The Roundup

Apr 27, 2012

Strike Three

An effort is likely to qualify for the ballot to overhaul California's "three strikes" law by limiting the 25-years-to-life penalty for a third felony to rapists, murderers and child molesters, among others. The original law, pushed by a Fresno man whose daughter was murdered by two repeat offenders, has long been the target of critics who believe it needlessly clogs the prison system with inmates who pose little danger to the public.
From Tracey Kaplan in the Mercury News: "Supporters turned in more than 830,000 signatures to state election officials Thursday -- 504,760 more than needed. They also announced the endorsement of Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley -- a Republican -- marking a crucial step toward a bipartisan coalition."

"The Three Strikes Reform Act is right for California," Cooley said. "It will ensure the punishment fits the crime. Dangerous recidivist criminals will remain behind bars for life, and our overflowing prisons will not be clogged with inmates who pose no risk to public safety."


"Under the existing Three Strikes sentencing scheme, offenders who have committed such relatively minor third strikes as stealing a pair of socks, attempting to break into a soup kitchen to get something to eat and forging a check for $146 at Nordstrom have been sentenced to life in prison."


Speaking of the ballot, a move to let voters decide whether the Legislature should be part-time has failed to make this year's ballot, but the supporters say they'll try again in 2014.

From the Bee's Jim Sanders: "The campaign will continue to collect voter signatures, however, in hopes of placing the issue before voters in 2014, said Ted Costa of People's Advocate, a co-leader of the drive." 

"Costa said the petition drive has collected between 200,000 and 300,000 of the 807,615 voter signatures needed to qualify the constitutional amendment for a California ballot."


The California stem cell agency, created with voter-approved public funds, is pushing new rules that would ratchet down on public disclosure.


From David Jensen in the California Stem Cell Report: "The $3 billion California stem cell agency, which is moving to engage the biotech industry ever more closely, is proposing a major weakening of the financial disclosure requirements for its board of directors and executives.

The move comes as the agency is also seeking to raise cash from the private sector to continue the state research effort's existence.  CIRM's dimming of transparency runs counter to government trends nationally for more disclosure rather than less, includingregulations enacted last year by the NIH.

The proposed changes will be considered next Thursday by the CIRM directors' Governance Subcommittee, which will have public teleconference sites in San Francisco and Irvine and two each in Los Angeles and La Jolla.


Federal prosecutors are seizing two buildings used as pot dispensaries, a move that an attorney described as the first time the feds have gone to court to take a dispensary landlord's building during the latest crackdown on California's medical marijuana community.


From the Chronicle's Vivian Ho: "The U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco went to federal court Monday asking that the landlords of the Green Door Wellness Education Center and the neighboring Green Tiger dispensary forfeit their properties on Redwood Boulevard. By Wednesday, Green Tiger had already closed."


"Federal prosecutors have sent letters to at least 300 dispensaries in California, threatening prosecution and asset forfeiture for allegedly violating federal law against marijuana distribution, said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group."


"About 300 dispensaries have voluntarily shut down, including five in San Francisco, Hermes said. Some had been pressured by federal prosecutors, and others were scared off by the government's campaign, he said."

U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, a former Marine and sheriff's deputy who was put on the bench by former President George Bush, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In times of economic downturn, bankruptcy filings seem all to prevalent, but it is unusual for a federal judge to take the action.


From the AP via the Fresno Bee: "While Wright and other district judges are making roughly $174,000 annually, they are being outpaced by many other federal employees who are earning more than $200,000 each year, according to statistics provided by the United States Courts website."


"Wright and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Dec. 26 in Los Angeles, saying their assets worth more than $833,000 were being eclipsed by their liabilities totaling more than $895,000. Among their debts are $30,000 on a Citibank credit card and more than $17,000 owed to two department stores."


"The couple's attorney, Raymond Aver, told the Daily Journal, which first reported the bankruptcy filing, that the judge tapped his retirement funds to pay off a large amount of debt before filing for Chapter 7."


And since we're talking about money misuse , let's turn to CSU Fullerton, where student fees are spiraling and classes are cut -- and where the incoming campus president is getting a home remodeled, and lavish base pay and a vehicle allowance. One thing about CSU, it's the story that keeps on giving.


From Erica Perez at California Watch: "In addition to a controversial 10 percent pay raise, incoming CSU Fullerton President Mildred Garcia will receive another benefit when she arrives on campus: a $300,000 remodel on the eight-bedroom historical house where she will live."


"In March, the California State University Board of Trustees voted to give Garcia – the outgoing president of CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson – the maximum pay raise allowable under a new executive compensation cap approved by trustees in January. In addition to her base salary of $324,500, she gets free housing at the presidential estate and a $12,000-per-year car..."


"Also in March, CSU Fullerton began work on fixing up Garcia's future home, the historic C. Stanley Chapman house, also known as El Dorado Ranch. Located just a few miles from the downtown Fullerton campus, the two-story, eight-bedroom, 5,800-square-foot house is nestled on a 3.9-acre parcel with a tennis court. The property was last assessed at $3.4 million in 2011, property records show."


Former Rep. Diane Watson is at home recovering from a heart attack she suffered last week. Before going to Congress, Watson served in the state Senate as that body's first African American woman.

From the LAT's Jean Merl: "I'm feeling good," Watson said in a telephone interview. "I just came from my doctor, and there is no damage to the heart." She added that doctors are continuing to monitor her for possible blood clot problems."

Watson, 78,  a Los Angeles Democrat, retired from Congress at the end of 2010 after a life in politics that began with her election to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education in 1975."


And from  "The Blob" file we learn about the attack of the jelly-like creatures that are invading the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Thus, two of our worst fears are coming together -- nukes and jelly fish. Read it and weep.


"For the first time, a small jellyfish-like animal called a sea salp has forced the shutdown of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant."


"Plant operators and marine biologists say a convergence of natural factors caused the unlikely event."


“Both biology and ocean physics have teamed up against Diablo Canyon,” said Mark Moline, a marine biology professor at Cal Poly."


"The event began Tuesday when southerly winds began blowing the salps into the plant’s cooling water intake cove. Plant operators noticed differences in water pressure at the intake structure, indicating the salps were beginning to clog the rolling screens in front of the intake, said Ed Halpin, PG&E’s chief nuclear officer."


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