Lighting up

May 25, 2012

California elections regularly turn into high-spending affairs involving well-heeled special interests, and the upcoming June 5 showdown is no exception. This time, the tobacco industry -- yet again -- is the high-stakes player.


From Capitol Weekly's John Howard: "The tobacco industry, fighting the attempt to raise cigarette taxes by a $1 a pack, has poured more than $42 million into their campaign and money continues to come in. Backers of the levy, led by a national health coalition, have spent nearly $9 million."


"Financial disclosure records on file with the state show that on Thursday, R.J. Reynolds reported a $1.59 million contribution to the anti-Proposition 29 campaign. On the same day, the American Snuff Company gave $250,000 and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company donated $164,000."


"In the past three weeks alone, the tobacco industry has contributed about $17 million to the anti-tax effort."


"Thus far, tobacco interests and their allies have donated nearly $42.6 million, an amount that is all but certain to rise as the June 5 Election Day nears. Most of the money has paid for television advertisements attacking the proposed tax."

Top-level turmoil at the California State University is reflected in the number of changes and vacancies of presidents at the 23-campus system, which also is under fire for its administrative pay policies and its tuition increases.


From EdWatch's Lous Freedburg: "Since January 2011, CSU has had to fill vacancies or will have to fill them because of the  departures or pending departures of 12 presidents of the 23 campus system, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education."


"In an interview earlier this month, Claudia Keith, a CSU spokesperson, said that system had enjoyed a long period of leadership stability but that “it is very unusual to have so many vacancies and so much movement at the president level.”


"The head of the CSU system is called chancellor, while presidents run each of the campuses. As of January this year,  said  Keith, the system had presidential searches underway at San Francisco State, Cal State San Bern/ardino and the California Maritime Academy.  It had already announced new presidents at Fullerton and Northridge.  The president of Cal State Stanislaus moved out the state.  Interim presidents are in place at Cal State Monterey Bay and Dominguez Hills, although Dianne Harrison will leave her position as president at Monterey Bay to take over as president of Cal State Northridge in June. Earlier this year, new presidents were named af San Diego State, Cal State East Bay, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo."


Fiscal problems and the presidential elections are grabbing the public's attention in this year's ballot wars, but one long-standing issue -- the death penalty --  is back again to haunt voters.


From Capitol Weekly's Isaac Gonzalez: "It’s been more than 30 years since the death penalty was reinstated in California, but only 13 inmates have been executed. Over 700 prisoners now sit on Death Row – the men at San Quentin, a handful of women at Chowchilla -- sometimes for decades to await their judgment day."


"The years of waiting for hundreds of condemned prisoners has created a system that many feel is far too expensive, does little to deter violent crime and squanders dwindling public resources. But for those seeking justice and closure after their loved ones have perished as a result of an encounter with one of those now sentenced to die, California's death penalty also offers  retribution – an eye for an eye -- when all hope for rehabilitation is nonexistent."


"In November, California will decide whether to abolish capital punishment. Anti-death penalty forces collected more than 800,000 signatures on petitions to qualify the proposal for the ballot and now the voters will weigh in."

After all the fighting over a critical, budget-linked piece of health care coverage, we're just about back to the original level.

From KQED's David Gorn: "After more than a year of battling over eliminating and then restructuring adult day health care coverage for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, California’s budget for delivering that care is similar to what it was before all the haggling started."


"The Community-Based Adult Servicesprogram grew out of a lawsuit challenging the state’s proposal and replaces the Adult Day Health Care program. CBAS will provide services to 80 percent of previous ADHC beneficiaries and is funded at a similar level to the original program."


“The original budget for ADHC was $170 million, and the current CBAS budget is $155 million,” said Lydia Missaelides, executive director of the California Association of Adult Day Services. “That means you’re looking at roughly the same cost to provide the same services to 80% of the beneficiaries.”


Sacramento has a big government workforce, and when there's talk of cutting the state work week to four days, local businesses get nervous. They remember the last time there were furloughs.


From the Bee's Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese: "A little more than a year after furloughs ended for state workers, a mini revival is being planned: a four-day workweek, proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown as a means of nibbling away at the deficit."


"Just like before, Sacramento would lose more than any other California community. Brown's plan would cut pay by 5 percent at the region's single largest employer. About $230 million a year in wages would disappear, just as Sacramento's economy is finally starting to come back."


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