As session winds down, politics winds up

Sep 4, 2015


A legislative session usually usually is frenetic in the final days, but this year's is a lulu: The Assembly selected a new speaker and the Capitol's two GOP leaders were dumped. Welcome to Sacramento.


From the Bee's Jeremy White: "Earlier this year, Atkins tapped Rendon to lead the powerful Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce, where he has dealt with utility companies seeking to shape Senate Bill 350’s mandate that half of California’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. She said he has served on the caucus campaign team."


“Mr. Rendon has already had a role” in fundraising, Atkins said."


"He was instrumental last session in crafting a $7.5 billion water bond that ultimately won voter approval and carried a bill that will ban lead bullets in California as of 2019."

Back to policy, the Brown administration briefed the Capitol's GOP leaders on a key administration priority. No, believe it or not, it's not greenhouse gases, but fixing California's crumbling roads. 


The Chronicle's Melody Gutierrez tells the tale: "California drivers would pay $65 a year in a new highway user fee plus higher taxes at the gas pump under a $3.6 billion plan Gov. Jerry Brown is pitching to help fix the state’s roads, bridges and highways."


"The Brown administration shared the plan with Republican leaders Thursday morning. It requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature because of the new taxes, and it has several elements meant to appease Republicans and Democrats. However, the plan will be a tough sell, particularly to Republicans."


"The administration’s plan would create a highway user fee of $65 per vehicle, which would generate $2 billion and could be assessed during vehicle registration. Another $1 billion would be generated by raising the gas tax by 6 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by 11 cents per gallon. Those taxes would continue to rise based on the Consumer Price Index. The state would take $500 million from cap-and-trade revenue and $100 million from reducing the Department of Transportation’s budget and use it for road repairs."


The petroleum industry and environmentalists, meanwhile, are waging an all-out war over a bill to force cuts in gasoline usage, a proposal that has dominated coverage in the Legislature's special session.


From the LAT's Chris Megerian: "But with just a week left for lawmakers to finish their work this year, a heated ad war is being fought over a bill to cut state gasoline consumption in half."


"The measure passed the state Senate but is the subject of a tough battle in the Assembly, where business-friendly Democrats hold more sway. If it succeeds, it will shift the state away from fossil fuels."


"Oil companies want to kill the bill and have blanketed the state with warnings — one radio spot sounds like a public service alert — that the government wants to track residents' driving, ration their gas and charge them for owning gas-guzzling trucks or minivans."


The industry, by the way, is running TV ads and radio spots in hopes of getting people to pressure their legislators. 


Speaking of oil companies, they can't seem to catch a break: A flock of them have been fined.


From the LAT's Julie Cart: "The state fined 30 oil companies on Thursday for failing to meet a deadline to report information about the source, volume and disposal of water used in oil and gas production."


"Under a 2014 law, California's 433 oil producers were required to report the data to the California Department of Conservation, but only half filed completed reports in time. Another quarter of the companies complied but turned in incomplete reports."


"The 30 companies, which the state said made no apparent attempt to file reports, were given the maximum civil fine of $4,500. Operators who fail to meet subsequent reporting deadlines after being fined may be subject to larger civil penalties, said Steve Bohlen, the state oil and gas supervisor."


On the health care front, a pair of bills aimed at raising critical revenue for California's Medi-Cal programs has run into fierce opposition from HMOs in the waning days of the 2015 legslative session.


From the Bee's Jim Miller: "That measure, by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, would impose a $7.88 flat tax per enrollee, per month on California health plans. The money would raise almost $2 billion annually for Medi-Cal, as well as in-home supportive services and people with developmental disabilities..."


"The other bill, by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, would shift some health plans from the jurisdiction of the Department of Managed Care to the Department of Insurance. McCarty’s office said the move would generate $300 million in additional tax revenue, which could go to Medi-Cal. It requires a majority vote."


"Health plans, though, said the bill would make a “fundamental change” in the state’s health plan structure and “arbitrarily shift most of this market from one regulator to another without a valid reason, causing major disruption in the market place for consumers and providers.”


A case of public pension abuse that drew wide attention is getting another look -- six years later.


From Danie Borenstein in the Contra Costa Times: "When Peter Nowicki retired in 2009, the then-50-year-old chief of the tiny Moraga Orinda Fire District made national news by trading his $194,000 salary for a starting pension of $241,000 a year."


"Now the Contra Costa Employees' Retirement Association board will consider rolling that back 25 percent after its investigation found -- as reported in this column six years ago -- that Nowicki, aided by fire district directors, grossly spiked his pension..."


"The fire board approved two Nowicki contract amendments in that last year, increasing his salary and benefits without proper public transparency, in violation of the state's open-meeting laws, and retroactively, in apparent violation of the state Constitution, Leiderman concludes."


Finally, for our pick for the person who had the #WorstWeekinCA, we had a choice between ousted GOP Assembly leader Kristin Olsen and Rep. Mike Honda, but we decided to go with Honda. His weeks all have been tough lately. On Thursday, it got a lot worse.


"Congressman Mike Honda and his staff appear to have improperly used U.S. government resources to benefit his re-election campaign and linked official activities to political donations, the Office of Congressional Ethics said Thursday as it released a long-awaited report."


"The pattern of allegations represented the most serious charges leveled against a Bay Area House member in recent memory."
So how was your week?...







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