Aug 14, 2012

With less than three weeks before the end of the two-year session, an attempt to legalize online poker in California appears to be stalled, in part because of divisions among the major casino-owning tribes. The heavy lifting is being done by Sen. Rod Wright.


From the Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller: "Some tribes support the proposal co-authored by the Senate’s top Democrat. Others support the concept but want changes to the legislation. And some tribes oppose the idea, saying it risks eating into the business of bricks-and-mortar casinos legalized by voters in 1998 and 2000."


"Other complicated end-of-session measures, meanwhile, could consume lawmakers’ attention and time as the clock winds down. Those include possible bills dealing with public-employee pensions, workers compensation, and other issues that could emerge in the closing weeks."


It doesn’t look good,” state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, the author of the online poker bill, said of its chances Monday. Federal law prohibits online gambling but allows states to authorize the games inside their borders. Millions of Californians, though, play unregulated online poker games through illegal sites based offshore."


The tally was close but at the end of the day, the Assembly voted to approve corporate tax changes that would provide $1 billion for scholarships for public college students. A Republican and an Independent joined with Democrats to provide the necessary two-thirds majority in the lower house. The bill now heads to the Senate.


From the Chronicle's Marisa Lagos: "Middle-class students at California's public universities are one big step closer to receiving a major tuition break, after the Assembly narrowly approved a measure Monday that would fund college scholarships by eliminating a corporate tax break."


"Democratic Assembly Speaker John Pérez, who has made the measure his top priority this year, needed the support of two-thirds of the Assembly because the legislation is a tax measure. He squeaked out the bare minimum number of votes by persuading two lawmakers from outside his party - Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert (Riverside County), and GOP-turned-independent lawmaker Nathan Fletcher from San Diego - to vote for the tax increase."


"The measure fell one vote short at first Monday, when Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia (Los Angeles County), refused to join other Democrats in supporting it. Mendoza argued that the money raised by the tax should go directly to struggling universities, but ultimately said he would vote for the measure in the hope that it will be amended in the Senate. The bill then passed 54 to 25."


State revenues during the first month of the fiscal year fell nearly $500 million below projections -- an uncertain start in a state  where just about everybody is hoping for an economic recovery.


From Greg Lucas in California's Capitol: "Total revenues were $475 million below projections contained in the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, said State Controller John Chiang on August 13 in his monthly report covering California’s cash balance, receipts and disbursements in July 2012."

“Revenue collections were disappointing for the month of July,” said Chiang. “However, because spending appears to be tracking and the funds that the state depends on for liquidity are performing well, California’s cash outlook remains stable.”


"Personal income taxes in the month of July rose $12 million above projections, while sales taxes were down $295 million, more than one-third less than projected. Corporate taxes were up for the month, coming in $57.1 million — 27.4 percent — above projections."


The legal wrangling continues over Proposition 32, an initiative backed by wealthy interests and key Republicans that critics say seeks to throttle the impact of organized labor on the political process. On Monday, a judge ordered changes in  the initiative's wording. 


From the LAT's Mike Mishak: "According to the new ballot label, the measure “prohibits” unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, as well as using payroll deduction to raise political cash. The label initially used the word “restricts.” The backers of Proposition 32 had argued that the original language, as determined by the attorney general’s office, was misleading."


“Voters deserve to be informed that Prop. 32 doesn't just reduce direct contributions from corporations and unions to politicians, it eliminates them entirely,” said spokesman Jake Suski."


"Judge Michael P. Kenny, however, denied another request by Proposition 32’s supporters to strike key language from the measure’s title and summary in state-printed voter materials. Backers had targeted a phrase that notes: “Other political expenditures remain unrestricted, including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by payroll deduction prohibition.”


 And finally from our "Heavy Traffic" file comes the question: Are flying cars finally ready to take off?


"Whether it’s gliding taxi cabs or hovering DeLoreans, Hollywood has embraced the idea of a vehicle that is as happy on the motorway as it is in the clouds. But away from the silver screen, this science fiction staple has failed to take off."


"Over the years, there have been ambitious and attempts – such as the Taylor Aerocar - but few would agree that the designs are in any way practical or user-friendly."


"But the ever increasing number of cars on the roads means that a vehicle that can soar into the skies remains an attractive option.  “We need to try to relive congestion on our road, and one potential solution is an aerial vehicle” says Dr Michael Jump, a lecturer in aerospace at Liverpool University in the UK."


"He is behind one of a clutch of firms and projects that aim to ensure the flying car doesn’t remain grounded for another century."

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