A variety of stories lurching forward this morning…
It looks like the most special of all special elections is finally over, and Janet Nguyen is the new First District Supervisor, winning by a total of 3 votes. Superior Court Judge Michael Brenner rejected Trung Nguyen's claim that the election's recount was performed in an illegal manner. The winning Nguyen is scheduled to be sworn in tomorrow at the Board of Supes weekly meeting. There are dark rumblings that the losing Nguyen might appeal Judge Brenner's ruling, making the most special of all special election even more special.
Reversing polarity and following the flow of power from a legislative chamber to the courtroom, the Assembly has approved a bill revising the state's sentencing guidelines. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down California's Determinate Law back in January, declaring, as Justice Ginsberg wrote, "any fact that exposes a defendant to a greater potential sentence must be found by the jury, not a judge, and established beyond a reasonable doubt, not merely by a preponderance of the evidence". The Associated Press reports, is that,
Law enforcement officials estimate the Supreme Court's ruling could allow 10,000 California convicts to seek new sentences.
So even without further business from Trung Nguyen, the courts are likely to be busy for quite some time.
Unlike those convicts, the state's prisons secretary is unlikely to be complaining about his situation anytime soon. Thanks to the governor's intervention, Secretary James Tilton is now one of the highest paid state officials. Yesterday, we noted that the governor was looking to boost spending for his personal office. Today, the Times reports on another increase at the upper end of government.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has quietly given substantial raises — some exceeding 23% — to top state administrators, claiming they deserve increased compensation to keep pace with the private sector and local government agencies.
Last year, the governor used a new state law to raise the salary of his prisons secretary to $225,000, a 71% increase that made James Tilton among the highest paid officials in California state government. Now Schwarzenegger is approving hefty pay hikes for 49 other officials.
Cabinet secretaries, for example, will receive up to 22.7% more, and department directors up to 12.2%.
Rather entertainingly, the pay raises are scheduled to take effect April Fool's Day.
Of course, there are always pessimists when it comes to such pay raises.
The governor is raising salaries of some of his top political appointees at a time when the state's budget picture is grim and may get worse. Elizabeth G. Hill, the state's nonpartisan legislative analyst, said California could face a shortfall of billions of dollars under Schwarzenegger's budget if the Legislature balks at proposed spending cuts.
And some lawmakers are not enthusiastic about cuts championed by the governor, including proposals to reduce welfare programs by hundreds of millions of dollars and slash public transportation aid by more than $1.1 billion.
But local boy Dick Ackerman isn't among the doubters.
"If you want to get good people in there, you need to pay them commensurately with what they can get on the outside," said Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine).
Fittingly enough for the Enron era, that logic is confined to the executive levels.
At state government's lower levels, salaries are not rising as fast, union leaders said Monday. Earlier this year, a group of about 25,000 managers and supervisors received a 3.5% pay hike, their first increase in six years, said Tim Behrens, president of the Assn. of California State Supervisors.
Perhaps those less exalted employees should follow the example of local Congressman Gary Miller (R-Most Corrupt), and realize they shouldn't rely on the government for their income. That is, they shouldn't rely on their government salaries-- since, as Miller's career shows, there are other, much more lucrative, ways of getting government money.
Back in December, and then again in January, we noted Miller imaginative approach to combining his private real estate dealing with public sector dollars and tax breaks. Some, like the FBI, find Miller's deals suspicious. Especially a deal in which Miller claimed that the city Monrovia forced him to sell the city a piece of land he owned. Others claimed that Miller pressured the city into buying it. Now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has gotten a hold of the video tape of the city council meeting in which Miller's sale is discussed.
Greg Sargent has the video and some more background material posted at TPM's Election Central. If Miller ever tries to claim in court that this evidence of him being "forced" to sell his land, he'll probably fare about as well as Trung Nguyen did.