Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Must Read: Nancy Skinner Targets Amazon.com Again; UC to Reject Top California Students for First Time

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:20 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley, Richmond, and North Oakland, has reintroduced her bill to force Amazon.com and other online retailers to start collecting sales taxes, the SacBee reports. Skinner’s bill could generate between $250 million and $500 million in revenues for the state, and help level the playing field for brick-and-mortar stores who collect sales taxes when Amazon.com does not. Skinner’s bill was previously blocked by Republicans and former Governor Schwarzenegger, who sought to shield Amazon.com. But the Assemblywoman hopes that Governor Brown will support the legislation now that she has the backing of some major retailers like Barnes & Noble. Skinner says her bill only needs a majority vote in the Legislature because of rule changes approved by voters in November.

2. The University of California will soon be forced to turn away eligible students for the first time in a half-century because of drastic budget cuts, UC President Mark Yudof warned regents yesterday, the Chron reports. Yudoff called it a “bleak milestone.” He estimated that UC will have to reject 20,000 to 30,000 qualified applicants from California because of a lack of funds. UC traditionally has guaranteed a spot for top California students who meet eligibility criteria. Governor Brown’s proposed budget calls for slashing funding for UC by $500 million a year.

3. Supporters of Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts urged the Oakland City Council Tuesday night to find a way to keep him from going to San Jose, the Trib reports. Batts’ supporters believe he applied for the San Jose police chief job because the Oakland police force has shrunk significantly in the past year. But it’s unclear how Oakland can afford to hire more cops when it’s facing another $40 million deficit next year and the police union continues to refuse to contribute to its pension plan.

4. Governor Brown yesterday questioned whether a recent rush by cities to spend redevelopment funds is legal, the Chron reports. Cities throughout California have been racing to tie up the funds out of fear that the Legislature will approve Brown’s plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies.

5. Children’s Hospital in Oakland reportedly is in merger talks with Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, the Chron reports. Children’s Hospital in Oakland has been losing $10 million a year.

6. State lawmakers are demanding that PG&E publicly reveal the ten pipelines the utility has subjected to pressure spikes that possibly weakened them, the Chron reports. Critics believe PG&E spiked pressure in the San Bruno line and ten others in an attempt to game federal rules and avoid costly inspections.

7. Aging levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pose a greater threat than those in New Orleans before Katrina, said Bob Bea, a UC Berkeley expert who investigated the Katrina disaster and others, the CoCo Times reports.

8. In a victory for same-sex rights in California, a federal judge in Oakland said gay state employees can sue the federal government over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits them from enrolling spouses in the state’s long-term health plan. A federal judge in Massachusetts has already ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.

9. Traffic in the Bay Area is no longer among the worst of the worst nationwide, the Chron reports, citing a new study. Traffic apparently has eased because of the recession, high unemployment, and congestion improvement projects.

10. And many cereal manufacturers are misleading consumers by claiming that their products are healthy when they’re actually full of sugar, the Chron reports, citing a new study.

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