May 2, 2011

Amid the hyper-heated rhetoric of the Democrats' statewide convention, a fundamental message was clear: They must strive to reach two-thirds majorities in the Assembly and Senate, a goal that is tantilizingly close.


From Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta: "The current budget mess — in which a few Republicans are blocking Democratic efforts to resolve the budget deficit on their own terms — is motivation enough for a renewed Democratic push into areas that traditionally have gone Republican. The matter came up again and again at the weekend's state Democratic convention, as party leaders tried to persuade Democrats not to rest on their recent victories."


"We need to create a mountain of pressure on Republicans by going into their districts and engaging their voters," Assembly Speaker John Pérez of Los Angeles told several thousand delegates and supporters gathered in Sacramento this weekend, explaining that in the short term that pressure could flip Republican votes that the party needs to advance its plan for solving the budget gap."


"It's absolutely clear the only permanent solution for California's problems is to elect a two-thirds majority of Democrats in each house of the Legislature. That work must begin today."


The state's top Democrat, Jerry Brown, canceled his address to the convention to take a care of a medical issue -- removing a cancerous growth on his nose.  The Chronicle's Will Kane has the story.


"Doctors removed a spot on the right side of Brown's nose Friday after tests found basal cell carcinoma, a minor form of skin cancer that rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Brown will have his stitches removed in the next week, but had to cancel an appearance at the California Peace Officers' Memorial in Sacramento and a discussion at the Milken Institute, an economic think tank in Santa Monica, while he recuperates in the Bay Area, said Gil Duran, Brown's spokesman."


Duran said Brown, who has been fighting to extend tax increases to close a yawning budget deficit, would be taking no time off."


"The governor is always working, no matter what day it is or where he is," Duran said."


California's authority to curb automobile pollutants with standards that are stricter than those of the federal government has been upheld by a federal appeals court. Margot Roosevelt in the LA Times tells the tale.


"California's authority to enact automotive air pollution standards that are stricter than federal law has withstood legal challenge after a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Assn. did not have legal standing in the case."


"Under the 1970 Clean Air Act, California may request waivers of federal standards to enact its own, stricter laws — a right granted because the state had its own pollution laws before the federal government's."


"However, the George W. Bush administration refused to grant California a waiver after it enacted a 2004 law to curb planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions from cars. The Obama administration issued the waiver in 2009, but it was challenged by the chamber and the auto dealers. Fourteen other states had adopted the California standard."


One path to fixing California's budget imbroglio is to let voters decide on some form of tax extensions and public pension changes, adopt the governor's proposal to abolish redevelopment agencies and delay his realignment plan. Bee columnist Dan Walters offers his opinion.


"Extend the sales and car taxes that are due to expire on June 30 for three months by legislative action. Then place them, along with the personal income surtax that expired at the end of 2010, on a special election ballot in September – but for a three-year extension to 2014, not the five years that Brown wants."


"A shorter extension, if approved by voters, would keep the pressure on Brown because he wouldn't be able to seek a second term, or exit the stage, without continuing to deal with the underlying structural gap between income and outgo. Also, we would have a better idea then about where California's economy is headed."


"Also place on the ballot some public pension reforms that will really make a dent in pension funds' long-term shortfalls. Include a rational spending limit to force politicians to prioritize. It would also prevent the spending bubbles that have followed revenue windfalls and created the structural deficit."


It may have little to do with politics -- actually, that's arguable -- but the long-awaited decision on whether the Sacramento Kings pack up and leave town is supposed to be announced today by 2 p.m.


The Bee's Tony Bizjak and Ryan Lillis tell the story.


"A source close to the issue told The Bee last week that the Kings' owners still thought Anaheim was a better situation for them financially, especially with no immediate plans here for a new arena. But the source added that the Kings' owners were listening to NBA officials, who expressed interest in keeping the team in Sacramento for at least another year."


"The Maloofs' call is something many in Sacramento and Anaheim have been waiting for and fighting to influence."


"As for the effort to prove Sacramento is a viable market for the Kings and the NBA, Mayor Kevin Johnson's office is feeling "cautiously optimistic" that the work has been enough to persuade the team to stay, the mayor's chief of staff, Kunal Merchant, said Sunday."


And now from our "Safety First" file, some advice: For those of you who are tired of natural disasters -- tornadoes and earthquakes immediately come to mind -- it's time to leave Dallas and move to Corvallis, Ore.


"Weather disasters and quakes: who’s most at risk? The analysis below, by Sperling’s Best Places, a publisher of city rankings, is an attempt to assess a combination of those risks in 379 American metro areas. Risks for twisters and hurricanes (including storms from hurricane remnants) are based on historical data showing where storms occurred. Earthquake risks are based on United States Geological Survey assessments and take into account the relative infrequency of quakes, compared with weather events and floods. Additional hazards included in this analysis: flooding, drought, hail and other extreme weather."


Of the top eight safest places, seven are in Washington or Oregon.


The map also is at


Time to take the Northwest passage...

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