Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Must Read: PG&E Blames San Bruno Blast Victims; Amazon.com to Fight Sales Tax at Ballot Box

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. In a surprise move, PG&E said in court documents that victims of the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion are partially responsible for it because of alleged “negligence,” the Chron reports. The utility, however, did not explain how the victims of the blast could have been negligent or how they could have played a role in an explosion that killed eight people and destroyed a neighborhood. PG&E also argued in court that any victim who received money from the utility for damage to their property should not be able to sue for additional funds, even though PG&E said earlier that the payouts — $15,000 to $50,000, depending on severity of damage — would not affect civil lawsuits. PG&E also is seeking to blame a sewer contractor for the pipeline blast, saying the work it did in 2008 likely weakened the pipe, even though investigators have so far said a faulty weld in the pipe, coupled with too much pressure in the line, was the likely cause of the explosion.

2. Amazon.com says it will sponsor a ballot measure to overturn a new California law that closes a legal loophole and forces the online company to charge sales tax like all other retailers, AP reports. Amazon.com had earlier claimed that it could avoid collecting sales taxes in the state if it simply fired its California affiliates, but state lawmakers say the new law provides no such exemption. Assemblyman Charles Calderon, who co-sponsored the new law, said he expects large brick-and-mortar retailers to spend big bucks trying to defeat Amazon.com’s ballot measure because they believe the online company has had an unfair advantage by not charging sales tax.

John Chiang
  • John Chiang
3. In a potential financial hit to the budget deal struck by Governor Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats, state Controller John Chiang reported yesterday that tax revenues were much lower than expected in May and June, the SacBee reports. The $351 million shortfall, if it continues, could blow a hole in the budget, because Brown and the Democrats based their revenue projections on the state’s economy rebounding strongly in the second half of the year. If it doesn’t, then lawmakers will have to enact deep budget cuts, particularly to K-12 education.

4. Demonstrators caused major delays on BART last evening, as they demanded that the transit agency disband its police force in the wake of a fatal shooting of a homeless man, the Trib reports. The rowdy protests also closed down three BART stations. Demonstrators are angry that BART cops shot and killed Charles B. Johnson, 45, just one minute after confronting him. BART police say he was wielding a broken bottle.

5. Oakland police shot at a teen who they said was pointing a gun at them at a Laurel district supermarket, the Trib reports. Police said they later found the gun and it was loaded. The shots fired at the 15-year-old missed.

6. And the state assembly passed a bill that would ban the sale of caffeinated alcohol drinks that are marketed to youth in California, AP reports. A similar version of the bill already passed the state senate.

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