Capitol Alert

Who will head LAO? + Killing an incentive for signature gatherers

Mac Taylor, the Legislature’s top budget adviser, is shown.
Mac Taylor, the Legislature’s top budget adviser, is shown.


There’s not much precedent here. Mac Taylor is retiring from his Legislative Analyst post at the end of the year.

The nonpartisan office tasked with measuring the fiscal impact of various bills and budgets is 77 years old and has only seen five heads since its creation. Of the four replacements, three were promoted from within the Legislative Analyst’s Office, while one previously worked for the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C.

Taylor, who made his retirement announcement last month, said it’s way too early in the process to suggest names, as did lawmakers in charge of finding a successor.

While there doesn’t appear to be an obvious successor, a few names are being informally tossed around by some within the Capitol community. Michael Cohen, who worked in the Legislative Analyst’s Office for 16 years and stepped down as Gov. Jerry Brown’s finance director on Thursday, is one possibility. He did not respond to a request for comment. Another is Carolyn Chu, the LAO’s deputy legislative analyst for state and local finance. Don’t discount Jennifer Kuhn, deputy legislative analyst for education, or Mark Newton, deputy legislative analyst for health and human services.

The job to appoint the next analyst is left to the 16-member, Democrat-controlled Joint Legislative Budget Committee. The next analyst requires support from at least five senators and five assembly members.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles chairs the committee, while Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, serves as vice chair. Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, is one of the six Republicans on the committee. All three of the lawmakers’ offices said no names are presently being considered.

Ray Sotero, spokesman for Mitchell, said the searching process has not yet begun. Ting said the committee has yet to meet or even discuss what it’s looking for.

“If the committee is able to identify his successor before Mac retires at the end of the calendar year, that would be ideal,” Sotero said. “But if the process takes longer to come to a conclusion, an interim solution may be helpful.”

Taylor didn’t wish to engage in any speculation out of concern for preempting the committee’s work. Still, he articulated some essential qualities his successor should possess.

“You want someone who’s analytically rigorous, has a strong public finance background, and someone who’s had some management and leadership experience on their resume,” Taylor said.

Taylor said JLBC has thus far “mirrored past practices.” He added the committee’s intent is clear, which is “to have a very deliberative process.”


On Thursday, the Senate sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill to eliminate a key incentive for ballot measure signature gatherers. If signed, Assembly Bill 1947 would prohibit initiative proponents from paying signature gathers per signature. Instead, people collecting signatures would be paid hourly. Any violation would be classified as a misdemeanor, which would come with a fine of up to $25,000 and/or one year in prison.

Ballot measure experts suggest the Legislature’s actions will make it more expensive to get initiatives qualified.

“It’s unclear this law would accomplish anything other than driving up the cost of qualifying initiatives,” said Ned Wigglesworth, a founding partner at Spectrum Campaigns — which manages campaigns and issue advocacy.


The clock is ticking for the Legislature to complete its agenda before session concludes at the end of next week. Lawmakers and their aides are in store for an active Friday, as both chambers are in session. Several hundred bills are pending votes, and many have uncertain fates.


Should offshore oil drilling be expanded? Influencers have plenty to say.

“California is at the forefront of a range of technological developments, and should continue to lead in research and implementation toward advancing the production of alternative fuels. Reducing our dependence upon petroleum makes consumers less vulnerable to the impact of fluctuations in the global oil market, and also strengthens our national security. Moreover, Californians are the leading stewards of our nation’s most valuable natural asset—our ocean coast—and ensuring that we protect and preserve it is a responsibility we have to our country.”

Andrea Ambriz, Chief of Staff, Service Employees International Union Local 2015


Attorney General Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) — “Yet again, the #Trump Administration is withholding millions of dollars in critical public safety grants from local police and sheriffs. This doesn’t make our communities safer – it leaves them more vulnerable.”

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The Bee’s Editorial Board says California can’t wait to address what it considers a drinking water crisis. The Board wants Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to let legislators vote.