Back to the ballot

Mar 23, 2011

Gov. Brown, stymied thus far by Republicans in his attempts to get bipartisan support for a special election on his tax-and-cut budget, is considering crafting a November ballot initiative that would let voters decide if they want to extend taxes. Two Republicans, not speaking for attribution, said they had been told of the latest option.


The Contra Costa Times' Steve Harmon has the story: "As Gov. Jerry Brown continued to negotiate with Republican legislators on his plan to extend taxes, he also has begun to weigh going it alone, sources said Tuesday."


"That could take two paths -- forcing a special election onto the ballot through a majority vote in the Legislature, or going forward with an initiative campaign for November. The more likely route, sources said, would be with a November election rather than risking legal challenges to muscling it through on a majority vote."


"Brown is seriously considering a November initiative campaign, two Republicans speaking on background said they've been told..."


"The governor's office insisted Brown remains in the hunt for Republican votes. He needs two Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to get a two-thirds vote required to qualify a tax measure for the ballot."


The majoriity-vote option, buttressed in part by a legislative counsel opinion, also is under active discussion, according to people who have discussed the issue with the governor, notes Capitol Weekly's John Howard.


"Gov. Brown’s options are starting to take shape in increasingly fractured budget negotiations with Republican lawmakers."


"In private conversations, the governor noted that he was considering alternatives  – long discussed -- that include placing a tax-and-cut budget package on the ballot via simple-majority votes of the Legislature, Capitol sources said, a maneuver that would allow his plan to get to the ballot without Republican backing."


"Publicly, the governor said he remains hopeful at getting a bi-partisan budget package and was not considering anything less than that."


All the speculation about that Brown is going to do -- and what Republicans aren't going to do -- is leaving Democrats in a muddle, notes the Chronicle's Matier & Ross.


"Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento are starting to feel like passengers in a slow-moving train wreck, with new Gov. Jerry Brown doing little more than tooting the whistle.

With time ticking down, his efforts to swing four Republican votes in the Legislature for a special June election to extend tax hikes remain in limbo."


"His move to abolish redevelopment agencies, which put lawmakers at odds with their local governments back home, has fallen short of the needed votes as well."


"Democrats had been hoping that Brown would set a Friday deadline for Republicans to come onboard on the tax extensions - and if they didn't, then put the taxes on the ballot without them."


The big problem in Sacramento is that Republicans posture but don't negotiate -- or make demands that traditionally, and narrowly, please their constituencies but don't serve the larger communnity, says one observer.


From the Ventura County Star's Timm Herdt: "They say they want regulatory reform, but in past negotiations those have been code words for trying to roll back a couple of laws that are of fundamental importance to environmentalists and organized labor — the California Environmental Quality Act and the eight-hour workday."


"They say they want pension reform, but to some that means eliminating guaranteed retirement benefits for public-sector workers and replacing pensions with defined-contribution plans, which, among their other shortcomings, are typically voluntary."


"They say they want a spending cap, but any hard formula implemented now would have the effect of forever locking in place historically low state-spending rates that have been depressed by three straight tough economic years."


The administrator of the state courts system is stepping down, following widespread reports of problems and cost spikes in the courts' computer system. The Chronicle's Bob Egelko tells the tale.


"State court administrator William Vickrey, who has managed California's judicial system during a historic realignment but came under legislative attack for his handling of an expensive new computer system, said Tuesday he will retire in September."


"Vickrey, 63, was appointed administrative director of the California courts by then-Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas in 1992."


"A series of laws has since transformed the courts from a locally run to a state-run system, consolidating former Municipal and Superior Court offices into a single Superior Court in each county and transferring court buildings to state ownership. Chief Justice Ronald George, who served from 1996 until this January, engineered the changes, with Vickrey leading the central staff."


From the "NoTell Motel File" comes the startling disclosure that it costs more per night to keep an inmate in federal custody than it does to rent a decent motel room. There's probably more sex in prison, too, although the auditt doesn't get into that.


"A report released Monday reveals the federal government will sometimes pay more than $100 a night to house detainees at state and local corrections facilities. For that price, you can get a clean room, cable TV, and a buffet breakfast at many national motel chains."


"An audit conducted by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General charges that the federal government is paying $1.2 billion a year -- and at least $15 million too much -- for jail space. Ironically, the report also found that the feds are often being ripped off by their correctional colleagues in state and local government."


"We found that state and local detention facilities at times take advantage of a shortage of options for federal detainees and demand rates that appear to generate excessive profits -- sometimes in the range of millions of dollars," the IG report states.


Good wakeup calls, though...

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