Jury Convicts Developer Lee in LA City Hall Bribery Trial

Dae Yong Lee was the first defendant to go on trial in the City Hall corruption scandal surrounding former Councilman José Huizar and his associates.

A Los Angeles real estate developer was found guilty on Monday, June 27, of paying a $500,000 bribe to a city councilman to “grease the wheels” for a proposed downtown condominium project.

Dae Yong Lee, also known as David Lee, was the first defendant to go on trial in the City Hall corruption scandal surrounding former Councilman José Huizar and his associates.

Lee and his 940 Hill company — named for the address of the proposed downtown retail and residential project — were convicted of bribery, honest services fraud and obstruction. The fraud and obstruction charges carry a total penalty of up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

The verdict came just hours after the federal criminal jury began deliberating in downtown Los Angeles. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.

Evidence showed Lee used Huizar associate Justin Kim to transfer bags of cash on behalf of his company, 940 Hill LLC, to the councilman’s aide, George Esparza. Within days of payment, Huizar smoothed out a bureaucratic tangle that had halted the proposed mixed-use development from moving forward, according to testimony.

At the time, Huizar was head of a powerful city planning committee that reviewed the city’s biggest development projects.

As chairman of the panel, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cassie Palmer told the jury during her opening statement, “Huizar’s vote mattered, and the defendant knew his vote mattered. They needed José Huizar on their side.”

Defense attorney Ariel Neuman argued that his client had been conned by Kim, who told the developer the cash was needed to pay legitimate fees.

“He made the mistake of trusting the wrong person,” Neuman said of Lee. “He was taken advantage of by a liar and a thief. David Lee did not knowingly or intentionally bribe anyone. He thought he was paying a consulting fee.”

Kim admitted to facilitating the payment from Lee and pleaded guilty to a federal bribery offense. Lee and 940 Hill were also convicted of falsifying accounting and tax records to cover up the bribe — the basis for the obstruction charge.

Both Kim and Esparza took the stand at Lee’s trial for the prosecution.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

State Budget Deal: Most Californians Will Get Stimulus Payments

Most Californians would receive stimulus payments ranging from $200 to $350 per person under a budget deal that Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders announced Sunday night.

Tax refunds under the agreement’s $17 billion “inflation relief package” would provide $350 to individuals making less than $75,000 per year. Couples making less than $150,000 who file their taxes together would receive $700. If families in those categories have at least one dependent, the deal calls for them to also receive another $350. That means families could receive up to $1,050.

The agreement also would provide checks, although in smaller amounts, to many people who make more money. The smallest payments are designated for individuals making up to $250,000, who would get $200. Couples filing jointly who make less than $500,000 will receive $400, plus an additional $200 for dependents.

Under the plan, the state would send people the money through direct deposits and debit cards beginning in October. The state’s Franchise Tax Board estimates all the money would be sent out by early next year, said H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Finance.

The state budget deal must be passed by the Legislature and signed by Newsom to become law, but a statement from legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, saying they’ve signed on to the deal indicates that will happen.

In addition to the tax refunds, the budget agreement would also suspend the 23-cent state sales tax on diesel for a year starting Oct. 1, Palmer said. Under the agreement, the state would provide local governments the revenue that would have come from the diesel tax, to avoid stalling local transportation projects.

The agreement also includes money to help Californians pay their rent and utility bills, the governor and legislative leaders said. It also adds $47 billion in infrastructure spending and $200 million for reproductive health care in the wake of the Supreme Court decision this past week overturning Roe v. Wade.

“In the face of growing economic uncertainty, this budget invests in California’s values while further filling the state’s budget reserves,” Newsom, Atkins and Rendon said in a written statement.

The announcement of the deal indicates Newsom’s proposal to send $400 payments to vehicle owners is dead. Newsom had initially made the proposal to provide targeted relief from high gas prices that his administration said could be sent out to Californians more quickly than payments to tax filers. But he failed to get lawmakers to sign onto the idea.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Mysterious Bay Area Criminal Organization Had Nationwide Reach, Law Enforcement Impostor, Ties to Shootings and Notorious Murder, Feds Say

On April 13, 2020, a white Jeep Cherokee pulled up alongside a Honda containing Antioch resident Kameron Booth and one other person as it drove past the 23rd Street exit on Interstate 880, then opened fire.

Mortally wounded from gunfire, Booth pulled over, stumbled to the trunk, and in desperation offered a passing motorist $10,000 for a task: He said he had $400,000 in cash that needed to be delivered to another person. Before he could hand over the money, Booth collapsed. Paramedics rushed him to a hospital but he died from his injuries two weeks later.

Booth’s killing remains unsolved, but this month federal prosecutors in Sacramento revealed a bombshell: Just four days before the shooting, an Alameda County prosecutor received a call from a woman claiming to be a U.S. Attorney, inquiring about Booth. Days after the shooting, the same woman called a CHP officer, claiming to be with the DEA, and revealed information that had never been released to the public.

That woman, according to federal prosecutors, was the co-leader of a mysterious criminal organization that has been officially linked to identity theft, marijuana trafficking in several states, and EDD fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic. But court records reveal the investigation also involves unsolved violent crimes, guns hidden in secret compartments, and attempts to retrieve souped-up classic cars that had been seized by law enforcement.

The alleged leaders of the organization are a man named Quinten Moody, 37, of Dublin, and a woman named Myra Minks, 46. Minks, Moody’s onetime girlfriend, is accused of repeatedly impersonating law enforcement officials, including in the calls related to Booth’s homicide. The third defendant, Jessica Tang, 48, of Sacramento, is charged with EDD fraud, but she’s best known for her role in a notorious East Bay murder from 1999.

An indictment against the trio, filed June 16, includes charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana to “California, Georgia, Nevada, Texas, and elsewhere,” false impersonation of an officer, aggravated identity theft, and mail fraud. Most of the charges are aimed at Minks and Moody, while Tang is accused of committed EDD fraud by filling out false unemployment forms in other people’s names.

Moody remains in federal custody in Sacramento, while Tang has been released on a $50,000 bond, court records show. Minks was arrested June 21 in Nevada and is in custody there, pending extradition to Sacramento, where a federal magistrate will decide whether to free her or keep her in jail while the case is pending.

Minks’ past criminal history include other attempts at impersonation, including identity theft. In 2005, she was charged in an alleged identity theft scheme that involved her and another person allegedly buying jewelry with a victim’s credit card. Minks’ co-defendant later escaped from the Sonoma County jail; the complaint alleges the two “discussed arrangements” for the escape beforehand. The charges were dropped a month after they were filed, but Minks was later convicted and sentenced to federal prison for an unrelated fraud scheme, records show.

In 1999, then-Pinole residents Raymond Wong and Tang allegedly murdered and mutilated 21-year-old Alice Sin, dumping her body in a Nevada desert and staging the crime scene to appear as though it was committed by a racist hate group. Wong was dating both women; police believe the motive was related to the love triangle. In 2011, both were charged with murder. Tang pleaded guilty to accessory and received probation and community service, while Wong was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 50 years to life.

Moody, meanwhile, has twice dodged serious criminal convictions. He was accused of beating his then-wife with a blunt object in Alameda County in 2014, but the charges were dropped when the alleged victim’s attorney showed up in court and said she didn’t desire prosecution. In 2010, he beat a federal gun possession case when a judge ruled two U.S. Park officers illegally searched his car, where they found a pistol hidden in a secret compartment, court records show.

The charging documents describe Minks as a daring impostor of law enforcement officials, alleging she claimed to be a U.S. Attorney, a member of the Secret Service, an FBI agent, a DEA agent — also an airline employee — and that she and Moody drafted forged property release orders to obtain vehicles that had been seized by law enforcement. For instance, in October 2020 Minks allegedly called the Colma police department, posing as a Secret Service agent, and asked them to release a Jeep that had been seized from one of Moody’s associates, Gregory Bell, four months earlier.

Federal prosecutors are targeting Bell as well. He currently faces federal gun possession charges in San Francisco and Atlanta. Court records allege that he and Moody were arrested in Roseville in June 2021, after police there attempted to pull over a car containing both men at the direction of the FBI. Moody, the driver, allegedly sped away from police, reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour, before they both were arrested. Bell’s phone reportedly contained a video of him and another man shooting guns at a Georgia gun range.

Prosecutors also allege that in 2019 Bell possessed a pistol — later linked to nonfatal shootings in Oakland and San Francisco — that was found in the hidden compartment of a white Jeep. During a search of his home, authorities allegedly found an unregistered “assault pistol” loaded with 100 rounds, as well as 40 pounds of marijuana.

Some of Minks’ alleged impersonations appeared to be attempts to sniff out federal informants. On April 27, 2020, she allegedly called a federal prosecutor in Georgia, posing as U.S. Attorney “Cynthia Lee” in the Bay Area to inquire about a person referred to as “Associate 1” that had been cooperating with the government, naming Moody as a marijuana trafficker. The Georgia prosecutor allegedly confirmed the existence of an investigation involving Associate 1 and Moody, then discovered there were no federal prosecutors named Cynthia Lee in the Bay Area.

Three weeks earlier, when Minks allegedly called the Alameda County DA’s office, the focus of the call was Booth, according to federal authorities. A DA spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics and DA Nancy O’Malley didn’t return an email seeking comment.

When Booth was gunned down four days after the call, it wasn’t his first shootout, nor the first time he’d been caught with huge amounts of cash. In November 2018, Kameron Booth and his brother, Kyle Booth, were arrested and charged with gun and marijuana possession after they were involved in a gun battle in San Leandro. Police searched their Hayward home and found nearly $2 million in cash and 180 pounds of marijuana, as well as a pound of marijuana and about $43,000 in their car.

Kyle Booth was shot and killed four months before his brother, in Atlanta. Police say Kyle Booth and another California resident, Byron Edwards, were driving through the northeastern district of the Georgia capital when another car pulled alongside them and opened fire, killing both men. Authorities have not announced any arrests in the double homicide, nor publicly revealed a motive beyond saying the victims appear to have been targeted.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

California Tax Relief: What’s In the Deal

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have agreed to provide as much as $1,050 to millions of California families to help with rising gas prices and inflation, they confirmed Sunday night.

The three-tier program would benefit an estimated 23 million California taxpayers, including individual filers making as much as $250,000 and joint filers making as much as $500,000, with low- and middle-income households set to receive incrementally more money.

The $9.5 billion in tax refunds, which CalMatters reported Friday, is part of a $12 billion relief plan that is central to a broader $300 billion budget deal that state leaders announced Sunday night.

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs, and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries,” NewsomSenate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement.

Under the tax rebate plan, households making as much as $75,000 for individuals or $150,000 for joint filers would receive $350 per taxpayer, plus an additional $350 if they have at least one dependent. So a single parent would receive $700 and two-parent families would receive $1,050.

The amount would decrease to $250 per taxpayer for households making as much as $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for joint filers, and to $200 per taxpayer for households making as much as $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for joint filers. In both of these tiers, parents would receive an additional $250 or $200, respectively, if they have at least one dependent.

Californians with incomes above $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for joint filers would not receive a rebate. The relief package also includes $1.1 billion in aid for recipients of Supplemental Social Security or CalWORKs.

“The plan recognizes that some people are hurting more than others and gives them greater relief,” according to an email sent earlier this week to Assembly Democrats.

Differences in proposed spending for universities, housing and social safety net programs, as well as the details of a major climate package, lingered as the Legislature passed a placeholder budget earlier this month. But the biggest holdup to a bargain, which must pass before lawmakers leave for summer recess at the end of the month, had been the dispute over direct financial assistance for taxpayers.

Newsom and legislative leaders were at odds for months over whether to target the relief at drivers or the neediest Californians.

During his State of the State speech in March, the governor called for a plan to address spiraling gas prices, which have since reached an average of more than $6 per gallon. He proposed to send $400 debit cards to every registered vehicle owner in the state, up to two per person.

Legislative leaders firmly resisted that approach, which did not include an income limit. Progressive critics noted that it would benefit millionaires and billionaires while leaving out Californians too poor to own their own cars.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Does the Legislature know What It’s Doing With The Abortion Amendment?

At the urging of Governor Gavin Newsom, the California legislature is rushing a constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would create a fundamental right to choose an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Once it is on the November ballot, it needs only a simple majority to pass, and then there will be a fundamental constitutional right to choose a late-term abortion in California.

Senator Melissa Melendez sought to clarify the issue during the Senate floor debate on June 20. “Does this constitutional amendment place any restrictions on when a woman can get an abortion?” she asked Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, who along with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is the principal author of SCA 10.

“It is consistent with current California law, so what exists today is as it would be. It is between the doctor and the client, the patient,” Atkins answered.

Melendez wondered “where in the bill it would be very clear, should this go to a court, that it is to coincide with current state law.”

Atkins responded, “It’s as simple, it’s simply stated: abortion, right to contraception, it doesn’t change practice in California. That is between a doctor, and the patient.”

But Atkins is contradicted by the bill analysis prepared for the Senate, which states that current law in California “provides that the state may not deny or interfere with a person’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the person.”

Here is the exact language of current law, in Health and Safety Code Section 123462(c): “The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman’s fundamental right to choose to bear a child or to choose to obtain an abortion, except as specifically permitted by this article.”

And here’s the “except” language, in Section 123466: “The state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”

SCA 10 says this instead: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

The California Catholic Conference issued a statement of opposition to the bill that included this sentence: “We are extremely troubled by the language in SCA 10, which is so broad and unrestrictive that it would encourage and protect even late-term abortions, which most Californians oppose.”

A constitutional amendment overrides any law that conflicts with it. If SCA 10 is adopted, the “except” language in current law could be interpreted by a court as an unconstitutional infringement of the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.”

Even the strongest pro-choice advocates should think this through very carefully.

What if doctors or hospitals refuse to perform the procedure late in pregnancy? Could they be sued for denying a fundamental right? Would the state take action to penalize unwilling providers? Will malpractice insurance rates be affected? Will more doctors leave California or stop practicing?

Will private insurance policies be required to cover late-term abortion? Will taxpayer-paid health insurance pay for it?

What happens if a federal court finds that someone has standing to sue on behalf of a nearly full-term fetus and a lawsuit goes forward to block an abortion or challenge California’s new constitutional provision? Could such a case lead to a landmark Supreme Court ruling declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to be born?

And then what?

Then we’re right back where we started, in a national war over future nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Understand that SCA 10 is completely unnecessary to protect current law in California. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade frees the states to make their own laws and regulations concerning abortion. California has already done that. Without SCA 10, the right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability or to protect the life or health of the mother will still be the law of the land in California.

Why are the governor and more than two-thirds of state lawmakers so intent on getting SCA 10 on the ballot this fall?

The answer is in the polling data. It’s all about motivating the independent “swing” voters who decide close elections to turn out and vote this fall.

A poll by the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at UC San Diego asked registered California voters how likely it is that they will vote in the November election. Then the pollsters showed the voters a May 7 Newsweek article headlined, “National Abortion Ban Possible if Roe v. Wade Overturned: Mitch McConnell.”

The pollsters found that “the percentage of independents definitely planning to vote when asked at the beginning of the survey was 45.9%; this rose to 57.1% among those who read about a potential abortion ban.”

Click here to read read the full article at the OC Register

‘Today is a day to Give Thanks and Celebrate.” Conservatives Praise Roe v. Wade Overturning

Catholic leader says ‘being pro-life demands more than opposition to abortion,’ calls for expansion of family services

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was greeted as a moral victory by local conservatives and some faith leaders who saw the ruling as one that would save countless future lives.

While they rejoiced that years of pro-life advocacy had paid off, they also said the decision did not go far enough and vowed they would fight for a national ban on abortions.

“Today is a day to give thanks and celebrate,” Cardinal-designate Robert McElroy of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego said in a statement on the diocese’s website. “Catholic social teaching holds that life begins at conception, which is a belief shared by millions of Americans regardless of religious faith.”

McElroy described the court action as “the culmination of prayer and decades of legislative advocacy, life-affirming events, committing time and resources to pregnancy centers, and walking with families facing an unplanned pregnancy.”

He also wrote that in many ways, their work had just begun.

“We must work to ensure that California law protects the rights of the unborn,” he wrote. “And we must emphasize that being pro-life demands more than opposition to abortion. It demands we do everything we can to support families, to provide access to quality health care, affordable housing, good jobs and decent housing.”

“Support for children and families cannot stop at birth,” he added.

The University of San Diego, a Catholic school not directly governed by the Diocese of San Diego, also issued a statement in support of the decision.

As a contemporary Catholic institution, we agree with the tenets of the Church on protecting the right to life of the unborn,” the statement read. “This is reflected in the statements issued today by Bishop Robert McElroy and alsothe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

Immigration attorney Esther Valdés Clayton, president of the Coronado Unified School District Board of Trustees and a frequent commentator on KUSI-TV, was vacationing with her husband in Wales when she heard the news on the BBC. She tweeted, “One of the biggest Human Rights abuses of our time has just ended today. #RoeOverturned.”

“It’s been ongoing coverage here on the BBC,” she said in a call from the UK.

“There were answered prayers from those of us who have been fighting for this day to come, not just in terms of money, but protests, election victories, voting consistently for pro-life advocates,” she said. “It was definitely the culmination for a lot of us of decades worth of work. I joined the pro-life movement in 1998 when my daughter was born. So it’s been two decades of protesting in front of Planned Parenthood.”

Like McElroy, Valdés Clayton sees more work ahead.

“For a lot of us, we want to see a national ban on abortion,” she said. “We want (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) to be federal legislation, not just left as states rights. And that’s to ensure that every person has the right to life as enshrined in the Constitution.”

At Cathedral Catholic High School in Carmel Valley, math teacher Christine LaPorte saw the ruling as a victory championing the dignity of human life, and she said in an email that the decision left her feeling relief and gratitude.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

California Governor, Lawmakers Near Deal on Gas Tax Rebate

Most California taxpayers would get hundreds of dollars in cash to help offset the high price of fuel and other goods under a tentative budget compromise being discussed by legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The plan would return a portion of California’s record-setting $97 billion budget surplus to taxpayers — but the money would only go to people who made below a certain income level.

Newsom and legislative leaders were still negotiating the state budget on Friday, with talks scheduled to extend into the weekend. While both sides had agreed to a framework for rebates, the overall numbers could change as other parts of the budget are finalized. But in general, the less money people make in a year, the more money they would get from the state.

The current proposal would return about $9.5 billion to taxpayers. Single people who make less than $75,000 per year and couples who make less than $150,000 per year would get $350 per taxpayer, plus an extra $350 for each dependent. That means a married couple earning $100,000 per year with one child would get $1,050.

Single people who make less than $125,000 per year and couples who make less than $250,000 per year would get $250 each plus their dependents. Single people making less than $250,000 per year and couples making less than $500,000 per year would get $200 each plus their dependents.

The proposal was confirmed by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles. Santiago announced the plan in a news release late Friday afternoon, calling it an agreement between Newsom and the Legislature. But a representative for Santiago’s office later clarified the deal has not yet been finalized.

“As prices increase on everything from gas to baby formula, this rebate will help the vast majority of California taxpayers, including undocumented Californians, with hundreds of dollars in direct cash assistance, providing critical relief during tough times,” Santiago said.

The statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California hit an all-time high of $6.44 last week. The average price was $6.35 cents per gallon on Friday compared to the national average of $4.93.

Republicans, who don’t control enough seats in the state Legislature to pass anything, have called for Newsom and Democrats to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax — which at 51.1 cents per gallon is the second highest in the nation. The tax is scheduled to increase to 53.9 cents per gallon next week, an automatic adjustment that is part of a state law intended to keep up with inflation.

Newsom and Democratic leaders have refused to suspend the gas tax, arguing it would not guarantee a big enough price drop to benefit drivers. They also said it would cost construction jobs as the tax pays for highway maintenance throughout the state.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Assemblyman Kiley Introduces Constitutional Amendment to End CA’s Jungle Primary

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) announced Tuesday he authored and introduced a Constitutional Amendment to allow voters vote to end California’s Top 2 Primary election system, also known as the “Jungle Primary.”  Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16 would require a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and the Senate, as well as from a majority of California voters.

“The Top 2 Primary is making a farce of our democracy with gamesmanship, fluke outcomes, and the disenfranchisement of independent voters,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. “After 10 years of broken promises, it’s time to end this failed experiment once and for all.”

California’s electorate adopted its “top-two” primary system at the June 2010 statewide election by passing Proposition 14. It became operative on January 1, 2011 and amended Section 5 of Article II of the California Constitution. Globe contributor Chris Micheli recently explained.

Prop. 14 added to Section 5(a) that “the candidates who are the top two vote-getters at a voter-nominated primary election for a congressional or state elective office shall, regardless of party preference, compete in the ensuing general election.”

“Proposition 14 created a single ballot for primary elections, rather than multiple ballots based on political party, for elected statewide and legislative officials, members of the U.S. Senate, and members of the U.S. House,” Ballotpedia reports. “The measure prohibited political parties from nominating candidates in a primary, although political parties were allowed to endorse, support, or oppose candidates. Proposition 14 did not affect partisan primary elections for president or political party officers.”

Kiley continued: “Proponents of the Top 2 Primary system argued that it would lead to increased voter participation, less partisanship, and more competitive races, but none of these outcomes have materialized. ACA 16 (Kiley) would address a number of bipartisan frustrations with the current primary system that has led to multiple instances of Republicans and Democrats being unrepresented in November legislative runoffs.”

The San Diego Union Tribune editorial board wrote in 2018 about the “hated” Jungle Primary and why, even as they continued to support it:

Now, eight years later, what’s come to be known as the “jungle primary” is again facing ferocious criticism from partisans.

Democrats hate the fact that with so many Democratic candidates splitting the vote, it’s possible that two Republicans could advance to the fall runoff in some of the seven highly contested California House seats now held by the GOP. Republicans hate the fact that there’s a chance two Democrats could advance in the governor’s race, thus potentially depressing GOP turnout in November.

Their reasoning for continued support is interesting:

In an era of heavy partisanship and polarization, the view that it is unhealthy to give too much gate-keeping power to the two major parties is more appealing than ever — especially given their declining support. Gallup has reported way more independents than either Democrats or Republicans since 2011, and the gap is widening. Last year, Gallup found independents at 42 percent, Democrats at 29 percent and Republicans at 27 percent.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Will California Suspend its Gas Tax? Debate over Fuel Costs Rages on as Biden Weighs In

California legislators have been at odds over suspending the state’s gas tax for months, but a presidential call to action and growing Democratic support is adding energy to the movement to cut fees at the pump. President Joe Biden on Wednesday proposed that Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months and for states to “take similar action to provide some direct relief, whether suspending their own gas taxes or helping consumers in other ways.” California’s gas excise tax — which funds road and infrastructure repairs — currently costs drivers 51 cents per gallon and will rise to 54 cents in July. The federal gas tax is 18 cents per gallon for regular gasoline.

The Golden State is home to the country’s highest gas prices. The statewide average on Thursday was about $6.36 per gallon, while the national average was at $4.94 per gallon, according to AAA. Although legislative leaders continue to push against suspension, some Democrats are joining Republican lawmakers in advocating for a break while fuel costs are hitting consumers the hardest. SOME DEMOCRATS SUPPORT GAS TAX RELIEF For some time, a handful of legislative Democrats have suggested they would support some form of gas tax break. That number grew on Wednesday. In late April, a handful of Democrats, including Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, joined a group known as the “California Problem Solvers Caucus” to support a 12-month gas tax suspension that would require retailers to pass cost savings along to consumers. On June 17, some Democratic Assemblymembers also pushed to suspend the 3-cent gas tax increase that will take effect on July 1, even though legislative leaders already declined to do so in advance of the May 1 deadline.

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Rudy Salas Jr., D-Bakersfield, in the midst of a congressional campaign, announced he plans to hold a Friday press conference in his district to call for a gas tax suspension. Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, also praised Biden, although he stopped short of supporting a California version of the tax holiday. Rivas has made moves to take over the Assembly Speaker role from Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and is still campaigning for the job.

Click here to read the full article in the Fresno Bee

California’s Budget Is a Scam

Once again, the California Legislature has engaged in the most meaningless exercise imaginable – passing the state budget. In other states, where progressivism is less dominant, the annual budget is an important legislative act. In California, it means squat.

If the enactment of the annual budget is so pointless, why does the legislature even bother to pass it? The answer is simple. The Constitution requires the passage of a budget bill in order for members of the Legislature to receive their paychecks.

It wasn’t always this way. But in 2010, the legislature put Proposition 25 on the ballot. Entitled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” its real purpose was to repeal the requirement that the budget bill receive a two-thirds vote of both houses. Knowing that voters are rightfully suspicious of lowering any vote threshold, the legislature voters sold the proposal by saying that, if they approved Prop 25, budgets would be passed on time, with greater transparency and that legislators would forfeit their pay if the budget was late. All three of these representations were lies.

The reality is that since Prop. 25 passed, California has no budget process. The “budget bill,” which is supposed to be a comprehensive spending plan for the fiscal year reflecting the policy priorities of the state, has now morphed into an ongoing legislative process that has no beginning and no end. “Budget bills” are now being enacted nearly a year after the June 15th deadline, despite legislators being able to collect their paychecks in the meantime.

After Proposition 25 became law, dozens of bills have been designated as “budget related” even though they have nothing to do with the budget, just to take advantage of Prop. 25’s easier rules for passing bills. Many bills that would otherwise require a two-thirds vote can suddenly become an “amendment” to a budget bill, and then they can be passed with only a simple majority. There’s no requirement for a hearing in the legislative committee that has jurisdiction over that area of policy, and the public has no opportunity to submit public comments or to question their representatives about their votes for the bill.

The process is now so scripted, it makes a Kabuki dance look like improvisational theater.

Longtime political writer Dan Walters labeled the 1,000-page budget “another sham, drafted largely in secret with minimal public exposure and many blanks to be filled in later.” Even the decidedly left-of-center Sacramento Bee succinctly summarized the state of play with this headline: “California Democrats passed a fake budget so they could get paid. Taxpayers have to wait.”

Click here to read the full article in the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association