In a move that triggers the most dramatic shake-up of the California Board of Equalization in its 138-year history, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that strips the embattled state tax collection agency of most of its powers and duties as officials scramble to create an entirely new department by July 1.
The board is the target of an investigation by the state Department of Justice, and its employees and members have been accused by auditors of mismanagement, including putting $350 million in sales taxes in the wrong accounts and improperly interfering with decisions to open field offices and transfer staff.
The governor signed a bill that pares the state board from an agency with 4,800 workers to one of 400 employees, shifting the other staff engaged in the collection of sales and excise taxes to a new California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law a $183.2-billion budget, a spending plan with significant boosts for public schools and a variety of programs to help California's most needy residents.
While the blueprint depends on a series of other related bills that haven't reached his desk, Brown's action largely ratifies the plan approved by the Legislature and ensures the state will have a budget in place for the new fiscal year that begins Saturday.
"This budget provides money to repair our roads and bridges, pay down debt, invest in schools, fund the earned income tax credit and provide Medi-Cal health care for millions of Californians," Brown said in a written statement released by his office.
One in three California residents are covered by Medicaid, and California is thought to have the most to lose if Republicans gather enough votes to roll back major aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
California would see the nation’s biggest increase in uninsured people by next year and face a $24-billion budget shortfall by 2026 because of reduced Medicaid funding, California's Democratic senators and Gov. Jerry Brown warned during a call with reporters on Tuesday.
The Californians' call was just one of dozens of events House and Senate Democrats held Tuesday to try to stir up anger over the bill.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is going after five California Democrats for votes on a water issue.
The online ads are identical except for one line tailored to target each Democrat: Reps. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove, Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Scott Peters of San Diego. They specifically are about the Democrats voting against a bill to funnel dam permits through a single federal agency in an effort to speed up new water storage projects.
“Tell Congressman Garamendi to stop letting politics get in the way of our water,” one ad says.
A broad effort to close thousands of California neighborhood polling places in favor of absentee ballots and multi-purpose "vote centers" has yet to find traction beyond a handful of counties.
Data collected by Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office concludes only two counties have a plan in place to implement the sweeping change in state election law enacted last year. As many as 14 counties can do so in 2018, with Los Angeles County and others able to switch to the system in 2020.
"Change is hard," said Jill LaVine, registrar of voters in Sacramento County, one of the counties that has already approved adoption of the system to swap polling places for a limited number of "vote centers" offering several different election services.
Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez will probably not be sworn in as downtown Los Angeles’ newest member of Congress until at least July 10, more than a month after he was elected to fill the empty seat in the 34th Congressional District.
Democrats hold 55 of 80 Assembly seats, more than needed for a two-thirds vote, but Gomez could be an important vote if legislative leaders can’t get some moderate Democrats on board. The high vote threshold is intended to insulate the program from future legal challenges.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) will miss House votes while her husband, Frank Napolitano, undergoes chemotherapy and radiation to treat esophageal cancer, her spokesman said.
The congresswoman, 80, easily beat out former Democratic state Assemblyman Roger Hernandez of West Covina in the November election. She said in April that she would seek reelection in 2018, and her husband's health does not change her plan to seek an 11th term, spokesman Jerry O'Donnell said.
Napolitano has missed the last two weeks of House votes, though she's working some from the district, and is expected to remain in California for several more weeks to care for her husband during the treatment, O'Donnell said. He did not know for sure how long Napolitano would be gone, but it is possible she might make it back for some votes during the seven-week-long treatment, he said.