Republicans Moving Forward?

UPDATE: I spoke with Assembly member Roger Niello over the weekend. Niello said that his discussions with Garrick were informal and that he was not officially “appointed” to lead Assembly Republicans with California Forward. However, he does was a seat at the table.

Niello said that he had been closely following California Forward and is concerned with the direction they are taking. The original California Forward proposal included supporting the Sinclair Paint vs. Board of Equalization case, recognized by the state Supreme Court. This provision requires that state taxes be enacted with a super-majority, or two-thirds, vote. The fees that were imposed in this case were passed by a simple majority of the state legislature (as they currently propose), which allowed Sinclair Paint to contend that the penalty was an illegal tax. Two lower courts supported the position the Legislature took, to impose “mitigation fees” on business with a majority vote. While the legislature has not done it yet, in the last round of budget talks, they considered raising state park entry fees to cover costs that previously had been paid by tax revenues. Under Sinclair, the Legislature willl be able to do that with a simple majority vote.

Niello is very concerned that California Forward removed the supporting language “before the ink was dry.”

Today is another hearing for California Forward, this time in the Assembly Budget Committee. Will update again later.

– Katy Grimes

Friday’s story:

Could the Republicans be bellying up to the table to break bread with California Forward?

California Forward is the “non-partisan,” “centrist” group seeking to make changes in the California budgetary approval process, most notably, by removing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget.

I’ve been critical of the motives behind California Forward. The group’s “non-partisan” claim is rather weak. I remember the day California Forward was introduced in the Assembly, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez falling all over themselves to welcome the new “non-partisan group,” led by Democrat and former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg. There were no Republicans standing with them at the podium.

Now I hear from capitol insiders that Republicans want a stronger voice in the California Forward plan. I am told that Republican Assembly Minority Leader Martin Garrick  has tapped Assembly member Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, for the job of representing Republicans with California Forward. Not everyone is happy about this.

Niello voted with Democrats last year to raise taxes in the budget. He should get along fine with the members of California Forward.

Since Niello has been in the Assembly, he’s been a budget hawk, and usually a good one. But his vote last year cost him greatly. As Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Niello has served as the lead negotiator on budget issues for the Assembly Republican Caucus. And while Niello may be taking a tougher tone these days since he is termed out, not all Assembly Republicans are happy about Niello representing them at the California Forward table.

When I called Niello’s capitol office to ask about the leadership role with California Forward, his Legislative Director said, “We haven’t heard anything about it.” She then put me on hold, and finally came back and said it again: “We haven’t heard anything about it.”

Niello’s office claiming not to know anything about it is silly. Appointing Niello as spokes person for the Assembly Republicans with California Forward makes sense when looking at his budget credentials, and perhaps Garrick was looking for someone who has worked across the aisle in the past, to open the door at California Forward.

But will Niello’s conservative colleagues take his lead with California Forward?

–Katy Grimes

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