California Watch: Brown targets 4,000-plus state employee cars

When Gov. Jerry Brown announced last month that he would eliminate half of the state’s official car fleet, he wasn’t just referring to the autos used by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Data from a June 2010 Department of General Services survey indicates that more than 60 state agencies have a total of 4,500 permits to store taxpayer-funded cars at the residence of an employee. This number does not include vehicles that are stored somewhere other than a residence, or vehicles that have an exemption because they are necessary for health and safety operations . . . (more)

California Watch: Flood of financial services employees register as lobbyists

A flood of financial services firms have registered lobbyists to comply with a new law enacted in the wake of public pension “pay-to-play” scandals in New York and California – even as state officials said they’re already working on changes to the law seen as confusing and too broad.

A list compiled by the Capitol Morning Report from just two days of activity – Jan. 21 and Jan. 24 – includes 48 financial services lobbyists out of the 55 registrations with the California Secretary of State. The complete list is expected to be made public in a month . . . (more)

California Watch: Eminent Domain Battles

Courtesy California Watch

It’s been more than two years since California voters passed Proposition 99 in an attempt to prevent local governments from abusing their eminent domain powers, but some municipalities are still wielding the law in controversial ways, as evidenced by a recent superior court judgment.

The Southern California city of Laguna Woods has been embroiled in eminent domain proceedings for the past five years. The controversy began when the city offered Raintree Realty $3.65 million in exchange for a parking lot and a city hall building that the company had leased to the city for several years . . . (more)

California Watch: Fund to protect farmland, open space facing end

Courtesy Joost J. Bakker/Flickr

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to end state funding for a program designed to protect farmland and open spaces has reignited a decades-old controversy over the law’s effectiveness.

The recommendation to cut $10 million from the program has led to an outcry from the state’s agricultural and environmentalist communities. Jenesse Miller, communications director for the California League of Conservation Voters called the Williamson Act an “exceptional program” and said removing state funding for it would be a “major and painful loss” . . . (more)

California Watch: Brown’s ‘Problematic’ Court Security Proposal

Courtesy California Watch

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for funding court security could make it difficult to ensure that courts are sufficiently protected, according to the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

In the realignment proposal outlined in Brown’s budget, counties would no longer provide security for trial courts through the sheriff’s office and at a cost to the state. Instead, the county would provide the entire budget for court security at a guaranteed level of funding.

The proposal is part of Brown’s plan to create $200 million in court savings and help close California’s $25 billion budget gap. But in its generally optimistic overview of the governor’s budget, the analyst’s office described this structure as “problematic” . . . (more)

California Watch: Allstate’s ‘deceptive’ product

Courtesy TheTruthAbout/Flickr

Allstate has stopped selling California drivers its “Your Choice Auto” policies after a consumer group claimed the product was deceptive.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the Northbrook, Ill.-based insurance giant pulled the program early this week and will phase out coverage by November. Allstate will continue selling the policies in other states . . . (more)


California Watch: No Known Migrant Drownings Since Buoys Installed

Courtesy USGS

The U.S. Border Patrol is waiting before lifesaving buoys installed in the All-American Canal are declared a success – but in the months since the devices were put in place, nobody has died in the fast-moving waters separating Mexico and California.

In September, the Imperial Irrigation District began placing 105 lines of buoys in the All-American Canal, an 82-mile waterway that frequently claims the lives of migrants attempting to cross into the United States . . . (more)

ProPublica: Gas Execs, Lobbyists in Gov. Agency

Courtesy ProPublica

Joseph Pettey is the owner of Pettey Oilfield Services Inc., and the 2003 Virginia Oil and Gas Festival Man of the Year. Thomas E. Stewart is a third-generation driller who lobbies the government on behalf of energy companies. Both sit on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which is increasingly positioning itself as an authority on drilling-related issues like hydraulic fracturing.

The 38-state commission was created in 1935 to promote the efficient harvesting of oil and gas. Its mission was later expanded to acknowledge the need to protect health, safety and the environment while accomplishing that goal. It is funded by government grants and fees from the states. The commission members are appointed by the member governors. Most are state regulators who oversee gas and oil drilling, but at least seven states have representatives who are either lobbyists or energy executives . . . (more)

ProPublica: Beyond Fracking

For more than two years, the natural gas drilling debate has focused primarily on the use of hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells. But expert testimony submitted for a government hearing next month challenges long-held assumptions about the safety of deep vertical drilling and exploratory wells, which operate in many states with limited regulatory oversight.

The administrative hearing will be held by the Delaware River Basin Commission, a federal agency that regulates a variety of water and land activities in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. At issue is the commission’s June 2010 determination that companies that drill exploratory wells—wells that are drilled to test theories about where gas might be found—must obtain the agency’s approval before drilling within its jurisdiction, and whether or not 11 exploratory wells in Pennsylvania that have already been approved should be exempt from the regulation . . . (more)

ProPublica: NY Assembly Bans Hydrofracking

The New York state legislature refused to consider most major agenda items in Monday’s session, but they still gave their final approval to a bill that places a six-month ban on hydraulic fracturing while state and federal agencies review the practice.

The measure, which was approved by the state senate in August, was adopted by the assembly in a 93-43 vote. To become law, it must be signed by Gov. David Patterson before the end of the year . . . (more)