Power shift

Aug 29, 2011

The newly drawn political districts for the 2012 elections could lessen California's clout in Congress, because some ranking members now find themselves in hostile districts where reelection will prove difficult, at best.


The LA Times' Richard Simon has the story. "New political maps threaten to cost California political clout in Washington by placing Dreier's San Dimas home in inhospitable territory for a Republican and robbing some of the state's other senior House members of their job security."

"These districts are drawn without regard to incumbents or seniority in Washington," Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview. "As a result, both on the Democratic and Republican side, some of our senior people will be forced into costly and difficult election campaigns. Many of them won't return, which I think will hurt the clout of the state in a Congress where seniority matters."

"Democratic-leaning California has enjoyed considerable influence in the House, oddly enough under Republican rule as well as under Democratic control, largely because of the seniority its members have accrued from running in safe districts. Four California Republicans chair House committees — more than any other state — and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) holds his party's third-ranking job of majority whip."


California's corporate tax collections, a crucial indicator of the state's economic health, are falling behind, and at least one reason is that the tax breaks that lawmakers approved earlier are more lucrative than originally thought. The Bee's Kevin Yamamura tells the tale.


"Lawmakers and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger negotiated the changes in previous closed-door budget talks and approved them with little public review. Forecasters considered those tax changes when they built their January projections. But analysts say they underestimated the cost of those tax benefits."


"Through the first seven months of 2011, California received $708 million less in corporate tax revenue than the Department of Finance projected in January, or 10 percent. Over that same period, personal income taxes topped expectations by 15 percent, while sales taxes were slightly above target."


"What's happening in our numbers is not really about corporate profits," said Jason Sisney, director of state finance for the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. "What's happening now is all the effect of the policy changes we've had."


Democrats in the Legislature are proposing bills that would put a crimp in the ballot initiative process, contending that "direct democracy" has been overwhelmed the political process by allowing monied special interests to buy laws they can't push through the Legislature.


From the LA Times Michael Mishak:  "Democrats in the Legislature are trying to make it harder for Californians to pass their own laws at the ballot box, saying the state's century-old initiative process has been hijacked by the special interests it was created to fight and has perpetuated Sacramento's financial woes.

In the waning weeks of this year's lawmaking session, legislators will push bills to raise filing fees, place new restrictions on signature gatherers and compel greater public disclosure of campaign contributors.

One measure would allow the Legislature to propose changes that would appear on the ballot alongside an initiative even if its sponsor rejected them. Another would give the Legislature the right to amend or repeal initiatives that pass, after four years have gone by.


Lawmakers are in the midst of their push to the Sept. 9 adjournment finish line, a traditionally hectic period when some bills come out of nowhere, others get hijacked behind closed doors and big-ticket deals win -- or fail -- in the final hours.  Oh, the drama!


From the Bee's Dan Walters: "The Legislature begins its sprint to adjournment with hundreds of bills still pending, with lawmakers maneuvering for positions to campaign on in much-changed districts next year, with lobbyists for moneyed interests packing Capitol hallways, and with dozens of fundraising events on tap to extract campaign cash from those interests."


"It's a yeasty mélange for the final two weeks, to say the least."


"We know what the big conflicts – which all involve money – are likely to be. The biggest may be over a bill that would impose rate regulation on the multibillion-dollar health insurance industry, a full-employment act for lobbyists if there ever was one."


Jere Melo, a Fort Bragg city councilman and former mayor, was shot to death over the weekend while he and a friend were inspecting a marijuana growing operation near the Noyo River. The death stunned the small coastal community.


From Julie Johnson and Glenda Anderson in the Press Democrat: "The news reverberated rapidly through Fort Bragg on Sunday: Community leader and timber man Jere Melo had been shot to death in the forestland where he had worked most of his life, an apparent victim of the illicit backwoods drug trade."


"A man identified only as Aaron Bassler of Fort Bragg is being sought as a suspect in the case."


"Melo, a former two-term mayor who was serving his 15th year on the City Council, devoted much of his life to helping Fort Bragg, raising funds and political will to build firehouses and a first-class high school football stadium, city officials said Sunday."


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