Independent expenditure committees, which put money into political campaigns independently of the candidates, have been on the rise for years in California and are hitting their stride in the 2012 election cycle.
From the LAT's Pat McGreevy: "In the last two months, candidates for the state Legislature have benefited from nearly $3.5 million spent by special interest groups independently of the contenders themselves, according to Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. The commission has begun tracking the independent expenditures by labor and business groups on its website."
"While the state limits how much a candidate can receive directly from a supporter, there is no limit on money spent by groups independently of the candidate to pay for billboards, television ads and mailers supporting or opposing a candidate."
"With independent expenditures, it is sometimes difficult for voters to track the true source of spending because frequently contributions are made to other independent expenditure committees, obscuring the identities of the original donors,” Ravel said. "Disclosure is the best tool available for the voting public.”
So far, two characteristics are reflected in those using California's new online voter registration system -- most are Democrats and many are young.
From Capitol Weekly's John Howard: "An early batch of California’s new online voter registrations show Democrats over Republicans about 2.5-to-1, with nearly a third of the new registrants reporting an affiliation with neither major party."
"Clearly, younger voters are making greater use of online registration than older voters: Of the 50,899 early online registrations, some 14,400 were under the age of 26, nearly seven times as many who were over the age of 65. Of younger voters, about six out of 10 – more than 8,600 -- were living at home with at least one parent."
"The figures were compiled by Political Data Inc., a nonpartisan voter information company based in Southern California. Through the first week of October, about 220,000 Californians had made use of online voter registration, according to the state. The legislation authorizing the new online process was authored by Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco-area Democrat."
Hard times have hit the Sierra Nevada community of Mammoth Lakes and more bad news may be on the way: The strapped town is talking about laying off half its police force.
From the LAT's Louis Sahagun: "The Mammoth Lakes Town Council proposal calls for eliminating 13 municipal positions, including seven of 17 sworn officers, as part of an effort to pay a settlement reached with a developer on a breach-of-contract judgment."
"Facing a judgment far larger than its annual budget, the resort town of 7,500 permanent residents filed for bankruptcy June 2. Mammoth Lakes emerged from bankruptcy court in August after agreeing to make annual payments of about $2 million for 23 years to developer Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition."
"The Town Council is expected to vote Dec. 5 on a proposed restructuring plan that includes the proposed cuts. The town is already developing strategies to mitigate the loss of sworn officers with volunteers and a police reserve program, Mammoth Assistant Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez said in a prepared statement."
Gasoline prices are starting to ease -- barely -- but the pain at the pump remains throughout the state.
From the AP's Sue Manning: "California gas prices eased fractionally Wednesday after five days of staggering increases that saw prices closing in on $5 a gallon, but a Chevron refinery closure through the rest of the year might put a crimp in plans to reduce pump pain."
"During the five-day price surges, gas went up about 50 cents a gallon. The average price of regular Wednesday was less than $4.67 a gallon, down a half-cent from Tuesday, but it's still the highest price in the nation, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said."
"The highest average price in the state was $4.75 in the San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles area. San Francisco's price was just over $4.73 a gallon, followed by San Diego at $4.71 and the Los Angeles area at $4.70."
The nation's largest public pension fund plans a dramatic increase in the cost of the insurance that, among other things, covers the cost of the elderly in nursing homes.
From the Bee's Dale Kasler: "CalPERS is preparing to impose a rate hike of up to 85 percent on its long-term care insurance policies, which pay for stays in nursing and convalescent homes."
"The rate hike would be phased in over two years, starting in 2015, according to a staff proposal submitted to CalPERS' pension and health benefits committee. The committee is expected to vote on the proposal next Tuesday, and the full governing board of CalPERS will take up the issue a day later."
"The proposed increase would affect about three-fourths of the 150,000 CalPERS members who have the long-term care insurance."