Portantino swings toward Brown proposal

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) was alone among the state’s Democrats Wednesday when he voted against Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to gut the state’s 400-plus redevelopment agencies. But after a meeting with the governor, Portantino’s “nay” turned into an “aye,” leaving the governor a single vote shy of the minimum to pass the measure.

“I initially held off because I wanted to continue to fight for local government,” Portantino said Friday.

He said he sought changes, such as granting cities more power over the disposition of assets — the Alex Theatre, parking lots and other properties the Glendale Redevelopment Agency owns, for example – than is called for under the governor’s current proposal.

The redevelopment vote is one of the biggest pieces of unfinished budget business in Sacramento. Cities are waging a full-tilt battle to stop or soften the bill, which they say will undermine local governments by redirecting $5 billion in property tax revenue now used to generate new business and build affordable housing. Brown has said the agencies drain resources from schools and counties and questions their effectiveness as job generators.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said he believes the redevelopment measure will pass, and that later this year, legislation will be enacted to revive the agencies, albeit with a reduced share of the state’s property tax revenues.

“There is strong legislative will to reconstitute redevelopment later this year, with good features, like generating economic activity downtown, but without bad features, such as taking money from schools,” Gatto said.

The other major budget matter left for next week — after lawmakers voted to cut more than $10 billion from social service and college programs — is the governor’s bid to convince a handful of Republican lawmakers to back his request for a ballot measure that would extend current sales, income and vehicle tax rates to help close the state’s budget gap, now estimated at more than $26 billion.

“Monday and Tuesday will be very long days,” Gatto said. “I have my toothpaste packed and sandwiches made.”


Casting troubling light on the flight of the film industry from California, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) vowed at a hearing Friday to extend a state tax credit program designed to keep movie and television film production in state.

The head of the California Film Commission and representatives of several movie and television unions appeared at the hearing at Pasadena City Hall, offering grim statistics to illustrate the problem they say stems from lucrative tax breaks for film production in foreign countries and more than 40 states.

California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch said that 66% of feature films in the country were shot or partially shot in California as recently as 2003. The figure has dwindled to 38%.

Todd Lindgren, of film production advocacy group FilmLA, said the number of production days in Los Angeles and several nearby areas has fallen from 13,980 in 1996 to 4,976 in 2009.

“California has a 12% unemployment rate, with a significant amount of jobs in this industry going to other states,” Portantino said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”

California’s incentive program for producers of television shows and films with budgets of $75 million or less launched in 2009. The program can dole out $100-million worth of credits each year.

Lemisch said it has helped retain 116 projects, including the upcoming film “Moneyball,” and the HBO TV show “Big Love.” She said the productions have generated $2.2 billion in economic activity and employed nearly 32,000 cast and crew members.

“But for this tax incentive, my movie would not have been made,” Larry Thompson, producer of the ABC Lifetime film “Amish Grace” said.

The incentive program expires in 2013-14, but Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) has proposed extending it in legislation also sponsored by Portantino.

A few dissenters spoke at the meeting, arguing the federal government should go after Canada for offering incentives that may violate trade agreements.

Tim McHugh, a special effects supervisor, said extending the credits propels a “race to the bottom” that benefits the big studios whose executives are the ones choosing to take productions elsewhere.

Ann Champion, a production designer and art director, said the incentive program is essentially corporate welfare.

“I want my job back,” she said. “But throwing the money I pay in taxes to my employers is not the way to do it.”


Looking to curb dog breeders who provide inadequate conditions for their animals, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has led the push to update a 2009 county law regulating kennels and similar operations.

Antonovich — whose district includes Glendale and Burbank — is pushing for all of the county’s 88 cities adopt similar protections.

The law requires breeders to keep puppies for at least eight weeks before sending them to new homes and wait until animals are at least 1 year old before breeding them. The measure also requires pet stores to disclose the sources of their animals.

New requirements include more stringent recordkeeping, updated rules regarding food and cleanliness, a limit of 50 dogs that are able to breed and financial penalties for violators.

“This ordinance will close puppy mills, which have historically abused animals by placing them in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food and water,” Antonovich said in a statement.

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