May 4, 2011

The increasingly bitter fight over decentralizing California's court system moved into a Capitol hearing, pitting judges against judges, and judges against the state Supreme Court chief justice. A watered-down bill emerged from Assembly Judiciary, but it's clear the fight is far from over.


From the Bee's Dan Walters: "After exchanges of mutual invective by the judicial establishment and a band of rebel judges, however, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved only a much- diluted version of the bill."


"Assembly Bill 1208 not only divided the judiciary but brought together legal factions that ordinarily scheme against each other, such as personal injury attorneys and business groups, who jointly opposed the legislation."


"Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, introduced the bill to decentralize court operations on behalf of the rebel Alliance of California Judges, headed by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard."


Gov. Brown's budget-balancing plan to abolish more than  400 California redevelopment agencies hit a snag when the Legislative Counsel -- the Legislature's official lawyer -- opined that the proposal is illegal because it entails a shift of local property tax revenue to the state. The Bee's Kevin Yamamura has the story.


"The Legislative Counsel Bureau focused on the $1.7 billion in redevelopment money Brown hopes will help balance the remaining $15.4 billion state deficit. His proposal calls for the elimination of redevelopment agencies, which use property tax revenues to finance projects in blighted areas. The Democratic governor wants to use that money instead for deficit reduction in the first year and greater payments to schools and general local government services in later years."


"Brown's plan calls for local governments to send $1.7 billion to the state in 2011-12 as reimbursement for trial court and health care services. The state is responsible for financing those activities, though they are delivered by local governments."


"Legislative Counsel said the state cannot force local governments to send that money to the state. Instead, it said that money must remain locally."


Speaking of money, a new attempt is under way to put an oil severance tax before voters next year. Similar efforts have been defeated in the past.


From Steve Harmon in the Contra Costa Times: "The Attorney General's office on Tuesday released its title and summary on a ballot measure that would tax oil companies, with proceeds used to increase education spending by $2 billion to $3 billion a year."


"Backers of the initiative can now begin to collect signatures."


Easier said than done, especially for what is basically a one-man operation. Peter Mathews, a Southern California college professor, said he will be enlisting students around the state to gather the signatures, using Facebook and Twitter to generate interest."


"Mathews has a website,, and boasts the endorsement of the California Community Colleges Association. That group's president, Ron Norton Reed, has pledged to gather signatures and send out fundraising letters."


There are more than 700 inmates on California's Death Row, but the state has postponed executions at least until next year. The LAT's Carol J. Williams has the story.


"The request by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to delay review of newly revised lethal-injection protocols until January at the earliest follows a decision last week by Gov. Jerry Brown to scrap plans to build a new death row facility at San Quentin State Prison."


"The steps have stirred speculation among death-penalty opponents that California might be drawn into the national trend away from seeking new executions."


"The most recent postponement was due to San Quentin warden Michael Martel's decision to replace the execution team that had been assembled and trained last year. That team had been ready to carry out executions last September. Corrections officials have declined to say why Martel is assembling a new execution team."


In the wake of budget meltdowns and economic crises, there is a growing perception that the Golden State has lost its luster. Dan Weintraub in HealthyCal tells the tale.


"The public’s mood is gloomy, and policymakers from the left and right are looking to other states with stronger employment growth in search of answers to what ails California."


"But even as the state’s collective psyche turns deeply pessimistic, recent economic indicators hint that a turnaround may already be taking place. And some serious research suggests that California’s “business climate” might not be as bad as critics say."


"Consider the recent numbers. Figures for all of 2010 show that California added a net of about 82,000 nonfarm jobs last year. That’s a growth rate of just .6 percent, a little slower than the nation as a whole and not fast enough to provide jobs for all those who want them. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, at 12.3 percent."


From our "Running on Empty" file comes the tale of the West Seattle joggers complaining about a guy who ran around trying to plant his face on women's buttocks. Yet one more reason, if any were needed, why the PI is more interesting than the Times.


"Starkenburg made headlines in January following his release from jail on $175,000 bond. Speaking to several reporters, he said he knew of two of the alleged victims, but not the third, and said there has been a serious misunderstanding."


"Starkenburg complained about the women's identification of him, said he was celibate for seven years, maintained that had never touched his partner without her coming out of the shower, clarified details of a violent felony case in which he struck a woman during a road rage incident, and admitted to being at the West Seattle park."


"Yeah, I do watch women run," he told the reporters. "They're runnin' around half-naked."


"Starkenburg questioned how he's a threat to the community. He also said he has chronic insomnia and played football half his life, saying he knows how to tackle people. Starkenburg said he hadn't been in Lincoln Park until he started trying to get into shape again last month."






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