Following the money

May 3, 2011

It wasn't a ringing endorsement, but the Senate gave its approval to a number of state-employee union contracts, a move that saves the state less than Gov. Brown predicted.


From LAT's Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan: "Despite complaints by GOP lawmakers that Gov. Jerry Brown did a poor job of negotiating labor contracts covering 51,000 public employees, the state Senate approved the agreements Monday."

"Brown had vowed to save the state more than $500 million in negotiating the six contracts. But he came up $200 million short, prompting several Republicans to call for a return to the negotiating table."

"Among those covered by the accords are state prison guards, who have a potential windfall when they retire. In the contract, the Brown administration removed a decades-old limit on the number of vacation days they can save during their careers. Those days can be cashed in at retirement."


Speaking of retirement, the Assembly may look into the case of a Salinas public hospital district that gave its departing chief $4 million in addition to his $150,000 pension


Sam Allen in the LA Times has the story: "Downing, who retired last week, earned a base salary of $668,000, along with additional benefits such as a car allowance and paid time off. His 2009 total wages of $790,000 made him one of the best-paid public employees in California, according to the state controller."

"In addition to the executive benefits, Alejo asked that the state investigate whether there are any conflicts of interest between the hospital and its elected board members."

"Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee said he would "absolutely" support Alejo's request. "I think the taxpayers deserve to know how something like this could happen," Donnelly said."


The bar pilots commission, which regulates the highly-trained seafarers who bring big ships into San Francisco Bay and other bays, is getting a tough look from Alyson Huber, who is wondering whether the commission is necessary at all.


From Capitol Weekly's Malcolm Maclachlan: "Huber, an El Dorado Hills Democrat and chair of the two-house Joint Sunset Review Committee, is flexing that body’s power to discontinue boards and commissions via a Capitol process known as the “sunset,” in which the panels have to demonstrate their worth or face extinction. One of her early targets is an obscure yet sometimes controversial body representing a group of very highly-paid professionals: the Board of California Pilot Commissioners."


"Huber’s AB 656, which was heard Monday in the Assembly Transportation Committee, would place a Jan. 1, 2013 sunset date on the Commission, which has been in existence since 1850."


"Her bill does not actually abolish the Commission. It sets up an upcoming legislative review that would force it’s supporters to justify its existence, and possibly phase it out if they cannot do so to the Legislature’s satisfaction."


For those who oppose Brown's plan to abolish redevelopment agencies, the timing of a judicial decision in San Diego couldn't come at a worse time. The Bee's Dan Walters tells the tale.


"Last month, Denton issued a 50-page ruling that found National City's claim of blight to be bogus. "Because most or all of the conditions cited as showing dilapidation or deterioration are minor maintenance issues, the court cannot determine with reasonable certainty the existence or extent of buildings rendered unsafe to dilapidation or deterioration," he wrote."


"Dana Berliner, a lawyer for the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, an anti-eminent domain organization that backed the Community Youth Athletic Center, put it this way: "Their blight designation was a total sham."


"Denton's decision, if it survives, is important because it indirectly upholds state redevelopment reform laws that have tightened up the definition of "blight" and compelled local redevelopment agencies to prove its existence to continue their activities."


The state's budget-balancing decision to tap the funds of the children's program known as First 5 is having an immediate impact.  


From the Bee's Brad Branan: "The First 5 Sacramento Commission on Monday slashed $48.5 million from programs serving young children in the county."


"The cuts were necessary because the state recently took $1 billion in reserve funds from First 5 commissions across California to help balance the state budget. First 5 Sacramento responded mostly by reducing appropriations by a quarter to one-half for a range of programs over the next five years."


"The biggest cut, $17 million, was made to a project that will provide water fluoridation to parts of the county. Dentists lobbied for the project, saying it would reduce tooth decay and other problems."


Our "Wanted Dead or Alive" file raises a question: Who gets the $27 million reward on Osama bin Laden's head?


"But U.S. authorities have offered some reason to doubt whether the bin Laden reward will ever leave the bank. That's because investigators say they pieced together bin Laden's whereabouts from many different bits of information. Intelligence officials told reporters Monday that no single person is responsible for putting investigators on his trail."


"That dynamic produced some friction in the case of Zacharias Moussaoui, who eventually pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges. A flight instructor and former Navy pilot who taught at the Minnesota school that Moussaoui attended collected $5 million after testifying about his suspicions at his trial."


"But two other employees at the same flight school later complained that they had done more – even going so far as to call the FBI to report Moussaui. One of those men later got $100,000 from the Rewards for Justice program."

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