Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA unions launch 'Riordan Signature Busters' to stop pension proposal

Shopper signs petition at farmer's market

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Workers canvassing at farmers markets are usually paid per signature to ensure a measure gets on the ballot. City of LA union workers claim ex-Mayor Richard Riordan will use a similar tactic to get a pension reform measure on the May ballot.

It’s a strategy rarely employed, but labor unions representing Los Angeles city workers are trying to stop people from gathering signatures for former Mayor Richard Riordan, who is seeking to place a pension reform proposal on the May ballot.

“The one-percent are at it again,” says a notice from the Service Employees International Union, Local 721, calling to its members for volunteers.  “Multi-millionaire Richard Riordan and his billionaire friends are leading the attack against city workers. They are spending millions to place an initiative on the May 2013 ballot that would slash our retirement benefits.”

A union spokesman said Riordan has hired “mercenaries” to collect signatures, and that city workers would stand next to them outside grocery stores and other venues offering counter arguments and handing out literature. He said the strategy has been effective. 


Elections watchdog launches investigation into $11 million campaign donation

California’s elections watchdog announced Thursday that it’s launched a formal investigation into an $11 million donation that became the focus of an intense legal battle just days before the election.

Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership donated the money to a campaign to defeat the Prop 30 tax initiative and to pass Prop 32, the ban on payroll deductions for political contributions. The California Supreme Court ordered the group to comply with an audit a couple of days before the election. 

The Fair Political Practices Commission’s Ann Ravel says that’s when Americans for Responsible Leadership's strategy became clear: "What they admitted to was that they were not the real donors, that they were just using their names so that the real donors' identities would be hidden. And that’s money laundering."


Doctor ousts Republican Rep. Dan Lungren in close congressional race

Mercer 13708

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Congressman Dan Lungren.

Republican Rep. Dan Lungren has lost his re-election bid to Democratic challenger Ami Bera in one of California's most hotly contested congressional contests.

Voters from the Sacramento suburbs ousted the veteran lawmaker in the race for the state's newly redrawn 7th Congressional District. This was the second attempt for Bera, a 45-year-old physician who failed to unseat Lungren two years ago.

The Associated Press called the race for Bera on Thursday. He defeated Lungren 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Bera's win adds to Democratic gains in California's congressional races. The state's majority party benefited from an independent redistricting process that was in full effect for the first time this year.

Before the Nov. 6 election, California's congressional delegation had 33 Democrats, 19 Republicans and one vacancy in a Democratic district.


As San Fernando turns: ousted council members end tenure on Monday

Mario Hernandez

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Former San Fernando City Councilman Mario Hernandez was officially recalled on Nov. 6, along with two other council colleagues.

Lost in the drama of the presidential contest and the fate of Prop 30 was the effort to recall three City Council members in the soap opera-tinged town of San Fernando.

Voters there responded to confessions of sexual affairs and political intrigue by ousting council members Brenda Esqueda, Mario F. Hernández, and Maribel De La Torre. Their last council meeting is Monday. (Hernandez stepped down in July, but his name remained on the recall ballot.)

Robert C. Gonzales was elected to replace Hernández and Joel Fajardor to take De La Torre's seat. The two newcomers inherit terms that end next year and they've already pulled papers to run for full terms in next March's election.

Hernandez late last year announced at a City Council meeting attended by his wife that he was involved in an affair with fellow council member De La Torre. 


Assembly Speaker John Perez says Democrats won't exploit 'supermajority'

Jerry Brown Delivers California State Of The State Address

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Assembly Speaker John Perez (left) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (right) now have the power to override vetoes Governor Jerry Brown.

Now that Democrats officially control two-thirds of the California Legislature, Assembly Speaker John Perez is downplaying his party's power to raise taxes without Republican votes. 

“I’ve talked to a lot of the incoming members of the Assembly and I don’t see any of them moving forward on major tax proposals,” Perez said Thursday.

The Democrats' supermajority became official Wednesday when incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby conceded to Democratic challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva in a newly-drawn district in Orange County.

Democrats now officially wield a supermajority in both state legislative houses for the first time in 70 years. Aside from being able to unilaterally raise taxes, Democratic lawmakers also will be able to expedite bills and change legislative rules.

But the Assembly Speaker downplayed that new power Thursday: