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Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Author Archive: Glen Faison

Old battle over medical malpractice damages flares again

The first serious kerfuffle to confront a newly inaugurated Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975 was a crisis – whether real or contrived is still being debated – over medical malpractice insurance. Doctors and insurers complained that outrageously high damage awards, especially in obstetrics cases, were making insurance unaffordable and demanded relief. There was even, in […]

April 20, 2014 | Posted in Local opinion columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

New bill seeks to expand state’s Voting Rights Act

The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act last year, saying its 1960s-era provisions were no longer applicable to 21st-century conditions. The invalidated section required voting changes in nine Southern states to receive pre-clearance from the federal courts or the U.S. Justice Department, including the […]

Scandal, conflict sour legislative session

When the Legislature’s 2014 session began about three months ago, the Capitol’s dominant Democrats and their allies had high hopes that it would bear legislative fruit – with good reason. Democrats held “supermajorities” in both legislative houses, the state’s budget was in balance, and an improving economy was generating surplus revenue that could finance plans […]

FPPC gains power, lacks a chairperson

Whether it’s football, tiddlywinks, poker or politics, the rules of the game can play a big role in determining who wins. Every election produces examples of that adage – of elections won or lost because of the rules governing voting procedures, setting the boundaries of legislative or congressional districts, limiting campaign contributions and/or expenditures, or […]

Bullet train faces withering series of hurdles

The California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to begin construction this year on a bullet train system that is supposed to eventually stretch 500 miles from Sacramento to San Diego. It will be, at most, a modest beginning. The agency only has enough money – maybe – for 130 miles of non-electrified track from Madera to […]

April 09, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Keating’s death recalls California’s big savings and loan debacle

Charles Keating, the high-flying savings and loan tycoon at the center of a financial and political scandal in the 1980s, died Monday in Phoenix. The scandal was rooted in California’s 1982 deregulation of state-chartered savings and loans – banks then limited to home loans – freeing them to make virtually any speculative investment. That huge, […]

Public pension reform unlikely, but problem isn’t going away

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s chances of enacting a comprehensive public pension reform ballot measure were scant even before Attorney General Kamala Harris gave it an unfriendly official summary. He faced the essential dilemma of all would-be pension reformers: They have no natural allies among the political interest groups that might put up the many […]

Yee case should bury California’s pretensions about organized crime

The business of crime has become a staple of cable television drama in recent years. “The Sopranos,” depicting the lives of a Mafia family in New Jersey, set the tone – organized crime is a business. Yes, the trade may be in women, drugs, bootleg liquor, gambling, untaxed cigarettes, dirty money, weapons or murder-for-hire, but […]

Legislature shifts election year session into higher gear

The Legislature reconvened for its election-year session nearly three months ago but so far has been operating in slow motion. The session has been marked by desultory floor sessions devoted mostly to feel-good rituals and “informational hearings” by committees, many clearly staged to butter up interest groups and/or enhance legislators’ campaigns for re-election or other […]

Brown, unions spar over overtime pay for home care aides

President Barack Obama declared the other day that by executive order he will extend overtime pay to millions of workers who previously had been excluded by their occupations or pay levels. His administration had already delivered, however, on overtime pay for workers who provide care to the aged and disabled in their homes as an […]

Growing Latino and Asian ethnic groups may be headed for conflict

Together, Latinos and Asian Americans make up more than half of California’s population and are the only major ethnic groups still expanding – but they are evolving along distinctly different paths. While some subgroups struggle – Hmongs, notably – overall, California’s Asian Americans have high levels of education and family incomes. They and whites dominate […]

March 19, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Groundwater management emerges as new water debate issue

A legislative committee kicked around California’s water dilemma the other day – not only its current drought but its longer-term demand/supply imbalance. At one point, Sen. Fran Pavley, who chairs the Senate’s water committee, raised a point that she’s attempted to bring into the perennial debate before, with little success – whether underground water extraction […]

California unions’ dominance of Democratic Party may be fading

When Jerry Brown signed legislation giving California’s public employees collective bargaining rights during his first governorship, he – wittingly or otherwise – began a major political shift. The legislation re-energized organized labor, and in the ensuing years, unions – particularly public employee unions – became the state’s most influential interest group, providing resources for the […]

Neel Kashkari represents a new image for California GOP

Neel Kashkari is young, smart, accomplished, articulate and relatively moderate, and embodies California’s incredible cultural diversity. He is, in other words, exactly the sort of candidate that the California Republican Party must offer voters if it is ever to become relevant again. And it’s too bad, therefore, that he’s wasting his energy on a campaign […]

Democrats lose supermajority, but could get it back this year

With two of his fellow Democratic senators facing criminal charges, it’s been a stressful last year in office, at least so far, for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The usually unflappable Steinberg even snapped at reporters last week as he was peppered with questions about Sen. Rod Wright, who’s been convicted of felony perjury, […]

Jerry Brown may be poised for historic landslide

The direct primary election was one of the political reforms that California – and other states – adopted during the Populist era a century ago as an antidote to political parties, which were seen as “vessels of corruption” that thwarted popular will. California went even further with “cross-filing,” which allowed candidates, regardless of party identification, […]

California Senate roiled by two criminal cases

One seat was conspicuously empty when the state Senate convened Monday because Sen. Ron Calderon was, to use the official parlance, “excused on personal business.” His “personal business” was being arraigned in Los Angeles on federal corruption charges that could imprison him for decades. After the charges against Calderon, a Montebello Democrat, were announced on […]

Steinberg’s gas tax proposal may be dead on arrival

Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the state Senate who will leave the position and the Legislature later this year, proposed Thursday that gasoline taxes be increased sharply to fight global warming and provide new financial support for low- and middle-income families. But his plan could be dead on arrival, given the Capitol’s political […]

February 23, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 2 Replies

San Francisco seeks special treatment for embattled college

For several years, those who run California’s 100-plus community colleges have complained that the commission that makes all-important accreditation evaluations has been excessively aggressive, even nit-picking. There have even been off-the-record complaints that evaluators for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, an offshoot of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, were settling […]

February 19, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Democrats could lose state Congressional seats

Democrats picked up several California congressional seats in 2012, but the state – contrary to pre-election cheerleading by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – didn’t generate enough action to prevent Republicans from retaining control of the House. As the 2014 political season picks up steam, Democrats face potential congressional losses in the state, for a […]

February 16, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Millions spent on political action just a drop in the bucket

Annual reports reveal that thousands of special-interest groups spent $177 million last year on lobbying the Legislature and other branches of state government. That’s a lot of money, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of spending to influence political decisions – spending that is, in reality, a relative drop in the bucket. One should […]

Rent control returns to Capitol as burning issue

During the 1980s, few California political issues burned as intensely as rent control. California’s population was growing rapidly, and the state was evolving from having a big majority of homeowners into one with a relatively low rate of homeownership and a proliferation of rental units. The trend fueled a spate of rent control ordinances in […]

Drought complicates already dicey water politics

A crisis, it’s been said, is a terrible thing to waste. Economist Paul Romer originated the aphorism a decade ago, but it’s since entered the political lexicon. California is facing a water crisis, the third – and by far the worst – year of drought, with the all-important Sierra snowpack just 12 percent of normal […]

Lawsuit opens new front in California’s school war

A new front in the years-long political and legal war over the future of California’s immense and immensely expensive public school system opened this week in a Los Angeles courtroom. The war pits the education establishment, which argues that more money is the best way to improve academic outcomes, against civil rights advocates and reform […]

Gov. Jerry Brown won’t acknowledge state’s very high poverty rate

At the very end of his State of the State address to the Legislature last week, Gov. Jerry Brown – almost as an afterthought – tersely declared, “We have too many struggling families . . .” Well, yes, we do. In fact, according to an alternate Census Bureau method of calculating poverty that includes cost […]

Hearing indicates Brown will clash with Democrats on budget

It was oh-so-polite, but an initial airing of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget in a state Senate committee Thursday foretold election-year conflicts between the governor and legislators – particularly his fellow Democrats. Brown, both in the budget and in this week’s State of the State address, said he wants to hold down spending, with the […]

Perhaps Brown’s tax hike wasn’t needed after all

When Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed 2014-15 budget this month – one based on estimates of sharply increased state revenues – a reporter asked him whether, in retrospect, California needed the tax increase he had persuaded voters to approve in 2012. Brown’s response, in essence, was that the tax boost’s money is needed to […]

Los Angeles-San Francisco rivalry plays out in Capitol

When the Los Angeles Dodgers play the San Francisco Giants in the latter’s ballpark, fans chant “Beat L.A., Beat L.A.” It’s more than baseball. It symbolizes the rivalry between California’s two major metropolitan areas, in one form or another, for virtually its entire history. It’s economic, it’s cultural and, of course, it’s political. Sometimes it’s […]

Brown budget draws kudos, but still some friction

Gov. Jerry Brown’s newly proposed 2014-15 budget is drawing praise for its emphasis on debt repayment and building reserves, even from many Republicans. The Legislature’s budget analyst, Mac Taylor, added another round of kudos Monday, saying the proposed spending plan “would continue California’s fiscal progress.” However, there still is some fiscal friction. Liberal interest groups […]

Brown wants to avoid past errors in state budgeting

Fourteen years ago, the governor of California solemnly pledged not to squander a $12.3 billion revenue windfall on unsustainable tax cuts or spending. “I intend to resist the siren song of permanent spending whether it comes from the left or the right,” Gray Davis told reporters. “And I will stand up to anyone who tries […]

January 12, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

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