,, Around The Capitol
Around The Capitol
Around The Capitol

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THE NOONER for September 19, 2011

[jump to the headlines]


  • CD15 - Added State Senator Ellen Corbett (D)
  • CD36 - Added physician Raul Ruiz (D)
  • CD37 - Moved Mervin Evans (D) to US Senate 
  • SD01 - Added accountant Scott Moody (R)
  • AD67 - Added Murrieta school board member Kenneth Dickson (R)

LESSONS FROM MEXICO: Niners suck in Spanish as well.

HEADLINE GOP WANTED: "Republicans woo Latinos on jobs, economy"

HEADLINE GOP GOT: "Ron Paul wins California Republican straw poll"

TWEET DU JOUR: @thewyatt: "Just saw burglar alarm ad tied to #cabudget realignment plan on CBS primetime in sac. #cashingin"

EAST BAY SCRAMBLE: State Senator Ellen Corbett filed a Statement of Organization to the FEC last week for a congressional bid in CD15, where longtime incumbent Pete Stark is running for reelection. It is a free ride for Corbett, as she is termed out of SD10 in 2014. Now, what is interesting is that, if Corbett is successful in her congressional bid, there would be a vacancy election in 2013 for the old Senate District 10, which is quite similar to the new SD10, minus San Leandro, Pleasanton and part of San Jose.

The special election would likely draw Assemblymembers Mary Hayashi and Bob Wieckowski. Hayashi will be termed out of the Assembly in 2012, and the new SD10 is the most Asian Senate seat in the state, with 40% Asian population and 33% Asian citizen voting age population (CVAP).

During his taping with the Daily Show, Assemblymember Tim Donnelly reportedly threatened to sponsor a referendum against AB 131 (Cedillo), if Governor Jerry Brown signs it. AB 131, also known as the California Dream Act, would allow certain undocumented students who graduated from California high school to access fee waivers in community colleges, entitlement Cal Grants and, if sufficient funds are available to cover all eligible citizens, competitive Cal Grants.

For the purposes of The Nooner, let's set aside the policy of the Dream Act and instead talk the politics of a possible referendum. As full disclosure, both professionally and personally, I support AB 131, as well as the more important federal DREAM Act (which provides a path to citizenship after college graduation or military service). The absence of any federal immigration policy since IRCA in 1986 has created a generation of young people that are stuck in an educational and economic prison and we need to solve it.

Moving on to a possible referendum...assuming Brown signs the bill...

First, could Donnelly qualify a referendum? He would have 90 days from the date the governor signs the bill to gather 504,760 signatures, including the time it takes to obtain title and summary from the Attorney General (10 days) and the time to print petitions. It's a much more difficult hurdle than a statutory initiative. With this accelerated timeline, it could very well take $2-3 million to qualify the referendum, assuming Donnelly is successful motivating a Tea Party-type revolt. While there's little interest by volunteers in gathering signatures for a State Senate redistricting referendum, make no doubt that there is significant passion behind this issue (with a media-driven effort likely by John and Ken), and it wouldn't take much to see folks in front of grocery stores for Thanksgiving. (Will the grocery stores be open for Thanksgiving?)

It is doubtful that Donnelly could raise the money in this short of time. If there was a longer period for qualification, certainly, this could be a direct mail cash cow. However, referenda are built on big and fast money. There is no reason for business interests to get involved, as the bill doesn't cost the state much and this is the type of issue from which boycotts germinate.

A patron would be needed to write a big check -- perhaps someone that is willing to jump in to challenge Dianne Feinstein next year and wants to make a name quickly. One such person could be David Dreier, who reported a net worth of between $5.3 and $17.7 million in 2009, and is desperately looking for a political future. Of course, that's nothing compared to Darrell Issa, who reported $161 million to $452 million, and who has a penchant for spending his own money on political ambitions. 

Perhaps the California Republican Party should be spending its money on a Dream Act referendum rather than the redistricting referendum. Getting state senate seats realigned might save Sam Blakeslee and maybe Bill Berryhill, but they won't materially help the party long-term. The problem is that the party is bending over backwards to be friendly to Latino voters right now, and doesn't want to do anything that smells like Proposition 187.

That said, if Governor Brown signs SB 202 and AB 131, and Donnelly succeeded in qualifying a referendum on AB 131, the referendum would be on the November 2012 ballot. While AB 131 is essentially a state issue, the Dream Act at the federal level continues to be a hot-button issue, and it could easily impact the U.S. Senate race (assuming they find a candidate) and several congressional races. With the amount of economic angst among voters, particularly with the skyrocketing cost of higher education, I would not want to be a legislator on the ballot in a swing or leaning Dem district arguing for the Dream Act. Just compare the arguments on AB 131:

Pro: "We want to provide scholarships to certain children of long-time undocumented immigrants who, through no fault of their own, were brought here by their parents and enrolled in California schools. Over time, the small investment will pay back our economy many times over."

Con: "At a time of skyrocketing college costs and not enough room for your kid to go to colege, it makes no sense for illegal immigrants to get scholarships that could otherwise make college more affordable for legal citizens."

Remember, in November 1994, the unemployment rate was 7.9%, and Prop. 187 won 59-41%. According to exit polls, 27% of Latino voters favored it. We were talking about kicking schoolchildren out of the classroom and sick people out of hospitals--much harsher than denying scholarships to undocumented students.

I hated the racial politics of Prop. 187, and it did hurt the brands of the California Republican Party and Pete Wilson among many Latino voters (most of whom were Democratic voters by economics anyway). Nevertheless, as the Latino population continues to grow, the number of Republican Latinos will grow, but probably at the same pace as Democratic Latinos. Young people and poor people are disproportionately Democrats and will continue to be and, Latinos are disproportionately young and poor. 

Back to AB 131 and a possible referendum. Make no mistake that with 12.1% unemployment and the cuts our higher education systems have taken, Tim Donnelly is on to something. Meanwhile, the Republican Party spent its weekend in Los Angeles wearing sombreros and serapes to make good with Latino voters and disguise its anti-illegal immigrant platform (which was not amended). Instead, they might want to drop the GOP Dream Act of grabbing a huge swath of Latino voters, go for the read meat and capitalize on huge voter anxiety. If they don't, they could lose congressional seats like Brian Bilbray's, as Tea Party candidates ride John and Ken to Washington.

Again, I fully support the bill and would hate to be fighting a referendum next year, but I am also quite familiar with the vitriol out there. Frequently dismissed by even his colleagues as too far to the right, Tim Donnelly may be the mainstream on this issue, particularly in this economic and political environment. Fortunately for Dream Act supporters, the odds of qualifying a referendum are also extraordinarily small.

Tell me if I am way off base on the politics...

DEPT OF CORRECTIONS: Yes, that's the second time I have spelled "jefe" "hefe." I am, after all, el gringo's gringo.

Signed Bills

  • ABX1 21 (Blumenfield): Public health: managed care plan taxes.
  • SB 335 (Hernandez and Steinberg): Medi-Cal: hospitals: quality assurance fee.

Vetoed Bills

  • SBX1 6 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review): Budget Act of 2011: Director of Finance: reductions. [veto message]

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On to the hottest headines on atc...

Advice From The Front Line - George Skelton @ latimes.com
Capitol Journal: Government activism is vital for job creation, says Jennifer Granholm, who grew up in California and learned tough lessons as Michigan's governor.

Counties Losing Fight To Conceal Pension Amounts - Ed Mendel @ calpensions.com
The Sonoma County retirement board voted last week to release retiree names and their pension amounts, becoming the latest loser in seven separate superior court decisions since 2009 upheld by three different appeals courts.

The Caucus: Republican Presidential Candidates Criticize Obama's PLan to Raise Taxes on the Wealthy - nytimes.com
President Obama's call for tax increases on the wealthy has the potential to refocus the Republican candidates on the man they want to replace.

Asian American SF Political Clout Grows - John Wildermuth @ sfgate.com
It's no surprise that David Chiu, Ed Lee and Leland Yee are pushing their campaigns for mayor in the city's Asian neighborhoods. But it's the Chinese-language literature put out by Tony Hall, Joanna Rees and virtually every other candidate for San Francisco's top job that highlights the growing political clout of the city's Asian American community.

UC Davis Revs Up Its Economic Engine - sacbee.com
The University of California, Davis, generated $5.5 billion in local economic activity during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, according to a new report by the university's Office of the President.

GOP Assails Obama's Millionaire Tax Plan - Eliza Newlin Carney @ rollcall.com
Republican opposition is solidifying to President Barack Obama’s $447 billion job creation plan, and his pending proposal to raise taxes on millionaires is already under GOP fire.

Lobbying Heats Up Over Wage Debit Card Bill On Jerry Brown's Desk - sacbee.com
Among the dozens of lobbying battles playing out in Gov. Jerry Brown's office this month is one over an obscure bill that would curtail a growing trend: paying workers with debit cards carrying wages that can be withdrawn at stores, banks and ATMs.

Lawsuits Could Stall High-speed Rail Plans - californiawatch.org
Even if state officials can scrape together the billions of dollars needed to fund California's ambitious high-speed rail plans, lawsuits from local cities and opposition groups still could delay, divert or derail the project altogether.

Republicans Trying Again To Court Latinos. Though This Time, Smarter - Joe Garofoli @ blog.sfgate.com
It’s no secret there is no love lost between California’s Latinos and the state’s Republican Party. Don’t take our word for it — just look at GOP strategist Marty Wilson’s survey that said Latinos are “widely negative” toward the GOP or studies that show that Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer won two-thirds of the Latino vote last fall.

Tax Breaks May Not Help Businesses, Merchants Say - Joe Garofoli @ sfgate.com
California Republicans just spent three days at their statewide convention blaming President Obama for the floundering economy. But a few blocks away from the marbled convention hotel floors, among the rows of small,...

California state engineers' union asks to stop road project - Jon Ortiz @ blogs.sacbee.com
The state engineers' union has asked the California Supreme Court to intervene in a San Francisco road project, contending that it violates state law.

Obama deficit plan includes raising $1.5 trillion from tax overhaul - Peter Nicholas, Washington Bureau @ latimes.com
President Obama on Monday will put forward a plan to slash more than $3 trillion from the nation's deficits by winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, raising taxes on wealthier Americans, closing tax loopholes, and cutting the cost of Medicare and other government health programs, senior White House officials said.

A Century Of Initiatives: Anybody Want To Celebrate? - Peter Schrag @ californiaprogressreport.com
There was a lot of hollering these past weeks about the way that SB202 was passed in the closing hours of the 2011 legislative session -- and for good reason. But the bill, which would restrict voting on initiatives and referenda to the state's biennial general elections, was long overdue.

New Report: San Francisco Bay Getting Healthier, Not In The Clear Yet - Science @ mercurynews.com
Pollution is down, wetland restoration is up, but freshwater diversion remains massive and fish species are in decline, according to State of San Francisco Bay 2011.

Prison Reform Legislation Short On Money And Ideas, Kern Co Says - Shellie Branco @ healthycal.org
Counties have no choice but to do things better than the state. That’s what Kern County officials are saying as they prepare for an influx of low-level offenders from state prisons. They’re hoping to be more successful when it comes to helping offenders successfully integrate into society.

Judge decides to release Prop. 8 trial recording - sacbee.com
A federal judge in San Francisco has decided to unseal video recordings of last year's landmark trial on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban.

Pension petition drive faces challenges - signonsandiego.com
There has likely never been a more aggressive and contested petition drive in San Diego history than the one under way to put an initiative before voters that would end guaranteed pensions for most new city hires and give them 401(k)s instead.

Millionaire tax sought by Obama is panned by GOP as 'class warfare' - Jim Puzzanghera @ latimes.com
Republican leaders accuse President Obama of trying to incite class warfare by proposing the 'Buffett rule' -- a new tax on people making $1 million or more.

Pennsylvania Republicans Weigh Electoral Vote Changes - nytimes.com
The newly empowered Republicans are considering changing the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes in presidential elections despite growing concerns that the move could backfire.

Retiree Benefits For The Military Could Face Cuts - nytimes.com
As Washington looks to squeeze savings from once-sacrosanct entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, another big social welfare system is growing as rapidly, but with far less scrutiny: the health and pension benefits of military retirees.

Accounting Scandal Hits Close To Home - Rick Orlov @ dailynews.com
The fallout from the case involving the accountant-to-the-star-politicians could last for months as auditors try to untangle the accounts managed by Kinde Durkee.

Tommy Thompson close to joining Wisconsin Senate race - James Oliphant @ latimes.com
After much hand-wringing, Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, appears to be jumping into the 2012 race for U.S. Senate.

Water worries span the globe - Mike Lee @ signonsandiego.com
Access to clean water is shaping up as one of the top environmental concerns of the 21st century. Population growth --€” there are nearly 7 billion people on Earth -- is a major stressor, and climate change is expected to increase the pressure disrupting snowfall and melt patterns that people have relied on for centuries.