A quick note to say you won't see many postings this week, as I take a few days off from the Capitol beat for chores and a small amount of R&R. See you back here a week from today.
Judge Gail Ohanesian had heard almost three hours of arguments over the redistricting initiative Proposition 77, but took only about 25 minutes to retreat to her chambers and return with a ruling.
And even Republicans in the courtroom seemed to know... it was not going to go the way of Prop 77 proponent Ted Costa, nor the way of the measure's biggest cheerleader, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Much more on the ruling can be heard on Friday morning's edition of The California Report, which leaves this posting to offer a few sidenotes and looks ahead:
* The language snafus were discovered sometime between May 5 (when Costa started submitting signatures) and June 10 (when the attorney who helped draft Prop 77, Dan Kolkey, wrote a memo outlining the problems). Attorney Deborah Caplan, representing the No On 77 campaign, alleged that "proponents deliberately ran out the clock" by waiting to tell McPherson's staffers about the problems only after Prop 77 had been certified.
* Kolkey seemed to imply that while voters signed a version different than the one submitted to Lockyer, at least they all signed the same one. But that idea was called into question by the written statements from two local elections officials. Why? Because both versions of Prop 77 had the same title and summary... and elections officials were only checking to make sure the correct summary was on every page, not checking the language of the initiative. In other words, argued Prop 77 opponents, some of the signatures counted towards qualifying the measure may have been on one version... and some may have been on the other version.
* A particularly interesting exchange featured Judge Ohanesian asking Prop 77 attorney Dan Kolkey whether redistricting was even feasible in time for the June 2006 primary. Kolkey admitted that the first candidate filing deadline for legislative seats is on December 5, less than one month after the November 8 election. Brand new districts could be drawn for the Legislature and Congress by then? "We think, while tight, it could be done," said Kolkey. The judge smiled, and said she thought it sounded "unrealistic."
* And an odd twist: Prop 77 proponents would likely appeal the case to the Third District Court of Appeals. Interestingly, that's the same appellate court which used to have an associate justice by the name of Dan Kolkey. Kolkey told reporters he doesn't think his current role as an attorney representing Prop 77... and his former place of employment... is any conflict.
It's pretty common that a governor holds an event on one subject, and gets peppered with questions from reporters about something else.
Like his predecessors, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried this morning to hold the questions to transportation issues while visiting the California Fuel Cell Partnership in West Sacramento.
And just like his predecessors, it didn't work.
The governor hasn't taken many questions from reporters since the spotlight was shined last week on his lucrative consulting contract, which he has now canceled.
Today, a new poll puts his job approval ratings at just 34% of the adults surveyed (click here for more). And later today, his proposal for political redistricting will be challenged in court.
Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger stayed positive when asked about all of this.
"We are right on track with our agenda," he said.
In other remarks, the governor admitted that time is running out for any sort of compromise with Democrats on the items appearing on the November special election ballot. However, he said he has not yet abandoned negotiations.
"I don't take no for an answer," he said.
And on another subject, I asked the governor what he thought of Democratic legislators who say they will hold hearings about how the discrepancies in Proposition 77 were handled. Court documents allege that Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, and an attorney working on the redistricting measure, knew about Prop 77's language problems for several days before notifying the Secretary of State.
The governor sidestepped any direct comment, instead implying that the criticism was simply a diversion.
"Ever since we have announced our reforms, there have been a lot of forces, that believe in the status quo, and they want to hold on the way things are, and have tried to derail us," he said.
Schwarzenegger went on to say that "it's like running through a minefield. But we're going to get there."
A second lawsuit has been filed in an effort to get Proposition 77 off the November 8 special election ballot, and this lawsuit includes the charge that the initiative could disenfranchise minority voters.
The initiative would transfer the power of drawing political districts from the Legislature to a panel of retired judges, and has been mired in controversy after revelations that in some cases the initiative that was circulated had different language than the one filed with state officials.
Part of the lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court by the William C. Velasquez Institute and the Congress on Racial Equality of California, dovetails in some respects with the separate lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Lockyer's suit argues the changes in the ballot measure okayed by Lockyer and the only actually circulated were substantive, and grounds to remove Prop 77 from the ballot.
But the new lawsuit from the civil rights organizations goes one step further, alleging that Prop 77 violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The argument is that Prop 77 allows new political districts to be drawn as early as 2006, using census data from 2000. The civil rights groups allege that census data is now outdated, and would result in an underrepresentation of minorities.
No timetable yet for this lawsuit, while Lockyer's challenge is scheduled to be heard in court tomorrow afternoon.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be willing to judge the overall efforts of the volunteer border patrol group known as the Minutemen, but he apparently does have at least one firm opinion: they shouldn't be carrying guns.
At the weekly briefing from the governor's press office, gubernatorial press secretary Margita Thompson told reporters that Schwarzenegger does not believe members of the group should be armed as they begin their new efforts on the California-Mexico border.
But beyond that, it's hard to define the governor's opinions on the subject, opinions left vague by Thompson.
She says Schwarzenegger "understands" why a volunteer group would get involved, comparing it to a neighborhood watch program, but would not say whether the governor actually endorses the Minutemen's efforts.
In April, Schwarzenegger waded into the thorny issue on a talk radio program in Los Angeles, telling the hosts that the Minutemen have "done a terrific job" patrolling the Mexico-U.S. border, even though the group had previously been characterized by President Bush as "vigilantes."
Volunteers from the group began their patrols in southern California this weekend, some reportedly with weapons. Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman says the governor will not formally ask the Minutemen patrols to disarm, and disputed the notion that the volunteer group came to the Golden State because of Schwarzenegger's tacit endorsement.
Some interesting tidbits of information are found in court documents filed today by members of Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's staff, part of the pending lawsuit that could force the redistricting initiative off the November 8th ballot.
The documents seem to confirm news reports about how discrepancies were discovered between the initiative submitted to the Attorney General, and the one circulated for signatures. They also shed a little new light on the role played by those close to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In particular is the declaration of Undersecretary of State William Wood, who reiterates that no one in McPherson's office knew of any problems with the initiative when it was certified as Proposition 77.
Three days after the certification, Wood said he attended a meeting called by Peter Siggins and Dan Kolkey. Siggins is Schwarzenegger's official attorney, and Kolkey is the attorney hired to draft the language of Prop 77 (he also happens to be the governor's lead tribal gaming negotiator).
Wood says the two attorneys handed him a list of reasons as to why Prop 77 should move forward. The list actually sounds more like talking points, including the argument that the discrepancies were "technical, not substantive". Many of the same arguments have been made numerous times since then by other Prop 77 supporters.
And in what seems like a sign that the administration was clearly concerned about what McPherson would decide to do, Undersecretary Wood says that over the next few days Kolkey and Siggins "called several times to repeat the arguments."
The case is now scheduled to be heard this Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court. The new documents also point to the urgency of clearing up the issue-- one elections official's statement says that state printers must have the final version of a ballot guide no later than August 15.
After two days of nonstop criticism, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said late this afternoon that he has canceled his contract as a consultant to two bodybuilding and fitness magazines.
The contract, first made public on Wednesday, was estimated to be worth between $5 million and $8 million, and critics said it amounted to a conflict of interest... especially in his veto last year of legislation dealing with nutritional supplements.
A spokesman for Schwarzenegger says the governor will continue to write columns for both Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, but as a volunteer. However, the governor will keep the money already paid to him over the last year-and-a-half.
In the wake of news stories about the multi-million dollar consulting contract of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Speaker of the Assembly has sought to clarify that he no longer accepts outside income.
This past spring, Speaker Fabian Nunez came under fire for previous work with the Voter Improvement Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout, and a group which has often been linked with labor unions. Nunez was reportedly being paid some $35,000 a year.
Today, Nunez's advisers said that the Speaker has severed his ties to the organization, and does not plan to do any more work for them in upcoming elections. "He's done," according to Nunez deputy chief of staff Steve Maviglio.
When Nunez was questioned about the outside income a few months ago, he told reporters he was willing to consider an effort to ban lawmakers from having side jobs.
Meantime, there's plenty of talk among Capitol insiders about two days of news reports on the governor's $5,000.000-$8,000,000 consulting job with two muscle magazines. And while one campaign watchdog group has suggested formal hearings to get to the bottom of the issue, for now the issue is mainly one of public perception.
The halls of government are familiar territory for Billy Tauzin... but not the halls of state government in Sacramento.
Tauzin, a longtime and well-known GOP congressman from Louisiana, is now president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA). And on Wednesday, Tauzin made his way to the state Capitol for a private meeting with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
The meeting, called by Nunez, raises questions about whether there's a possible compromise to be had on the issue of lowering the cost of prescription drugs. If not, Tauzin's organization is ready for war, having amassed a campaign war chest of $53.7 million dollars from the world's largest drug manufacturers.
PhRMA representatives say the reason they've raised so much is because they have two campaigns to wage this fall-- a yes on Proposition 78 (their version of prescription drug reform) and a no on Proposition 79 (the union/Democratic version of prescription drug reform).
Reports are that the meeting lasted about four hours and ended with little agreement on the issue.
Also attending were Assemblymember Dario Frommer (D-LA) and Senator Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento). The two lawmakers symbolize much of the debate over lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
Frommer introduced legislation which would require drug companies to offer discounts, or be cut out of doing business with the state's lucrative Medi-Cal program. Ortiz's legislation, endorsed by Governor Schwarzenegger, would encourage and ask for discounts, but with no penalties for refusal.
Neither bill has gone anywhere in the Legislature. For the most part, Ortiz's plan turned into Prop 78, Frommer's into Prop 79. And it looks like that's where we still are... even after Tauzin's quiet trip to Sacramento.
Governor Schwarzenegger has appointed a consultant to conservative activist Grover Norquist to the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
This afternoon, Schwarzenegger's office announced the selection of Ron Nehring of El Cajon for the board that is responsible for developing the state's general forest policy.
While Nehring is the vice-chairman of the California Republican Party, he is also listed as a "senior consultant" on the website of the Americans For Tax Reform, the national lobbying organization headed by Norquist.
Norquist is the anti-tax crusader who was once widely quoted as having said: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
Norquist has also talked about shrinking government as an effort to "starve the beast"-- comments echoed by Schwarzenegger earlier this year, and comments that legislative Democrats quickly criticized.
A spokesperson for Schwarzenegger says Nehring was tapped for the job because of his personal experience as a victim in the San Diego-area fires last year. Of course, Nehring doesn't get the job without confirmation from the Democratically-controlled state Senate.