• Lawmakers report thousands in gifts from groups: SACRAMENTO (AP) — California lawmakers, including two Democrats who are on leave after being charged with criminal offenses, have reported thousands of dollars in gifts and travel expenses they received from donors.
The required reports, filed this week and covering the previous year, also show payments for Gov. Jerry Brown’s trip to China last year and a trip to Armenia for Assembly Speaker John Perez. Tickets for events, meals and rounds of golf, as well as travel expenses, were the most commonly reported gifts.
Many of the gifts were paid for by powerful interest groups that have business before state government.
Brown’s financial disclosure statement with the state Fair Political Practices Commission showed more than $11,000 in gifts last year, including $8,400 from the San Francisco-based Bay Area Council, which sponsored Brown’s weeklong trade mission to China last spring. Brown, a Democrat, also reported receiving a private flight to attend a meeting of the State Sheriffs Association in Lake Tahoe and a flight to Bakersfield from the California Association of Hospitals.
Perez, D-Los Angeles, reported receiving nearly $38,000 in gifts and travel payments last year. That included more than $9,600 paid by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia for Perez to visit the nation, where he received gifts of books, religious relics and Armenian brandy.
• NATURAL GAS BLAST LEVELS VACANT CARMEL HOME: CARMEL (AP) — A natural gas explosion that was heard eight blocks away destroyed a vacant Carmel home and blew out windows in two homes nearby.
Monterey Fire Division Chief Felix Colello tells the Santa Cruz Sentinel that the area around the home was evacuated for more than an hour after Monday’s blast.
The fire chief says the house filled with natural gas and may have been set off by a water heater.
The house has been vacant for about 12 years, but it did have active gas and electric service.
• PENSIONS CONTRIBUTE TO RISE IN STATE WORKER COSTS: SACRAMENTO (AP) — State government’s employee compensation costs have risen substantially over the last two decades and are expected to keep climbing, according to a nonpartisan analysis released Tuesday.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office says the increased costs to taxpayers are largely because of rising pension and health benefit expenses.
On average, the state will spend about $100,000 per employee each year for salary, retirement and health care in the next fiscal year, up about 30 percent since 1993.
The typical employee is projected to take home about $60,000 next year, if scheduled salary increases of about 2 percent take effect as projected. That take-home pay has largely remained flat for two decades when adjusted for inflation, the report says, largely because of furloughs during the recent budget crisis and increased employee retirement and health care contributions.
Those furlough programs alone saved the state about $5 billion between fiscal 2008-09 and 2012-13, as workers lost pay for several days each month.