Government & Politics

News about government and politics

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, some business and labor groups are pushing to change California's complex environmental review process for building and construction projects.

Jim Earp is with a coalition of construction unions. He says the law gets abused by being used to stall new development.

“It's not always just about how many end up in lawsuits, its, and this is particularly true in public infrastructure projects, how much the delay adds to the cost of that project.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno's precarious financial position is leading to more repercussions in the investment community. On Friday, the firm Standard & Poor's downgraded the city's credit rating from "A" to "BBB." Last month, the two other major credit ratings agencies, Fitch and Moody's issued similar downgrades.

The rating of "BBB" is Standard & Poor's next to lowest "investment grade" rating. The firm also gave Fresno's  financial outlook a "negative" rating, meaning future downgrades are possible. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

More California cities may file for bankruptcy and default on bonds in the coming months, according to a report released today by a major credit rating agency.

In a report titled “Why Some California Cities Are Choosing Bankruptcy” Moody’s Investors Service warned that the risk of more municipal bankruptcies in the state has gone up.

So far this year, three California cities have filed for bankruptcy, Stockton, San Bernadino and Mammoth Lakes.

A new poll shows more Californians support tax measures on November’s statewide ballot. The poll by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University finds wealthy education advocate Molly Munger’s tax initiative is gaining ground. 45 percent of voters approve of Proposition 38. That’s up from 35 percent in July.

Poll Research Director Chris Condon says the increase might be attributed to the voter’s looking only at the ballot’s label rather than the ballot’s title and summary which were used in the first poll.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

A controversial bill that’s been stuck for more than a year has squeaked out of the California Assembly. The measure would give juveniles sentenced to life without parole the chance to request a parole hearing.

Six Democrats joined every Republican in opposing the bill, including GOP Assemblyman Donald Wagner. “This is breaking faith with every relative of a murdered victim who was told, don’t worry, the killer will never see the light of day again.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown says Californians have two choices; vote yes on Proposition 30 in November, or see schools and higher education lose billions of dollars. The Governor kicked off the campaign for his tax initiative in front of a Sacramento high school.

Governor Brown says his tax initiative is needed to stave off deep budget cuts, which could include shortening the school year by three weeks. The November ballot measure would increase sales taxes by a quarter cent for four years and increase taxes for seven years on those who make more than $250,000 dollars annually.

Merced Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza announced his retirement today, effective Wednesday at midnight. Cardoza told the press that "sensitive family needs" prompted his resignation. Last October, he announced that he did not plan on seeking re-election.  His seat in California's 18th Congressional district includes Merced, as well as portions of Modesto,  Stockton, Madera and Fresno.

Ben Adley / Capital Public Radio

The California legislature has passed a bill that would ban interruptions to cell phone or wireless service without a court order. The measure comes in response to a controversy last year involving transit officials in San Francisco.

Last year, protesters at a Bay Area Rapid Transit subway station in downtown San Francisco discovered they suddenly didn’t have any cell phone service. BART officials concerned about the protest had cut it off. That move sparked wider protests – and it also prompted a bill from Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla.

California Revenues Fall $475 Million Short

Aug 13, 2012
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California State Controller John Chiang released his monthly revenue report today. Revenues fell way below projections for July, but state finance officials say it’s not so bad.

The controller says July revenues were $475 million short. The State ended the last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $9.6 billion. As of July 31, that cash deficit totaled $18 billion, and is being covered with temporary loans from special funds. State Controller John Chiang called the collections “disappointing.” Republican Senator Tom Harman says he’s concerned the state will run out of cash soon.

California voters won’t see much change in the language of Proposition 34. A judge sided with those who want to repeal the death penalty that the November ballot language is not misleading.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley upheld his previous decisions on the death penalty ballot measure. He ruled that the ballot’s title and summary written by the state’s attorney general is not misleading. But he did order one slight change in the ballot’s arguments about savings that would result from eliminating the death penalty.

The Chair of a California Assembly committee looking into the state’s special funds accounts called the parks department scandal “shameful” today. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, lawmakers asked finance officials for assurances that there are no more hidden assets.

At issue is how $54 million in surplus Parks department funds could remain hidden for 12 years. An audit last week also found discrepancies in other state special funds accounts. Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield chairs the oversight committee.

A bill that would create a retirement plan for California private sector workers who have no pensions or 401-K’s is facing intense opposition from business groups. The bill was heard today by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

A new study shows that tribal gaming casinos have a $7.5 billion impact on California’s economy.

The report comes as Governor Jerry Brown considers whether to approve two new tribal casinos that would add to the 60 already in the state.

Beacon Economics conducted the study. It shows tribal gaming has helped create 52-thousand jobs in industries throughout the state.

Steve Stallings is with the California Nations Indian Gaming Association which commissioned the study. He says the report also shows their casinos generate significant tax revenue.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has decided that now is not the time to change California’s newly-approved process for cities and counties to enter into bankruptcy.

He’s decided to kill the legislation authored by a Democratic Assembly member. The bill would have loosened deadlines on negotiations with creditors and labor groups. But Steinberg says it’s time now for the legislature to focus elsewhere.

A new analysis shows that campaign committees already are spending millions of dollars on propositions for California’s November’s ballot. The analysis, by the Fair Political Practices Commission, shows by the end of June, committees had raised more than $84 million to fight or support the 11 ballot measures.

The Commission’s report looked at donors who gave $10,000 or more. While the state limits what an individual donor can give state candidates, there are no limits on the amount of money committees can contribute to ballot measures.

California’s Senate President Pro Tem is responding to criticisms of legislative pay raises and the hidden assets found at the parks department. The issues are giving ammunition to opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

California Sentencing Institute / Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice shows that Valley Counties on average send more people to jail and state prison than the rest of the state. Kings County topped the list with the state's highest per capita population in state prison, over 1,500 adults for every 100,000 people. Tulare and Kern counties weren't far behind.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

An audit of California’s 560 “special funds” finds no more hidden assets. The audit comes after $54 million in surplus parks funds were discovered in two separate special funds accounts.

The discrepancy results from the difference in data given to the state controller’s office and the finance departments. The audit showed a $415 million difference between the two departments.

But State Finance Director Ana Matosantos says most of those differences arise from different accounting methods and timing of transfers.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Airports in Fresno and Bakersfield could be forced to close if lawmakers in Washington D.C. can't reach a deal on deficit reduction in the coming months, according to a new analysis released today by a Washington D.C. think tank. 

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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