Jun 21, 2012

The November ballot, already heavy with major propositions, just got a lot heavier: The governor's tax plan made the ballot, as did two other fiscal measures -- one by rival Molly Munger and the other to roll back corporate tax breaks.


From John Myers at News10: "California's November 6 ballot grew three initiatives longer within a matter of minutes Wednesday evening, led by the official qualification of Governor Jerry Brown's measure to temporarily raise taxes to help balance the state budget."


"And make no mistake, all three are political heavyweights in the making -- each with the resources to run multi-million dollar fall campaigns. Brown's temporary income and sales tax hike is undoubtedly the marquee measure of the November ballot, mainly because its passage is seen as crucial to the governor's blueprint for California and... perhaps... his political legacy."


"Civil rights attorney Molly Munger's initiative will ask voters whether to temporarily raise income taxes on virtually all categories of taxpayers, with the money earmarked for K-12 schools.  Meantime, hedge fund manager Tom Steyer qualified his initiative to roll backa corporate tax break enacted in 2009, with the resulting extra revenue designated first to clean energy projects and later to helping balance the state budget."


Speaking of heavyweights, let's turn to gambling: Heavyweight sports betting may come to California, under legislation authored by Sen. Rod Wright that is moving through the Capitol and seems to be getting traction. Action by either Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court will be needed, too, but California is betting that the feds will act, one way or another.


From Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star: "Nevada has long held a monopoly on big-time sports betting in the United States, and under the provisions of a 1992 federal law only it and three other small states, all of which previously allowed for limited betting on sports, are allowed to conduct that activity."


"But New Jersey voters recently amended their state constitution to legalize sports betting and Gov. Chris Christie last month said his state will begin allowing wagers on football, basketball and other sports contests this fall, daring the federal government to try to stop it..."


"The bill would authorize all entities that are currently licensed by the state to conduct gambling activities — card clubs, racetracks and horse-racing satellite facilities at county fairgrounds — to apply to their regulatory agencies to add sports betting to their gambling menus. At the request of Stanford and the University of Southern California, Wright has exempted gambling on games involving sports teams from California universities, whether they are playing at home or in another state."


Bowing to pressure from environmentalists, Gov. Brown is backing off from his plan to shield the proposed high-speed rail project from actions under California's principal environmental protection law.


From the LA Times' Ralph Vartabedian and Chris Megerian: "After encountering criticism from environmental groups, Gov. Jerry Brown signaled Wednesday that he plans to withdraw his controversial proposal to protect the California bullet train project from injunctions sought by environmental lawsuits."

"Brown's staff told key environmental groups that he would no longer include modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act in a package of legislation this month asking for $6 billion to start construction of the high-speed rail project."

"A spokesman for the governor declined to comment. State senators and their staffers confirmed the governor's move."

Larry Ellison, the Silicon Valley billionaire with a penchant for high-end property acquisitions, is buying nearly the entire Hawaiian Island of Lanai. Wonder where he'll go on vacation?


From the Chronicle's Marisa Lagos and Casey Newton: "Ellison is spending a small fraction of his billions to buy the Hawaiian island of Lanai, home to several luxury resorts, golf courses and residential developments, according to papers filed with state regulators Wednesday."


"The current owner, a company owned by billionaire David Murdock, filed a transfer application with Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday to sell its 98 percent share of the 141-square-mile island to Ellison. Lanai, 9 miles from Maui, is the sixth-largest of the archipelago's eight main islands."


"The exact sale price was not disclosed, but the PUC documents state that the seller will receive "hundreds of millions of dollars."


Facebook's tribulations on Wall Street actually won't have much of an impact on the state budget, despite the Doomsday hype about how much the state was depending on Facebook-generatd revenue.


From Capitol Weekly's Greg Lucas: "Sure, the budget hole might deepen but in a fiscal year that has a $92 billion general fund and estimated state income tax collections of $60.3 billion:     




"The high end $2.1 billion in tax revenue estimated by the Legislative Analyst’s Office represents just fewer than 3.5 percent of total income tax receipts. The lower $1.5 billion estimate by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance, less than 2.5 percent."


“It’s a massive IPO but in terms of being determinative of the overall revenue performance this year and next year its impact is pretty modest. It will be outweighed by broader financial and economic developments,” said Brad Williams, a senior partner with Capitol Matrix Consulting."


Speaking of the budget, Jerry Brown hasn't acted on the document that lawmakers sent him a week ago.


From Julie Small at KPCC: "One sticking point is over how to account for tax dollars that would have gone to now-defunct redevelopment agencies. Democrats say that money will go to schools to the tune of an extra $250 million. That, they say, means the schools will need $250 million dollars less in state funds."


"But Brown says the Democrats are wrong — that money won’t go to schools, so there won’t be any change in the state’s obligation to fund education."


And from our "Facebook Tales" file comes word of a new law in Louisiana that requires convicted sex offenders to list their criminal status on their Facebook page.


"State Rep. Jeff Thompson, a Republican from Bossier City, Louisiana, says his new law, effective August 1, will stand up to constitutional challenge because it expands sex offender registration requirements, common in many states, to include a disclosure on the convicted criminal's social networking sites as well."


"Thompson, an attorney and a father of a 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, said he hopes other states will follow Louisiana."


"Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have been removing sex offenders from their web pages for years, but Thompson said the law is designed to cover any possible lapses by social networking sites."


You've got to be kidding....

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