Duplicity as usual on Jerry Brown tax bill 

Even the presiding officer of the Senate knew that Assembly Bill 1499 was despicable. Before beginning to vote on the proposal, he reminded our right honorable California senators that chamber rules prohibit members from “impugning motives of members,” “engaging in personalities” (which explains so much), and “personal attacks” or “indecent or profane language.”

I can tell you that no profanity was used in the passage of the bill, which now awaits the governor’s signature. But it should have been.

By way of background: Last year, when it became clear that Gov. Jerry Brown could not get the two-thirds majority vote needed in the Legislature to put a tax proposal on the ballot, he turned to the initiative process and gathered signatures instead. In an open letter to Californians on Dec. 5, 2011, Brown called it the “stark truth” that taxes are needed, and said his proposal was “straightforward and fair.” But his methods have been distinctly crooked.

First, he cynically built in billions in education cuts if his tax loses — cuts that have no relation to the amount of the tax and serve only to extort voters. And now he is changing the ballot itself.

Current law requires that constitutional amendments put on the ballot by the Legislature be listed right after bond measures. Initiatives that qualify by signatures are listed according to the date upon which they qualify for the ballot. In this case, Brown’s tax proposal happened to qualify right along with Molly Munger’s tax proposal and a corporate tax proposal. Under the current tradition, all three would be on the ballot in a row.

But fearful that Brown’s proposal would look just like one noggin on a three-headed money-eating monster, Brown’s gubernatorial nerds got to work. Since their tax proposal is a constitutional amendment and the other ones aren’t, Senate Democrats inserted language into AB 1499 that would allow constitutional amendments to appear first on the ballot.

And in what one Republican senator called a “CYA move to make it look fiscal,” AB 1499 also appropriated a gratuitous $1,000 to the secretary of state so it could zoom though the friendly budget committee and go into effect immediately, instead of going through the elections committee, which would delay its implementation until 2013.

Any minute now, AB 1499 will be signed by the governor and we’ll have to live with the consequences of this shortsighted baloney. And from now on, future ballot measures will attempt to attach themselves to our absurdly long California Constitution so they can get pole position on the ballot.

When you look at state politics and wonder how it got to be so bad, remember this dishonorable move by Brown. The state’s dysfunction is made of tiny sellouts like this.

To-do list lacks just kitchen sink

State Senate President Darrell Steinberg sounded like a beauty pageant contestant Thursday when he claimed that this week the Senate plans to “tackle pension reform, high-speed rail, foreclosure relief, the water bond and the governor’s reorganization plan.” He just made me wonder what they were doing the other 360 days of the year. And why he didn’t include “world peace?”

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Melissa Griffin

Melissa Griffin

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