October 2008 E-Newsletter
Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Almost three months late, the Legislature and the Governor finally agreed on a state budget.
The budget essentially relies on $7 billion in cuts and suspending the net operating loss tax credit for corporations, a tax break that allowed them to spread out a tax loss over several years. In addition, penalties for companies that underreport their taxes by more than $1 million were increased to 20 percent.
The budget lopped off $800 million from the Assembly and Senate conference committee proposal for Proposition 98 education funding. However, that is significantly less than the more than $2 billion sought by Republican legislators, a reduction that could have taken $5,000 away from every California classroom.
The budget stabilization fund, or the rainy day fund, was increased from 5 percent of general fund revenues to 12.5 percent.
While I and my Democratic colleagues were able to minimize the proposed severe cuts to education and health and human services, these reductions will not go unnoticed - families receiving CalWorks grants and Medi-Cal recipients will be affected.
Before signing the budget, the Governor exercised his line item veto powers and either eliminated or curtailed programs that help the elderly. Two prime examples: The Senior Citizens' Property Tax Assistance and Senior Citizens Renters' Tax Assistance were axed, a $191 million cut; and $11.4 million was trimmed from Adult Protective Services - the only program that responds to around-the-clock reports of abuse of seniors or dependent adults.
By no means does this budget meet our needs for long-term structural reforms, reforms that will stabilize California's finances so we can adequately fund our schools and help our elderly and poor. Those reforms can't be addressed until we scrap the existing two-thirds majority requirement that is needed to close tax loopholes and pass a budget in the Legislature.
A few months ago, I told you how I feel about this two-thirds majority rule. It is an archaic statute exploited by a minority of lawmakers to protect special interests and thwart the will of the majority. The rule was the primary reason our budget was passed so late.
If the Legislature was allowed to pass a budget with a simple majority - just like 47 other states - we'd break the log jam in Sacramento.
But now I want your opinion. Do you think the two-thirds majority requirement should be kept or tossed out in favor of allowing the Legislature to adopt a budget with a simple majority vote? Click here to participate in a survey.
The Governor vetoed a record 35 percent of the bills that reached his desk. This surpasses the previous record of 25 percent set by Gov. Gray Davis in 2000.
Of the 130 of 415 bills vetoed by the Governor last month, he cited this implausible reason: He did not deem them to be in the "highest priority for California.''
That blanket excuse doesn't fly. To dismiss so many bills in such a high-handed fashion with a canned response is an affront to Californians.
Let me tell you this: California families sacrificed hundreds of hours of their own work time and money to testify on serious issues affecting their lives. They came to us, as their elected leaders, and we listened to them. We, as a body, acted on these important issues.
Instead of getting the same respect from their Governor, those families and organizations who sacrificed so much of their precious time and money, were ignored by the Governor, who seemingly refused to do his job: Carefully read, analyze, and consider bills approved by the Legislature.
Here's a breakdown of what happened to my bills:
Assembly Bill 117 - Vetoed by the Governor. The bill would have let the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to accept bids from the lowest responsible bidder or to a responsible bidder who offers a proposal with the best value for contract services less than $100,000, eliminating the existing time-consuming and costly request-for-proposal process.
Assembly Bill 131 - Signed by the Governor. AB 131 allows a Level 1 Education Specialist authorized to serve students with mild to moderate disabilities to also serve students ages 3 and 4 with autism so long as that teacher completes a three-unit course from a recognized university in the area of "special education, early childhood."
Assembly Bill 152 - Vetoed by the Governor. This bill would have permitted the VTA to use its funding to repair and maintain streets, highways, and bike and pedestrian facilities. Currently, VTA is limited to the repair and maintenance of transit facilities.
Assembly Bill 171 - Signed by the Governor. The bill eliminates the graduated fee schedule for certain probate matters associated with estates or trusts of $250,000 or more. The bill calls for a flat fee of $320 for first paper filings.
Assembly Bill 225 - Signed by the Governor. This legislation allows dependent adults to obtain a single restraining order that protects not only themselves but other innocent people in their household or who are associated with it, such as caregivers.
Assembly Bill 346 - Signed by the Governor. The bill requires the makers of sweetened, flavored, liquor-laced drinks known as "alcopops'' to carry labels or stickers that tell consumers the beverages contain alcohol.
Assembly Bill 433 - Signed by the Governor. A bill that essentially allows families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grants to become automatically eligible for food stamps.
Assembly Bill 1057 - Vetoed by the Governor. AB 1057 would have enabled the Healthy Workers program to cover dependents of enrollees.
Assembly Bill 1823 - Vetoed by the Governor. This bill would have required each county's Multi-Agency Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council to have a representative from the county's Alcohol and Drug Program Administrator.
Assembly Bill 1824 - Signed by the Governor. It permanently establishes a regional center employee's limited immunity from civil damages for injury or death resulting from discretionary acts or omissions.
Assembly Bill 1825 - Vetoed by the Governor. The bill would have set up a process to resolve disputes between regional centers and other public agencies over which is responsible for providing services contained in a client's individual family service plan or individual program plan of a child under 6.
Assembly Bill 1826 - Signed by the Governor. The bill establishes a uniform filing fee for people seeking the return of property seized during an arrest involving controlled substances.
Assembly Bill 1887 - Vetoed by Governor. This bill was aimed at requiring health plans to cover mental health and substance abuse illnesses just as they would for any physical illness.
Assembly Bill 2337 - Signed by the Governor. This legislation adds alcohol and drug counselors to the list of professions required to report incidents of child abuse.
Assembly Bill 2344 - Vetoed by the Governor. It would have established an annual $185 fee to renew a retailer's license to sell tobacco products.
SIREN Citizenship and Immigration Q&A
Staffers from SIREN - Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network - will answer questions about citizenship applications and the process of becoming a citizen. Two separate sessions at two different library locations are scheduled Oct. 11. They're free.
Saturday, Oct. 11
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Alum Rock Branch Library
3090 Alum Rock Ave.
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Edenvale Branch Library
101 Branham Lane East
Walk to Take a Stand Against Domestic Violence
Join hundreds of others in raising awareness about domestic violence's pervasive harm by taking part in the 11th Annual Walk to End Domestic Violence. A program and a tribute to victims precede the walk. For more information, call (408) 535-8100 or visit www.sanjoseca.gov.
Friday, Oct. 17
Begins at 11 a.m.
San Jose City Hall
200 E. Santa Clara Street
Bring your children and learn a trick or two - at a 90-minute workshop on magic conducted by magician Phil Ackerly at the Berryessa Branch Library. This workshop is geared for kids in grades 3 and up. Same day pre-registration is required because space is limited.
Wednesday, Oct. 15
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
3355 Noble Avenue
A Favorite Haunt
Santa Clara's historic Harris-Lass House Museum will be the site of two special pre-Halloween nighttime tours. The 143-year-old house is located on the last farm site in the city and it is maintained by the Historic Preservation Society of Santa Clara, which plays host to this "Spooktacular.''
Admission: $3 adults, $2 children and seniors. Cookies and hot drinks will be sold.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave an inquiry on the Harris-Lass House Museum message line at 408-249-7905.
Friday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 25, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
1889 Market St.
Make your way to the Bernal Ranch on the Saturday night before Halloween for a free screening of the 1955 sci-fi thriller, "Tarantula," a cautionary tale about the hazards of mixing radiation with arachnids. John Agar and Leo G. Carroll star. The film will be followed by some close -- but safe -- encounters with the real-life, creepy, crawly creatures. Reservations required, call (408) 226-5453.
Saturday, Oct. 25
7:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Santa Teresa County Park
372 Manila Drive