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Capitol Roundup: Legislative Pay, State Worker Pay, Brown on Death Penalty and More

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Judge: Controller Wrong to Block Lawmakers' Pay in Budget Dispute
In a tentative ruling Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's court date, a California judge says Controller John Chiang was out of line when he docked state lawmakers' pay last year for passing a budget Chiang decided was unbalanced.
This story starts a couple of years ago, when California voters approved Proposition 25.  That measure reduced the requirement for passing a state budget from two-thirds of each legislative chamber to a simple majority.  It also included a clause the measure's Democratic backers hoped would clinch the initiative's passage: If lawmakers failed to pass a budget by the June 15th constitutional deadline, they would lose their pay until a spending plan was approved.
So when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the budget Democrats passed last year and called it unbalanced, Controller John Chiang blocked lawmakers' pay.  He cited the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.  Democratic legislative leaders sued Chiang - and now a Sacramento County judge is calling the Controller's action an "unwarranted intrusion" into the legislative branch of government.
State Employee Pay Cap Falls One Vote Shy
A bill that would prevent most state employees from earning more than the governor has stalled in the California legislature.
Despite support from one Democratic lawmaker, Republican Senator Joel Anderson's measure fell a single vote shy in its second committee test.
Anderson says more than 9,000 state workers were paid more than Governor Jerry Brown's $173,000 salary last year - and given the state's budget problems, that's not right.
Anderson: "As long as we continue to give lav - when I say we, I mean, not me, but my colleagues, and the governor - continue to give lavish salaries to bureaucrats, I don't know how I could ever possibly face any Californian and say that they aren't doing their fair share with taxes."
Anderson says his bill would exempt public safety employees because they're required to work overtime.  The measure also would not apply to the University of California, because the UC system's self-governance is constitutionally protected.
Brown Coy on Death Penalty Initiative
Governor Brown isn't tipping his hand on how he'll vote on the newly-qualified November ballot measure that would overturn the death penalty.
Brown: "The voters are going to have to decide.  But I will tell you this, and this is my pledge: Whatever the voters decide, you can be sure I will carry out the law without fear or favor, and with fidelity to the will of the people."
The governor spoke at an annual rally at the state Capitol Tuesday for crime victims sponsored by leading supporters of the death penalty.  Before he spoke, he listened as speaker after speaker criticized the initiative that qualified Monday.
Earlier in the day, he told reporters in San Jose that it's a "good thing" the measure will be on the ballot because it's a "very important issue."  He went on to say that "death and taxes are things we can't avoid, so it's good that people get to weigh in occasionally."
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