Monday Roundup: Home Stretch

With just two days left in this year’s legislative session, special interests are making last-minute moves to get pet projects through the Legislature.

“It happens every year at this time. Overtired legislators are only days from the deadline to pass new laws, and there is so much bustle in the Capitol that keeping track of all the drafts of bills is almost impossible. That’s when special interests can capitalize on the chaos.

It’s an opportunity to rush proposals to a Senate or Assembly floor vote with little vetting, media scrutiny or public notice. And this year, many groups are scurrying to do just that, convincing friendly lawmakers to use arcane procedures that allow them to step around rules meant to expose proposed laws to plenty of sunlight.

“It’s an easier way to, frankly, pull a fast one,” said Joe Nation, a former Democratic assemblyman who now lectures about public policy at Stanford.

A California energy panel has promised millions to an ethanol firm backed by a Schwarzenegger ally.

Jack dolan reports, “California’s energy commission has promised millions of dollars to a struggling corn ethanol business founded by a political ally — and generous campaign contributor — to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger despite public assurances that the commission’s environmental funds would not be used to subsidize that technology.

“The money comes from a tax on car owners passed three years ago that goes to a fund for clean-energy technologies. When the fund was set up, its backers said it would not be used for corn ethanol, a decades-old gas additive that many environmental scientists argue is at least as bad for the planet as oil.

“The decision to use the fund for an ethanol subsidy has the program’s creator crying foul.

“It’s appalling. We gave them a very clear direction where these funds should be going,” said former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, who wrote the bill that created the Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. “Ethanol is yesterday’s news. It seems like there’s some inside deal going on.”

Nuñez then went on to exol the virtues of plastic bags on behalf of his new client…

The Riverside P-E wonders about the timing of the GOP leadership handoff in the Senate.

“Just when does Senate Republican leader-elect Bob Dutton get to drop the “elect?” 

The transition had long been set for Wednesday. Earlier this month, Senate GOP head honcho Dennis Hollingsworth said Dutton would be taking over then, “rain or shine, budget or no budget.”

“There were no moving boxes as last week ended. Both Hollingsworth and Dutton said Hollingsworth may stay on longer if agreement on a budget — it’s been 60 days since the start of the state’s fiscal year — is imminent.

“Dutton, who locked up the votes to become leader months ago, said it makes sense to hold off on the switch if a budget deal is nearly complete.

Not that there are any signs of that. On Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans are expected to debate dueling budget plans, with nothing expected to pass.

“If there’s no indication that people are negotiating, there’s no reason to wait,” said Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, of the transition.

Critics and nay-sayers who said Jerry Brown’s summer campaign silence would be a death sentence are now voicing grudging respect for Brown’s ability to stay close to Meg Whitman in the polls.

“It’s a very important point that after Brown not running any campaign, the race is still tied,” said GOP strategist Adam Mendelsohn. “People are now realizing that Jerry Brown is a tougher candidate than they anticipated and the fall is going to be a very difficult election. I think some Republicans thought because she had so much money and was running a very competent campaign, they could get themselves 10 or 15 points up” before he began campaigning.

Brown’s low-key summer strategy was born of necessity, because the candidate’s campaign coffers are a sliver of his billionaire opponent’s, but it is also one that many political experts questioned and that some fellow Democrats criticized as the summer wore on. Whitman’s blanketing of the airwaves and juggernaut campaign machine, they said, would put Brown so far behind by Labor Day that he would never catch up. That scenario failed to materialize.

When we hear Garry South apologizing, or something close to it, then we’ll believe Brown is home free…

But George Skelton says the time has come for Brown to make his case to voters.

“They’re all waiting for the Democratic candidate to get a move on and finally tell them why he’d be a better governor than Republican political novice Meg Whitman.

“They shouldn’t have to wait much longer. We’re approaching Labor Day, traditional kickoff of November election races.

“Never mind that Whitman has been running hard for a year and has already spent an unprecedented $104 million of her fortune, most of it on TV ads. Brown has been hoarding his privately donated money — he has stashed around $25 million — and has said he intends to begin running TV spots after Labor Day. He’ll spend the holiday weekend stumping the state.

So we’ll soon see what Jerry Brown still has to offer at 72, after having served two terms as governor a few decades ago and lately as Oakland mayor and state attorney general.

Brown gave us a broad hint of his pitch at a campaign stop in San Diego last week: “Everything I’ve done in my life has prepared me for this moment in time, to do what I can to protect the state I love.”


David Siders wonders where in the world is Pete Wilson, now that the GOP primary is over.

“Former Gov. Pete Wilson provided Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman a valuable endorsement in the GOP primary, when he declared she would be “tough as nails” on illegal immigration.

But what made that recommendation resonate for many conservatives – Wilson championed Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that sought to deny public services to illegal immigrants – has become a liability now that Whitman is trying to win over Latino and independent voters.

Not surprisingly, Wilson, Whitman’s campaign chairman, has all but disappeared from public view.”

Some teachers are not happy that The Times released data about how their students performed on standardized tests.

“National and local teachers unions sharply criticized The Times on Sunday when the newspaper published a database of about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade city school teachers ranked by their effectiveness in raising student test scores.

“It is the height of journalistic irrespons
ibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teacher’s effectiveness,” said a statement issued by United Teachers Los Angeles.

And finally, from our New Reality Show Idea Files, AP reports on a yard sale gone wrong in Sonora.

“A 70-year-old yard sale shopper is facing charges after things apparently got a bit out of hand at a yard sale. Tuolumne County authorities said Jon Joslin was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly hit another man over the head with a cornbread pan at the sale Friday. A sheriff’s spokesman said Joslin hit the fellow shopper with a five-pound, cast iron pan to prevent him from getting to the sale first.

“It seems the two men arrived early at the yard sale and were walking up a long driveway when investigators said Joslin first attempted to trip 64-year-old Joseph Brown.”

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