Should Special Interests Have Funded Jerry Brown's China Trip?

Gov. Jerry Brown at a China/Los Angeles function in 2012. | Photo: David Starkopf / Office of Mayor Antonio R. VillaraigosaGovernor Jerry Brown recently returned from a trip to China, the purpose of which was to increase trade between the country and the Golden State. He was accompanied by 10 staffers. Sounds expensive, right? It no doubt was.

You might be wondering how strapped taxpayers could afford to foot the bill for such an international trip. Well, you need not ponder this issue. Brown did not travel on the public dime. Instead special interest groups footed the bill for his international voyage. These groups include the California Beer and Beverage Distributors, the California Hospital Association, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, State Farm Insurance, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Co., United Airlines, HSBC, and Siemens. No doubt, all of these groups would like to secure favorable treatment by the state.

Cheat Sheet: Ordinance F to Keep L.A.'s Medical Marijuana Shops Open

There are an estimated 1,700-1,800 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in Los Angeles. However, if the city of Los Angeles and the City Council had their way, they'd like to limit that number to 135.

Therein lies the crux of the medical marijuana debate being presented to voters on the May 21 ballot.

Should the remaining 1,600 or so medical marijuana shops be forced to close? Or should we allow these storefronts to remain open? Are they a nuisance to our neighborhoods or are they providing a legal and necessary service?

Ordinance F seeks to prevent any and all regulation on the number of medical pot shops allowed to operate in the city, so long as they meet a series of requirements. Those stipulations range from mandatory background checks to frequent testing of marijuana products sold to patients for pesticides and toxins.

Understanding the Difference Between L.A.'s 3 Medical Marijuana Measures

Pictured, several marijuana plants being grown for medicinal use sit in an indoor growing facility in Santa Barbara, California. | Photo: Courtesy Kyle Trafas

Los Angeles voters headed to the polls on May 21 will be asked to choose between three distinct, yet overlapping ballot measures seeking to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries operating within city limits.

Proponents of the three initiatives -- Proposition D and ordinances E and F -- argue that a new, comprehensive policy is necessary to put an end to nearly 17 years of ambiguity surrounding the distribution of medical marijuana in Los Angeles. The measures include plans to cap the number of dispensaries permissible, increase taxes on earnings, and standardize operation hours and distances from sensitive areas, such as schools and childcare centers.

But there's an odd man out in this ballot measure battle royale.

Timber Tax: Prop For 2014 Ballot Approved to Gather Signatures

Backers of an initiative to increase oversight of the timber industry received permission Friday from Secretary of State Debra Bowen to begin gathering signatures.

The initiative would impose a harvest tax on timber and other forest products taken from public lands at a rate of 33 percent of profits and 8 percent of profits on product from private lands. Forest products harvested on Native American lands and timber harvested from private lands solely for private noncommercial use would be exempted.

The initiative would establish a department to collect and allocate the tax and oversee timber harvesting and environmental protection and restoration. It would also transfer the timber harvest oversight responsibilities of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to the new department.

Valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters -- 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 general election -- must be submitted by Sept. 10 to qualify the measure for the November 2014 ballot.

Adult Entertainment Industry Asks Judge to Invalidate Condom Measure

Measure B, which was on the L.A. County November ballot, requires condoms to be used in adult movies. | Photo: Rosa Trieu for Neon Tommy/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Adult filmmakers and actors in Los Angeles are arguing that the county law requiring porn actors to wear condoms on film shoots is unconstitutional and should be invalidated, according to court papers obtained today.

Vivid Entertainment and porn actors Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce filed suit in January in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in an effort to overturn the county's Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act.

In new court filings, attorneys for Vivid argue that Measure B puts an "intolerable burden" on the right to free expression and is thus unconstitutional.

State of the City: Villaraigosa Disheartened by Mayoral Candidates' Education Vision

Villaraigosa at an event in 2012. | Photo: Cal EMA/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made "daring to dream" a theme for his final state of the city address, which he also used to challenge the candidates running to succeed him to focus more on education.

He summed up Angelenos as people who "think big" and "swing for the fences," saying he began his tenure as mayor in dramatic fashion, by shooting for the seemingly impossible.

"Eight years ago, we dared to dream," he said of his goals then to improve public safety, environmental sustainability, the city's transportation system, and students' academic performance. And in all those areas, he said, "we promised to deliver, and we did."

Villaraigosa, in a break from his prepared remarks, acknowledged there were"failures" during his time in office, but he said it was the result of taking risks.

"You fail sometimes when you dare to dream," Villaraigosa said at UCLA's Royce Hall. "You fail sometimes when you fight, even when you're fighting alone."

Villaraigosa admonished what he perceives as timidity on the part of Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, the two mayoral candidates in the May 21 election.

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