On politics in the Golden State

Category: Elections

Democrats wrongly placed Brown's tax plan at top of ballot, court says

Assembly floor

A legislative maneuver that gave Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure top billing on the November ballot was unconstitutional, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

Although the court's decision has no impact on the tax measure, which was approved by voters, it could restrict how lawmakers handle budget legislation in the future.

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. President Jon Coupal, who filed the lawsuit, said the case revealed "an abuse and manipulation of the political process."

The situation involves a complicated web of laws for the state's annual process for assembling the budget.

Every budget involves multiple pieces of legislation known as "trailer bills" because they're passed after the primary budget bill has been approved by the Legislature. They start out as blank "spot bills" and are later filled in with details in the final days of negotiations.

Last year, Democratic lawmakers used one of the trailer bills to ensure Brown's tax proposal was listed first on the ballot, which political observers say can increase a measure's chance of passing. Lawmakers claimed this legislation was related to the budget and should go into effect before the election.

If the legislation was not part of the budget, it would have required a two-thirds vote to take effect immediately, allowing Republicans to block the bill.

The Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal said the maneuver was improper.

State law "does not allow the Legislature to name empty spot bills in the budget bill and only after the budget bill is passed to fill those placeholders with content as urgency legislation," the judges wrote in their decision.

Phillip Ung, a policy advocate at California Common Cause, said the court's ruling will help make the budget process more transparent. Trailer bills will need to include some details when the primary budget bill is passed in order to be considered budget legislation and get approved with a simple majority vote.

"It’s not the victory I think voters have been waiting for," Ung said. "But it moves the dial of transparency more toward voters than toward legislative secrecy.”

Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for the Senate leader, said "the Legislature acted in good faith" when it approved trailer bills last year. He said the decision is still being reviewed and may be appealed.

A spokesman for the governor, Gil Duran, declined to comment.


State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee hikes

State says crowding report for Valley State Prison was overstated

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: The California Assembly floor in 2008. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown calls special elections for 2 vacant state Senate seats

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday declared special elections to fill the state Senate seats vacated last week when Democratic Sens. Juan Vargas of San Diego and Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Chino resigned to join Congress.

The primary election for both seats will be held March 12 and, if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote,  the runoff election will be held May 14.

That allows those elected to be seated in time for the state Senate vote on the state budget.

Vargas and Negrete-McLeod won seats in Congress in the Nov. 6 election and last week they resigned in the midst of their state Senate terms to go to Washington, D.C.

Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights) has launched a campaign for the 40th Senate District seat held by Vargas; Assemblywoman Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and San Bernardino County Auditor/Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Walker have begun campaigns for the 32nd Senate District previously represented by Negrete-McLeod.


Report: Parks agency hid millions

California starts emptying solitary confinement cells

Lawmakers vow to close loophole in rape law

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento


California lawmaker pushes ballot measures on budget, constitution

The supermajority held by Democrats in the California Legislature appears to have emboldened lawmakers to think big this session, with several talking about changing the state Constitution now that Republican votes are no longer needed to put measures on the ballot.

So far members have proposed 13 ballot measures.

The latest come from State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), who this week introduced two ballot measures including Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, which would initiate an independent review of the California Constitution with the aim of coming up with recommendations for improvements.

DeSaulnier also has introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 6, which would prohibit submitting future initiatives to the voters that add to state costs unless they also include a new source of revenue to cover those costs. Both of his proposals would need a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to be placed on the ballot, something more likely this year than in past years.

"Through independent review of our state Constitution and greater fiscal accountability in the initiative process, these measures will provide solutions to the deficiencies that have plagued our state’s budget and Constitution," DeSaulnier said in a statement.

In proposing creation of the Constitutional Revision Commission, he cited a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California that showed voter support for reforms that make state government more effective.


GOP may scale back its goals

Berman-Sherman House race sets spending record

Lawmaker revives bill to ease firing of teachers in sex abuse cases

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Online voter registration boosted turnout, data suggest

Voter pool

Online voter registration may have done more than simply lengthen voter rolls -- it also seems to have boosted turnout on election day in California, according to new data released Friday.

Political Data Inc. has been crunching the numbers from the Nov. 6 election, and found that voter turnout was higher among Californians who registered online.

For example, in Sacramento County, turnout for online registrants was 84.7%, 10 points higher than the county average. There was a similar gap in Orange County, and an even wider difference in Fresno County.

[Updated 11:25 a.m.: Political Data Inc. collected the data directly from county officials, who identified which voters registered online, according to the company's vice president, Paul Mitchell.]

The numbers were released by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who wrote the bill allowing Californians to register to vote online.

“I could not be more pleased with the results of online voter registration,” Yee said in a statement. “The numbers are overwhelming."

Yee is hoping his election-related legislation will slingshot him into the California secretary of state's office -- he plans to run for the position in 2014 when incumbent Debra Bowen leaves because of term limits.


California launches online voter registration

Number of California voters reaches record levels

State Sen. Leland Yee to run for California secretary of state

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Voters cast their ballots as swimmers take laps at Echo Park pool on election day in Los Angeles. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Two Assembly members, just reelected, announce runs for Senate

They just took the oath of office this week, but two members of the state Assembly are already pivoting to run for the Senate in a special election in March.

Assemblywoman Norma Torres (D-Pomona) says she plans to run for the state Senate seat being vacated Jan. 2 by Gloria Negrete-McLeod, who has been elected to Congress. Torres was just elected Nov. 6 to a third term in the Assembly. "My intent was to run for that (Senate) position in 2014 but the opportunity presented itself before that,'' Torres explained.

"The upper house provides a much better opportunity to focus on long-term legislation,'' she added. "You don't have to run for reelection every two years like in the Assembly.''

Her goals for the Senate are to extend the Gold Line rail service to Ontario Airport and transfer the airfield to local control, she said.

Torres is probably going to face some competition for the Senate seat, with other contenders including San Bernardino County Auditor/Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Walker. "I'm running to continue the tradition of that kind of bipartisan approach and leadership and independent thinking,'' said Walker, who is backed by Sen. Negrete-McLeod. in the race.

State Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) also won election last month to Congress and is expected to step down from his state office in the first week of January.

Those competing for that seat include Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights), who took the oath of office this week after winning a second term in the lower house last month. Hueso said he wants to move to the Senate "because it offers a bigger base of support to address key challenges facing California.’’

Those include trade between Mexico and the U.S., he said in a statement released by his campaign. "This is our greatest opportunity for job creation,’’ he said, adding that the 40th Senate District "has communities with high unemployment rates.’’


State lawmaker to propose changes to Proposition 13

California prison manuals change with the sexual times

Lottery buying new cars despite governor's effort to pare state flee

--  Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblywoman Norma Torres, left, during a 2006 trip to her native Guatemala, said this week she is a candidate for state Senate.

L.A. County expects to finish vote count Sunday

Los Angeles County  expects to finish tallying the ballots left over from the Nov. 6 election on Sunday--two days ahead of the secretary of state's deadline for counties to  certify and report results.

 Officials in California's most populous county found themselves with nearly 800,000 ballots that couldn't be counted on election day and have been working seven days a week (including Thankgsgiving) to get the job done.  The county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office in Norwalk has been updating vote totals every few days.

On Friday,  election officials tallied an additional 45,642 ballots.  Results for offices and ballot measures can be found at lavote.net.

In one especially close race, for an Assembly seat that spans three counties, attorney Steve Fox, a Democrat, on Friday pulled closer to Lancaster City Councilman Ron Smith, a Republican.

Smith now leads Fox by just 273 votes in the GOP-leaning 36th Assembly District.  Results in that race can be found at sos.ca.gov.


California sees strong October for tax revenue

Federal budget standoff could hurt California economy

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California

 --Jean Merl

Photo: Voting at an Alhambra fire station on Nov. 6. Credit: AFP/Getty Images



State Sen. Leland Yee to run for California secretary of state

FI.0705.L.Yee.SBState Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said Monday he plans to run for secretary of state in 2014 when incumbent Debra Bowen must leave office because of term limits.

Yee wrote legislation that allowed Californians to register to vote online for the first time and he used Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to announce his candidacy.

"As secretary of state, I want to expand on this success and explore the possibility of one day not just registering online, but in fact voting online," Yee said in a statement. "If we can safely pay our bills via the Internet and board an airplane with a smartphone, we should be able to securely and easily vote electronically as well.”

Yee’s legislation allowed more than 1 million people to register to vote online, pushing overall voter registration in California to a record 18.2 million people.

A child psychologist before he was elected to the state Assembly in 2002, Yee will likely face some stiff competition running for statewide office.

The six other candidates who have filed papers to raise money for possible campaigns include state Sens. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) and Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), and state Assemblymen Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) and Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles).


Proposition 30 win gives Brown a major boost

California sees strong October for tax revenue

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). Credit:  Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee

With election, California Legislature remains a family affair

APphoto_State LegislatureIf current election results stand, the California Legislature will continue its tradition of simultaneous service by multiple members of the same family.

Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton) has a slight lead, with votes still being counted, to win the 5th Senate District, which would allow him to join his brother, Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) in the state’s upper house. Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Rocklin) has won reelection in the 6th  Assembly District, while her husband, Sen. Ted Gaines (D-Rocklin), has been given another term by voters in the 1st Senate District.

And then there is the Calderon family, which now has had four members serve in the Legislature. Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon could not run for reelection because of term limits, but his son, Democrat Ian Calderon of Hacienda Heights, has won election to the 57th Assembly District. The freshman's uncle, Ron Calderon, is a state senator from Montebello.

Other legislators share the same last name but are not related, which does not lessen the confusion. There are two Hernandezes and two Perezes, but those are fairly common names.

But what are the odds of two people named Quirk being elected as freshmen legislators this year and not being related? Bill Quirk is a Hayward City Councilman and astrophysicist who is leading in the vote count for the 20th Assembly District. Hundreds of miles away, Fullerton teacher Sharon Quirk-Silva is leading in the vote count for the 65th Assembly District.

The two Democrats are used to being asked if they are related. "I wish we were related. It would make a great story,’’ Bill Quirk said in an email. "However, we are not related."

Sharon Quirk-Silva is divorced from her husband, who is named Quirk. "I am probably not related to her husband," Bill Quirk said. "My family came from Ireland to Geneseo, New York. Her former husband’s family was from Wisconsin. Quirk is a common name in Ireland and the British Isles."


Proposition 30 win gives Brown a major boost

California sees strong October for tax revenue

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo:  Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, pictured, is leading in the vote count to join his brother Tom in the Senate. Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.


Lungren unseated by Democrat for Sacramento-area House seat

Ami BeraDemocrat Ami Bera has defeated veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren in a nationally watched  Sacramento-area race, the Associated Press declared Thursday.

A Lungren spokesman, however, said the congressman was not conceding.

"It will be an honor to serve Sacramento County in Congress," Bera said in a written statement.

"Now is the time to find common ground and move forward to rebuild an economy that works for the middle class," he said. "Congressman Lungren deserves our appreciation for his long record of public service."

While thousands of ballots remained uncounted, Bera campaign manager Josh Wolf said that Bera has been widening his lead over Lungren since election day. On Thursday, Bera led Lungren by more than 5,000 votes.

The tight race has created an awkward situation on Capitol Hill where Bera, a physician, is attending an orientation for new House members organized by the Committee on House Administration, chaired by Lungren.

The race was among the House contests that drew the most outside money -- more than $9 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Lungren has been a political fixture in California: a former state attorney general, Republican nominee for governor and one of the few members of Congress to have represented two different districts hundreds of miles apart.

Last week's election -- following the redrawing of district boundaries by a citizens' commission instead of politicians and a spate of retirements by incumbents -- has led to the biggest shake-up of the California congressional delegation in 20 years.


Poll: Enthusiasm for ballot measures motivated state voters

Assemblyman Chris Norby loss cements Democratic supermajority

County Supervisor Antonovich recalls last Assembly supermajority

 -- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo: New U.S. Rep. Ami Bera. Credit: AP Photo / The Sacramento Bee, Lezlie Sterling

Assemblyman Chris Norby loss cements Democratic supermajority


Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby of Fullerton said the door has shut on him in his contest with Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva, cementing a two-thirds majority for the ruling party in the state Assembly.

Quirk-Silva’s lead in the 65th Assembly District has tripled from election day to 3,348 votes, giving her 51.3% of the vote, with 6,906 ballots still to be counted, the Orange County registrar of voters reported late Wednesday.

"My 28 years of service to my city, county and state are now coming to a close," Norby, 62, said in an email from Honduras, where he and his wife have been visiting family since the day after the election. "I’ve been blessed with wonderful family and friends. One door has closed to me. Others will open."

The Senate had previously clinched a supermajority as well. Quirk-Silva, a teacher and Fullerton city councilwoman, was back in the classroom Wednesday morning, with plans to return to Sacramento to resume interviewing job applicants to staff her Assembly office, according to campaign spokesman Bill Wachob.

Norby, who served as mayor of Fullerton and as a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors before he won a 2010 special election for the Assembly seat,  said he feels good about his career.

"Highlighting my three years in the Assembly was the abolition of redevelopment agencies, freeing those $7 billion in annual property taxes to serve public -- not private -- interests, ending eminent domain abuse against small property owners," Norby said in the statement. "This effort has been a focus of my public life, and accomplishing it during my legislative tenure means a lot to me personally and to California as a whole."


Prop. 30 win gives Brown a major boost

Disclosure of Arizona group's donors yields more mystery

Assembly speaker confident he has a two-thirds majority

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton). Credit: Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times


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