Danger ahead

Jun 1, 2011

The Great Satan for labor unions, the so-called "paycheck protection" that makes it harder for unions to collect dues from their members, has been defeated before at the ballot but appears to be raising cash at a brisk rate for another battle.  


From the Sacramento Bee: "Californians Against Special Interests, the committee formed to support the proposal, reported $280,000 in contributions over the weekend, including large checks from the committee for a failed effort to qualify a similar measure for the 2010 ballot, conservative activists and the Lincoln Club of Orange County. The recent contributions bring the committee's total cash raised to $345,000."


"A similar "paycheck protection" measure, backed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was defeated in the 2005 special election he called."


"The current measure would require that union committees and other employers obtain authorization in writing from employees who wish to contribute to the organization's political campaign spending. It also bans unions and corporations from giving to candidates and candidate-controlled committees."


John Bryson, the enviro, lawyer and former CEO of Edison International, has been chosen by President Obama as his new Commerce Secretary, which requires Senate confirmation. The LA Times' Jim Puzzanghera and Neela Banerjee have the story.


"Bryson is best known for having headed Edison International, parent company of the Southern California Edison electric utility, during the state's electricity market meltdown in 2000-01. The crisis, which led to rolling blackouts in the state, pushed the utility to the brink of bankruptcy before the state helped save it."

"He hit the company's mandatory retirement age of 65 in retired in 2008 and stepped down after 24 years with the company, including a stint as chief executive of Southern California Edison from 1984 to 1990. Bryson had been chief executive since 1990."

"Consumer advocates criticized his retirement package, which included a pension plan and stock options valued at almost $65 million at the time. They also criticized his annual compensation in the wake of the California electricity crisis, something that could be uncomfortable for the Obama administration, which has railed against excessive Wall Street pay and bonuses.'

So you think your tax bill is bad? The state Board of Equalization has released the list of California's top 250 tax scofflaws and there are lots of seven-digit liabilities out there. The Bee's Darrell Smith tells the tale.


"The quarterly findings, released Tuesday and updated for the second quarter 2011, show $400.3 million owed to the state, including more than $8 million owed by Sacramento area debtors."


"Developer Abolghassem "Abe" Alizadeh, who once commanded a billion-dollar Jack in the Box franchise business before his fortune dissolved into bankruptcy, owed more than $1.5 million in sales and use tax."


"Auburn Associates No. 2 Inc., the firm behind out-of-business car dealer Auburn Nissan, owed about $1.17 million. Auburn Nissan closed its doors in April 2008, one in a string of area dealerships that went under at the beginning of the recession."


"North Highlands' West Coast Conveyor & Equipment Inc., owes about $1.13 million, according to the state board."


A federal judge has ordered the state of California to boost its payments to thousands of foster parents, saying California has had ample time to comply with an earlier ruling. The Chronicle's Bob Egelko has the story.


"He told the state Department of Social Services to raise its rates to levels specified in a UC Davis study of foster children's needs, which the state commissioned in response to the court case. For a child up to 4 years old, the reimbursement would increase to $609 a month from $446. Rates are higher for older children, and would climb to $761 from $627 for youths ages 15 to 19."


"Payments would increase further each July to reflect rises in the cost of care."


"Alsup said the higher payments could actually save the state money by encouraging more parents to provide foster care and reduce the need to send foster children to group homes at greater expense."


"The state told counties Tuesday to begin the higher payments in July."


An an attempt to tax all online retail sales has picked by steam in the Legislature, where the Assembly approved it and the Senate will take it up soon.


From the Times' Marc Lifsher: "The bill is one of a trio of proposals that would put companies such as Amazon and Overstock.com Inc. under the same obligation to collect taxes as companies with bricks-and-mortar stores in California, such as Best Buy Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. The big physical retailers say they are losing business and being forced to close stores and fire employees because of unfair competition from Internet businesses."


"The state and local governments are losing an estimated $1.1 billion in annual revenues because of untaxed Internet sales, proponents contend."


"Calderon's bill, which passed on a 47-16 vote and moves to the state Senate, would address an exemption carved out by a decades-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that frees retailers from having to collect state sales taxes on purchases as long as they do not have any physical presence in the state."


And from our "Wizard of Oz"  file comes the tale of the tornado debris that may hold the record for traveling the most distance -- a scrap of paper from Joplin, Mo., that turned up in West Lafayette, Indiana, 550 miles away.


"Tia Fritz contacted Ernest Agee, a Purdue University professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and tornado expert, when she and her husband discovered a receipt dated May 13 from Joplin Tire on the porch of their Royal Center, Indiana, home on Wednesday (May 25). Royal Center is in north central Indiana about 45 miles from Lafayette."


"This paper traveled more than twice as far as the longest distance recorded for debris from a storm," said Agee, who now has the receipt. "The previous record was a cancelled check that traveled 210 miles after the 1915 tornado in Great Bend, Kansas."


"The distance paper travels is directly proportional to the intensity of the tornado. This paper's journey is a testament to the strength of the EF5 tornado that struck Joplin and what that city went through."



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