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THE NOONER for August 29, 2014

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It has been called the most civilized end-of-session in memory by some. Straight-up boring by others. Whatever your thoughts, the 2014 legislative session is winding to a close, with relatively little drama left in the closing hours.

Groundwater is still the big unknown, but a revised proposal is heading back for a floor vote after clearing the Appropriations committee last night. The split is still mostly but not entirely party-line, with some Central Valley Democrats still voicing concerns over the plan.

Meanwhile, the Legislature a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags cleared the Assembly on Thursday, three days after voting down the exact same bill.

Scott Detrow reports, “What had changed, however, was that a powerful union had shifted its stance on the measure. And when the bill was called to a vote several minutes later, it had picked up six additional Democratic votes – enough to pass. The legislation will likely see a final vote in the Senate on Friday.

“The bill’s brief death, swift resurrection and muddled reasons for renewed life are emblematic of the behind-the-scenes negotiations that dominate the final days of a legislative session.

“So what happened? California’s United Food and Commercial Workers Union had voiced “serious concerns” about the latest version of the bag ban before Monday’s initial Assembly vote. UFCW’s problem: Recent amendments allow stores to keep proceeds from the 10-cent fee charged for paper or reusable bags given to customers. In a letter to lawmakers, the union wrote it was worried the bill lacked a “serious enforcement mechanism” to make sure stores were spending the money properly.

But on Wednesday, the union was back to supporting the measure.”

Plastic bags would still likely be legal in the state of Jefferson, if the Northern counties were ever able to secede from California. Leaders of the northern counties were in Sacramento on Thursday for their official airing of grievances.

Juliet Williams has details. “Modoc and Siskiyou counties, which share a border with Oregon and have a combined population of about 53,000, submitted petitions from their county governments to the secretaries of the state Assembly and Senate after filing a petition complaining about a lack of representation to the secretary of state.

Organizer Mark Baird told a crowd of about 70 supporters at a rally outside the state Capitol that residents of as many as 10 counties "would be free to create a small state with limited government.”

Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer also made an appearance in the capital yesterday, and put Democrats on notice that he was ready to open his wallet to elect pro-oil tax lawmakers.

David Siders reports, “The billionaire environmental activist who is spending heavily on political races nationwide said Thursday that he plans to pour $1 million into legislative contests in California this year, possibly including Democrat-versus-Democrat races.

“Steyer, a former hedge fund executive, said he will focus spending on voter registration and turnout operations for Democratic candidates who support environmental causes.

“There’s nothing, you know, in our bylaws that I’ve read that says we can’t get involved in D-on-D races, and we have,” Steyer said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board.

“Steyer’s remarks come at the end of a legislative session in which he pushed unsuccessfully for a tax on oil extraction and legislation requiring a two-thirds vote of the electorate in any county before hydraulic fracturing could go forward in that area.

The governor also made some special appearances on Thursday, popping up in the Legislature to say goodbye to John Perez and Darrell Steinberg. Or maybe just to make sure they were both leaving…

Melanie Mason reports Brown praised Perez’s discretion in his farewell remarks. ““Your way of keeping everybody in the dark was a real winner. If they had known everything they were doing, they couldn’t accomplish half of what we accomplished,’’ Brown said with a dry grin. “I say that—if the press is listening—with some degree of irony. No, we’re for transparency, for the record. We love the FPPC  [Fair Political Practices Commission] — all the good things.’’

Truth in jest, governor. Truth in jest.

Of Steinberg, the governor said, “"You’ve got more damn vision than anybody else I've ever met."

In a setback for Gov. Jerry Brown’s ambitious water plan, the federal government suggested the proposal to build two massive new water tunnels may violate federal law.

Matt Weiser reports, “In a 43-page letter sent Tuesday to the National Marine Fisheries Service and released publicly on the EPA’s website Thursday, the EPA said its research found that by diverting freshwater from three new intakes proposed on the Sacramento River – farther upstream from existing intakes – the project is likely to increase concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides in the estuary.”

Elsewhere Around the Capitol:

Rainy Day Fund: Bay Bridge financial reserves nearly gone

Lost in the shuffle: Wage theft bill dies in the Legisalture

You’ll shoot your eye out: Lawmakers want fluorescent BB guns



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Gov. Jerry Brown Visits Legislature To Bid Pérez, Steinberg Farewell
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Assembly Speaker John A. Perez during a press conference at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services on Wednesday, February 19, 2014.

Gov. Brown Bids Farewell To Outgoing Senate, Assembly Leaders
Gov. Jerry Brown made his way to both the Senate and Assembly floors Thursday to bid farewell, at times with tongue in cheek, to the departing leaders of those two bodies.

2 California Counties Ask To Form Separate State
Laura Reeg, of Yuba City, joined dozens of others from several rural counties in support of creating the the state of Jefferson, at a Capitol the in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Representatives from two counties in far Northern California are petitioning lawmakers for the right to form the 51st state, Jefferson.

Steinberg Reflects On Time As President Pro Tem -
Darrell Steinberg never could have imagined his final year leading the California Senate. His state is in much stronger financial shape than when he became President pro Tem six years ago. But his chamber faces unprecedented scrutiny for four senators’ legal troubles. 

‘job Killer’ Wage Recovery Bill Fails In California Senate
Laurel Rosenhall @
An effort to help workers recover back wages by allowing them to slap liens on their employers’ property failed Thursday in the California Senate when numerous Democrats withheld their votes.

Senate Seeks To Bar State From Aiding Federal Data Mining
California agencies would be prohibited from helping the federal government in collecting residents' phone and Internet data without warrants under a bill given final legislative approval Thursday by the state Senate.

Oklahoma Transgender Candidate Misses Making History By 22 Votes
Oklahoma’s 88th legislative district is a bright blue dot in a deep red state, a district that has sent liberal and openly gay lawmakers to the state Capitol. And last week, it came within 22 votes of electing the state’s first openly transgender candidate.

Legislature’s Anti-gun Crusade Runs Afoul Of Bill Of Rights
Dan Walters @
As the California Legislature churned toward adjournment this week, it was considering – as usual – new laws to inhibit gun ownership, adding to what are already, for better or worse, the nation’s most restrictive gun controls.

Stanford Law Professor Approved For Spot On California Supreme Court
A state commission decided unanimously Thursday to confirm the appointment of Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar to the California Supreme Court, paving the way for Gov. Jerry Brown’s second high-court nominee this term to take the bench in January.

Video: Tom Steyer Plans To Spend Money On Legislative Races
David Siders @
Environmental activist and billionaire Tom Steyer speaks at the American Renewable Energy Day Summit in Aspen, Colo., on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

Legislature Approves New Insurance Requirements For Uber, Lyft, Sidecar
Josh Richman @
The Assembly voted 70-0 to pass AB2293 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; the Senate had passed it Wednesday 30-4. Bonilla called it "a testament to good public policy" that ensures consumers and drivers will be protected "while also allowing this innovative business model to thrive."

Los Angeles Enhances Its Anti-business Reputation :: Fox&hounds
On Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council voted 14 to 1 to pass a resolution supporting increased property taxes on business on a regular basis. Little surprise as the city continues to build an anti-business reputation. For years the city has held on to a gross receipts tax system for business that neighboring communities use as a talisman to lure business out of the city. The last three Los Angeles mayors have vowed to change the business tax system but nothing happens. Now the council wants to punish business more with a split property tax roll.

Refinery Inspection Bill Would Blunt Records Access
Christopher Cadelago @
A bill to allow government regulators to monitor oil refinery shutdowns is drawing heavy criticism from media organizations because of its potential impact on the California Public Records Act.

California's Underground Water War - The Atlantic
Historically, landowners in California have considered water beneath their land to be part of their property rights.

School Bus Company A No-show For Oakland Special Education Students
Doug Oakley @
Buses run by First Student didn't even show up for at least 200 students on Monday, and an unknown number got to school late, said Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint.

Marin latest to crack down on water wasters
The Marin Municipal Water District board voted this week to beef up water restrictions for the 186,000 people it serves, including putting a ban on all outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. The district warned customers that it reserves the power to issue $250 citations to violators. In July, the State Water Resources Control Board passed a series of emergency regulations in light of California's prolonged drought, including statewide bans on using drinkable water to hose off sidewalks and driveways, watering lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle and using potable water in non-circulating fountains. The Bay Area's other large water retailers, including the East Bay Municipal Utility District and most South Bay water agencies, are enforcing state rules but not planning to issue citations.

“Job killer” wage recovery bill fails in California Senate
Laurel Rosenhall @
An effort to help workers recover back wages by allowing them to slap liens on their employers’ property failed in the California Senate Thursday when numerous Democrats withheld their votes.

Ashley Swearengin adds CEO, drops Fresno from ballot designation
Ashley Swearengin, the Republican nominee for state controller, has tinkered with the job description that will appear beneath her name on the November ballot.

Dan Walters Daily: Legislators sing each other's praises
Alexei Koseff @
You would think California lawmakers all love each other after Thursday's fawning farewells for the departing leaders, Dan says.