Government & Politics

News about government and politics

California Republican lawmakers now find themselves in the midst of Democratic supermajorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Republicans may look to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown for support.

With supermajorities, Democratic lawmakers have historic new powers. They could raise taxes, while Republicans sit on the sidelines.

“Well I used to be on the sidelines, I was a cheerleader,” says Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, joking.

California Lawmakers Return To State Capitol

Jan 7, 2013
Amy Quinton

The start of the New Year brings California lawmakers back to the Capitol. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Democratic leaders anticipate a heavy work schedule.

Reforming California’s Environmental Quality Act, restoring cuts to education, fixing the state’s ballot initiative process and campaign finance reform, those are just a few of the issues lawmakers will likely contend with this session.

Democrats return with a supermajority in both chambers, even with two Senators recently resigning to serve in Congress.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Attorney General’s office has released its investigation into the funding surplus at the state Parks Department.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it shows that only part of the $54 million dollars found in two funds were intentionally hidden from the Department of Finance.

The audit shows senior management at the parks department intentionally underreported as much as 20 million dollars beginning in 1996. It found that $34 million concealed in one fund was unintentional. But it’s a different story for the State Parks and Recreation Fund.

New Year, New Taxes Thanks to Props 30, 39

Jan 2, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

California taxes are going up in the new year – with higher sales and income tax rates … and a new requirement for out-of-state businesses to calculate their taxes the same way in-state businesses do.  

In November, voters approved two ballot measures that deal with taxes.  Proposition 30 raises the sales tax a quarter of a cent to 7.5 percent, starting in the new year 

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould /

Now that Democrats hold a supermajority in both chambers of the California legislature, activists want them to use it to push a more progressive agenda. 

Progressives say they want lawmakers to restore cuts they say hurt the most vulnerable Californians, such as cuts to education, social services, and health care.

Joshua Pechthalt is President of the California Federation of Teachers. He says elected officials shouldn’t worry about a voter backlash similar to what happened in the 2010 elections.

Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user "edans" /

As early as next year, 1.5 million Californians could be eligible for 250 free cell phone minutes, and 250 free text messages a month. Assurance Wireless, an arm of mobile giant Sprint, will provide the service through the federally-funded Lifeline program. 

That program is currently limited to land lines in California. Assurance Wireless spokesman Jack Pflanz says the addition of cell phone service has made a huge difference to people in 36 other states where it’s been adopted.

The California legislature’s response to last Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut is beginning to take shape.  As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, a top lawmaker is calling for action in several different areas – including gun control.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg is endorsing legislation that would close a loophole dealing with large ammunition clips on assault weapons, and a measure that would require annual permits to buy ammunition.

A California state Senator plans to introduce legislation that would require anyone purchasing gun ammunition to first obtain a permit and pass a background check.

Democratic Senator Kevin de Leon is authoring the bill in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. He says he has no intention of stopping law abiding citizens from purchasing ammunition.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders say they’re not looking at more tax increases now that voters have approved Proposition 30. 

But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, tax credits could be on the table, like the controversial Enterprise Zone program.

California offers 700 million dollars a year in tax credits to businesses who add or retain jobs in economically distressed neighborhoods.  

The governor proposed eliminating Enterprise Zones last year but couldn’t win legislative approval. 

City of Fresno Public Utilities

It is a dirty job, picking up the trash of Fresno’s residents.

But it is also a job that has afforded 58 year old Joe Hill a decent middle income salary. Those at the top of the scale can make $22 an hour.

“I have a good job. I make a decent wage, but I don’t feel I am overpaid. I praise god for the job I have and how much I make. And I know there’s lots of people who make a lot less, but it’s not excessive,” says Hill.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

It’s only the first week of the new California legislative session.  But three Democrats have already signaled they’re ready to adjust the “third rail” of California politics – the landmark property tax measure known as Proposition 13.  

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is the latest Democratic lawmaker to call for a change to Prop 13.  He wants to stop large companies from disguising changes in ownership that would normally trigger reassessments – something homeowners can’t do.

Amy Quinton

California’s newly-elected legislature is now officially sworn in, and Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, legislative leaders are making a point of being modest.

The entire Assembly and half the Senate took their oaths on Monday, giving Democrats the power they’ve long craved – the ability to raise taxes.  But voters just did that for them, approving Prop 30 last month, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says that’s enough for now:

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould /

California Democratic state Senator Mark Leno plans to introduce a constitutional amendment on Monday that will make it easier to pass local taxes for schools.

The amendment would allow voters to pass school parcel taxes with a 55-percent vote instead of the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13.

Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says the legislation isn’t surprising given that Democrats now hold a supermajority in the legislature.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series on the impact of California's new top-two election reform.

When California voters approved Proposition 14 in 2010, supporters hailed it as a way to make many races for Congress, the Legislature and state offices more competitive, thanks to a new top-two election system.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Now that the dust has settled after this month's general election, political observers from across the state are busy examining the results to see just what effect California's efforts at redistricting and electoral reform had in their first full test at the ballot box. Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore reports that in same cases, the result is too close to call. 

For most California voters, the trip to the ballot box this November looked much like it always has, albeit with longer lines at some polling places and a record number of "vote by mail" ballots.

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould /

California Democrats have gained a supermajority in both state legislative houses for the first time in 70 years.  But as KPCC’s Julie Small reports, the Assembly Speaker says his party won’t exploit the power.

The two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Senate gives Democrats the power to raise taxes without Republican votes.  They’ll also be able to expedite bills and change legislative rules.  But Assembly Speaker John Perez downplays that new power.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California’s once-enormous budget deficit has shrunk to just under $2 billion, and the state could soon have a surplus.  But Mac Taylor, California’s non-partisan legislative analyst is urging caution as state finances improve.

Not long ago, California hit rock bottom, with a massive budget deficit. 

Nearly four years ago Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a crowd, “the $42 billion deficit is a rock upon our chest that we cannot breathe until we get it off.” 

CSU Board of Trustees Delays Decision On Student Fee Increase

Nov 13, 2012

California State University leaders have delayed a vote on a proposal to increase student fees.

The proposal would charge extra fees on so-called “super seniors,” students who take more courses than required, and course repeaters. Governor Brown asked the CSU Board of Trustees to postpone the vote.

"Let’s measure up to the expectation of the voters, and that means getting out of our comfort zone – whether we’re trustees or faculty or administrators or students or anyone else.  The taxpayers got out of their comfort zone, so we have to follow suit,” said Brown. 

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

Before last week, California voters had rejected every statewide tax measure since 2004.  This election, they approved two of them.  They also said yes to more than 70 percent of the local tax and bond measures on last week’s ballot.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, this may not be the start of a new trend.

The passage of Propositions 30 and 39 snapped a seven-measure winning streak for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.  But President Jon Coupal says that doesn’t mean the attitudes of California voters are changing when it comes to taxes.

Hiring For Fresno Veterans Home to Begin Soon

Nov 12, 2012

Two new California veterans’ homes that currently sit empty in Fresno and Redding could start filling up over the next year.  The state has announced it’s beginning to recruit hundreds of employees for the homes.

Ever since April, veterans’ homes in Fresno and Redding have had lights, air conditioning and water, but no veterans, or staff.  This year’s state budget set aside money to start hiring, and now the California Department of Veterans Affairs says it’s ready to begin the recruitment process.