Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday Must Read: Amazon.com Offers to Back Off Ballot Measure; Fremont Solar Company Closes Despite $500 Million Federal Loan

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Amazon.com offered to scuttle its proposed ballot measure that would overturn California’s new online sales tax law in exchange for building six distribution centers in the state that would employ 7,000 workers, the SacBee reports. Amazon also asked legislators yesterday to delay implementation of the new sales tax law until 2014. But Democratic leaders and brick-and-mortar retailers appeared to be unimpressed with Amazon’s offer, and instead are pushing forward on a bill by Berkeley Senator Loni Hancock that would make it impossible for the online giant to overturn the sales tax law at the ballot box.

Hancock
  • Hancock
Amazon apparently realizes that Hancock’s bill likely will pass the legislature and that it's ballot measure drive will be blocked by the new law.

2. Fremont solar company Solyndra closed its doors yesterday and laid off all of its 1,000 workers despite having received more than $500 million in loans from the Obama administration. Solyndra, which made solar tubes, as opposed to traditional solar panels, was once touted by the president as an innovative industry leader, but it was unable to compete with Chinese companies that are producing solar products much more cheaply — thanks to inexpensive labor and massive subsidies from the Chinese government. Bay Citizen reports that US companies now account for just 7 percent of the global solar manufacturing market, down from 43 percent in the mid 1990s.

3. As expected, UC Berkeley law school professor Goodwin Liu was confirmed unanimously to the California Supreme Court, the Chron and Mercury News report. Liu’s easy confirmation came in stark contrast to his previous unsuccessful nomination to a federal appeals court, which was blocked by US Senate Republicans who claimed he was too liberal.

4. A bill that would have allowed California’s insurance commissioner to block health insurance premium hikes died in the state Senate because of lack of support, the SacBee reports. The bill was approved by the state Assembly, but it faced a huge lobbying effort from health insurance companies.

5. And BART hired a new general manager yesterday, Grace Cunican, a former US Transportation Department official, whom the agency’s board of directors hopes will use her connections in Washington to help BART obtain federal funding to buy new trains, the Chron reports.

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