June 8, 11:45 p.m.: Calif. lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown are starting to roll out the pieces of a state budget deal – but they haven't reached a full agreement yet.
So far, the governor and Democratic leaders have agreed to increase funding for after-school programs, restore adult dental services under Medi-Cal and expand the state's Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families.
The deal increases funding for the CSU system and preserves the “middle class scholarship” program for UC and CSU students. But in a blow to UC leadership, the state will split off the UC president's office budget from the rest of the system after a scathing audit questioned the university's spending practices.
The parties will keep working on several other sticking points, such as Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rates, over the weekend. The Legislature faces a constitutional deadline of next Thursday to send the governor a budget.
-- Ben Adler
June 8, 5:50 p.m.: Marijuana industry players eagerly await the release of a piece of the budget deal that's intended to align state rules on medical and recreational marijuana.
The entire cannabis industry has a lot at stake in this legislation, known as the "cannabis trailer bill."
Hezekiah Allen's California Growers Association advocates for existing cannabis growers. He says the average size of cultivation for his members is a quarter-acre.
He's been urging lawmakers to limit what he calls "mega-chain" pot retailers in the state marketplace, but he doesn't think he'll succeed.
So now he's pivoted to a different strategy. He's lobbying for rules that would allow cannabis growers to form agricultural co-operatives so smaller growers could compete with big producers.
It's a structure that's worked well for the rest of California agriculture, says Allen. He argues that it's critical for cannabis growers to be able to form ag co-ops "to keep those smaller, independent farmers competitive in the marketplace."
Many other issues are at stake with the trailer bill, including whether marijuana growers can distribute their products themselves or only through a third party.
-- Julia Mitric
Jun 8, 3:42 p.m.: A Calif. budget deal appears to be imminent at the state Capitol.
Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting told reporters Thursday morning that Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders have a “tentative” agreement.
He says the deal includes more money for after-school programs, Medi-Cal providers, and the state’s “Earned Income Tax Credit” – a tax break for low-income, working Californians.
“We think it’s one of the best programs to fight poverty,“ Ting says. “As the federal government is turning its back on that program, we are ratcheting it up. Because we think it’s an effective way to put money in the pockets of poor families.”
Ting also says there’s more money for the California State University system – to enroll more in-state students and to ensure that qualified students rejected by one campus are offered a spot at another one. He adds that the University of California will see some strings attached to a big chunk of its funding in the aftermath of a scalding state audit. And he says the deal preserves the “middle class scholarship” program for UC and CSU students.
Neither Senate Democrats nor the governor’s office is confirming a deal yet. But the Legislature’s budget conference committee is expected to meet later this afternoon to formalize the spending plan.
The Legislature must pass a budget bill by next week's June 15 constitutional deadline. Because of Proposition 54, which voters approved last November, the legislation must be in print for 72 hours before its final passage – and in order for that to be possible, the conference committee must close its work out today.
-- Ben Adler
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