Tuesday, January 31, 2012

California Supreme Court Strikes a Blow to Republicans in 2012 Races

Think the battle over the state's legislative lines is so 2011? Think again.
As readers of my column know, California voters passed two ballot initiatives which took the power to draw legislative lines out of the hands of the legislators and put that power into the hands of a 14-member independent redistricting commission. The commission was comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four voters who are registered as Decline to State.
Last year the commission completed its charge of drawing new lines based on 2010 census data for the board of equalization, state assembly, state senate and House of Representatives. The commission had the responsibility of drawing lines, which complied with a number of criteria, including demographic shifts, drawing districts of equal (or nearly equal) population and complying with the voting rights act.
The commission heard public testimony, created draft maps, and heard even more public testimony. The process was not perfect, nothing can be, but it was far more open and transparent than the process that takes place when legislators draw their own lines.

"Coliseum officials made $1 million in cash payments to union"

Now criminal investigators for the U.S. Labor Department are looking into the payments, people familiar with the matter say.

With no detailed accounting of what happened to the cash after it left the stadium, the Coliseum Commission does not know how much actually went to wages and whether required contributions were made to employee benefit plans. In addition, the stadium could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payroll and withholding taxes.

It's as though the Coliseum was run "like an underground business," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies government corruption. "This idea of cash in suitcases reads like a bad crime novel."

Finish reading the article in the LA Times

Friday, January 27, 2012

"The Political Blood Sport Known as Redistricting Comes to L.A."

Yesterday the Los Angeles' 21-member Redistricting Commission released its draft boundary lines for the 15 City Council districts in the city. The proposed map is already drawing fire from many elected officials and community activists. You can bet the that word gerrymandering will often be heard throughout Los Angeles over the next month and a half.

Finish reading the article on KCET.org

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Democratic lawmakers sue controller over his withholding of their pay"

Democratic lawmakers sued state Controller John Chiang on Tuesday, arguing that he misused his power last summer when he docked their pay for passing a budget he said was not balanced.
"Is the case meritorious? I don't know, but I think it's a public relations disaster for legislators to sue on this," said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson. "To sue for their pay when so many of their constituents don't have a job, don't have the pay that they get and don't have much respect for them is not a good move."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Second Birthday, Citizens United: Now On To Your Terrible Twos

Dear Citizens United,
Happy birthday. I won't wish you many happy returns of the day. I both hope there aren't many more birthdays, and if there are, I trust they won't be happy ones, at least not for democracy.
But congratulations, you've made it, against all odds. You started as a relatively narrow little case, asking only whether a non-profit corporation could use general treasury funds to create and promote a hit piece against then-presidential candidate Hilary Clinton. You, Citizens United, merely asked the Supreme Court to find the now-vanishing McCain-Feingold law could not be validly applied to you.

Ballot Initiatives Have Harmed California

When people pose questions like, "Do you want to save our democracy? Our environment? Our schools?" I either answer "no" or keep walking. It is signature gathering time in California, and most of us have experienced that awkward moment when we are approached by an energetic, and often aggressive, petition gatherer. Inevitably the signature gatherer poses the type of question that would seem unimaginable to answer in the negative. And yet, I do, if I respond at all. Why?

Read the rest of the post on KCET.org

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Citizens United: How Did it Happen?"

I appear in this short documentary by John Ennis which discusses the political and legal implications of the Court's decision in Citizens United.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Breaking News: SCOTUS Overturns Judge-Drawn Maps in Texas

More from the NYT, NPR, and USA Today

NPR provides a good summary of the decision:

"A plan for how to redraw Texas' congressional and state legislative districts that was put together by a three-judge federal court in San Antonio was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court this morning because, the justices ruled, the lower court should not have disregarded the Texas state legislature's wishes and should not have stepped into that legislature's shoes." 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Point (Slut Shaming, Citizens United & Wall Street Tax)

My appearance on "The Point" is here.

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks hosted a great discussion about the impact of Citizens United, the proposed transaction tax, and "slut shaming."

Highlights from the show run from 2:00-7:00 and 26:00-34:00.

Is Governor Brown California Dreaming in Los Angeles?

Yesterday Governor Jerry Brown delivered his "State of the State" speech. He began by ribbing the Republicans, specifically Assemblywoman Connie Conway and Senator Bob Huff, for taping their response to his speech before he was even finished.

Otherwise, it started out sounding like a pep rally. The Governor struck a firmly positive and forward thinking note: California is on the mend, he unequivocally declared.

He then went on to discuss, with enthusiasm and relative optimism, a wide range of issues including the budget, the environment, the creation of a high-speed rail, water, education and finally back to the budget with pension reform, which remains the most important issue facing California. Brown continues to push for a mix of spending cuts and temporary tax increases.

Finish reading the article on KCET.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Citizens United, Slut Shaming, Transaction Taxes

Had a wonderful time taping "The Point" (@ThePointTYT) with Cenk Uygur (@CenkUygur) of the The Young Turks (@TheYoungTurks). We spoke about Citizens United, transaction taxes, and "slut shaming." The show will be up tomorrow on "The Point" website here

Citizens United, Transactional Taxation and more...

Looking forward to being on "The Point" (@ThePointTYT) with Cenk Uygur (@CenkUygur) of the The Young Turks (@TheYoungTurks) talking about Citizens United, taxes, and "slut shaming."

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Fair Political Practices Commission v. the U.S. Postal Service

Last week California's political watchdog agency apparently signaled that it is doing exactly what it should be: zealously investigating potential violations of the Political Reform Act (PRA). In an attempt to get information necessary to an ongoing investigation, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) filed suit in federal district court against the U.S. Postal Service.

The FPPC is endeavoring to determine whether former Manhattan Beach Unified school board member William Eisen violated the PRA by failing to disclose his participation as the sender in a mailing. The mailing urged recipients to vote against his recall in November 2008.

Call me crazy, but if I get a mailing asking me to vote against an official's recall I'd like to know that the official is behind the mailing. It would also be a useful tidbit of information to know that, if the allegations are true, that the official lied and said a taxpayer association and local political group were actually behind the mailers.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Will Redevelopment Continue in Los Angeles?"

In the wake of the California Supreme Court's recent decision regarding redevelopment agencies, many of those agencies are scrambling to determine how to stay in business.

As I previously wrote, the California Supreme Court upheld a statute eliminating redevelopment agencies. The court basically said that if the legislature has the power to create such agencies, they also have the power to end them. The court also struck down a law that would have allowed redevelopment agencies to stay in business if they transferred large sums of revenue to the state. The court found the law violated a recently enacted initiative that prevents the state from raiding local coffers.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Plenty of Money to go around in 2012? With Super PACs, it Looks Like It"

Last week much of the political debate in California centered around Governor Jerry Brown's early-released budget. In a very general sense, Brown's proposal shows there is simply not enough money to pay for state services and programs, and it is unclear whether the voters will agree to tax themselves to fund those services.

There is, however, another discussion concerning politics in which there is an eye-popping amount of money to go around. This week also brought news that a candidate for the House of Representatives, former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna may have set a record by raising $1.2 million in campaign contributions in one quarter.

An individual raising a large sum a year before an election is interesting, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Redistricting: Should Valley Districts Completely Stay within the Valley?"

Redistricting seems to be the one governmental process that can unite members of both aisles. And by unite I mean join together in fighting each other tooth and nail. I have previously detailed the numerous fights -- both at the courthouse and in the ballot box -- surrounding the newly drawn state legislative lines. Now comes word that a fight is brewing on the local level as well.

Valley leaders are asking for the creation of new city council maps. Specifically, representatives for the San Fernando Valley are urging the creation of six districts completely contained in the Valley. These districts would not stretch over the hill. Currently there are seven city council districts in the Valley. So why would they want fewer districts? Two of those districts stretch over the hill into West Los Angeles and Hollywood.

Finish reading this article on KCET.