Dec 4, 2012

The members of the new Legislature were officially sworn in, with nearly a third of them newly elected and more than two-thirds of them Democrats. Their term limits also are different than two decades of their predecessors: They can serve up to 12 years in any one house, a change from the term limits that voters approved in 1990.


From the Mercury News' Steve Harmon: 'As they welcomed a large class of incoming new legislators Monday, Democratic leaders played down expectations over how they might use their newly won supermajority power, saying they will not seek to raise statewide taxes any time soon."


"Thirty-nine first-time legislators -- the largest freshman class since 1966 -- were sworn in to the Assembly and the Senate, where Democrats will hold two-thirds majorities simultaneously for the first time since 1883."


"Over the next two years, Democrats will seek changes in Proposition 13 to make local tax increases easier to accomplish, and they promise to look into finding new revenues from certain tax loopholes."


Speaking of the new Legislature, many of the members also got new leadership posts.


From the Bee's Torey Van Oot: "New leadership assignments announced by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez today put five Democratic freshman members of the Assembly in a caucus post, with more than a dozen more controlling a committee gavel as they begin what could be 12 years in the lower house. Returning Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernández, who has been in the news over allegations of driving under the influence and other bad behavior, will not serve as Democratic whip, a position previously announced.


"The Senate has not released its full committee chair lineup for the new session, but Democrats announced that they have retained Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, as majority leader. Newly elected Sen.Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, was added to the Rules Committee roster, along with Democratic Sen. Kevin de León and Republican Sens. Bill Emmerson and Jean Fuller. Senate Republicans announced that Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, will serve as caucus chair."


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former pro basketball player once viewed as a rising star among Democrats, got slapped with a $37,500 fine for failing to report millions of dollars in donations he solicited for various causes.


From the Bee's Ryan Lillis: "The California Fair Political Practices Commission said it found 25 cases in which Johnson failed to report what are called behest payments – donations to a nonprofit made at the request of an elected official – within the required 30 days of securing those donations. The FPPC investigation was sparked by a Bee report in September that revealed thousands of dollars in donations to the mayor's Think Big arena task force had not been reported on time, some several months late."


"The behests examined by the FPPC totaled more than $3.5 million and were made to the mayor's arena task force and another initiative he founded that focuses on education reform.Donations secured by the mayor were also made to City Year, a national program Johnson recruited to Sacramento that places young tutors and mentors in schools, and Teach for America,a national education organization that places young teachers in underperforming schools..."

"In the past two years, the mayor has raised more than $4 million in behests from national organizations, local companies and individual donors for his city initiatives and the nonprofits he supports."


Streetcars may be making a comeback in, of all places, downtown Los Angeles.


From the LAT's Sam Allen: "A special measure to bring back the downtown Los Angeles streetcar appeared to win approval Monday with more than 70% of votes in favor, city officials announced."
"Out of 2,065 ballots counted, 1,508 favored the proposal to create an assessment district to help finance the $125-million project, said Holly Wolcott, executive officer of the city clerk's office. The vote tally is not final because there are still 110 outstanding ballots, she added, but that total is not enough to swing the race."

"Backers of the streetcar have emphasized the potential economic effects it could bring to downtown, especially along Broadway, where the city is working to revive old movie palaces and office buildings."


California recently approved a ban on so-called "gay conversion therapy" -- an issue Capitol Weekly covered in depth last spring -- that blocks psychotherapists from working to change the sexual orientation of gay minors. But a judge blocked enforcement of the state law in the case of three therapists who asked that the ban be overturned.


From the AP's Lisa Leff: "U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb made a decision just hours after a hearing on the issue, ruling that the First Amendment rights of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals who engage in "reparative" or "conversion" therapy outweigh concern that the practice poses a danger to young people."


"Even if SB 1172 is characterized as primarily aimed at regulating conduct, it also extends to forms of (conversion therapy) that utilize speech and, at a minimum, regulates conduct that has an incidental effect on speech," Shubb wrote."


The judge also disputed the California Legislature's finding that trying to change young people's sexual orientation puts them at risk for suicide or depression, saying it was based on "questionable and scientifically incomplete studies."


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