still big funding problems at all levels of California education.

The other big issue: yeah, that would be Republican Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's non-stop tirade over the high speed rail project. (Seen here looking hilarious in flick user donkeyhotey's cartoon.) The budget allocates $250m from cap and trade revenue, but long-term funding issues are still out there. At this point, HSR leaders can point to several billion of funding that is out there for the project, but are still a ways off from the full price tag. And if McCarthy becomes Majority Leader as expected, comments like these could mean it becomes a lot more challenging to get federal assistance for the project:

"Governor Brown's persistence shows he is more interested in protecting his legacy than communities that will be uprooted by its intrusion," he added. "As long as I am in Congress, I will do whatever I can to ensure that not one dollar of federal funds is directed to this project." (Melanie Mason / LAT)

But those decisions are for another day. Today, we have a budget that will keep the lights on throughout the state, and that's good thing.

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Budget Negotiations Continue

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 10:17:24 AM PDT

Process looks set for this weekend

by Brian Leubitz

The budget deadline is this weekend, and without the need to pull a few Republican votes, harmony seems to reign. Well, not so much real harmony, but something that passes for harmony in Sacramento when you look at the past budget fights before the majority vote budget and Prop 30 votes.

With closed-door negotiations bearing fruit, the joint budget committee is expected to meet Wednesday afternoon to nail down more details on state spending.

"We'll get through most of it," Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who is chairing the committee, said in an interview.(LA Times)

Everybody seems to be all happy-go-lucky on getting a deal done. But to be clear, there are a lot of tough choices to be made. K-12 funding is still too low. Court funding is getting a boost, but is probably still too low. Skinner and Steinberg are still fighting Brown's intention to end overtime pay for homecare workers.

The bigger issue overhanging much of this is whether to include an additional $2.5 billion in projected capital gains revenue, with some sort of compromise likely.

Yes, the negotiations are more civil than in the past, but the issues are very real. Gov. Brown seems to be a bit hesitant to restore funding levels anytime soon, but there is a lot of gap to fill between how much the state needs in services and how much we are providing. The higher end of our economy has clearly recovered, but that is far from universally true across the income spectrum.

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Primary Election a Boon for Workers, Bust for Big Corporations

by: California Labor Federation

Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:48:33 PM PDT

By Steve Smith

The results are in. While workers are celebrating some huge victories this morning, the corporate crowd is wondering what went wrong in some key races. Last night's California primary election presented some very clear choices to voters that are critical to the direction of our state.

The corporate political machine went all in, spending big in an effort to defeat labor champions in a number of races, and for the most part, came up empty. Union workers, who pounded the pavement in the final weeks to talk to voters face-to-face about the importance of the election, likely made the difference in a number of races.

Five reasons last night was a boon for workers (and mostly a bust for big corporations):

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Delta Independent Science Board Says Tunnel Plan Falls Short

by: Dan Bacher

Wed May 21, 2014 at 15:27:45 PM PDT

The state officials who are fast-tracking the construction of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta constantly claim that the controversial plan is based on "science."

For example, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird in March 2013 claimed, "At the beginning of the Brown administration, we made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Delta's lost habitat."

However, the hollowness of Laird's claim that the BDCP is founded on "science" was exposed on Monday, May 19 when the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) criticized the science in its review of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.

This report follows numerous scathing criticisms of the plan's science from an array of federal and independent scientists and scientific panels over the past few years, who have said the construction of the tunnels may hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelta, green sturgeon and other fish species.

The transmittal letter, addressed to Delta Stewardship Council Chair Randy Fiorini and Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham, commends the preparers for assembling the documents while criticizing the science for falling short of what the document requires:

"We commend the preparers of the Draft BDCP documents for assembling and analyzing mountains of scientific information, and for exploring environmental impacts of many proposed BDCP actions. The preparers faced a bewildering array of regulatory requirements and economic, social, and political pressures.

We find, however, that the science in this BDCP effort falls short of what the project requires. We highlight our concerns in the attached report. The report, in turn, draws on our detailed responses to charge questions from the Delta Stewardship Council (Appendix A) and on our reviews of individual chapters in the DEIR/DEIS (Appendix B). Our concerns raise issues that, if not addressed, may undermine the contributions of BDCP to meeting the co-equal goals for the Delta."

In a remark made about the water supply section of the plan, the board provides this precious quote: "It is a bit like an orchestra playing a symphony without a conductor and with the sheets of music sometimes shuffled. The notes are all there and mostly well-played individually, but the experience is less than satisfying." (Thanks to Alex Breitler of the Stockton Record for pointing out this quote).

The report addresses eight major points about how the DEIR/DEIS fails the "good enough" scientific standard, ranging from "overly optimistic expectations" regarding the "conservation actions" to the analyses' neglect of the project's downstream impacts on San Francisco Bay. Below is the summary from the report:

"We find that the DEIR/DEIS currently falls short of meeting this 'good enough' scientific standard. In particular:

1. Many of the impact assessments hinge on overly optimistic expectations about the feasibility, effectiveness, or timing of the proposed conservation actions, especially habitat restoration.

2. The project is encumbered by uncertainties that are considered inconsistently and incompletely; modeling has not been used effectively to bracket a range of uncertainties or to explore how uncertainties may propagate.

3. The potential effects of climate change and sea-level rise on the implementation and outcomes of BDCP actions are not adequately evaluated.

4. Insufficient attention is given to linkages and interactions among species, landscapes, and the proposed actions themselves.

5. The analyses largely neglect the influences of downstream effects on San Francisco Bay, levee failures, and environmental effects of increased water availability for agriculture and its environmental impacts in the San Joaquin Valley and downstream.

6. Details of how adaptive management will be implemented are left to a future management team without explicit prior consideration of (a) situations where adaptive management may be inappropriate or impossible to use, (b) contingency plans in case things do not work as planned, or (c) specific thresholds for action.

7. Available tools of risk assessment and decision support have not been used to assess the individual and combined risks associated with BDCP actions.

8. The presentation, despite clear writing and an abundance of information and analyses, makes it difficult to compare alternatives and evaluate the critical underlying assumptions."

Wow, that is quite a smackdown on the alleged "science" of the plan by a panel of respected scientists. Again, John Laird's claim that the Brown administration has "made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan" appears to have little or no basis in fact.

To read the review, go to: http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/sit...

The board's criticisms of the "science" the BDCP documents are based upon are very similar to those that scientists from federal lead agencies for the BDCP EIR/EIS - the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service - made regarding the preliminary BDCP documents last July.

They then provided the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the environmental consultants with 44 pages of comments highly critical of the Consultant Second Administrative Draft EIR/EISDraft), released on May 10. The agencies found, among other things, that the draft environmental documents were "biased," "insufficient," "confusing," and "very subjective." (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Libraries/Dynamic_Document_Library/Federal_Agency_Comments_on_Consultant_Administrative_Draft_EIR-EIS_7-18-13.sflb.ashx)

Yes, there is no doubt that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build Jerry Brown's twin tunnels is based on "science" - but it's political science, not natural science, that drives the project.

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Rainy Day Deal: 1.5% of General Fund

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri May 09, 2014 at 12:22:01 PM PDT

May help resolve long-term credit rating issues

by Brian Leubitz

S&P has never had much faith in the California legislature. Even after the majority vote budget amendment passed, and after Prop 30's additional revenues, S&P never really had faith.

Earlier this week, in a memorandum supportive of a budget reserve, the Wall Street credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's said that "when it comes to reaching a legislative supermajority on fiscal matters, California has a weak track record," raising concerns about the possibility that Brown and lawmakers might fail to reach an accord.

S&P called the negotiation "a test of sorts for the state," adding that "if the Legislature succeeds in assembling the consensus necessary to move the measure forward, it could mark another step in California's ongoing journey toward a more sustainable fiscal structure."(SacBee / David Siders)

Now, despite voters continually supporting revenue and large Democratic majorities, the late 2000s budget fights never really went away. Sure, the players are completely different, but that kind of madness leaves a mark. Yes, we've made wholesale reforms to the system, we've never actually missed any debt payments, and we have a constitutional requirement to pay debt before anything (save Prop 98 requirements). But, the credit bureaus like to see reforms that make them and their Wall St. friends happy.

That brings us back to the rainy day fund. California has always struggled with boom-bust cycles, and the idea was to stash away some of that boom money to spend during the busts. In general a good concept, but the very ominous devil is in the details. And with the recent indictments and subsequent suspensions, the Senate Republicans are relevant again. But, Brown's framework brought a little bit of something for everyone to build off, and today we get this:

But on Thursday, following several weeks of private negotiations, Brown and the legislative leaders of both parties announced an agreement on a proposal to set aside 1.5 percent of total general fund revenue every year, plus revenue from capital-gains taxes when the economy is especially robust. (SacBee / David Siders)

Republicans get their rainy day fund and something to list as an accomplishment. (Giving them an extensive list of...1 accomplishment). Steinberg and the Senate Democrats got a commitment to use half of the 1.5% to pay down debt, rather than having to argue that issue later in the budget fight. That could have been a huge problem down the road, and the inclusion here is a big victory for Steinberg and could be enough to get a much broader base of support.

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Gov. Brown looks to fix Rainy Day Fund measure

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 16:52:35 PM PDT

Looks to fix 2010's ACA 4 that will appear on November ballot

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown has always been fond of the concept of a rainy day fund. He's included the concept on many occasions, speeches, budgets, etc. Add "special session" to that list:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the "Rainy Day Fund" measure on November's ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

"We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund," Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24. (Josh Richman / Political Blotter)

It seems that pretty much everybody in Sacramento, across the political spectrum, supports the move, with Richman pulling supportive quotes from the Speaker, Senate minority leader, and the Chamber of Commerce. But, of course, they all have different ideas of what this means. Brown wants to account for the wild swings in revenue we get due to stock options and the like, while Huff and the Chamber focus first on spending one-time revenue on ongoing expenses.

What exactly this means for the November ballot is unclear. Any changes could push the ballot measure to 2016, but there is some flexibility with a lot of time still remaining.

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Field Poll: Governor Up, Legislature Down

by: Brian Leubitz

Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:01:53 AM PDT

Yee arrest shifts legislative numbers

by Brian Leubitz

It turns out having one of your members arrested for involvement in a gun running scandal hurts your approval numbers. Who'd have thunk it?

Following Yee's arrest, voter sentiment of the legislature has turned negative. The proportion of voters expressing disapproval jumped six points from 40% to 46%, and now is greater than the proportion approving (43%), which declined three points. Thus, voter opinions of the legislature swung a net nine points in the negative direction in the days following news of Yee's arrest.(Field poll PDF)

Now, that being said, 40% is still relatively strong compared to the dark days of the budget fights a few years ago. In September 2010, approval of the legislature hit a rather abysmal 10%. The majority vote budget and the wiggle room afforded by Prop 30 should probably get most of the credit for that rebound. But the Yee arrest, following the other Senate legal issues, drags that down. Perhaps some of that will be resolved when those members are officially gone from the chamber, but with the Yee story likely to linger in the news, don't expect an immediate bounce at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Gov. Brown is riding high. Field has him at an all-time high of 59%, with just 32% disapproving. Those are numbers that will be hard for any competitor to overcome in June or November. But the field of candidates that are actually in the race? The odds grow even longer. Right wing extremist Tim Donnelly leads the pack at 17% with no other candidate exceeding 3%. Neel Kashkari hopes to spend his way to relevance, but time is running quite short.

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PPIC Poll shows Brown with huge lead, Donnelly in distant second

by: Brian Leubitz

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 14:54:31 PM PDT

Endeavour Grand  Opening Ceremony (201210300002HQ)Poll shows right-wing anti-immigrant Tim Donnelly could be GOP standard bearer in November

by Brian Leubitz

WHo really wants to be the one to get steamrolled by Gov. Brown and his huge warchest come June/November? Well, there are a few folks vying for the privilege, but few show any sign of making any inroads. Barring a bizarre calamity, Brown seems a prohibitive favorite over the field. And that instinct is borne out in PPIC's poll:

When primary likely voters are asked how they would vote in the governor's race, 47 percent choose Brown and 10 percent choose Republican Tim Donnelly. Fewer support Republicans Andrew Blount (2%) or Neel Kashkari (2%)-the other candidates included in the survey-while 3 percent name someone else and 36 percent are undecided. (PPIC)

Now, Donnelly, who is a well known right wing extremist better known as a Minuteman vigilante than as a serious legislator. Not exactly the type of candidate a 21st century party is really looking for in a state with a minority majority. But while some party leaders are kind of rooting for Neel Kashkari, and his much more compelling, and modern, story, the grassroots of the party seems to prefer Donnelly's anti-immigrant right-wing platform.

Had Kashkari been able to keep up his initial strong fundraising, you would have to like his odds to pull out the number two spot. But with that fundraising rapidly slowing, Donnelly may be able to carry a right-wing base vote to the second line of the November ballot.  The other candidate, Andrew Blount, Mayor of Laguna Hills, says he is raising no money at all. Unless he plans to self-finance, Donnelly's slightly higher name ID would likely be enough to push him over the edge. Here's the current cash situation:

Donnelly reported Monday that he has less than $11,000 in cash on hand, with unpaid bills of $149,068. Kashkari, meanwhile, has banked more than $900,000, while Brown has nearly $20 million on hand.(SacBee)

Perhaps this will improve when one of them squeaks onto the November ballot. However, the numbers right now are all looking strong for Gov. Brown. His current approval rating is at 49% approval, down a bit from his all time high in January of 58%, but more than solid given the other factors in the race.

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Jerry Brown Waxes Nostalgic with Maureen Dowd

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 18:49:54 PM PDT

Governor looks solid for next election, looks back and forward with Dowd

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari, despite being something of a modest frontrunner to make it to the general election with Gov. Brown, is now struggling with fundraising. Apparently Hank Paulson can only max out once, and Kashkari is having some issues getting contributions beyond the ranks of Goldman Sachs. Kashkari now has less than $1mil, compared to Brown's nearly $20m.

That all leads up to Maureen Dowd's puff piece with the Governor entitled "Palmy Days with the Governor." There are no hard hitting revelations here, just a few rememberances, many of which have to do with the Clintons:

So how does he reconcile what he said in 1992 and now? Have the Clintons changed, or has Brown changed?

He crosses his arms and gives me a flinty look, finally observing: "In retrospect, after we see all the other presidents that came afterwards, certainly, Clinton handled his job with a level of skill that hasn't been met since."

Take that, President Obama. (Maureen Dowd / NYT)

It goes on to cite the heckling at the CDP convention, but Gov. Brown is a fighter at heart. Despite his discomfort at the heckling, he closed his speech with "keep protesting." He has changed a lot since his first go-round, but maybe he is still much the same.

photo by Alan Light

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Gov. Brown's Re-election Announcement Letter

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 17:28:56 PM PST

Governor pens letter to the state

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown filed his papers for re-election today after writing a letter to the people of California, highlighting his record of working with everybody and ability to forge a compromise.  With his approval rating approaching 60%, and a weak field of competitors, Brown looks very strong in his reelection campaign.

You can read the full letter at the Governor's website or you can read it over the flip.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 894 words in story)

Gov. Brown Talks Drought and Bay Bridge

by: Brian Leubitz

Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 10:44:23 AM PST

Governor looks to maintain cautious approach

by Brian Leubitz

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle has a way with a video camera like few else. She readily acknowledges the less than high tech camera work, even going so far as to name her video series "Shaky Hand Productions." But she has a way of being in the right place at the right time to ask some very pertinent questions.

Yesterday she posted another such video, this time a dimly lit interview of Gov. Brown. He covered the drought and the frustrating Bay Bridge situation. On mandatory water restrictions he hewed his refrain of letting local governments ride lead:

I like to focus attention and responsibility on local government, local school districts, whenever possible. So I certainly encourage every local community to do exactly what they need ... and when it becomes necessary for the state to take over and actually order (rationing) ... I'll certainly do that. "

Cruise on over to her blog post to get the full transcript. Looks like he'll officially kick his campaign off soon.

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Three Judge Panel Designs Plan to Reduce Prison Population within Two Years

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:05:58 AM PST

San Quentin State Prison California taken from a passing ferryPanel say the delays are costing the taxpayers

by Brian Leubitz

At some point, whether this year or two years from now, the state will have to get the prison population down to 137.5% of its designed capacity, or around 112,000 prisoners. Gov. Brown has been working on that primarily through realignment and shifting prisoners to private prisons out of state. The three judge panel took a look and decided the deadline should wait. But there's a catch in the ruling (Full court order here):

Under Monday's order, the state has until Feb. 28, 2016, to reduce the inmate population in its 34 adult prisons - designed to hold 81,574 inmates - to 137.5 percent of its current design capacity. State prisons now house roughly 117,600 inmates. The order requires the number to be reduced to 112,164 and bars the state from sending inmates to out-of-state prisons to get to that level. (SacBee)

Beyond that agreement not to send prisoners out of state, the state also agreed that they would seek to reduce the current out of state population of 8,900. Furthermore, the judges went ahead and outlined how the state was going to get down to that 137.5% figure pretty explicitly, with benchmarks and an appointed compliance officer.

Many of the media reports are simply referring this order as a stay of execution, but rather it is a compromise that requires the state to meet certain conditions. Beyond seeking additional space in county jails, the state will implement the following 8-point plan agreed to by the court:

(a) Increase credits prospectively for non-violent second-strike offenders and minimum custody inmates. Non-violent second-strikers will be eligible to earn good time credits at 33.3% and will be eligible to earn milestone credits for completing rehabilitative programs. Minimum custody inmates will be eligible to earn 2-for-1 good time credits to the extent such credits do not deplete participation in fire camps where inmates also earn 2-for-1 good time credits;
(b) Create and implement a new parole determination process through which non-violent second-strikers will be eligible for parole consideration by the Board of Parole Hearings once they have served 50% of their sentence;
(c) Parole certain inmates serving indeterminate sentences who have already been granted parole by the Board of Parole Hearings but have future parole dates;
(d) In consultation with the Receiver's office, finalize and implement an expanded parole process for medically incapacitated inmates;
(e) Finalize and implement a new parole process whereby inmates who are 60 years of age or older and have served a minimum of twenty-five years of their sentence will be referred to the Board of Parole Hearings to determine suitability for parole;
(f) Activate new reentry hubs at a total of 13 designated prisons to be operational within one year from the date of this order;
(g) Pursue expansion of pilot reentry programs with additional counties and local communities; and
(h) Implement an expanded alternative custody program for female inmates. (Order at p. 3)

The Compliance Officer will be checking in with the court, but the court plans on retaining jurisdiction over the prison system until the reductions are deemed "durable."

In the end, this is a very reasonable plan for all parties. It makes the prison system safer and healthier for prisoners and guards. It will shift focus from parole violaters and other low-risk offenders to the most dangerous elements in the prisons. There is a lot of evidence that we can make our communities safer through more rational sentencing, and perhaps this can be the hammer that prods us along that course.

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