Rolling thunder

Mar 30, 2011

Three months of budget negotiations halted in Sacramento after Gov. Brown said no to a lengthy list of Republican demands and Republicans said the unions and trial bar had poisoned the talks. 


From the LAT's Shane Goldmacher and Anthony York: "The governor's announcement that he is walking away from the negotiating table, made in a late-afternoon news release Tuesday, further roils the state's finances and marks the biggest setback yet for the 72-year-old Brown. He returned to Sacramento this year for his third term as governor promising that he had the political skills and policy expertise to resolve the state's chronic financial mess."

"Earlier in the day, key GOP lawmakers who had been negotiating with the governor declared the talks fruitless. "We gave it our best. We're very disappointed. It's done," said Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet).


"Budget cuts that lawmakers approved earlier this month closed only $11.2 billion of the estimated $26-billion deficit. Brown wanted to address most of the rest of the gap with a special election in June, when he hoped that voters would agree to continue paying temporary increases in taxes on income, sales and vehicles. All will have expired by July 1; higher income taxes already have stopped."


So what happened?  The Bee's senior pundit, Dan Walters, takes a look.


"Meanwhile, everyone is pointing fingers of blame. As Brown and Democratic leaders pointed to Republican demands, Republicans said Brown was hamstrung in negotiations by opposition of labor unions and other interests to pension, regulatory and budget reforms."


"One of the GOP senators who negotiated with Brown, Anthony Cannella, said, "finding agreement required an equal willingness from the public employee unions, trial attorneys and other stakeholders to join our effort to get California moving again – a willingness that was stunningly absent from our conversations …"

"Actually, polls indicate that the GOP positions on pension and budget reform are more popular than the taxes the Democrats want. A fair compromise would have been to put those on the ballot as well and allow voters to truly decide."


Another battle ended more successfully -- the battle over renewable energy -- which seemed to last longer than the Renaissance during the Schwarzenegger years. The Legislature speedily sent to the governor's desk a bill that requires utilities to get a third of their power from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020. Climate Watch's Lauren Sommer tells the tale.


"If the 33% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) doesn't sound new, that's because it isn't. The goal was originally set by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 2008 executive order. Supporters knew that an executive order could be overturned by a future governor, but two previous bills aiming at cementing the goal failed to make it into law."


Miller says that's why today's passage is such big news for the renewable energy industry. "Businesses need that stable foundation to be confident that these investments are in line with the long term direction of the state," he said. The State Senate has already passed the bill and Governor Jerry Brown is widely expected to sign it into law."


"Critics of the bill cited cost as a major concern, since renewable energy still comes with a higher price tag than its fossil counterparts. Under the bill, the California Public Utilities Commission must devise a cost containment strategy, something that isn't in place under the executive order. Concerns over the cost of renewable energy emerged recently in this report from the Division of Ratepayers Advocates."


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is sending out feelers about running for governor -- after just three months in office. The San Francisco Democrat ranj for governor earlier, but it didn't work too well. The Chronicle's Matier & Ross have the story.


"A city insider who asked not to be named tells us the new lieutenant governor approached him at a charity fundraiser the other day with a request for help to start raising money for a renewed gubernatorial bid."


"Newsom's inability to compete with the much-better-financed Jerry Brown was one of the reasons he withdrew from last year's Democratic race and ran instead for lieutenant governor."


"Newsom has opened a re-election campaign committee for 2014 - but there's nothing to stop him from transferring any money he might raise to an exploratory gubernatorial run."


Meanwhile, the new independent redistricting commission, which seems to be in the news a lot lately, is withholding final approval of a contract with lawyers because new information has emerged about the firm's political acitivities. The Contra Costa Times' Lisa Vorderbrueggen has the story.


"Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher failed to inform the commission during mid-March interviews that the firm is a registered federal lobbyist with a federal political action committee, or that several of the attorneys assigned to the redistricting project team have contributed individually to presidential candidates."


"The fact that the firm is a registered federal lobbying firm and that it gave more than $2,000 to campaigns should have been disclosed," said Commissioner Angelo Ancheta, a Democrat and San Francisco law professor. "I have made it very clear that if it was intentional or willful nondisclosure, then I would recommend terminating our contract."


"...The brouhaha is another in a series of early skirmishes over whether the commission's choice of consultants reveals a partisan bias that will taint California's independent redistricting experiment."


Finally, we turn to our "James Bond Wannabes" file to learn about the guy tried to sell a military spy plan on eBay. 


"Henson Chua of the Philippines was indicted and charged by a grand jury in Tampa with violating the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling. Chua is accused of importing an RQ-11B "Raven" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from the Philippines into the U.S., which is listed on the U.S. Munitions List as a defensive item, "without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization." He then "aided and abetted the attempted export" of the same UAV."


"U.S. arms code prohibits people from buying and selling defense equipment without permission from the government, primarily to prevent people from selling U.S.-manufactured equipment to foreign governments. But Chua managed to reverse the process."


"According to the indictments, in May 2010, Homeland Security Investigations agents in Tampa learned from the Department of Defense that a "Raven" had been listed on eBay, for a price of $13,000. The listing also had nine pictures, which showed the bar code and ID number of that particular "Raven," through which the DOD determined which one it was, and that it was the property of the U.S. government."


Wonder if he used PayPal?...

Get the daily Roundup
free in your e-mail

The Roundup is a daily look at the news from the editors of Capitol Weekly and
Privacy Policy