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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 / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

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 / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

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.

California Schools Urged to Revisit Safety Plans

Dec 18, 2012
Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

California law requires each school to have a safety plan – and make it available to the public.  In the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut, education and public safety officials want schools to take a new look at those plans to see if they should be revised.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wants to reassure parents who wonder if what happened in Newtown could happen to them.

“I believe our California schools are safe," says Torlakson.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration says it will start moving about 860,000 children in the Healthy Families program into Medi-Cal on January 1st. But as Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, state lawmakers and doctors want them to slow down.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg sent a message to the administration last week.  

“Do not make the actual transition unless you are assured that the child who has a doctor and sees a doctor under one program – HF’s – will be able to have ready access to a doctor when they’re shifted.”

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:

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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.

A new study shows California community college students still face obstacles when they try to transfer to the California State University system. 

Despite a law passed two years ago intended to make it easier for students to transfer to CSU, many community colleges still don’t provide acceptable degrees.

According to a study by the non-profit “Campaign for College Opportunity,” an average of just five degrees have been developed by each of the 112 community colleges.

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

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.” 

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.

Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown shared a list of priorities for working with a new state legislature, which appears to be reaching a two-thirds majority in both houses. 

Now that his Prop 30 campaign is over, Governor Brown says he’s turning his attention to other matters.

“We ought to calibrate our regulations to ensure that they encourage jobs as well as protect other aspects of the public interest like the environment, health and good working conditions,” said Brown. 

High Stakes for Jerry Brown with Prop 30

Nov 1, 2012
Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

When the results for Proposition 30 come in on Election Night, California voters won’t just have returned a verdict on whether they support raising taxes to reduce the state’s budget deficit. They will also have handed Governor Jerry Brown a victory or defeat on his signature policy issue. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the outcome, and Brown’s reaction to it, could shape the rest of his time in the governor’s office.

California’s budget calls for six billion dollars in automatic education cuts if voters reject Proposition 30 next week. But legislative Republicans say they would support reversing those cuts if the governor’s tax measure fails.

Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, who represents portions of the Central Valley, says the elimination of up to three weeks of school would be “devastating” – and if Prop 30 doesn’t pass, both parties should work together to find alternatives.

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

This could be the year California Democrats finally reach the goal they’ve long strived for: a two-thirds supermajority in the State Senate. We took a look at that possibility in a report yesterday.

It turns out people from both parties don’t think Sacramento’s legislative landscape would change that much. And as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the biggest impact on next year’s atmosphere at the State Capitol will likely come from something else entirely.

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Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

When California voters go to the polls on Election Day, they could usher in a change that hasn’t happened since 1965. They could give one party a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate. Democrats are campaigning hard to make that happen. But Republicans are fighting just as hard to prevent it.

When Democratic Assembly member Cathleen Galgiani kicked off her campaign for state Senate last month in Stockton, the Senate’s top Democrat stood right beside her.

Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

From the moment he took office at the start of last year, Governor Jerry Brown has told California voters the state needs new revenue.  But his November tax initiative, Proposition 30, faces strong opposition on several fronts and is hovering at around 50 percent support in the polls. 

Governor Brown sat down with reporter Ben Adler Thursday in Sacramento to talk about the impact of Prop 30’s passage or failure on next year’s budget. 

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