Taking sides

Feb 22, 2012

California Sen. Barbara Boxer, herself the veteran of many a bruising political battle, has decided to endorse Rep. Howard Berman in his battle against fellow incumbent Brad Sherman for a newly drawn congressional seat in the San Fernando Valley.


From the LAT's Jean Merl: "In a letter  to Berman dated Monday, Boxer said she was abandoning her position of neutrality because of a mailer the Sherman campaign sent out which Boxer said "outrageously tries to connect you to the San Bruno tragedy."


"The Sherman campaign sent the mailer to call attention to an independent expenditure by a PG&E, which has contributed $10,000 to support Berman.  PG&E is operating as a "super PAC" -- a corporate campaign organization that can spend unlimited amounts for or against candidates so long as they do not coordinate with the candidate they are supporting.  At least one other super PAC has contributed to elect Berman."


"Sherman has urged Berman to sign a pledge aimed at neutralizing Super PACs, which Sherman expects to play a big role helping reelect Berman over himself.  Berman so far  has ignored Sherman's entreaty to "sign the pledge."


Nobody is really sure just how much money California's cap-and-trade system will produce, but as the quarterly auctions are poised to begin this summer, the estimates run into the billions of dollars. Capitol Weekly's John Howard has the story.


"We estimate that in the first year we’ll see somewhere on the order of $550 million, maybe as high as $900 million,” said Air Resources Board’s Dave Clegern. “Our projections are pretty conservative,” he added."


"The one-ton emission allowances – they are sort of like permission slips to put carbon emissions into the air -- could go for $10 to $13 each, Clegern said, noting that is difficult to pin down the allowances’ value until the sales actually take place. Currently, in the futures’ market an emission allowance is worth about $20. Other estimates have put the per-allowance price tag at up to $80 each." 

"The auctions are a critical part of California’s “cap-and-trade” plan to cut greenhouse gases – using market-based measures as opposed to direct orders from regulators to throttle emissions."


California's community college system, a national showpiece and a first-rate hatchery for those wishing to pursue a four-year education, face mid-year cuts that are all but certain to result in fewer classes and higher fees.


From the LAT's Carla Rivera: "In the latest fallout from California's ongoing fiscal crisis, the state's 112 community colleges reported that revenues from students' fees are $107 million below projections for the current fiscal year as more economically strapped students seek and receive fee waivers. In addition, property tax revenues also fell short of estimates by about $41 million."

"The news has caused more angst and numbers-crunching in a system that has seen its budget slashed by $809 million since 2008. The new cuts pose a particular challenge because most colleges have begun spring session and have little flexibility to change course offerings or make other adjustments that could minimize the effects."


It's report card time for California's HMOs and other health-care providers, and the Oakland Tribune's Sandy Kleffman tells the tale.


"California's largest health plans have improved their care for diabetic patients, but many need to do better at treating children with throat infections, testing for lung disease and helping people overcome drug and alcohol addictions. These are among the findings of the 11th annual report card released Wednesday by the state Office of the Patient Advocate."


"The report card is meant to give consumers an easy-to-use tool to compare the quality of care delivered by the state's nine largest health maintenance organizations, six largest preferred provider organizations and 212 medical groups."


Disputes over public records often involve reporters and a public agency, but here's a twist: It's the feds vs. the state's elections officer in a postal records suit.


From Corey Johnson at California Watch: "The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday asked a federal court to dismiss a California Fair Political Practices Commission lawsuit accusing the U.S. Postal Service of withholding records."


"The commission regulates the political activities of public officials, lobbyists and campaign committees and enforces California's campaign reporting and disclosure requirements, conflict-of-interest rules, and election laws."


It sued the post office last month after postal officials refused to provide unredacted copies of a school board candidate's mailing records. The commission is investigating whether the candidate, William Eisen, a former member of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District's board, violated election disclosure rules."


Ronald Yank, the state official who represents management in negotiations with the state employees' unions has stepped down, and apparently plans to leave around the end of the month.


From Jon Ortiz in the Bee:Ronald Yank told Department of Personnel Administration staff on Tuesday that he's leaving. The Brown administration, which hadn't named a successor to the key post as of late Tuesday afternoon, declined to make Yank available for an interview."

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