Big bucks

Mar 6, 2012

Special interests with business before California's government spent more than a quarter-billion dollars on lobbying during 2011, with the powerful California Teachers Association spending more than any other single entity, at $6.5 million. Everyone will be pleased to know the Roundup didn't get any of it. 


The LAT's Patrick McGreevy tells the tale: "Businesses, unions and other interests set a record in 2011 for money spent lobbying the state: $286.6 million, a 6.8% increase from the year before, according to recent filings. That surprised even veteran Capitol watchers, who refer to the lobbying corps as the "Third House" because its power rivals that of the two houses of the Legislature."

"Amid the state's lingering economic slump and Sacramento's persistent budget crisis, a record 2,768 entities hired lobbyists last year, many of them to fight for a slice of the shrinking public pie. Corporations sought an edge with a Democratic governor after seven years when a business-friendly Republican was in charge."

Thousands of demonstrators (the Roundup estimated the crowd at about 8,000) swarmed into Capitol Park at the West Steps on Monday to protests rising tuition and fees at the state's university systems. Toward the end of the day, perhaps six dozen demonstrators who refused to leave the Capitol were arrested for trespassing.


From the AP's Hannah Dreier: "Students angry over steep tuition increases and fewer courses at California's public universities and colleges waved signs and chanted, "They say cut back; we say fight back."


"Tuition has nearly doubled in the past five years, to $13,000 for resident undergraduates atUniversity of California schools and to $6,400 at California State University schools. Community college fees are set to rise to $46 per unit by this summer, up from $20 per unit in 2007."


Democratic lawmakers addressed the group and lamented the deep cuts to higher education they have made in recent years.


Other stories on the protests can be seen here, here, here and here.


A new study shows that forcing motorists to stop using their cell phones while driving is reducing traffic deaths, a decline that appears to be the result of a law authored by Sen. Joe Simitian and signed by the former governor.


From Josh Richman in the Contra Costa Times: "The analysis, conducted by UC-Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center and released by the state Office of Traffic Safety, examined state crash records two years before and two years after Simitian’s hands-free legislation took effect, and found that overall traffic deaths declined by 22 percent, while hand-held cell phone driver deaths went down 47 percent."


"California High Patrol data from the first year of the hands-free law’s implementation had shown a 20 percent reduction in fatalities and collisions in California compared to the annual average over the previous three to five years, Simitian noted – the largest year-to-year drop in collisions in California’s history."


Speaking of the former governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid fines ordered up by the state's political watchdog.


From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid $30,000 in fines for inappropriately spending $1.1 million in campaign funds on a media blitz during his 2009 budget battle with Democrats."


"The California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's ethics watchdog, determined that Schwarzenegger could not use money designated for ballot measures on media spots unrelated to an election."


Hundreds of cases against drunk drivers in San Francisco may have to be thrown out because of problems in the handling of the device that measures the blood alochol level.


From the Chronicle's Vivian Ho: "The problem could affect as many as 1,000 convictions, said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office is working with District Attorney George Gascón's prosecutors to identify guilty verdicts that may be in jeopardy."


"At issue is how the Police Department conducted accuracy checks for preliminary alcohol screening devices, which officers in the field use to determine whether a drunken-driving suspect's blood alcohol level is above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for intoxication. Suspects exhale into the device to produce a reading."


And from our Globetrotter file comes word that Americans in a survey rate themselves as the world's worst tourists. 

A new LivingSocial survey conducted among more than 5,600 respondents in five countries by Mandala Research finds that Americans self-rate themselves as the world’s worst tourists.

That assessment was shared by Canadians and Australians, while the Irish rated their British neighbors as the worst, and the British identified Germans as being the most boorish.

Following Americans (20 percent), 15 percent of U.S. respondents said the Chinese were the worst tourists, followed by the French (14 percent), Japanese (12 percent) and Russians (11 percent).


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