The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday shelved the last of several bills that sought to broaden the number of violent-felony offenses under the California penal code. The legislation would have added to the list additional forms of rape, sodomy and human trafficking. It carried a heavy price tag.
A bipartisan proposal filed by the committee's chair, Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), would have cost the state more than $1 million in corrections expenses. It would have increased the length of incarceration for more than 100 prisoners.
Legislation to eliminate California sales taxes on the purchase of tampons was delayed Friday by the Assembly's fiscal committee until 2018, a blow to advocates who say the tax is an unfair burden on low-income women and families.
The delay imposed on AB 9 is the second setback this month for efforts to eliminate taxes on products for women and children. A separate bill that included a tax-free provision for diapers was killed in a legislative committee on May 8.
The bill that was held back on Friday, written by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), would have excluded tampons, sanitary napkins and other menstrual products from sales taxes. A legislative committee analysis estimated the proposal would reduce state general fund revenues by $10.5 million a year.
Spending by outside groups hoping to influence Los Angeles' congressional race is picking up, with less than two weeks to go before the runoff for the 34th Congressional District.
Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and attorney Robert Lee Ahn, both Democrats, are competing to fill the former seat of Xavier Becerra in the June 6 election. Becerra stepped down months ago to become the state's attorney general.
Spending separate from the candidates' campaigns is reaching into the six-figure range, with most of the outside money going to support Gomez, the heavy favorite of establishment Democrats.
With questions mounting about the legal justification for omitting some $22 billion in expenses from California's long-standing spending cap, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration dropped the plan Thursday while promising to work on the issue again later this year.
Brown's advisors told the Assembly Budget Committee that this could include some changes in state law to clarify the rules surrounding what's known as the "Gann limit," a cap on state spending growth imposed by voters in 1979. The cap has rarely come into play in state budgeting in recent years, as it was loosened by a subsequent ballot measure in 1990. The governor's administration said it continues to worry about how the law interacts with other mandates related to school funding.
"School financing has changed significantly since the limit was first established in 1979," said H.D. Palmer, Brown's budget spokesman. "Because of that, we continue to believe we need statutory clarifications related to these school funding changes."
Perhaps the biggest budget skirmish that remains unsolved this year is how California should spend revenue from the tobacco tax voters approved last fall.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to put that money to expand overall spending on Medi-Cal, which provides subsidized healthcare for the poor. But the some of initiative's backers, namely doctor and dental groups, have cried foul, arguing that money is meant to go to increasing payments for providers.
Now, the Senate and Assembly are weighing in. In plans approved in their respective budget committees this week, both houses stray from Brown's proposal to put the money toward general Medi-Cal costs and lay out their own ideas on how to divvy up the revenue.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Thursday said she stands by her position that courthouses should be areas where immigration arrests should not occur.
Cantil-Sakauye, a former prosecutor who rose through the judicial ranks as an appointee of Republican governors, drew national attention in March after she blasted the federal government’s expanded immigration actions, among which she said included “stalking” immigrants at courthouses.
Though it wasn't included in the House Republicans' healthcare bill, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) still believes Americans should have access to the same insurance plans federal employees pick from, and he's hoping the Senate will embrace the idea.
In a letter Thursday, Issa asked the Senate Health Care Working Group to consider opening the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to more, or all, Americans. It's a national insurance idea that's persisted since the program began in 1960, and a proposal Issa has pitched before.
The program allows more than 8 million current and retired federal employees across the country to shop among hundreds of health insurance plans and then apply their employer contribution to whatever plan they choose.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles) stirred up speculation about a possible run for governor or U.S. Senate when he released a slickly produced video just before the California Democratic Party’s convention last weekend, but he has remained coy about his future political plans.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t padding his campaign war chest, though. De León has two fundraisers lined up in Los Angeles in June, presumably for his 2018 campaign for California lieutenant governor.
The question is whether De León actually will run for lieutenant governor. In the past, he has said he hasn’t made a decision. He has also given his supporters the go-ahead to endorse state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa), a longtime political ally, in the race.
State regulators have asked Volkswagen to revise its plan to invest in zero emission technology in California, a victory for critics who said the automaker wasn't doing enough in disadvantaged communities.
The investment plan, which will total $800 million over 10 years, is part of Volkswagen's obligation under a multi-billion settlement for evading pollution rules.
California, which is struggling to get enough zero emission vehicles on the road to meet its goals, is "eager to move forward," wrote Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey in a Wednesday letter to Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary.
An effort to boost the chances of local ballot measures raising taxes for transportation needs was quietly killed Thursday in the state Capitol.
The proposal, which would have ultimately required changing the California Constitution through a statewide vote, was in response to the high hurdle set decades ago for local taxes earmarked for specific projects.
Those kinds of taxes in cities and counties require two-thirds of the vote. The constitutional amendment by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would have lowered the vote threshold to 55% of ballots cast for any transportation proposal.