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THE NOONER for September 2, 2014
It feels like forever since last we spoke, gentle reader, and much has happened.
First and foremost, they’re gone. Session is over. Many bills lived, many others died. I’m sure if Scott were not in the bunker he could regale you with stats, but alas, I am but a humble scribe, and don’t have that kind of data at my fingertips.
In its absence, the usual BS and commentary will have to suffice.
The early reviews on the Session That Was were positive, heralding the bipartisan cooperation of state leaders.
Wait, this is the same California that was paralyzed by dysfunction and about to fall into the sea a couple of years ago, right?
Here’s how Chris Megerian tells it:
“This year, after the suspension of three senators charged with crimes, Democrats needed Republican help not just on the (water) bond measure but also on a ballot proposal to boost the state's rainy-day fund, both measures requiring a two-thirds vote. And they got it.
“Republicans also came aboard a long-term plan to patch a shortfall in the teacher pension system. And both parties got behind bigger tax breaks for Hollywood.
“The cooperation stands in stark contrast to the continuing gridlock in Washington, where a divided Congress led to a government shutdown last year and has stalled major legislation on immigration.”
Or as we say in California, “Neener-neener-neener.”
The Merc was playing the same song, calling this legislative session “one of the most bipartisan and productive in years.”
“Lawmakers struck bipartisan deals on a $7.5 billion water bond and a "rainy day fund" that will be put before voters in November; delivered a hold-the-line-on-spending budget that started shoring up the troubled teachers' pension system; and passed ground-breaking insurance regulations that will encourage the growth of app-based ride-sharing companies rather than drive them out of business. And the bickering between the parties was kept to a minimum.
George Skelton says lawmakers succeeded despite themselves. Or something like that.
“The productivity was mostly due to a revamping of the system. It was the old gridlock-inducing system that had been causing legislative dysfunction.
“First, four years ago, the California electorate lowered the legislative vote requirement for a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. Presto: no more summer-long stalemates.
“The voters also approved a "top-two" open primary system that tends to produce more moderate legislators from both parties, reducing polarization. And voters turned legislative redistricting over to an independent citizens' commission, creating more competition.
“Lastly, starting with legislators first elected in 2012, term limits were loosened to offer lawmakers more time in one house to acquire expertise.
The Legislature did stay up late on Friday, gaveling down session in the wee hours of Saturday morning. But unlike past year’s, the midnight oil was burned only so lawmakers could go home early and enjoy the Labor Day weekend. Sine Die, it turns out, just wasn’t all that.
But a couple of the most significant deals of the year were not baked until the final hours. Among them, was a proposal to regulate California’s groundwater. KQED’s Lauren Sommer has details.
“Under California’s current system, landowners can essentially pump as much groundwater as they want to, from under their property. Unlike water taken from rivers and reservoirs,groundwater usage isn’t tracked in many parts of the state.
“The bills … would designate local agencies to write sustainable groundwater management plans. The local agency could be a single water district, or a coalition of water agencies and county officials, all connected to a groundwater basin. Many of these governing bodies have already been established, as a result of 2009 legislation that encouraged areas to set up a groundwater tracking program. The program was not mandatory.
“Groundwater basins that are considered in critical overdraft have until 2020 to write their sustainable groundwater management plans, while high- or medium-priority basins have until 2022. Low-priority basins would not be required to participate.”
Another last-minute deal involved mandatory sick leave. When the final deal was cut, labor split on the issue, but it was sent to Brown anyway.
After carving out state-funded home healthcare workers from the bill, California is poised to create new requirements that employers offer at least three paid sick leave days per year. Melanie Mason reports:
The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) would require employers to give their workers at least three paid sick days per year. Supporters say it would provide paid leave to approximately 6.5 million workers in the state.
“Under the proposal, employers would be required to provide paid sick days to employees who work 30 or more days within a year of being hired. The paid sick days would accrue at a rate at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.
“San Francisco County is the only county in California that requires employers to provide paid sick leave for all employees, including temporary and part-time employees, who work within the county.
Brown signaled he will sign the bill, sending out a late-night press release celebrating its passage.
There was some carnage on the final night, including the remains of the ‘wage theft’ legislation that was another top priority for labor this year.
While a proposed state crackdown was killed in the Legislature, the New York Times Labor Day edition dedicated some space to the issue. The Times cited “a flood of recent cases — brought in California and across the nation — that accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices “wage theft,” insisting it has become far too prevalent.
Some federal and state officials agree. They assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued. They complain that more employers — perhaps motivated by fierce competition or a desire for higher profits — are flouting wage laws.
Many business groups counter that government officials have drummed up a flurry of wage enforcement actions, largely to score points with union allies. If anything, employers have become more scrupulous in complying with wage laws, the groups say, in response to the much publicized lawsuits about so-called off-the-clock work that were filed against Walmart and other large companies a decade ago.
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: Also rejected was a plan to require background checks for buyers of ammunition
The revised bill that failed Saturday would have required ammo sellers to provide information on purchasers to the state Department of Justice after the fact, including name, address, date of birth, date of the sale, brand type and amount.
If the buyer was discovered later to be disqualified from owning guns because of a criminal history or severe mental illness, authorities could then have obtained a warrant to confiscate the ammunition and any weapons found.
Meanwhile, the unofficial kickoff of election season came this weekend, signaling an 8-week sprint to Election Day.
A new Field Poll shows President Obama’s unfavorable ratings on the rise in California 43% of those surveyed say they don’t like the job the president is doing.
The Bee reports, “Only 45 percent of California voters hold a favorable view of Obama’s job performance, according to a new Field Poll released today, down 5 percentage points from June and dropping below 50 percent for the first time since late 2011. Disapproval climbed to 43 percent.
“That could hurt California Democrats in the November election…The national Republican Party is targeting several vulnerable congressional seats in the state as it seeks to increase its majority in the House of Representatives, including that of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. The California Democratic Party is trying to rebuild its two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature after three of its senators were suspended in March.”
Elsewhere Around the Capitol
TOP HEADLINES ON AROUNDTHECAPITOL.COM AS OF 12:00PM
Northern California District A GOP Target To Regain Seats - Sfgate
A Northern California congressional district is one of the top targets for Republicans looking to reverse the disastrous 2012 election that cost them five seats around the state. Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove faces Republican businessman - and former congressman - Doug Ose of Citrus Heights as the GOP tries to wrest back the suburban Sacramento County seat that Bera grabbed from Rep. Dan Lungren two years ago. Republican leaders also are pouring money and support into races for the other seats they lost in 2012 - in Ventura County, Palm Springs, Riverside and San Diego - hoping to oust the Democratic newcomers before they become entrenched. Without President Obama at the top of the ticket to swell the turnout of minorities and Democratic-leaning young people, Republicans believe the districts will swing back to their traditional GOP roots. Every targeted Democrat finished ahead of his or her GOP challenger in the June primary, and most hold a significant advantage in campaign cash. "California Democrats are well positioned heading into their fall campaigns," said Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Bera flies back to his district from Washington almost every week, and says he spends his weekends talking not just to traditional Democratic supporters but also to business groups, chambers of commerce and even conservative organizations. Outside money has flowed into the district, with a group founded by Karl Rove, the conservative campaign strategist, spending nearly $900,000 on TV ads challenging Bera for his support of Obama's Affordable Care Act. Democratic leaders see the race as challenging but not impossible, given Renteria's history as the daughter of Latino farmworkers, an honors graduate and academic All-American in softball at Stanford University, and chief of staff to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee - an important panel in a district reliant on the farm economy.
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Workers May Gain Paid Sick Leave - The Orange County Register
THERESA WALKER @ ocregister.com
Gov. Brown still needs to sign bill that divided labor groups, Assembly members.
Cameron Proposes New Anti-terrorism Laws In Britain
British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed new counter-terrorism laws Monday that would make it easier for the government to seize the passports of suspected militants traveling to Syria and Iraq.
Parents’ Ability To Track Student Grades, Attendance By Smartphone Has Growing App-eal
Diana Lambert @ sacbee.com
Kumika Jackson, center, takes care of her daughter, Imani Hurts, 13, right, while her son, Kahlieg Hurts, 11, waits patiently nearby as they prepare to head to class on the second day of school at Mills Middle School on Thursday, August 14, 2014 in Rancho Cordova. The family is new to the school after recently moving from south Sacramento and transferring to the Folsom-Cordova school district.
Campaign Finance: New Voter Guide Follows the Money
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Obama Renews Call To Increase Pay Floor - Wsj
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The White House and union leaders used the Labor Day weekend to reinvigorate efforts to raise the minimum wage.
2 Sides Cite Discrimination as Battle on Texas Voting Law Heads to Court
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Bruce Maiman: California Republicans badly need a new script
Bruce Maiman @ sacbee.com
In January 2011, just days after Jerry Brown was sworn in as California’s 39th governor, Tom Del Beccaro, then the unopposed candidate for chairman of the California Republican Party, told supporters that “Democrats will bear the responsibility for what happens to our state, since they hold all the offices and a majority in the Legislature.”
On Obama’s Labor Day Visit, Politics Still Loom Large
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Easy Online Access Changes Doctor-patient Relationships - California Health Report | California Health Report
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By Kellie Schmitt
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