Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reasons to Leave California

Nunez sees racial bias in attacks on his spending
By Jim Sanders -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 22, 2008
Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, saying he now can speak more openly, is blasting accusations that he spent lavishly on overseas trips and retail purchases as racially motivated.
Núñez, who is termed out of the Assembly in December, lashed out Saturday during an interview on Spanish-language television.
The Los Angeles Democrat said he has no regrets over his spending of campaign funds, despite controversy over tens of thousands of dollars spent on high-priced hotels, wine, gifts and other purchases.
"Everyone's done it like this," Núñez said of previous legislative leaders. "The difference is there are some in politics who want to judge me in a certain manner.
"Because of the fact I am Mexican, they think I have to sleep under a cactus and eat from taco stands."
Núñez's spending included more than $47,000 in plane fare, more than $5,000 at a wine cellar in France, and more than $2,500 for "office expenses" at Vuitton, the Los Angeles Times reported last October.
In the interview on Univision's Voz y Voto program, Núñez defended in Spanish his accommodations in fine hotels overseas.
"What's a luxury hotel? A stay at a Sheraton? … I am, you could say, like a head of state. I'm the leader of the Assembly of the state of California. Where am I supposed to sleep?"
Núñez's spending became a target last year in the campaign against Proposition 93, which would have altered term limits and allowed him to serve as Assembly leader an extra six years.
"The only thing that really results out of this is that groups that don't like Latinos use this as a weapon to inflame anti-Mexican, anti-Latino politics," he said.
Hector Barajas, communications director of the California Republican Party, called Núñez's racial comments disgraceful and disheartening.
"Questioning someone's expenses, especially when they're in public office, is something the public should do," he said.
Kevin Spillane, a GOP strategist who ran the campaign against Proposition 93, noted that the campaign also accused President Pro Tem Don Perata, who is white, of political corruption.
"Political corruption is colorblind," Spillane said.
Steve Maviglio, who served as Núñez's spokesman, said the speaker was justified in feeling that some people exploited controversy over his spending for racial purposes.
"You cannot deny there's some overtly racial overtones to this," Maviglio said.



Bid to curb legislative raises diesMeasure would have banned pay hikes in tight budget times.
By Kevin Yamamura -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 22, 2008
State legislators killed a plan Wednesday to ban legislative pay raises in lean fiscal years.
The Senate Rules Committee decision came hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the proposal a "good idea."
The proposed ballot measure by Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, would have prohibited raises for legislators and constitutional officers when the state faces an operating deficit. Maldonado portrayed Senate Constitutional Amendment 23 as a symbolic move as lawmakers consider cuts to social services and other state programs.
Some senators saw the plan as unnecessary because the independent California Citizens Compensation Commission already can freeze salaries each year. They said the proposal may deter qualified legislative candidates from seeking office because the $116,208 salary could be seen as uncompetitive with private-sector pay.
Sen. Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert, said using the deficit to guide raises could lead to poor public policy. He said lawmakers would be tempted to pass a tax increase to stave off a deficit and receive a pay raise.
Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, said lawmakers do not receive a pension, and another pay restriction would be further disincentive to serve.
Battin, Cedillo and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, also said legislators have diverse financial backgrounds and the existing salary level is particularly important to some members.
Committee debate grew tense when Battin implied that fellow Republican Maldonado was grandstanding.
"Every time I've seen somebody do it, it's because they're looking for a headline," Battin said.
"Well, first of all, Senator Battin, I'm not looking for a headline," Maldonado said. "I've been working on this for quite some time."
By killing the plan, legislators ignored advice from Schwarzenegger, who said earlier Wednesday that "no one should increase their salaries" in deficit years. The governor refuses his $212,179 annual salary.
Legislators who aren't house leaders earn $116,208 annually, in addition to about $30,000 in tax-free per diem payments.
Cedillo, Battin and Padilla voted against SCA 23. A fourth senator, Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, did not vote. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, voted in favor.
"We stand for fiscal responsibility as a party and this is a fiscal conservative bill," Maldonado said. "I couldn't believe I couldn't get a vote out of my party."


Boxer gets symbolic victory on California smog waiver
By David Whitney -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 22, 2008
WASHINGTON – In a purely symbolic move, the Senate committee headed by Sen. Barbara Boxer approved her bill Thursday that would grant the Clean Air Act waiver California needs to enact tough car and truck emission standards.
But the 10-9 vote by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is as far as the legislation is likely to get. The vote was largely along party lines, an indication it might not be able to overcome a filibuster blocking it from coming to a vote.
Even if the measure did make it out of Congress, President Bush is all but certain to veto it.
A House committee released documents this week showing that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's waiver request in December after being told by the White House that it opposed giving the state an exception to the act.
The California Democrat's bill would simply deem the state's waiver application approved.
While the committee vote was mostly along party lines with Democrats backing the measure, one Democrat voted against it and one Republican voted for it, giving Boxer the opportunity to tout bipartisan suppor

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