Remembering Scott Lay + Even more tax revenue + Lara’s challenger + Ashby’s endorsement

·7 min read

Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert!

REST IN PEACE

Friends of Scott Lay late Monday shared that the longtime Capitol fixture passed away earlier this month at age 48.

Lay spent much of his career at the Community League of California, which he led as president for nearly nine years.

He’s well known as a pioneer in sharing digital news, first through an email blast called The Roundup and later through his publication called The Nooner, where he reached thousands of people every day with his insights about California politics and policy.

“The Roundup was a true passion project for Scott. Long before The Nooner became his job, The Roundup was his side hustle — something he would help write before dawn every morning. During the day, he led the Community College League, and in the evenings, he would stay up until the wee hours maintaining and expanding The Roundup’s technical capabilities,” friend Anthony York of the California Medical Association wrote in a remembrance at Capitol Weekly.

“He expanded those technical skills to build a free legislative bill tracking system and campaign contribution database that surpassed paid subscription offerings, or public agencies databases. His free ElectionTrack service was so much better than the state’s outdated Cal-Access System, that many of us began to start a (half) joking Scott Lay For Secretary of State whisper campaign.

“He loved every minute of it,” York wrote.

WE’RE IN THE MONEY

California’s revenue windfall is even greater than what was initially projected in May, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“We currently project that there is a strong chance that collections from the state’s ‘big three’ taxes — personal income, sales and corporation taxes — will exceed the budget act assumption of $170 billion in 2021-22,” according to a LAO blog post published Monday. “Our current best estimate is that the amount of unanticipated revenue likely will fall somewhere between $5 billion and $25 billion.”

The LAO’s “best guess” is that the additional revenue will total a little more than $15 billion.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers adopted a budget this year that assumed a surplus in the range of $80 billion. If the LAO projection holds, they’ll have even more to spend or send back to taxpayers.

So what does that mean for the state budget?

According to the LAO, every $1 of unanticipated revenue results in, on average, 40 cents of additional state surplus, though it can be as high as 60 cents and as low as 10 cents or lower depending on a number of specific conditions.

That’s because the state has two constitutional budget formulas that mandate certain types of spending based on revenue performance: Proposition 98 spending on schools and community colleges and Proposition 2 spending on reserves and debt payments.

ASSEMBLYMAN LEVINE TO RUN FOR INSURANCE COMMISSIONER

Via Hannah Wiley and Andrew Sheeler...

In his recent campaign ad, Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Marin County, says that he’s taken on oil companies, the National Rifle Association and California’s big utilities. Now, he’s taking on fellow Democrat Ricardo Lara in a bid to become California’s next insurance commissioner.

Levine announced his candidacy Monday.

“Our state deserves an insurance commissioner who will stand up to corporate special interests on behalf of everyday Californians and consumers,” Levine said in a statement. “The issues facing the next commissioner have never been more critical: protecting California during a time of worsening climate change and increasingly frequent wildfires and floods, ensuring access to high quality, affordable healthcare for all, and defending consumers from corporate fraud and abuse.”

Levine went on to say in a statement that “there are too many distractions, too many conflicts, too many opportunities missed” under Lara’s tenure as commissioner.

“I think new leadership is essential,” Levine said.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Levine said he had “never dreamed” of running for the position until he learned in recent years what a problem the market presented to home and business owners in wildfire country.

Levine said too many of his constituents, along with countless others in California, have to deal with non-renewals and skyrocketing rates that make insurance an unaffordable but necessary commodity.

“We need someone who can hold insurance companies accountable for a change and strengthen oversight of the industry and consumer protections,” Levine said. “We have an insurance market that’s dysfunctional, and it’s been dysfunctional for years…It’s harder and harder for home owners and business owners to get the insurance they need.”

Levine also said he’d provide the kind of “bold, strident leadership” that the current administration is lacking in Insurance Commissioner Lara.

Lara faced a series of tough headlines in 2019 after the San Diego Union-Tribune broke the story that the commissioner had accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from industry executives and their wives. On the campaign trail, Lara had promised not to accept such donations. He later apologized for the mistake and pledged a more transparent department.

Levine said he wouldn’t accept industry cash, and blamed Lara’s actions for a lack of industry oversight.

“We can’t rely on someone when he does something, when he acts, he is doing it on behalf of big money and special interests,” Levine said. “I will put an end to the current scandals and usher in a new era of transparency.”

As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, Levine added that he is not running with the support of Consumer Watchdog, an organization that’s gone to battle with Lara over the donations and his policies.

Lara first was elected commissioner in 2018; previously he had served as a state senator. His election was a historic milestone — Lara is the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California history. Lara defeated independent Steve Poizner with nearly 53% of the vote, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Lara has a plethora of high-profile endorsements for his reelection, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Govs. Jerry Brown and Gray Davis, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Treasurer Fiona Ma, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

ELK GROVE MAYOR ENDORSES ASHBY FOR SENATE

Angelique Ashby, the Sacramento City Council member running to replace Sen. Richard Pan in the State Senate, snagged an endorsement from Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen.

“Elk Grove needs a fighter for our values and priorities in the Capitol, and Angelique Ashby has the energy and tenacity to make sure our voices are heard,” Singh-Allen said in a statement. “Having known Angelique for more than a decade, I know she is aware of what is important to the Elk Grove community, particularly to women and their families, and I look forward to a partnership that gets results for Elk Grove. Our community is similar in its diversity to Natomas. Angelique will be a champion for women, students and our families.”

Singh-Allen is the latest elected official to throw support behind Ashby. She also has been endorsed by Sen. Pan and Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove.

The race is shaping up to be a hot one. Others who say they’re running including former Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra, Elk Grove Pastor Tecoy Porter and restaurateur Matthew Burgess.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Breaking a ‘vicious cycle’ is exactly what we’re trying to do. Domestic Violence survivors should be able to use their story - their whole story - as they seek protections. Laws against #coercivecontrol and #reproductivecoercion allow them to do that.”

- Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, via Twitter.

Best of the Bee:

  • Wrestling with an insurance crisis that’s bedeviled much of rural California for years, the state imposed a one-year ban Monday that prevents carriers from dropping homeowners in areas affected by the Dixie Fire, Caldor Fire and other major 2021 wildfires, via Dale Kasler.

  • Many SEIU Local 1000 members recently received misleading texts from their union related to the CalPERS Board of Administration election, via Wes Venteicher.

  • More COVID vaccine mandates are on the way for California, via Jeong Park.

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