From an analysis of thousands of lobbyist disclosure reports, the Sacramento Bee has developed a database that tracks gifts to state lawmakers between January 2008 and June 2009. During those 18 months, lobbyists gave legislators, their staffs, and relatives about $610,000 in gifts, including concert tickets, 424 meals at the upscale Sacramento restaurant Spataro (average cost: $57 a meal), kegs of beer, and free travel to destinations from Hawaii to Hungary. (While legislators may not accept more than $420 in gifts annually from a single organization, there is no restriction on gifts to lawmakers’ friends and families.)
While the September 2008 and February 2009 state budget agreements cut billions of dollars from state public services, they also included changes to corporate tax rules that will net millions of dollars in tax breaks for some California businesses. A report from the California Budget Project explains how the changes — elective single sales factor apportionment, tax credit sharing, and net operating loss carrybacks — will cost the state $8.7 billion in lost revenues between 2008-09 and 2015-16. The companies that will profit from the changes are some of California’s largest — 80 percent of the benefits will go to companies with gross receipts in excess of $1 billion.
What if we accepted that small measures are inadequate for reinvigorating a stalemated state legislature? What if the situation calls for big ideas, radical proposals? The New America Foundation has one: Personalized Full Representation for the 21st Century (PFR21), “a system of representation by means of regionally based legislative elections that will allow the state’s citizens to set the agenda for their regions and for the state as a whole.”
Another new Field Poll shows attitudes of registered voters about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continuing to show a decline trend, with the governor now at 46% disapproval and 40% approval, the lowest rating that he has had since April 2006. The governor’s only consolation may be that voter attitudes about the Legislature are even worse, with 57% disapproval and 27% approval (the worst rating since October 2005). 68% of registered voters now say that they consider the state’s budget situation to be “very serious,” but 41% and 52% of registered voters also express “not much” optimism about the ability of the governor and the Legislature respectively to resolve the situation (up from 29% and 40% in December 2007).
The California Commission of the Fair Administration of Justice (CCFAJ), chaired by former State Attorney General John Van De Kamp, released its final report today. The CCFAJ was instituted by the State Senate in August 2004 “to study and review the administration of criminal justice in California to determine the extent to which that process has failed in the past, resulting in wrongful executions or the wrongful conviction of innocent persons.”
The commission’s final report states that the state’s system of administering death penalty cases is “dysfunctional” and “close to collapse” and estimates that well over $100 million is spent each year moving death penalty cases and appeals through the judicial system. The length of time between sentence and execution of the death penalty “averages over two decades.” (The national average is 12 years.)
The PPIC survey mentioned in the last post also asked Californians to assess the performance of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and of the state legislature. Californians are increasingly unhappy with the governor’s performance — 48% disapproving and 41% approving (a decline in 16 points in approval from December 2007). The legislature’s approval rating is much lower, at 26%.
In a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, Governor Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings have slipped to 44%, which is down 6 points since January and 13 points since December. The governor’s lowest approval rating was 33%, which was in October 2005.
Approval of the legislature among Californians is down to 30%.
The state’s budget woes, which have been heavily featured in the news lately, are a source of particular concern among Californians, according to the PPIC poll. 68% say that the budget situation is a “big problem.” 56% say that they are “very concerned” about the effects of spending reductions in the governor’s latest budget proposal. 42% prefer a mix of budget cuts and tax increases to deal with the budget crisis. In general, Californians are extremely pessimistic about the way things are going nationally — 73% say that things are going in the wrong direction, the highest point in the 10-year history of the PPIC poll in which this question has been asked.
The poll also asks about Proposition 98, the eminent domain initiative on the June ballot that would restrict or eliminate rent control in jurisdictions in which it is now in effect. 41% of likely voters say that they would vote against Proposition 98. 37% say that they would vote for it. Proposition 99, a competing initiative that would supersede Proposition 98 if it got more votes on the June ballot, garners 53-27% support.