Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Maven's Morning Coffee: financial abuse in Assessor's Office, a rundown on race for controller, Villaraigosa spends weekend partying in Cabo

jann_on/Flickr Creative Commons

Former county appraiser Scott Schenter is expected to be the prosecution's star witness in the case against Assessor John Noguez, who is accused of bribery and conspiracy.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Monday, Dec. 31, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

The Los Angeles Times looks at property appraiser Scott Schenter's role in financial abuses within the Assessor's Office. "Schenter, who has pleaded not guilty to 60 felony counts including fraud, has spent hours with The Times and investigators from the L.A. County district attorney's office this year discussing details of the alleged conspiracy and is expected to be the prosecution's star witness," according to The Times.

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Dianne Feinstein takes assault weapons ban to the people with petition

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) takes to Senate floor

Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) says her proposed assault weapons ban isn't about taking away anyone's constitutional right to bear arms.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has promised to re-introduce an assault weapons ban when the new Congress is sworn in. But she's not waiting until January to push for public support.

Senator Feinstein has sent out an e-mail blast, asking supporters to sign a petition to back her ban on assault weapons. Feinstein says she wants to show "how much public support is behind" such a ban.

Feinstein says it isn't about taking away anyone's constitutional right to bear arms: "This is about removing weapons of war from our businesses, movie theaters and schools."

Feinstein was the author of a previous assault weapons ban passed by Congress in 1993. It expired in 2004. She says the new bill will be a stronger version of the earlier law, proposing to ban the sale, importation, transfer or possession of new assault weapons. It will also ban high-capacity clips, magazines, and strips that hold more than 10 bullets. 

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Attention federal workers: fiscal cliff or not, come to work Jan. 2

Mercer 10356

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) says she's optimistic that a deal can be reached to avert the fiscal cliff.

If Congress can’t come up with an agreement by Monday night, we go over the fiscal cliff. That means not only higher taxes, but also automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs.

What could that mean for federal employees? There are about 150,000 of them in California — about a third of them in the defense industry.

If we go over the fiscal cliff, federal employees do have to report for work Jan. 2 and beyond. Budget cuts could mean furloughs, but federal workers will get at least 30 days notice.

The Office of Personnel Management — essentially the human resources department for the federal government — has posted fiscal cliff guidelines on its website, including answers to the most frequently asked questions.

But here are a couple of notes: If you’re furloughed, you can’t swap it out for sick leave or vacation days. And even if you love your job so much you want to “volunteer” and work for free, you can’t.

As for the chances of avoiding a fall off the cliff, Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of Lakewood says she’s optimistic. She's getting on a plane to join her colleagues in Washington for a rare Sunday session.

"We don’t know if there will be a deal," said Sanchez, "but we’re being called back, my sense is, in the event that there is a deal that gets put together. We’re hopeful that can happen and I’m optimistic that a deal can get done because it’s not that tough! It just requires a little bit of give and take."

Happy New Year? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Maven's Morning Coffee: fraud in the Assessor's Office, Rep. Jerry Lewis leaves Congress, crime down in LA

Photo by John Noguez via Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles Times looks at how massive fraud could have allegedly taken place in the county Assessor's Office.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Friday, Dec. 28, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

The Los Angeles Times looks at how such massive fraud could allegedly be carried out in the Assessor's Office. "At least part of the answer lies in the obscurity the assessor's office, the lack of outside scrutiny and the sheer size of the property tax rolls, which make it difficult to detect reductions, even when they amount to hundreds of millions of dollars," according to The Times.

Rep. Jerry Lewis is leaving Congress after three decades of service. The congressman tells KPCC that after his first two years in Washington, D.C., "I came within an inch of going back to California and running for Lieutenant Governor because it was so inane."

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Redlands Congressman Jerry Lewis bids farewell to 3 decades on Capitol Hill

Jerry Lewis

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Retiring Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) reflected on his long political career, which ends with him as Chairman Emeritus of the House Appropriations Committee.

He shares a name with a famous comedian but, on Capitol Hill, California Congressman Jerry Lewis is the big celebrity.

The longtime Republican lawmaker from Redlands is stepping down after more than three decades in Congress. Lewis looked back on his political career from his favorite spot in the Capitol: the elegant office of the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Lewis chaired the influential committee for two years. When he remodeled the chairman’s office, he replaced the carpet with blue and gold tiles. Lewis is a die-hard UCLA fan. His beloved dog is named Bruin. But Lewis said it was geography, not the design, that made this office special. It's right off the House floor.

"To the say the least,"  said Lewis, "it’s nicely situated for the chairman."

Lewis described Appropriations as the heart of the work Congress does. It’s close to his heart as well, and the reason he decided to return to Capitol Hill after a rough freshman term.

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